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Best Way to Make It Yourself (Not Really) 

Critics' Pick

click to enlarge Longtime restaurateur Stella Dikos has opened a small, neighborhood market, Stella’s Grocery, across the street from her restaurant in Sauer’s Gardens.

Ash Daniel

Longtime restaurateur Stella Dikos has opened a small, neighborhood market, Stella’s Grocery, across the street from her restaurant in Sauer’s Gardens.

You have friends coming over and although you’re a decent cook, somehow you ran out of time to get an entire meal together. OK, maybe you aren’t even a decent cook. But if you carefully mix and match a few outstanding to-go items, no one will ever know. Here are three ideas for a delicious fake-out:

Stop 1: Stella’s Grocery for apps. Pick up some of Stella Dikos’ consistently perfect dolmades, tzaziki and some real Greek feta — throw in a few olives and that course is taken care of.

Stop 2: Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market, where the poached salmon will lend a little sophistication to your meal and the Nile’s ingudai tibs — spicy mushrooms — from the hot bar will give it some heat. Everyone says they like kale these days, but Ellwood Thompson’s actually makes a kale salad worth eating, with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives.

Stop 3: Trek up the hill to WPA Bakery and grab either one of its hummingbird cakes or a blueberry pie.

Stop 4: Pick up a container of Trickling Springs vanilla ice cream at North Side’s Little House Green Grocery to go along with it and no one will be the wiser. And even if they are, gratitude will be the only thing on their minds at the end of the meal.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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