Chicago restaurants can feel like a world of extremes. Reservations are extremely hard to get, waits are extremely long, and prices can feel extremely high.
So it’s refreshing to come across a great restaurant where the word “extreme” is only used to describe the delicious food. Dr. Bird’s in Wicker Park isn’t impossible to get into or prohibitively expensive - a meal at this counter-service Jamaican spot is a lot like riding in a comfy, air-conditioned car after a hot day waiting in line to get whiplash at Six Flags.
The original Dr. Bird’s opened in Buffalo in 1981 (fun fact, Griselda named a song after it) and they specialize in Jamaican patties. This location, run by the sons of the original owner, also serves delicious patties. The flaky pastries are in a case by the counter, filled with piping-hot chicken, beef, or spinach.
Ordering a spicy beef patty and going on your merry way is a perfectly valid choice, but we like taking a seat (which we’ve never had to wait for), chilling with a cocktail (that’s usually under $10), and exploring the rest of the menu. It’s full of fantastic jerk options, like tender chicken, wings, shrimp, and jackfruit. All this deliciousness can be ordered as a dinner that comes with sides, including sweet and savory coco rice, fluffy coco bread for enfolding your patty, and festival that's a perfect complement to the smoky jerk seasoning. They’ll also stuff any of the jerk entrees inside a taco, bao, or freshly-griddled roti - which is our favorite of the three.
While jerk is the axis that the menu revolves around, there are some non-jerk hits, too. Like a wonderfully cheesy pasta made with Gruyere, rosemary, and roasted tomatoes. Or a heart of romaine salad tossed in a tasty sorrel vinaigrette, and a comforting poutine topped with cheese curds that are basically a weighted blanket for your fries (and soul). Dr. Bird’s also has a long list of fresh juices, which can be used to make fantastic rum cocktails that are never too sweet.
Between great food and contagiously friendly service, we’ve yet to visit Dr. Bird’s and not leave way happier than when we walked in. In other words, if you like being in an extremely good mood, head here immediately.
The cornish hen is juicy, and the jerk seasoning is perfectly spicy and smoky. You can order a half or whole, and we recommend getting it as a dinner. It comes with three sides - and options include star boi slaw (with cabbage, broccoli, and carrots), festival, and your choice of fluffy coconut rice or crispy black pepper fries.
The jerk seasoning works well with the delicate shrimp, and we like ordering the dinner with coconut rice. Why? Because a forkful of spicy shrimp and slightly sweet coco rice is delicious, that’s why.
You shouldn’t leave here without getting a patty, and our favorites are chicken and the spicy beef. The thick pastry holds up to the hot filling, and if you want to make it more of a meal, order some coco bread to stuff your patty in.
Thanks to coconut milk and Gruyere, the rasta pasta is creamy and cheesy. It also has enough rosemary, basil, thyme, and parsley to make your friend’s windowsill herb garden jealous. This dish tastes great as is, but we add jerk shrimp for an extra $4.75 when we want a little extra heat and flavor.
The fried cornbread is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and the perfect complement to the smoky jerk seasoning. You’ll get a piece when you order the dinner, but we highly recommend ordering extra so you can soak up any remaining sauce from your entree.
Our main motivation for ordering these is to dunk them in the tangy irie aioli. It’s made with curry, roasted garlic, rosemary, and balsamic vinegar - and it’s in the running for the best condiment we’ve ever had.
There are three main carb-based vehicles for jerk: tacos, bao, and paratha roti. These come with your choice of filling and two sides. The griddled roti is our preferred delivery system, filled with wood-smoked jackfruit, and topped with escovitch cucumber and corn and pineapple relish.