Number four in my series of The Essential Chicago Restaurants. Don't miss a single thrill-packed installment!
I wrote a while back about Ssyal being the least likely place for me to have discovered on my own without my fellow Chowists sussing it out, a Korean healthy soup place on west Lawrence. But in fact, at least I have actually driven past Ssyal on a fairly regular basis, a few times a year at least. Where there are tons of restaurants located in areas where I simply never go at all, which surely all score an equal zero on the Mike-would-have-stopped-in-there-someday scale, the way every restaurant in Youngstown, Ohio or Provo, Utah, no matter how excellent, does.
One is Ed's Potsticker House. Let's count the reasons why Mike would never have gone there:
1) Located very conveniently half a block south of Halsted and 31st, just past the park John Kass said should be named for the Hired Trucks our tax dollars lavishly rented from a Daley pal, and in between body shops and tool & die places on the far edge of Bridgeport/Chinatown;
2) It's named Ed's Potsticker House. As in, House of Greasy 1950s Schaumburg Chinese. At Christmas, my mom makes some 50s-style sausage-and-applesauce-and-sugar buffet dish which I have always called Ed's House of Candied Weenies, as that seems to sum up everything dated about and wrong with, and yet undeniably irresistible about, that dish (fat and sugar-- pass it over here!)
3) Decor lives up to the fusty 50s name.
Now let's list the reasons why I have been there:
1) Because somebody else discovered that it was pretty much the opposite of everything its name implied (who that was and how they found it, I have no idea) and wrote about it on another board.
2) Because a billion incredibly learned posts followed digging deeply into the authentic cuisine to be found there, the derivation of the soup dumplings, the precise transliteration of the Chinese names for the dishes, and tons of other things.
If a place called Ed's can earn that kind of devotion, can warrant that level of minute investigation, then I guess I can get my northside ass down to 31st and Halsted to eat there.
As indeed I did yesterday with GWiv and Steve Z after we followed him to Peoria Packing Co. for a walk-in-fridge-conducted master class in barbecue meat selection. As befits a group of just three, we only ordered a few things at lunch-- only five or six dishes total, practically a mere snack-- so the meal doesn't compare to my first visit, an elaborate lunch for 20 or so. But throughout, Ed's demonstrated not only why it's probably the best restaurant named Ed's you've ever been to or ever will, but that it is one of the most accomplished Chinese restaurants in the city. Hopefully GWiv will provide pictures for some of these (here are some older ones plus the menu), but here's what we had:
- Soup dumplings. For the first time ever, I was able to actually pry these from the steamer without bursting them, and was able to burst them in my mouth instead. A multisensory delight.
- Cigar-shaped potstickers. A signature dish, but didn't do much for me. Maybe I've just had all the potstickers I need already in this life.
- Chive and bacon pancake. Ed's makes its own bacon-like or pancetta-like product which is fried in slices and placed inside a pancake with chives (or was it green onions), with a little hoisin sauce or something kind of like it. Hot off the grill this is a fantastic dish, porky and oniony and sweet and wonderful.
- Whole fish in brown gravy. I'm not 100% sold on this Chinese thing of frying a whole, rather inexpensive fish and drowning it in goo, especially since you always get kind of this musty dusty skin taste. But the white meat when you got to it was flaky goodness.
- Fried glazed eggplant (not its official name). I am no great eggplant fan-- Steve asked if I liked eggplant parmigiana and I said yes, especially when you replace the eggplant with veal-- but this was amazingly good, the fried eggplant strips having a perfect hot-off-the-fryer texture and then stirred in a light glazey goo.
Maybe my mention of the place will inspire someone else to say here all the learned things about Ed's on that other board that impressed me so in the first place. I'm certainly not qualified to recap it; all I can tell you about Ed's is that it's mighty damn good, and all the more impressive given the fairly deadly combination of name, address and Formica ambience.
Ed's Potsticker House
3139 S. Halsted St.