Ji Suk Yi
Updated: August 25, 2013 6:03AM
If her first name Ji (pronounced like the letter “G”) doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not a fan of ABC’s local morning talk show “Windy City Live,” where Ji Suk Yi serves as the show’s social media producer/sidekick. She’s also the show’s resident food expert.
“I don’t buy clothes or jewelry,” says the 35-year-old Yi sheepishly about the expense of dining in hundreds of restaurants. “Food is my only hobby.”
Yi’s eclectic gastronomic interest was launched when she was a child. Born in South Korea, she moved to the United States with her family when she was 4½ years old. She grew up poor in a small town in the foothills of North Carolina where there were no other Asian-Americans. The kitchen was the one place that soothed her spirit.
Yi functioned as sous chef — chopping cabbage and peeling garlic — while her mother created a delectable fusion of Korean/Southern soul food, such as kimchi with collard greens, and noodle dishes with pinto beans.
Today, her taste runs toward the casual dining experience; she prefers a diet of individually owned eateries over chains.
Her favorite restaurant is Logan Square’s Lula, an American farm-to-table cafe, although she often takes out-of-town visitors to Avec.
Her top selections for Italian fare include: Piccolo Sogno, La Scarola, and Cafe Bionda in the South Loop “for the gigantic meatball.”
Her No. 1 pick for Korean food is Woo Chon at California and Lincoln because it reminds her of her mom’s cooking.
For the budget-minded, she recommends Belly Shack, 90 Miles Cuban Cafe and Papa’s Cache Sabroso in Humboldt Park for their roasted chicken.
She also gives props to Rootstock for burgers, the Bristol for prawns, and Jam
for brunch, while her all-around favorite new spot is Trenchermen.
If there’s one thing Yi is not, it’s a food snob. She craves fried food, especially fried chicken — everything from Harold’s Chicken Shack to Slurping Turtle’s duck-fat-fried variety.
“Most girls run to ice cream,” says Yi. “I run to the fryer.”
Judy Marcus is a local