Locavores in Chicago always look forward to the appearance of ramps, the first locally grown vegetable of the season. A sure herald of spring, deliciously pungent ramps crop up on menus throughout the city each year in April.
Chicagoans have a special connection to ramps, which look like a cross between a lily-of-the-valley and a scallion. The name for the city comes from a Native American word for the vegetable, transliterated by French settlers as “chicagou.” They once grew abundantly in the area that became downtown.
If you hope to sample Chicago’s namesake, don’t wait to reserve your table. Ramps are not commercially cultivated, and their season is short. We’ve put together a selection of fine Chicago restaurants currently featuring ramps on their menus:
The Purple Pig: Charred ramps (done on the plancha) with a house-made romesco sauce
Sixteen: Veal loin with pickled ramp risotto, elf mushrooms, baby artichoke and spring onions
North Pond: Morel mushroom flan with ramp coulis, green olive-almond relish and charred ramp bulbs
MK: Seared Maine diver sea scallops with wilted stinging nettles, pickled ramps, carrot purée and coriander vinaigrette
The Bristol: Ramp fettuccini carbonara with lardo and Pecorino Romano
Girl & the Goat: Goat chorizo flatbread with ramp pesto, fresh ricotta and pickled rhubarb