Your day's organized by two simple forces: the El, which determines your traveling, and food, which is delicious and keeps you from dying. Align your wanderings with your chow, with Ari Bendersky's new column, Degus-EL-Station.
Degustation: a culinary term meaning "a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods."
El: that noisy rail jalopy that takes you to other hoods on the cheap.
NEXT STOP: 18th St. (Pink Line)
WHERE TO EAT: Take Me Out, Let's Eat Chinese, 1502 W. 18th St., 312-929-2509
COST: $7 (not including drinks, tax or tip)
A fire ravaged Take Me Out mere months after it opened in the spring of 2008, devastating the building, which also included the popular BomBon Cafe and a jeweler. But owner Karen Lim, who was raised at her parents' Albany Park restaurant Great Sea Chinese, persevered. And her drive is ultimately our prize. Take Me Out reopened a year ago and has blossomed into a gem on 18th Street.
Take Me Out is best known for its lollipop-style chicken wings, a.k.a. Little Hotties, that have earned a huge cult following and a reputation around the city has being some of the best in Chicago. Outside the wings are crispy and slathered in a spicy-sweet soy and chile glaze. Inside they're tender and juicy. And whether or not they're sprinkled with some sort of, um, fairy dust that keeps people coming back for more, well that's Lim's secret.
In the event you don't want wings, Take Me Out has other Asian options, including egg rolls, crab Rangoon and pot stickers; Mongolian beef and sweet and sour chicken and a variety of items under the "wok toss" menu, like bamboo shoots and broccoli (with water chestnuts) in garlic sauce; mixed veggies tossed in a brown ginger sauce; and traditional chop suey. If you want your fortune cookie, that'll be an extra dollar. No freebies here, but with prices this cheap, you can afford the buck for the luck.
The space is clean and modern, with a walk-up counter and some tables for in-house dining. Because of its low price point, Take Me Out lives up to its name as a great place to take out lunch or dinner for yourself or the family. And get one of their fresh fruit drinks (avocado, lychee, mango and more) while you wait. If you're in no hurry, bring your computer—Take Me Out has free Wi-Fi. Because there's really nothing better than getting hot wing sauce all over your keyboard.
Ari Bendersky is a food, wine and lifestyle journalist and the creator of SomethingGlorious.com. He also contributes articles locally to Huffington Post, Time Out Chicago, Michigan Avenue, Concierge Preferred, Tasting Table and more. Follow him on Twitter.