The Food Guy: Jibek Jolu's Dishes Inspired by Middle East, Europe and Asia

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Chicago has plenty of restaurants featuring Middle Eastern, European and Asian cuisines, but few have all three on the menu.

That’s because there are only a handful of restaurants in our area featuring the food of Kyrgyzstan.

The family behind Jibek Jolu here in Lincoln Square is from Kyrgyzstan, and when you consider where the countries from the former Soviet Union are located, and the fact people who call themselves Kyrgy, Kazakh and Uzbek were likely nomadic, picking up influences from various parts of the world, it’s no surprise to see their menus filled with influences from Russia, Europe, China and Turkey.

The prep alone must take hours, when you’re cooking dishes inspired by Russia, the Middle East and Asia. Jibek Jolu began as a tiny restaurant in Lincoln Square, doing hand-pulled Asian noodle dishes like Lagman and European-inspired soups such as beet-filled borscht or solyanka, with smoked turkey, beef, sausage and pickles.

“A fusion of Central Asian and Eastern European cuisines,” said manager Alina Akhmetshina.

But now they’ve followed their customers to the suburbs, with a much larger space inside the Glen – a planned community in Glenview. The food hasn’t changed.

“Kyrgyzstan, right in the middle of Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and China right next to us as well,” she said.

There are manty – steamed dumplings – from Asia, but also samsa – a baked pastry stuffed with chopped beef and onions.

“And then we have kebabs, which is more Middle Eastern, Turkish, I would say," the manager said.

The Lagman comes with or without soy sauce, but the noodles are always handmade.

“So it’s a beef and vegetable stew over the hand-pulled noodles,” said Akhmetshina.

Kuurdak is an ancient Kyrgy dish that’s hearty and satisfying. Thin slices of beef are sauteed with ground spices, as well as roasted potatoes.

“So it’s beef, potatoes, onions all together, sauteed," she added.

There’s also Plov, the national dish of rice mounded with roasted lamb. And don’t forget to try the Khachapuri. At the very least, share it with a few others. This Georgian, boat-shaped pastry is more savory than sweet.

“Georgian traditional with feta, mozzarella, three cheese in it, with egg yolk on top. So you mix egg yolk with cheese and you cut it from the side and use as a dip,” she said.

Here's where you can go:

Jibek Jolu

5047 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago


2601 Aviator Ln., Glenview


955 W. 75th St., Naperville

(inside Garden Fresh Market)


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