If you’re a foodie, trying unusual flavors can be an exciting challenge. If you’re not, trying dishes outside your norm can be a little scary. Some of these weird menu items are relatively safe to try, but for others, it takes courage to brave it.
In honor of venturing outside the box, here are some of Chicago’s stranger menu items that you simply have to taste to believe.
Edible Balloon @ Alinea
1723 North Halsted Street
One of the city’s most world-renowned restaurants offers a host of one-of-a-kind menu items, but the strangest is probably the chef’s signature Edible Balloon. The balloon is filled with helium and the string is made from dehydrated green apple. The chef suggests you first suck the helium out of the balloon and then enjoy the rest of the green apple flavored treat. The Michelin-starred restaurant is one more item to add to your bucket list.
Ahi Tuna and Watermelon Tostadas @ Summer House Santa Monica
1954 North Halsted Street
If you’re looking for a little twist on a starter with the texture of chips and guac, you might want to order the ahi tuna and watermelon tostada from Summer House Santa Monica. They use the best sushi-grade tuna for this unique and refreshing appetizer. This unexpected combination is delicious with the addition of Thai chili, avocado, crema, and cilantro.
Whole Alligator @ Frontier
1072 North Milwaukee Avenue
Want to grab everyone’s attention next time you’re out to eat with friends? Try ordering a whole alligator at Frontier. The animal serves a big group, about 10 to 12 adults, and tastes like a spiced-up, moister version of chicken. Executive Chef Brian Jupiter draws inspiration from his New Orleans roots and has a laundry list of whole animals you can order for the table. In addition to the whole alligator stuffed with chicken and smoked over apple and cherry woods, you may also try a whole wild boar.
Chapulines @ Kie-Gol-Lanee
5004 North Sheridan Road
Chapulines is the Spanish word for grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium, a popular dish in certain areas of Mexico. Kie-Gol-Lanee, located near the Argyle Red Line stop, offers crispy grasshoppers as a seasonal starter. The restaurant focuses on Oaxacan food derived from the city in Central Mexico. The crispy grasshoppers reportedly taste a little something like salt and vinegar potato chips with a different texture.
Water Cake @ A Place by Damao
2621 South Halsted Street
A Place By Damao serves up food from Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. They offer an entire menu of unique items, but the water cake for dessert is one of the strangest. It’s also known as a raindrop cake and has been the subject of several viral DIY videos. The texture of the transparent dessert is more of a jelly than a cake and looks like a giant bubble of water. At the restaurant, it’s served with brown sugar or fermented rice. If you’re going to try their water cake, keep in mind you can start with a variety of other unique dishes, such as duck head, duck feet, duck tongue, gizzards, and pork feet. Not for the faint of heart.
Impossible Burger @ Umani Burger
The Impossible burger has all the attributes of a beefy burger, without it actually being a beefy burger. From the juicy smell to texture and taste, you’ll swear you’re cheating your diet. What you’re actually tasting and smelling, however, is plant-based proteins and potatoes. So if you’re looking to trick yourself into being healthier, this vegetarian dish is perfect to try.
If you’re an adventurous eater, try one of these strange menu items for a new burst of flavor (and bragging rights.) If you’re more hesitant to explore new flavors, we’d start with the ahi tuna and watermelon tostada, or Impossible Burger. The water cake and edible balloon are also some safer dessert options. The whole alligator is for braver palettes, but the crispy grasshoppers truly take the cake for the strangest menu item in Chicago. Happy dining!
Featured Image Credit: A Place by Damao