Nestled on the corner of Illinois and Clark, in River North is Ema. Ema brings a lighter Californian cooking approach of Meditterran food to Chicago. While ’ema’ translates to mom in Hebrew, do not expect strictly Israeli food here. Instead, Ema combines Greek and Middle Eastern dishes to create a taste that is strictly their own. Ema features tapas like dishes (small plates) that are recommended to be ordered and shared family style.
My family headed to Ema for the first time to celebrate my mom’s birthday this year. I had heard only great things about Ema and was excited to try it out. Because there were four people in our party, our waiter suggested we order between 6 and 8 items.
I received suggestions on what to order from several friends, they were all pretty consistent. While there’s a good chance you can’t go wrong with anything on this menu, here are six things that you absolutely should try:
1. Spicy Hummus
Every single person I spoke to about Ema said I had to order the hummus… I decided to rebel a little bit and convinced my family to get the spicy hummus. We all have a pretty decent spice tolerance, but this hummus was not even that spicy. Instead, it has more of a red pepper taste, than a spicy taste. This was the first thing I tried (with the pita) and I immediately said it was my favorite.
2. Eggplant Spread
Next, I tried the eggplant dip. I haven’t been an eggplant fan for long, but recently I just can’t get enough. Forget the hummus, this was my new favorite! My brother, who doesn’t eat eggplant, wiped the bowl clean with his pita because this was so good. If I had to, I would come to Ema just for the spicy hummus and eggplant spread.
3. Brussels Sprouts
l have developed a love for all dishes that involve crispy brussels sprouts. They’re served with crispy shallots, pumpkin seeds, and a tasty sherry glaze. This may be my top 2 brussel sprout dish in the Chicagoland area (#1 is crispy brussels sprouts and kale from E & O in Mt. Prospect).
We also ordered a side of the crispy potatoes. They were tossed in a rosemary seasoning and crisped to perfection. In addition, the tzatziki-based dipping sauce was the perfect tangy taste to pair with these potatoes! If you love potatoes, you will love these!
5. and 6. Chicken Kefta and Lamb & Beef Kefta
Kefta is a ground meat kabob, originating from Morocco. My family ordered both the chicken kefta and the lamb/beef kefta kabobs! We each tried a piece of both and neither of us could pick a favorite. They both were seasoned and grilled to perfection. To add a bit of flavor, I highly recommend squeezing some lemon onto the meet. The rice is the perfect match for the kabobs.
Bonus Item: the Pita
The waiter will either offer you pita or just set it down on your table. Do not be afraid to request more. Ema is known for their unlimited refills of this delicious pita. I promise you’ve never had anything like it… it’s seasoned with a garlicky mix of spices and tastes just like a thinner, spiced garlic bread! No matter what saucy spread you order, it will taste delicious with this garlic pita!
The final word
You cannot go wrong with anything on Ema’s menu. On top of all of the dishes, our waiter brought us a complimentary dessert. We put that we were celebrating a birthday on our OpenTable reservation, and I was surprised when that info was relayed on to our waiter. It truly meant a lot that the restaurant paid attention to our note and helped us celebrate! I cannot wait to try Aba. Their menu is very similar, though it does have a more extensive selection of meats.
This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. I purchased and ordered all items myself.