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StarChefs
Features Chicago Travel II: Where to Eat and Where to Stay 2009
 
photo by Vicky Wasik
TRAVEL ARCHIVE
Chicago Travel II: Where to Eat and Where to Stay 2009
January 2009

Chicago is firmly planted on the culinary map—no doubt about that. Since 2005 the city has grown at a promising rate, adding a few nationally recognized new restaurants and bars (Sepia, The Publican, Violet Hour, Urban Belly) to the ranks of already buzzed-about spots.

In 2007 rumors about big-chef takeovers swirled. We heard talk of Terrance Brennan, Govind Armstrong, and Marcus Samuelsson coming to the Windy City, but Samuelsson was the only one to land, quietly opening a seafood restaurant in the Affinia Hotel. All the better, we think: let Chicago continue to develop an identity fueled by local talent—of which there’s a lot.

Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, and The Publican) is a chef/restaurateur who has led the charge of hip, upscale casual restaurants with top-notch food. His newest venture, Publican, features oysters, cured meats, pork galore, and a broad, esoteric beer list, and would be a hit in any city.

Bill Kim recently brought the city its first hip noodle bar, Urban Belly, where he transforms the white tablecloth dishes he made at Le Lan into casual compositions, with excellent results. Takashi Yagahashi has taken similar steps with Takashi, transporting the intricate Asian-French flavors he was known for at Tribute (in Michigan) to a casual, cozy Wicker Park setting.

Graham Elliot Bowles was one of the culinary talents to bring the city its burst of buzz in 2005. His penchant for inserting Pop Rocks candy and Altoids into fine dining dishes at Avenues drew rave reviews. In 2008 he left fine dining and upholstery behind and opened graham elliot, where he makes a more relaxed, less composed version of the playful food he’s known for, with a few straightforward, rustic, comfort food dishes thrown in.

And of course there’s Alinea, the apotheosis of hyper-modern creative American fine dining run by wunderkind Grant Achatz, who, at 34, won the 2008 James Beard Foundation award for “outstanding chef”—the equivalent of Academy Awards’ “best actor,” it could be said. At 3½ years old (compare that to Trotter’s 21 years) it’s still a youngster, and no doubt will continue to bring attention—and diners—to the city for some time.

Chicago has made great strides on the cocktail front, as well. The Violet Hour is the city’s greatest achievement in this category thus far; it is the clandestine cathedral of Chicago’s cocktail revival, marked by style, grace, suspenders, and serious mixing. Most other bright lights behind the bar are at restaurants, but we hope to see more bartenders getting the liquid courage to open their own spots in 2009.

With its well-developed culinary culture, lower entry costs to start a restaurant, and large convention traffic, Chicago is a great city for chefs. Increasingly a destination for food-lovers and culinary professionals, Chicago’s got a lot of character and plenty to offer those wanting to eat and drink their way across the city.

Note: This feature only includes restaurants we visited since the our last Chicago Travel feature (i.e. after December 2006). For restaurants and hotels not included here (e.g. Moto, Schwa, Le Colonial, Vie, Amalfi, W Hotel, and Hotel 71) see our 2006 Chicago Travel feature.

Restaurants by Cuisine Type    

Fine Dining

Upscale Casual


Casual

Alinea
Avenues
Charlie Trotter’s
Les Nomades
MK
NoMI
Spiaggia
Tru

Aigre Doux
Bin 36
Blackbird
Boka
Custom House
David Burke’s Primehouse
De La Costa
Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo
graham elliott
Japonais

Naha
North Pond
otom
Perennial
Pops for Champagne
Sepia
Sixteen at Trump International Hotel
Spring
Takashi
Vermilion
Wave

Avec
The Gage
Hot Chocolate
Landmark
Lula Café
The Publican
Table 52
Uncommon Ground
Urban Belly

To Drink
Custom House
Nacional 27
Sepia
Uncommon Ground
Violet Hour

To Stay
Crowne Plaza
The Fairmont
The Four Seasons
The Park Hyatt
Sofitel
Trump International Hotel & Towers

Chefs Recommend
Restaurants Off the Beaten Path

 

 

photo by Heather Sperling

Aigre Doux
230 W. Kinzie Street
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 329-9400
www.aigredouxchicago.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Mon-Thurs 5pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-12am
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Mohammad Islam and Malika Ameen relocated from LA and opened Aigre Doux in 2007, the first self-owned restaurant for this sweet-savory duo. Islam trained with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his savory menu, while distinctly American, is rooted in his training in French technique and his masterful use of spices. Ameen’s desserts are homey and luscious: a perfect single-serving honeycrisp apple pie with mascarpone ice cream, and airy cheesecake with saba-glazed figs and vibrant concord grape sorbet—the stuff dessert dreams are made of, really.

Recommended Desserts:

  • Sticky Toffee Pudding with Organic Khadrawy Dates, Devonshire Cream Sorbet, and Citrus Segments
  • Green City Market Apple Pie with Senshu Apples, Spiced Cider Glaze, and Buttermilk Ice Cream

Alinea
1723 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
www.alinea-restaurant.com
Wed-Sun 5:30pm-9:30pm (last seating); Sat-Sun 5pm-9:30pm (last seating)
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

What to say about Alinea that hasn’t already been said? The eye-popping presentations, avant garde techniques, and edible sculpture aesthetic are rooted in a rock-solid foundation of food that simply tastes good. The relentlessly creative spirit of the restaurant (you will learn and love at least five new flavor combinations before you leave, guaranteed) combined with delicious food executed at the highest level, is where its brilliance lies.

Recommended Dishes:

  • The menu at Alinea changes four times a year. Diners choose the 12-course Tasting or the 24 to 27-course ‘Tour’ (We whole-heartedly recommend the Tour!)

Avec
615 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 377-2002
www.avecrestaurant.com
Mon-Thurs 3:30pm-12am (bar until 2am); Fri-Sat 3:30pm-1am (bar until 3am); Sun 3:30pm-10pm (bar until 12am)
Neighborhood: West Loop

Blackbird’s sister restaurant (and next-door neighbor) is one of the city’s best late-night food spots, presenting small plates of simple food, often highlighting a single ingredient, done extremely well. It serves this rustic, hearty, often wood-grilled fare until 1am, and is where you will find Chicago chefs hanging out after work and on their days off.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Chorizo Stuffed Dates
  • Crostini with Botarga and White Bean Purée

Avenues
Peninsula Hotel
108 E. Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 573-6754
www.peninsula.com
Tue-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-10:30pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

We haven’t been since Graham Elliot Bowles left to open his eponymous graham elliot spot downtown, but the kitchen of the Peninsula Hotel’s fine dining restaurant is in good hands: Curtis Duffy, whom we got to know and love as former chef de cuisine of Alinea, is at the helm, and we hear he’s following in the line of his predecessor’s and former boss’ creative cuisine and plating.

Bin 36
339 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 755-9463
www.bin36.com
Mon-Thurs 6:30am-11pm; Fri-Sat 7am-2am; Sun 7am-10pm
Neighborhood: Marina City

John Caputo’s restaurant is an airy, pretty, light wood space with a focus on wine – and a wine store off the dining room, in fact. It’s a go-to for a wine-focused dinner, complemented by wine-friendly seasonal American cuisine.

Blackbird
619 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 715-0708
www.blackbirdrestaurant.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-10:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11:30pm
Neighborhood: West Loop

Paul Kahan’s Blackbird helped usher in upscale-casual in Chicago. When it opened a decade ago, the only upscale restaurants in the city were French-inspired affairs, best visited in a jacket and tie. Kahan’s concept, now a familiar one, was fine dining quality food in a hip setting without the fanciness or pretension. The small, sleek, white room is a cool and sexy place to get some of the city’s most creative seasonal, modern American food. Blackbird remains one of the city’s best restaurants, and entered a new era when Mike Sheerin, a WD-50 alumni, (and a 2008 Chicago Rising Star) was named the restaurant’s first chef de cuisine in 2007. Sheerin’s training at WD-50 is apparent in his creative flavor combinations and plating. Pastry Chef Tim Dahl (a 2005 Chicago Rising Star) is responsible for the delectable desserts.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Rabbit Confit with Sweet Potato Jus, Spring Peas, Treviso, Candied Pecans, and Pickled Rabbit Rack
  • Veal Ribeye with Rapini, Cornbread Porridge, Crispy Chocolate, and Black Truffles Perigord
  • Gingerbread, Apples, Feta, Cilantro, Apple Puree with Juniper, Sheep’s Milk, Yogurt, and Cider Sorbet
  • Smoked Roasted Chestnut Puree, Camembert, Chestnut Financier and Financier Chip, Majari Sorbet, Black Truffle, and Sorrel

Boka
1729 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337-6070
www.bokachicago.com
Sun-Thurs 9am-5pm; Fri-Sat 9am-10pm
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

2008 Rising Star Giuseppe Tentori spent nearly 10 years in Charlie Trotter’s kitchen, and now fortunate Lincoln Park diners can reap the benefits of his training in a more casual, laid-back, á la carte setting. Boka is a neighborhood restaurant at heart, but with a noticeable fine dining vibe on the plates. Tentori brings complex flavor pairings and techniques to his smart, casual tables—even his mac and cheese is made with trophie pasta, a creamy four-cheese sauce added at pick-up, and edamame. Pastry Chef Elizabeth Dahl completes the experience with complex, grown-up desserts, like a barely sweetened oatmeal stout panna cotta.

Recommended Dishes:

  • ‘Mac and Cheese’ with Edamame
  • Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with Banana Walnut Toast and Trappist Apple Ice Cream

Charlie Trotter’s
816 W. Armitage Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 248-6228
www.charlietrotters.com
Tues-Thurs 6pm-9pm (last seating); Fri-Sat 5:30pm-9pm (last seating)
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Charlie Trotter’s remains a bastion of Chicago fine dining. The restaurant recently celebrated its 21st anniversary, and to this day it remains one of Chicago’s, and the country’s, most significant restaurants. The atmosphere is staid but cozy, and the food is a mix of classic elegance and gentle innovation, with plenty of nods to Asian (specifically Japanese) ingredients. With Trotter’s you know what you’re getting—the best quality ingredients, a high-level service, engaging compositions—but you will still be surprised. 

Recommended Dishes:

  • Burgundy Snails with Basil
  • Globe Artichoke Soup with Spearmint and Spun Honey with a Pineapple Chip
  • Chilled Snow Lake Trout with Indian Celery, Louisiana Crayfish and Watercress
  • Nigorizake Sorbet with Asian Pear and Jasmine Rice

Custom House
500 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 523-0200
www.customhouse.cc
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Sat 5pm-1-pm; Sun 5pm-9pm
Neighborhood: South Loop

Rising Star Restaurateur Shawn McClain’s third restaurant, and this time the menu is meat-centric with a Mediterranean influence. It’s not a steakhouse, per se, but a meathouse. They serve veal cheeks, sweetbreads, rabbit, pork cheeks, pork loin, aged meats, and more. If you’re craving a showcase of high-quality meat – but not necessarily steak – this is your place! Start with a creative cocktail (see To Drink section below) and finish with fun American confections by Rising Star Elissa Narow, who takes traditional dessert concepts and makes them playful.  

Recommended Desserts:
(our 2007 tasting was for pastry only)

  • Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Buerre Blanc, Lemon Raspberry Sorbet Soda, Garnished with Sugared Meyer Lemon Segments and Candied Lemon Rind
  • Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake with Green Tea Cream, Coconut Sorbet, and Chocolate Crispies

David Burke’s Primehouse
James Hoteltee
616 N. Rush Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 660-6000
www.brguestrestaurants.com/restaurants/primehouse
Mon-Thurs 7am-9:30pm; Fri –Sat 7am-10:30pm; Sun 7am-9pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side


The American steakhouse is alive and well and David Burke’s Primehouse is a strapping specimen, if there ever was one. Huge, delicious slabs of top-quality beef emerge from a pink Himalayan salt-lined aging cave. Burke is so serious about his steak that he even bought a bull (named “Prime”) and is breeding his own beef. Along with the requisite offerings come some tasty and even inventive dishes from Chef Rick Gresh, notably smoked tomatoes that spruce up an arugula salad, and a satisfying dish of seared foie gras with pea tendrils. Really, though, Primehouse is all about the meat the flavor, where it comes from, where it’s aged, how it’s stored, and how it is served.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Baby Arugula Salad with Truffle Smoked Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, Goat Cheese Fondue, and White Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Pear Compote, Duck Spring Rolls, and Pear Mustard
  • 40-Day-Aged Bone-in 20 Ounce Ribeye with Mini Sides of Garlic Leaf Spinach, Tempura Green Beans, Basil Whipped Potatooes, and Mac and Cheese with Porcini Mushrooms

De La Costa
465 E. Illinois Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 464-1700
www.delacostachicago.com
Sun-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

This fashionable, playful, colorful space is well-matched by its brightly flavored food. Most of the food on the menu at this sexy restaurant is an aphrodisiac. Executive Chef Douglas Rodriguez is known as a master of Latin flavors, and both the food and the festive ambiance make it worth the trip.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Salmon Belly Ceviche, Key Lime, Horseradish, Green Apple, and Sage Salt
  • Seared Foie Gras and Foie Gras Mousse Terrine with Hearts of Palm Salad

Frontera Grill
445 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 661-1830
www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/grill.html
Tues-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Sat 10:30am-2:30pm; Tues 5:20pm-10pm; Wed-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Topolobampo
445 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/topolobampo.html
Tues 11:45am-2pm; Wed-Fri 11:30-am-2pm; Tues-Thurs 5:30pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Chef Rick Bayless is one of the world’s premier experts on Mexican food and he just so happens to reside in Chicago! Frontera Grill, and the neighboring and slightly upscale Topolobampo, is home to sophisticated, serious Mexican cuisine—not to mention phenomenal margaritas. These restaurants are about traditional Mexican food and ingredients that haven’t been Americanized. Ask about the difference between mezcal and tequila, and a server will bring you a laminated photo-essay created by Bayless, explaining the differences and the process.

photo by Will Blunt

The Gage
24 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 372-4243
www.thegagechicago.com
Mon-Fri 11am-2am; Sat 10am-3am; Sun 10am-Midnight
Neighborhood: The Loop

Don’t be fooled by the TVs at the bar—the Gage is a serious restaurant with food that ranges from comforting to ambitious. It’s not a place where you’d expect to find experimentation, but chef Dirk Flannigan likes to play with his food, but is sure to always keep it hearty, boldly flavored, and delicious. The vibe is part retro-cool, part-gastropub, and it works for both casual dates and nights out with a big group of friends.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Chicken Fried Lobster with Friseé, Organic Radish, Blue Cheese Butter, and Hot Sauce Vinaigrette
  • Peach Wood Smoked Kona Kampachi, Lobster Potato Salad, Chive and Yuzu

graham elliot
217 W. Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 624-9975
www.grahamelliot.com
Mon-Sat 5pm-10:30pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side, River North

2005 Rising Star Graham Elliot Bowles shed the fine dining and upholstery of Avenues and opened a casual, cool, “bistronomic” restaurant in River North to house his playful, even cheeky American food. All fine dining pretense is gone, but the character is the same—deconstructed Caesar salad still graces the menu (albeit in less composed form), and reconstructed buffalo wings and beef stroganoff are hits as well. Pop Rocks-crusted foie gras lollipops have been known to make an appearance, and never fail to draw a smile. The sleek, dark wood restaurant is an excellent spot for a chic dinner before a night downtown. And, of course, the restaurant is all about Bowles, from the music playing in the background (that he wrote) to the menus (printed in a font he created from his handwriting). Graham Elliot serves as a lesson on how to turn your personality into a restaurant.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Deconstructed Caesar Salad with Romaine Lettuce, White Anchovies, Parmesan Fluff, and Brioche Twinkies
  • Spicy Buffalo Chicken with Celeriac Slaw, Bleu Cheese, Hot Sauce and Budweiser Suds

Hot Chocolate
1747 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-1747
www.hotchocolatechicago.com
Wed-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Sat-Sun 10am-2pm; Tues-Wed, Sun 5:30pm-10pm; Thurs 5:30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am
Neighborhood: Wicker Park

2005 Rising Star Pastry Chef Mindy Segal’s Wicker Park cafe is a delightful blend of bakery, café, restaurant, and dessert bar—meaning it’s comfortable and hits the spot nearly any time of day. The baked goods are largely American with a bit of French influence; brunch is sumptuous; the lunch menu has excellent, hearty sandwiches; and dinner offers solid seasonal fare, plus an excellent cheese list. Only one or two savory dishes are offered each evening, and even those have a pastry chef’s hand. Dessert, of course, is not to be missed; this restaurant is all about pastry technique and flavors. There’s always a good assortment of chocolate concoctions, plus seasonal desserts, ice creams, sorbets, cookies, and milkshakes.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Assortment of Fresh Baked Brunch Breads
  • Seasonal Quiche with Mixed Greens
  • Buttermilk Biscuit with Gunthorp Farms Sausage Patties, Scrambled Eggs and Aged Cheddar
  • Fresh Fruit & Frozen Yogurt Smoothies (choose your favorite flavors)

Japonais
600 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 822-9600
www.japonaischicago.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Mon-Thurs 5pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11:30pm; Sun 5pm-10pm
Neighborhood: North Side

Japonais is a dark restaurant with a long sushi bar that is sleek, flirtatious, and cosmopolitan. Whether you want creative rolls or simply an elegantly cut piece of sushi, this is a place to enjoy phenomenal sushi in a fun, see-and-be-seen atmosphere. Take in the décor and the scene while enjoying the dynamic plate compositions. Weather permitting, the outdoor seating is a particularly enjoyable environment.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Akami, Madai and Sake with Chef's Signature Sauce
  • Yukke Toro - Toro Tartare with Quail Egg and Chef's Special Soy Sauce

Landmark Grill and Lounge
1633 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 587-1600
www.landmarkgrill.net
Sun-Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 5pm-3am
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Landmark has a chic, clubby feel that fills up with those who are there to see-and-be-seen on certain nights. An impressive duel-level space in the theater district, there is a downstairs dining room and upstairs lounge; on weekends the bar area fills up quickly. An added perk is solid seasonal fare with a focus on local farms. If you’re in Lincoln Park, it’s a go-to for a nosh and a drink.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Barbeque Glazed Heirloom Pork Chop with French Lentils and Sweet Onion Marmalade
  • Roasted Heirloom Half Chicken with Cauliflower and Natural Jus

Les Nomades
222 E. Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 649-9010
www.lesnomades.net
Tues-Sat 5pm-9pm (last seating)
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Once a private dining club, Les Nomades still has an old-Chicago feel. It’s an intimate, special spot, in a townhouse smack-dab in the middle of downtown, and while its décor is dated, its food is timeless, thanks to young, talented chef Chris Nugent, a 2008 Rising Star. Nugent’s menu is über French, but in the most delicate, pleasing way. Representing the New French cuisine in America, Nugent’s sophisticated dishes aren’t heavy on the sauces, and focus on using French technique with local ingredients. The food is light, inviting, elegant, and not overly filling. It makes for a wonderful celebratory meal, or just a good excuse to get dressed up and indulge.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Roasted Duck Breast, Confit Cipollini Onion Gratin, Braised Root Vegetables, Green Peppercorn Sauce
  • Roasted Veal Sweetbreads, Spanish Chorizo, Smoked Paprika and Potato

Lula Café
2537 N. Kedzie Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-9554
www.lulacafe.com
Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sun 9am-10pm; Fri-Sat 9am-11pm
Neighborhood: Logan Square

Run by husband-and-wife team Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds, (2005 Chicago Rising Stars) Lula is the consummate neighborhood spot—open pretty much all day, with a cool, casual vibe and excellent, reasonably priced food crafted from local produce. Despite their lack of formal culinary training, this couple learned to cook from cookbooks, and are turning out delicious comfort food that you could eat every day and be satisfied. As such, it draws more than just the neighborhood crowd—it repeatedly came up as one of Chicago chefs’ favorite spots. Breakfast is served until 2:30 on weekdays, and Monday night they offer a 3-course farm dinner for $28.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Stratta with Prosciutto di Parma, Tomato, Grana, and Balsamico
  • Chocolate and Ricotta French Toast
  • Rushing Waters Rainbow Trout with Sunchokes and Winter Radishes, Serrano Ham, and Saffron Butter

MK
868 N. Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 482-9179
www.mkchicago.com
Sun-Thurs 5:30-9pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10pm
Neighborhood: River North

Michael Kornick's MK is a bastion of Midwest Modern American—that is to say, dishes with a seasonal bent and a focus on local produce. But it's global, too—you're as likely to find buffalo steak as you are Moroccan olives or lobster with curried cream; it's a menu that is eclectic in a familiar way. The restaurant is an airy, stylish space, with a look that's a bit modern ski lodge, a bit warehouse-chic, thanks to its River North location. The wine program, run by Rising Star Josh Kaplan, is one of the city's best affordable lists. As Josh says, the list is made for drinkin'—and asking him to guide you in that pursuit will make your dining experience all the better.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Hardwood Charcoal Grilled Bison Ribeye, Crushed Nichols Farm New Potato, Bloomsdale Spinach, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, and Red Wine Sauce
  • Crispy Skin Arctic Char with Mussels, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Baby Fennel and Carrot, Saffron, and Green Apple

Moto
945 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 491-0058
www.motorestaurant.com
Tues-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Neighborhood: Fulton Market, West Loop

Chef Homaru Cantu and Pastry Chef Ben Roche are fusing molecular gastronomy with New American cuisine at Moto. Take their variation on the classic peanut butter and jelly, for example, which is presented as a seamless ravioli of sodium alginate with peanut puree inside French toast. Diver scallops are presented with passion fruit noodles and buttered popcorn puree, contrasting sweet and salty. Mixologist Mike Ryan brings science into the cocktails, as well. You may even be required to wear protective goggles for some, like the Martini Library, which is four cocktails in pipettes that play off dishes in the kitchen. 

Recommended Dishes:

  • The menu changes seasonally. Choose from a 10-course or 20-course tasting menu.

Naha
500 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 321-6242
www.naha-chicago.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Carrie Nahabedian’s airy, modern restaurant is a blend of comfort and style—both in the food and the décor. The food melds Californian-Mediterannean-local influences to great success; it’s simply done, but sophisticated, too. The space is attractive and chic, without sacrificing comfort for style. Dress up or dress down—either way, you’ll enjoy the solid new American food.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Kara Kanpachi with Celery Root, Cauliflower, and Shellfish Broth
  • Roasted Quail with Americano Prosciutto, Coddled Quail Eggs, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Potatoes, Spinach, and Tarragon

NoMI
Park Hyatt, Seventh Floor
800 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
www.nomirestaurant.com
Mon-Fri 6:30am-10:30am; Sat-Sun 7am-10:30am; Mon-Sat 11:30am-1:30pm; Mon-Thurs, Sat-Sun 6pm-9pm; Fri 6pm-9:30
Neighborhood: Near North Side, Magnificent Mile

The Park Hyatt’s elegant fine dining restaurant has a sexy bar area, and a phenomenal view. Chef Cristophe David’s cuisine is elegant with a distinctly French, modern attitude. Sommelier Fernando Beteta (a 2005 Chicago Rising Star) creates memorable wine pairings. For the ultimate romantic night, get a room at the hotel, wander the Mag Mile, dine late, and retreat for a candlelit bath in the hotel’s big soaking tubs. 

Recommended Dishes:

  • Diver Scallop with Beet Carpaccio, Sorrel Foam, and Comté Cheese
  • Lemon Goat Cheese Cream with Thyme-Roasted Figs and Fig Sable

North Pond
2610 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 477-5845
www.northpondrestaurant.com
Tues-Sun 5:30pm-10pm
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Chef Bruce Sherman is one of the Midwest’s best-known adherents to the local-seasonal philosophy. And he doesn’t just talk the talk – every year he takes his entire staff on a retreat to visit the farms where his food comes from, so everyone working there has a connection with how their produce is grown. His cozy, lodge-like restaurant, North Pond (overlooking Lincoln Park’s North Pond) is an enchanting setting in any season. Brunch is hearty, often with an almost Southern feel, and the dinner menu changes with the seasons, and features the area’s best local products.

Recommended Dish:

  • Smoked Wisconsin Trout, Candied Beets, Cucumber Salad, Horseradish Cream, and Watercress

otom
951 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 491-5804
www.otomrestaurant.com
Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Neighborhood: West Town

Otom is Moto spelled backwards. As Moto’s younger sibling, Otom shares a few genetic traits (i.e. streamlined design and a penchant for experimentation), but is a completely different dining experience. For one, the menu is á la carte, rather than a 10- to 20-dish tasting menu. Chef Daryl Nash (former Moto sous chef) focuses less on chemistry than on turning out solid dishes with unusual flavor pairings and textures, such as braised pork belly with red beets and sweet potato flan with fall-spiced caramel. The brick walls lend a casual, cozy feel to the otherwise modern interior.  

Recommended Dishes:

  • Braised Pork Belly with Red Beets and Rosemary
  • Sweet Potato Flan with Fall-Spiced Caramel

Pops for Champagne
601 N. State Street
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 266-7677
www.popsforchampagne.com
Sun-Fri 3pm-2am; Sat 1pm-2am
Neighborhood: River North

Chef Andrew Brochu, an Alinea alum, is responsible for the small plates that accompany champagne at Pops. The restaurant offers 125 Champagnes and sparkling wines, an adjoining jazz bar, and a tasting room that hosts Saturday tastings. The restaurant has a highly modern feel with large windows and a wrap-around bar at the front, and a lounge area further back.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Rabbit Rillettes with Shallot Marmalade, Red Grapes, and Vanilla
  • Oysters Rock-a-Fella, Japanese Style with Kumamoto Oysters, Sake Creamed Spinach, and Hollandaise

Perennial
1800 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 981-7070
www.perennialchicago.com
Daily 5-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-2pm
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

We haven’t been to Perennial yet, but wanted to give a mention to this collaboration between two of our favorite Chicago chefs: Giuseppe Tentori (Boka) and Ryan Poli (of the now-defunct Butter).

Recommended Dishes:

  • Foie Gras of Squab Liver and Pork with Briased Red Cabbage, Perogi, Swiss Chard, Stuffed Squab Leg, Natural Jus. Stuffed with foie of squab liver and pork (from Chef Ryan Poli when at Butter)
  • ‘Mac and Cheese’ with Edamame (from Chef Guiseppe Tintori at Boka)

The Publican
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9555
www.thepublicanrestaurant.com
Mon-Thurs 3:30pm-10:30pm (bar until 11:30pm); Fri-Sat 3:30pm-11:30pm (bar until 12:30am)
Neighborhood: West Loop, Fulton Market

Paul Kahan’s newest restaurant is, in many ways, closest to his heart. It’s in the city’s Meatpacking district where his father once had a smokehouse, and the food—largely focused on pork and beer—is, as he says, what he likes to eat. And the pork is fantastic. Potted rillettes topped with quince and served with grilled sourdough is unreasonably tasty, and the beer list is one of the city’s best, but there’s more to the restaurant than meat. When we went, a massive Dungeness crab was placed on our table and introduced as Greta; she came back 15 minutes later steamed and topped with nutty Romesco sauce, cilantro, and scallions that took the dish in an almost Southeast Asian direction. Have fun sitting in one of the stall-like booths, and ordering a beer produced in the methode champagnoise.

We Recommend:

  • Potted Rillettes with Quince and Sourdough
  • Becker Lane Farm Organic Pork Belly with Cannellini Beans
  • Dungeness Crab with Romesco, Cilantro, and Scallions

Sepia
123 N. Jefferson Street
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 441-1920
www.sepiachicago.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Thurs 5:15pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:15-10:30pm
Neighborhood: West Loop

In our humble opinion, Sepia is one of Chicago’s best-looking restaurants—it’s rustic yet sleek, comfortable yet sexy. And, whaddya know, the food is deliciously just the same. Rising Star Kendal Duque is a talented chef whose subtle twists take his rustic, seasonal American food from tasty to exciting. Homemade pasta is always a good choice, and meats are almost all done excellently. It’s just the thing for a date, a dinner with friends, and even family, but go on the early side—it gets busy, quick. Inventive cocktails are another highlight (see To Drink below).

Recommended Dishes:

  • Roasted Rabbit Leg with Fresh Ricotta Dumplings on a Bed of Chickpeas and Cherry Tomatoes, Riesling Reduction, Butter, and Herbs
  • Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop on a Bed of Arugula and Sliced Apple, Crostini and Pork Rillettes, Fatback

Sixteen at Trump International Hotel
401 Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(877) 458-7867
www.trumpchicagohotel.com/Food_Wine/sixteen.asp
Mon-Sat 6:30am-2pm; Sun 6:30am-3pm; Sun-Thurs 5:30pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Sixteen boasts stunning floor-to-ceiling windows and an unrivaled view of downtown Chicago, all the way to the lake. Chef Frank Brunacci, Australian by birth and a 2003 New Orleans Rising Star, makes some seriously fun, yet sophisticated and elegant food. Combining French influences and techniques with local produce, Brunacci is producing exciting food that is well worth a trip. Flavors are beautifully paired, and the chic plating showcases the delicious dish to come.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Diver Scallop with Bang Bang, Fideo, Tomato Gastrique, and Sweet Red Onion Heat
  • Halibut with Crunchy Potato Salad and Crab-Stuffed Squash Blossom with Basil Vinaigrette

Spiaggia
980 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-2750
www.spiaggiarestaurant.com
Mon-Thurs 6pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30; Sun 6pm-9pm
Neighborhood: Near North Side

Spiaggia remains one of Chicago’s finest spots for Italian fine dining. Since opening nearly 25 years ago, Chef Tony Mantuano has set the bar for high-level Italian cuisine and that means exquisite homemade pasta, beautiful composed salads, and excellently done meats, and fish. Sommelier Steven Alexander brings encyclopedic knowledge of wine (Italian and otherwise) and an approachable personality to the table.

Recommended Dish:

  • Handcrafted Saffron Spaghetti with Lobster, Ginger, Chives, and Sea Beans

Spring
2039 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 395 7100
www.springrestaurant.com
Tues-Thurs 5:30pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm; Sun 5:30pm-9pm
Neighborhood: Wicker Park

2008 Rising Star Restaurateur Shawn McClain’s Spring is a peaceful space with a menu that’s pan-Asian, interpreted through an American lens. Dishes are full-flavored, approachable, and well executed.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Kumamoto Oysters with Rice Wine, Mignonette, Cucumbers, and Fresh Wasabi
  • Filet of Beef Served Over Braised Oxtail with Wild Mushrooms and Sweet Soy Sauce

Table 52
52 W. Elm Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 573-4000
www.tablefifty-two.com
Tues-Sat 11:30am-1:30pm and 5pm-10pm; Sun 10am-12:30pm and 4pm-9pm
Neighborhood: Gold Coast

If you’re craving mac and cheese, get thee to Table 52! Art Smith (Oprah’s former personal chef) is a comfort food kind of guy. The menu at his cozy downtown restaurant (in an old carriage house) has a definite Southern mentality, with the added bonus of a wood-fired oven. The pizza is solid, but the three-cheese macaroni (on the menu as a side dish) is the most irresistible thing that comes out of the flames.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Three-Cheese Macaroni
  • Gouda, Mozzarella, and Swiss Cheese Pizza with Crispy Breaded Bacon and Fresh Herb Medley
photo by Will Blunt

Takashi
1952 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 772-6170
www.takashichicago.com
Tues-Thurs 5:30pm-10pm; Fri 5:30-10:30pm; Sat 5pm-10:30pm; Sun 5pm-9:30pm
Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Chef Takashi Yagahashi has a range of experience under his belt, from fine dining at the Wynn Las Vegas and Tribute in Michigan to a noodle bar in the Chicago Macy’s. At Takashi he brings together the French, American, and Japanese influences of his background. This makes for an exciting menu with house smoked salmon and sunchoke galette on one page, and soy-ginger caramel pork belly with steamed buns on the next. The restaurant is in an attractive, two-story house in Wicker Park, and makes for an intimate, rousing dining experience.

Recommended Dishes:

  • House Smoked Salmon, Garlic Chives, Jerusalem Artichoke Galette
  • Soy-Ginger Caramel Pork Belly, Pickled Daikon, Steamed Buns

Tru
676 N. St. Clair Street
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 202-0001
www.trurestaurant.com
Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Neighborhood: Gold Coast

This bastion of Chicago fine dining has been infused with young energy in the last few years. Chef de Cuisine and 2008 Rising Star Tim Graham, Pastry Chef Meg Galus, and Wine Director Chad Ellegood are a youthful trio who are breathing new life into the still-gorgeous, art-filled restaurant. Graham is experimental and energetic, but restrained, and both Galus and Ellegood think outside the box. Though the restaurant hasn’t been in the buzz for some time, it’s still got it—or, better said, it’s got it again!

Recommended Dishes:

  • Liquid-Center Parmesan Gnocchi with Porcini Cream, Serrano Ham, and Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil Poached Scottish King Salmon with a Salad of Daikon Noodles, Granny Smith Apples, Smoked Trout Caviar, Thai Long Peppercorn, and Apple Nage

Uncommon Ground
3800 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 929-3680
www.uncommonground.com
Sun-Thurs 9am-11pm (bar until 2am); Fri-Sat 9am-Midnight (bar until 2am)
Neighborhood: Wrigleyville

1401 W. Devon Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 465-9801
Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm (bar until 2am); Fri 11am-Midnight (bar until 2am); Sat 9am-Midnight (bar until 2am); Sun 9am-10pm (bar until Midnight)
Neighborhood: Edgewater

Both locations of Uncommon Ground are some of the city’s funkiest, coziest coffee house/restaurant/music spaces—places you just want to be, basically. Fireplaces, fun cocktails, homey food, and eco-consciousness make Uncommon Ground a great place to spend your time and money. Look for occasional farmer events that bring together musicians, a local producer, and a menu of small bites featuring the producer’s goods.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Duck Duo - Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast and Confit Duck Leg with Crunchy Potatoes - Triple Baked and Fried with Black River Gorgonzola and Red Wine
  • Cajun-Rubbed Roast Chicken, Stuffed with Boursin, served with Organic Grits and Boursin, Braised Wisconsin Collard Greens, and Andouille Sausage Cracklins.

Urban Belly
3053 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 583-0500
www.urbanbellychicago.com
Tues-Sun 11am-9pm
Neighborhood: Logan Square

Rising Star Bill Kim left Le Lan, his upscale-casual Asian restaurant, and created a hip, super casual, counter service restaurant—with even more spectacularly delicious food. Prices are reasonable, flavors are big, tangy, savory, and bold, and the dishes are incredibly satisfying. Noodles are a main attraction, but it’s more than just a noodle bar, so be sure to branch out. It’s in a fairly out of the way location, but it’s definitely worth the trip.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Chinese Eggplant with Thai Basil
  • Duck and Pho Spice Dumplings
  • Short Rib and Scallion Rice

Vermilion
10 W. Hubbard Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 527-4060
www.thevermilionrestaurant.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Sun-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm
Neighborhood: River North

Vermilion is a lively, swank space with dynamic—and, to our knowledge, unprecedented—upscale Indian-Latin fare. It’s the product of two intelligent, driven women, owner Rohini Dey and chef Maneet Chauhan. The pair just brought Vermillion to New York, showing that their energy and verve isn’t limited to Chicago.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Blue Corn-Encrusted Scallop with White Pumpkin Puree
  • Artichoke Poppadums with Coconut Eggplant Chutney

Wave
W Chicago
644 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 255-4460
www.waverestaurant.com
Sun-Thurs 6am-10pm; Fri-Sat 6am-11pm
Neighborhood: Lake Shore

Rising Star Hotel Chef Kristine Subido has created a dynamic, eclectic menu for the W Hotel’s trendy, scene-y dining room and bar. Wave is a festive spot, and the energy isn’t only at dinner. Subido is constantly improving upon the food and beverage program, making it one of the best in the city. She changed the menu so it is all about sharing, presenting small plates before they were “in.” Subido teaches cooking classes each month, has developed creative spa menus, and presents an alternative savory and sweet tea service menu to pair with afternoon tea or afternoon “mar-tea-nis.”

Recommended Dishes:

  • Grilled Baby Octopus with Roasted Fingerlings and Roasted Pepper preserved Lemon Piperade
  • Ahi Tuna Crudo with Shaved Fennel, Blood Orange, Red Onion Pickle, and Pomegranate

Custom House
500 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 523-0200
www.customhouse.cc
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Sat 5pm-1-pm; Sun 5pm-9pm
Neighborhood: South Loop

The cocktails at Custom House fit the vibe of classy, downtown cool without frills or pretense—and a bit manly, too. The drink menu has something for everyone. There’s a delicate and delightful house-made cordial with a base of sauvignon blanc, vodka, chamomile, and orange for those craving something sweet, a homemade rosewater soda for the non-drinkers, and a gin-amontillado sherry-orange mixture for the dry drink lovers. The pervading theme of the bar, which runs along the front side of the restaurant, is maturity, and there’s a well-heeled, business-like clientele to match.

Recommended Drinks:

  • Sauvignon Blanc Infused with Orange Peel, Chamomile, and Cinnamon
  • North Shore Rhubarb-Ginger Infused Gin, Cream Sherry, and Maraschino

Nacional 27
325 W. Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 664-2727
www.nacional27.net
Restaurant: Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm
Ceviche Bar: Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri 5pm-2am; Sat 5pm-3am
Salsa Club: 11pm-2am; Sat 11pm-3am
Neighborhood: River North

Veteran Chicago mix-master and 2005 Mixology Rising Star Adam Seger has been serving his culinary cocktails at Nacional 27 since we first named him a Rising Star a few years ago, and he remains at the forefront of the culinary, farmer’s market cocktail movement. Honeycrisp apples, fresh peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and tomatillos are all fair game for Seger’s cocktail glass. And Seger is doing his part to keep Chicagoans in the mix: the third Thursday of every month he offers mixology classes.

Recommended Drinks:

  • Pernod Pom Royale
  • El Corazon

Sepia
123 N. Jefferson Street
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 441-1920
www.sepiachicago.com
Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Thurs 5:15pm-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:15-10:30pm
Neighborhood: West Loop

Peter Vestinos is the mastermind behind the bar at Sepia, and his menu is a seasonally inspired mix of classic and new. There’s always a twist on an Old Fashioned (it featured almond and fig-infused Woodford Reserve when we were last there) and a few playful libations, like the extreme Bacon Bloody Mary—a Bloody Mary on brunch steroids with an injection of pork, syrup, and smoke—and the sweet but bitter Bittersweet End with raspberry jam and Aperol. When it isn’t packed, the front lounge area, with low velvet banquettes, wood paneling, and single-filament bulbs, is a stylish and subdued place to enjoy a well-mixed, creative drink.

Recommended Drinks:

  • Bacon Bloody Mary
  • Bittersweet End

Uncommon Ground
3800 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 929-3680
www.uncommonground.com
Sun-Thurs 9am-11pm (bar until 2am); Fri-Sat 9am-Midnight (bar until 2am)
Neighborhood: Wrigleyville

1401 W. Devon Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 465-9801
Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm (bar until 2am); Fri 11am-Midnight (bar until 2am); Sat 9am-Midnight (bar until 2am); Sun 9am-10pm (bar until Midnight)
Neighborhood: Edgewater

At the N. Clark Street location the bar is lined with glass jugs of infusing organic liquors, and the menu is rife with allusions and drinkable metaphors. “Tom Waits for No Man” is an homage in the form of bourbon and Tupelo honey; Illusion is the First of All Pleasure is inspired by an Oscar Wilde quote. Organic, seasonal, local, and house made ingredients drive the diverse cocktail menu, and the beer and wine lists follow suit with small production craftsmanship (for the beer) and 100% biodynamic and organic assurance (for the wine).

Recommended Drinks:

  • Tom Waits for No Man
  • Illusion is the First of All Pleasure

Violet Hour
1520 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-1500
www.theviolethour.com
Sun-Fri 6pm-2am; Sat 6pm-3am
Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Finally, Chicago has a bastion of creative cocktail culture to call its own! The city’s drink culture is thriving, but revolves largely around restaurant bars. Violet Hour is the first true cocktail house to break ground, and it’s drawn a loyal following of industry-types and artisan bitters connoisseurs in the year since its opening. The bar, whose entrance is nearly hidden in what looks like a plywood and poster-covered storefront, has a speakeasy feel and an old-school aesthetic with bartenders in vests and arm bands—partner and head mixologist Toby Maloney has been known to sport an Honest Abe beard and a pocket watch. Its menu is classically inclined, with delicious Dark and Stormys, Rye Daisies, and so on; come winter you’ll find Toddies and roaring fireplaces. Obligatory small bites come from a Blackbird/Avec alum, but the true raison d’être is the shaker, not the stove.

Recommended Drinks:

  • Dark and Stormy
  • Rye Daisy

Crowne Plaza
733 W. Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60661
www.thechicagometro.com
Rooms from $160
Neighborhood: West Loop

The Crowne Plaza is a good deal for a still-reasonably close location, though not necessarily walking distance to the downtown attractions. Rooms are comfortable with all the expected amenities.

The Fairmont
200 N. Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 861-0068
www.fairmont.com
Rooms start at $250
Neighborhood: The Loop

A bit below the Mag Mile, but still walkable, the Fairmont is a comfortable, reasonably plush hotel that is nicely suited for business travel. Located among a few high towers on a wide road, it’s not the most picturesque Chicago location, but it is a cushy hotel that’s among the city’s nicest options.

The Four Seasons
120 E. Delaware Place
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-8800
www.fourseasons.com/chicagofs
Rooms start at $375
Neighborhood: Magnificent Mile

Classic hotel plushness, a central Mag Mile location, and one of the best brunches in the city make The Four Seasons a good bet if you’re looking for accommodations to make all ages happy. Chef Kevin Hickey and Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Lane lavish their brunch menu with as much care as dinner; having their lemon ricotta pancakes with cherry compote a mere elevator ride away is reason enough to book a stay. The workout room, spa treatments, and comfy beds are good reasons, too.

The Park Hyatt
800 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 335-1234
Parkchicago.hyatt.com
Rooms start at $345
Neighborhood: Near North Side, Magnificent Mile

Chic chic chic. With plush beds, deep soaking tubs, and modern décor, the Park Hyatt is pure, modern lushness. It’s certainly one of Chicago’s most elegant hotels with all the comfort you crave, but none of the old-school patterned upholstery. The hotel’s bars (indoors and outdoors) and restaurant are cosmopolitan and elegant.

Sofitel
329 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(877) 813-7700
www.sofitel.com
Rooms from $230
Neighborhood: Magnificent Mile

This gorgeous glass tower that soars to the sky—and stands out among the big-industry towers of brick and stone that fill downtown—is modern through and through. The design is contemporary and stylish, but not overly minimal, and rooms are spacious and comfortable. The sleek glass-front dining room in the lobby is an airy spot for fresh juice and people-watching in the morning. The hotel’s restaurant, Café des Architects, has recently brought in a local talent, Chef Martial Noguier (formerly of One Sixty Blue). We haven’t eaten there since he took over, but we’re looking forward to trying his seasonal American menu.

Trump International Hotel & Tower
401 N. Wabash Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(877) 458-7867
www.trumpchicagohotel.com
Rooms start at $345
Neighborhood: Magnificent Mile

Trump’s first property in Chicago is an elegant, reserved affair. Rooms are comfortable and incredibly spacious, with a full-kitchen option, huge bathrooms, and beds fitted with—no joke—custom pillows. Call down before going out for the night and request the pillow of your choice (firm, soft, medium, or even a body pillow, if you fancy), and end the evening with the perfect headrest. The hotel’s restaurant, Sixteen, has some of the best views in the city, and an exciting menu from Rising Star tag team chef Frank Brunacci and pastry chef Hichem Lahreche. (More on Sixteen above.)

4 Taste
415 N. Milwaukee Ave.          
Chicago, IL 60610      
(312) 226-7850                      
Type of Cuisine: American       
Recommended by: Brian Jupiter
Bacchanalia   
2413 S. Oakley           
Chicago, IL 60608      
(773) 254-6555          
www.bacchanaliachicago.com 
Type of Cuisine: Italian 
Recommended by: Carrie Nahabedian
Bijan’s Bistro            
663 N. State St.          
Chicago, IL 60610      
(312) 202-1904          
www.bijansbistro.com
Recommended by: Graham Elliot Bowles

Bob San Sushi           
1805 Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622      
(773) 235-8888          
www.bob-san.com
Type of Cuisine: Japanese        
Recommended by: Randy Zweiban

Café Salamera          
6653 N. Clark St.       
Chicago, IL 60626      
(773) 764-7210          
Type of Cuisine: Peruvian         
Recommended by: Graham Elliot Bowles
Chicago Food Corp.
3333 N. Kimball Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625      
(773) 478-5566
www.chicagofood.com
Type of Cuisine: Korean, ethnic food, grocery  
Recommended by: Todd Stein
Chicago Kalbi
3752 W. Lawrence Ave.         
Chicago, IL 60625      
(773) 604-8183          
www.chicago-kalbi.com
Type of Cuisine: Japanese        
Recommended by: Takashi Yagihashi

Cho Sun Ok   
4200 N. Lincoln Rd.    
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 549-5555          
www.chosunokrestaurant.com
Recommended by: Gene Kato

Ditka's Steakhouse
100 E. Chestnut St.     
Chicago, IL 60611      
(312) 587-8989          
www.mikeditkaschicago.com   
Type of Cuisine: Steakhouse    
Recommended by: Matthew Kelley

El Chorrito     
6404 N. Clark St.       
Chicago, IL 60626      
(773) 381-0902                      
Type of Cuisine: Mexican         
Recommended by: Bruce Sherman
Fat Cat Bar & Grill      
4840 N. Broadway St.
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 506-3100          
www.fatcatbar.com
Type of Cuisine: American       
Recommended by: Tim Graham

Fonda del Mar          
3749 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 69647      
(773) 489-3748
www.fondaonfullerton.com
Type of Cuisine: Mexican         
Recommended by: Kendal Duque

Geja’s Café   
340 W. Armitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614      
(773) 281-9101          
www.gejascafe.com
Type of Cuisine: Fondue          
Recommended by: Grant Achatz
Gino's East    
633 N. Wells St.         
Chicago, IL 60610      
(312) 943-1124          
www.ginoseast.com
Type of Cuisine: Italian 
Recommended by: Jeff Mauro
Hot Doug’s    
3324 N. California       
Chicago, IL 60618      
(773) 279-9550          
www.hotdougs.com     
Type of Cuisine: Meat emporium          
Recommended by: Graham Elliot Bowles; Douglas Rodiguez; Adam Schop; Mike Sheerin; Todd Stein
Jane's Restaurant     
1655 W. Cortland St.  
Chicago, IL 60622      
(773) 862-5263          
www.janesrestaurant.com
Type of Cuisine: American       
Recommended by: Rick Bayless

Katsu 
2649 W. Peterson Ave.           
Chicago, IL 60659      
(773) 784-3383
Type of Cuisine: Japanese        
Recommended by: Mohammad Islam

Kuma’s Corner         
2900 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618      
(773) 604-8768          
www.kumas-corner.com
Type of Cuisine: American       
Recommended by: Tim Dahl; Todd Feitl; Giuseppe Tentori

La Islas Marias        
4770 W. Grand Ave.   
Chicago, IL 60639      
(773) 637-8233
Recommended by: Mindy Segal

La Oaxacena 
3382 N. Milwaukee    
Chicago, IL 60641      
(773) 545-8585                      
Type of Cuisine: Mexican         
Recommended by: Kendal Duque

Lao Sze Chuan          
2172 S. Archer Ave.   
Chicago, IL 60616      
(312) 326-5040          
www.laoszechuan.com
Type of Cuisine: Chinese          
Recommended by: Elissa Narow; Ryan Poli; Missy Robbins
Lula Café       
2537 N. Kenzie Blvd.  
Chicago, IL 60647      
(773) 489-9554          
www.lulacafe.com
Type of Cuisine: Contemporary American        
Recommended by: Tim Graham; Michaels Kornick
Matsuya        
3469 N Clark St.        
Chicago, IL 60657      
(773) 248-2677                      
Type of Cuisine: Japanese        
Recommended by: Bill Kim
Pasticceria Natalina  
5406 N. Clark St.       
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 989-0662          
www.pasticcerianatalina.com
Type of Cuisine: Italian Bakery 
Recommended by: Tim Dahl

Pho 777 Vietnamese Noodle House
1065 W. Argyle St.     
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 561-9909          
Type of Cuisine: Vietnamese    
Recommended by: Kristine Subido

Phoenix Restaurant  
2131 S. Archer Ave. #2          
Chicago, IL     
60616 
(312) 328-0848          
www.chinatownphoenix.com   
Type of Cuisine: Chinese          
Recommended by: Michael Kornick

Piccolo Sogno
464 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL     
60622 
(312) 421-0077                      
Type of Cuisine: Italian 
Recommended by: Dirk Flannigan

Ricardo Trattoria      
2119 N. Clark St.       
Chicago, IL 60614      
(773) 549-0038          
www.ricardotrattoria.com
Type of Cuisine: Italian 
Recommended by: Martial Noguier

San Soo Gap San      
5247 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625      
(773) 334-1589                      
Type of Cuisine: Korean BBQ 
Recommended by: Bill Kim; Shawn McClain
Sapore di Napoli       
1406 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657      
(773) 935-1212          
www.saporedinapoli.net
Type of Cuisine: Italian 
Recommended by: Martial Noguier
Silver Seafood           
4829 N. Broadway Ave.         
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 784-0668          
www.silverseafoodrestaurant.com
Type of Cuisine: Chinese          
Recommended by: Tony Mantuano
So Gong Dong Tofu House  
3307 Bryn Mawr Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659      
(773) 463-2121
Type of Cuisine: Korean          
Recommended by: Mindy Segal
Sola    
3868 N. Lincoln Ave.  
Chicago, IL 60613      
(773) 327-3868          
www.sola-restaurant.com
Recommended by: Homaro Cantu
Spacca Napoli           
1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 878-2420          
www.spaccanapolipizzeria.com
Type of Cuisine: Italian 
Recommended by: Elizabeth Dahl
Spoon Thai    
4608 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625      
(773) 769-1173
www.spoonthai.com
Type of Cuisine: Thai   
Recommended by: John Peters
Sushi Tanoshii           
5547 N. Clark St.       
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 878-6886                      
Type of Cuisine: Japanese        
Recommended by: Ben Roche
TAC Quick Thai
3930 N. Sheridan Rd. 
Chicago, IL 60613      
(773) 327-5253
Type of Cuisine: Thai   
Recommended by: Erick Simmons
Tank Noodle 
4953-55 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640      
(773) 878-2253          
www.tanknoodle.com  
Type of Cuisine: Thai   
Recommended by: Malika Ameen
The Grafton Pub & Grill       
4530 N. Lincoln
Chicago, IL 60625      
(773) 721-9000          
www.thegrafton.com   
Type of Cuisine: Irish and American     
Recommended by: Craig Harzewski
Tre Kronor    
3258 W. Foster Ave.  
Chicago, IL 60625      
(773) 267-9888          
www.swedishbistro.com          
Type of Cuisine: Swedish         
Recommended by: Jason Hammel; Amalea Tshilds
Zaiqa  
858 N. Orleans St.      
Chicago, IL 60610      
(312) 280-1652          
www.zaiqarestaurant.com
Type of Cuisine: Pakistani
Recommended by: Malika Ameen

     
 
 
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