Mic The Best Places To Travel: Where Carla Hall Eats (And Eats Some More) In Chicago

It makes perfect sense that chef and television personality Carla Hall’s first trip to the Windy City was food-related. “When I was in my early 20s, I drove to Chicago from Nashville for the Taste of Chicago,” she said over email, naming the city’s annual summertime food fest. “There was a buoyant energy in the city. I loved it!”

Nowadays, the Nashville, Tennessee, native and The Chew co-host goes back to Chi-town on a regular basis for, yes, the food. This month, Hall will be in town to host Windy City Live, a morning talk show, on Aug. 11-15, and back again in September for Chicago Gourmet, an annual food celebration hosted by Bon Appetit.

Other than the good eats, Hall also loves the city’s sweeping architecture and friendly Midwestern vibe. There’s only one thing she wishes the lakefront location had more of: “Warmer days in the winter,” she said, “because the cold and wind scare me!”

Where to eat

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The one thing to splurge on in Chicago? The food, says Hall. Picking just one favorite restaurant is nearly impossible for the former Top Chef contestant, so she’ll just tell you the last place she booked a table: Roister, the Alinea Group’s new-ish open-kitchen casual spot on Fulton Market. Take a seat at the bar, where chefs toss you hearty lasagne and a half-chicken dinner while a crowd-sourced playlist blares on in the background, from REO Speedwagon to Ed Sheeran.

For pizza, a famed dish in this city, Hall forgoes deep-dish and instead opts for the rustic, wood-fired Neopolitan offerings at Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood. On the margherita, San Marzano tomatoes make sweet music with fior de latte and basil.

When she’s craving Asian food, Hall heads to Belly Q in the West Loop for riffs on Korean barbecue from chef Bill Kim. The menu is chock full of comfort-food favorites: scallion pancakes, spicy lamb noodles and Korean short rib (obviously).

And her best burger award goes to Maillard Tavern, a River West pub that serves up seven different versions, including the City Slicker, a beef patty topped with foie gras, Swiss cheese, black truffle pesto, caramelized onion, foie gras mayo and crispy prosciutto.

Elizabeth Bowers