Hannukah - also known as The Festival of Lights - began last night. The eight-day holiday is, for Jews, not exactly as big as Christmas (it celebrates the miracle of oil lasting eight days, after the destruction of a Jewish temple). But because the holiday always falls within a few weeks of Christmas, most people assume it's the Jewish answer to that present and gift-laden holiday. It's not. What it does celebrate is oil; lots of it, in fact.
How do they celebrate this miracle of oil, burning well beyond its expected expiration date? By cooking as much as they can in it: sufganiyot (donuts that resemble Polish paczki orbs) are traditional, but so are latkes, also known as potato pancakes.
There should be finely-shredded potatoes, of course, but also onions; perhaps some garlic and a little salt. Personally, I add a Granny Smith apple to my mix, to give them a little bit of a tart bite. The most crucial detail of all involves squeezing out the excess water from your mixture before you drop the batter into hot oil. I've been eating latkes in the area since 1992, and I think these five do a good job (but not, of course, anywhere near what my mom did in her kosher kitchen).
1. Myron & Phil's (Lincolnwood)
3900 West Devon Avenue
2. Max & Benny's (Northbrook)
461 Waukegan Road
5961 North Elston Avenue
4. The Bagel
3107 N. Broadway
(also at Old Orchard Mall)
1141 S. Jefferson Street