Hours: Lunch, dinner: seven days
Standout Szechuan and Taiwanese that's worth the trip.
This superb yet dirt-cheap west-suburban restaurant showcases renditions of its namesake spicy tofu dishes, among the finest to be found anywhere in the Chicago area. House-made roasted chile oil gives items like ma-la ("spicy, numbing") beef tendon and Szechuan wontons an unexpected vibrancy without the expected searing heat. The menu is mostly Szechuan, but some of Mapo's most popular dishes are Taiwanese: an outstanding version of niu rou mian is a lunchtime favorite, and often sells out early on weekends. It has a bold beef broth, made with a strong blend of star anise and Szechuan peppercorn, loaded with chunks of tender beef and respectable noodles and topped with zha cai (Szechuan pickled cabbage). The popular Taiwanese rice box with pork belly, braised tofu and egg, quick pickled cabbage, and ground pork atop a bed of white rice is also popular—and a great buy.
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