As a food-centric company based in Chicago, we knew that the competition for this year’s Best of Fooda awards was going to be intense. After all, we work with the best restaurants, caterers, food trucks, and mom-and-pop shops the city has to offer. As the votes began rolling in, we realized that “intense” might actually be an understatement. Chicagoans love great food, and they aren’t shy about sharing their opinions. Let’s take a look at this year’s winners.
Best Popup Entree of 2023 – Empanadas from ArePA George
The most essential ingredient in ArePA George’s empanadas is authenticity. Each bite melts into distinctly Colombian flavors, borrowing from culinary traditions that span from the base of the Andes to the Cartagena coast. While every Latin American region has their own unique variation on the humble empanada, ArePA George’s empanadas make a mouth-wateringly strong case for the Colombian version. With gluten-free and vegan options available, these breaded delights can also be enjoyed by everyone at the office.
Runner Up: Asada Chicken from Burrito Beach
Best Customer Service – ArePA George
To understand why ArePA George won this category, just try one of their empanadas. From the very first bite, it’s clear that they want every customer to fall in love with their updated twist on traditional Colombian cuisine. Any restaurant can fill the bellies of Chicago’s hungriest workers, but this ArePA George is looking to win over their hearts and minds as well. Prompt service, friendly staff, and an endless enthusiasm for answering menu questions have earned this South American eatery a reputation for outstanding customer service.
Runner Up: Thai 55, Burrito Beach (tie)
Most Likely To Visit Outside Of Work – 5411 Empanadas
If you’ve ever wondered why Chicago has a thriving Latin American street food scene, the story of 5411 Empanadas is a good place to start. Founded in 2009 by three friends working out of a food truck, 5411 Empanadas almost instantly established a loyal customer base throughout the city. While they always offered traditional options, the trio of fusion-loving chefs couldn’t help but experiment with new fillings and flavors (vegan ratatouille or mac & cheese, for example) creating a distinctly Chicagoan empanada experience. Now serving customers in five Chicago locations (not counting the food truck), their customers still can’t get enough.
Runner Up: Mr. Taco’s
Best Overall Popup – ArePA George
You may have noticed a trend in this year’s Popup winners, with local favorite ArePA George nearly sweeping the section. It was not an easy victory, and the competition was fierce, particularly in the Best Overall Popup category. As the final votes were calculated, however, it became obvious that Fooda’s voters were still craving ArePA George’s authentically Colombian delights. Exquisite empanadas, a solid menu with plenty of gluten-free and vegan options, and excellent customer service all helped ArePA George take home this year’s prize.
Runner Up: Burrito Beach
Best Delivery Entree of 2023 – Chicken Breast Teriyaki from Glaze Teriyaki
There’s something deceptively simple about this crowd-pleasing lunch favorite from that unassuming Japanese fast-casual eatery in River West. What is it about this Seattle-style teriyaki chicken breast, served with rice and a side salad, that earned Glaze Teriyaki the top spot? Simple. It’s flawlessly prepared and utterly delicious. It doesn’t need anything else, because the food speaks for itself. Fooda’s customers agree, as the dish received nearly half of all votes in this year’s Best Delivery Entree category. Yes, it’s that good.
Runner Up: The Wildfire Chopped Salad from Wildfire
Most Likely To Visit Outside Of Work – Benjyehuda
You can’t fake good food. With their confidently fast-casual spin on the neighborhood falafel and shawarma shop, there’s nothing fake about Benjyehuda. Their menu is filled with dishes that are as satisfyingly filling as they are aromatically addictive. The traditional favorites are all here, from baba ganoush to lamb-and-beef gyros, and with no shortage of vegan-friendly and dairy-free options. It’s worth a visit just to sample their iconic fries, served with a side of Merkts cheddar cheese for dipping. Is it any wonder that Benjyehuda is a Fooda customer favorite?
Runner Up: Orso’s
Best Overall for Fooda Delivery – Glaze Teriyaki
This was a close contest, with the delectable simplicity of Glaze Teriyaki’s menu only just edging out the other contenders. The health-focused, small-batch menu at Glaze probably has something to do with this year’s win, providing workers with a range of exquisitely wholesome Japanese dishes. There’s also something deeply gratifying about opening a delivery from Glaze, knowing that you’re about to experience one of Chicago’s best fast-casual meals. You’re not just being fed, you’re being nourished.
Runner Up: Benjyehuda