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The Chicago Guide

The Chicago Guide

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Chicago is easy to love. First, there’s the famous Midwestern charm, which can’t be overstated and seems genetically wired in its inhabitants. People are just really nice here. Then, of course, there are world class museums, parks, parks, parks everywhere you look, and so many great restaurants we’ve barely made a dent in our checklist. And every year, it just gets better. Formerly off-the-beaten path neighborhoods, like Logan Square and Bucktown, are now front-and-center when it comes to Chicago’s new crop of hip watering holes, while old school haunts, like The Peninsula (one of GP’s favorites), are getting fresh, modern makeovers. As much as we love sharing everything new, though, we’re also rediscovering cultural institutions, shops, and restaurants that deserve newfound attention. It’s this uniquely Chicago mix, after all, that makes this city so endlessly exciting.

Girl & the Goat

Girl & the Goat

809 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.492.6262

We love Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat because craft is the key to every single one of the dishes. The food is separated into three categories—meat, fish, and vegetables—with plenty of crossover in between. Combinations are unexpected and bold flavors abound, all with a feminine, comfortable touch. Don’t miss the selection of house-made breads served at the beginning of each meal, and if you’re a beer drinker, you will be pleased with their unusual collaborations with Three Floyds. The "Underground Goat," their private dining space below the restaurant, is one of the most sought-after party venues in town.

The Publican

The Publican

837 W. Fulton Market, Fulton Market | 312.733.9555

Dining at The Publican is always a treat. It’s kind of the ideal menu, with oysters, roast chicken, fries, and lots of delicious sides. The room is big and light and open, plus, many booths have little saloon style swinging doors on them for privacy. Their butcher shop and cafe (Publican Quality Meats) is next-door, and offers a full butchery plus sandwiches and old-fashioned breakfasts; it can be converted into a dining room in the evening for private events.

Boka

Boka

1729 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park | 312.337.6070

A few years ago, the team behind Boka enlisted Simeone Deary Design Group to give the Michelin starred restaurant a top-to-bottom overhaul. The resulting space—an earthy mix of muted mauves, with one wall covered entirely in antique door handles and another in live moss—is the perfect setting for Chef Lee Wolen’s refreshingly unfussy take on fine dining: heirloom carrots, brandade ravioli, and the now famous roasted chicken. The desserts are pretty extraordinary too (see: 70 percent South American cacao mousse). The terrace opens up onto the patio and has doors that close to the main dining room for private events.

Ada Street

Ada Street

1664 N. Ada St., West Town | 773.697.7069

The menu at this hidden gem (it's quite literally hidden near a Home Depot in an unmarked building) remains exciting: gnocchi with maple bacon, steak tartare with fried capers and egg yolk, PB&J bread pudding. In the summer, they open up a garage door in the back of the building to an open-air astroturf patio; head to the back to play a game of ping pong while you wait for your meal. The private dining room here is legendary, too—tucked away near the entrance to the main dining room, it's a popular pick for the film and music crowd.

The Bristol

The Bristol

2152 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown | 773.862.5555

Don't be fooled by the clean, no-frills setup at this Bucktown bistro, Chef Todd Stein's menu is complex and downright experimental at times. At brunch time, things take a more low-key, but equally satisfying turn with smoked ham benedict, braised pork chilaquiles, and a pork-broth noodle situation hilariously called the hangover breakfast. The sprawling second floor is reserved for private parties of up to seventy-five people. There are two other arrivals from the same company, which both justify a visit: Balena and Formento's.

Schwa

Schwa

1466 N. Ashland Ave., Wicker Park | 773.252.1466

The absolute highlight of any Chicago trip is eating at Schwa. Chef Michael Carlson and his staff are so punk rock that they don’t even answer the phone, which makes getting a table difficult, yet weirdly fascinating. From the outside, Schwa looks like it has been condemned. Inside, the dining room is small and spare yet cozy. The formality of the service and menu (no orders taken until the whole party arrives, and the elaborate tasting menu) is juxtaposed by all the hot waiters in skater clothes and the blaring hip hop/heavy metal. The food is sublime. It’s classic American comfort food by way of Ferran Adrià/Banksy/Tony Hawk. It’s off the hook. Try the 9-course tasting menu.

High Five Ramen

High Five Ramen

112 N. Green St., West Loop | 312.754.0431

According to High Five Ramen, a good bowl of ramen boils down to the broth. Their version is creamy and miso-y with a nice kick. Thanks to generous helpings of chiles and pepper—as the warning on the menu suggests—the restaurant’s signature namesake dish is guaranteed to set your mouth on fire. If you like your noodles a little less intense, try the no-spice version or the “Special” ramen. Though there are only sixteen seats, the wait is reasonable and the cavernous feel of the space is weirdly romantic. The alcohol offering is pretty skimpy, but the spiked coconut painkiller slushy is really all you’ll need.

Dove’s Luncheonette

Dove’s Luncheonette

1545 N. Damen Ave., Wicker Park | 773.645.4060

A working jukebox, padded stools, and counter seating…aesthetically speaking, everything about this smallish Wicker Park restaurant screams retro luncheonette. The menu, on the other hand, is the farthest thing from greasy diner food. Chef Tom Carlin turns out an impressive selection of Southern-inspired Mexican comfort food (red chile enchiladas, grits, and a bunch of yummy chicken dishes) and a tequila-heavy drink menu to match. The seating situation is a tad unconventional and doesn't really accommodate large groups comfortably. That said, it’s ideal for a low-key one-on-one.

Lula Cafe

Lula Cafe

2537 N. Kedzie Ave., Logan Square | 773.489.9554

This long-standing neighborhood standby adopted the farm-to-table approach long before it was the cool thing to do. Though you’re guaranteed a great meal any time of day, it’s the weekend brunch that garners the most praise from locals. Nettle-infused creamed grains and the farm egg “Royale” are particularly delicious but there’s no guarantee either will stick around as the offering is tailored according to what’s in season. Given that Lula is operated by a husband-and-wife team, the emphasis is on community, hence the family-style Monday night prix-fixe dinners.

Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen

Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen

100 E. Walton St., Gold Coast | 312.626.1300

This self-professed “fast-casual” eatery prides itself on giving guests a 100 percent customizable experience. The tech-to-table system allows for lightning-fast service (order from a digital menu board, and then take a wireless tracker to your table), though if traditional waiter service is more your speed, there’s that too. Food-wise, the focus is on healthful, fresh fare, with the menus at both locations brimming with veggie-driven dishes (for the most part, produce is sourced locally) like kale slaw and grilled artichokes, in addition to comfort staples like matzo ball soup and close to a dozen burger variations (the turkey burger is a GP favorite). There's also a location in River North.

MFK Restaurant

MFK Restaurant

432 W. Diversey Pkwy., Park West | 773.857.2540

This seafood-centric newcomer takes up a beautifully appointed but tiny sliver of a space in Lakeview. In contrast, the menu is a vast. There’s ceviche on squid ink toast, sea scallops with pickled Fresno peppers, and a cured anchovy starter that’s way better than it should be. For veggies, there’s a section of seafood and meat-free dishes (the tempura eggplant is bomb). Reservations are hard to come by so plan ahead.

Little Goat Diner

Little Goat Diner

820 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.888.3455

This is Stephanie Izard's elevated riff on the classic American diner, so expect to find vinyl booths and all-day breakfast—but know that it’ll be the farthest thing from rubbery eggs and soggy toast. It's more like spaghetti and clams, kimchi bacon & eggs, and a savory bull’s eye French toast. For lunch, go for the build-your-own burger and side of smoked fries…this is a diner after all. There’s a strict walk-in only policy, so be prepared for a wait.

Gilt Bar

Gilt Bar

230 W. Kinzie St., River North | 312.464.9544

The first thing you need to know about Gilt Bar is that it’s not a bar—it’s a full-on restaurant, with a pared-down menu of small-plates that rarely eclipse the $20 mark. Here you’ll find pork meatballs, ramp risotto, and steak tartare served on toast. What’s more, there is an actual bar downstairs. It’s called Curio, and with its candlelit, subterranean vibe, and impressive classic cocktail selection, it’s arguably the best date spot in town.

Bavette’s

Bavette’s

218 W. Kinzie St., River North | 312.624.8154

Like most establishments on Brendan Sodikoff’s roster (Au Cheval, Gilt Bar), the décor at this River North steakhouse is old time-y and darkly romantic (tufted leather booths, hard-wood floors, vintage mirrors) with a dinner offering that clearly values tradition over pomp: meatloaf, crisp wedge salad, and really really good steak frites. Wash it all down with something from the classics-minded cocktail list (regulars tend to go for the Dark & Stormy).

Kai Zan

Kai Zan

2557 W. Chicago Ave., Smith Park | 773.278.5776

Collectively, twin chefs Carlo and Melvin Vizconde have spent fifteen years honing their craft at respected sushi establishments before striking out on their own. So yeah, the backstory of this BYOB twenty-two seat sushi spot is just as interesting as the innovative offering of esclar-wrapped oyster clouds, duck skewers, and all manner of sashimi. At $60, the omakase menu is a good way to sample the best of the best.

Parachute

Parachute

3500 N. Elston Ave., Avondale | 773.654.1460

This Avondale forty-seater got its start from a Kickstarter campaign and is operated by Top Chef alum, Beverly Kim, with help from her husband, fellow chef Johnny Clark. Their Americanized take on Korean staples (pork belly and mung bean pancake, Spanish mackerel Bi Bim Bop, house-made kimchi) has proven to be a huge hit with locals who are encouraged to come in with family in tow and ask for the thoughtfully developed kid’s menu.

Maude’s Liquor Bar

Maude’s Liquor Bar

840 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.243.9712

It may be billed as a bar (and yes, the cocktails are something else), but there’s a lot more to Maude's than that—mainly, the fact that it has a full dinner menu. On offer you’ll find expertly prepped French classics (escargot, French onion fondue) as well as a great selection of fresh oysters. The space is on the small side, but the exposed brick walls and dim lighting make it exactly the kind of place you’d want to tuck into for a cassoulet on a cold night…followed by the crème brûlée.

Fat Rice

Fat Rice

2957 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square | 773.661.9170

We don’t come across perfectly executed Macanese cuisine every day, but co-owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo have a deep understanding of the complex fusion of Portuguese, Chinese, and Indian flavors. From curries, to the crowd-favorite Piri Piri chicken, to the signature Fat Rice, everything on the menu is served family style out of a bustling open kitchen. Getting in for dinner is not easy, but they have lunch service now, too.

Mirai Sushi

Mirai Sushi

2020 W. Division St., Wicker Park | 773.862.8500

"Unfussy" is probably the best word to describe the fresh fish at this sexy little sushi joint. All the chefs are traditionally trained, so while the more out-there rolls and daily specials are great, it’s the beautifully cut sashimi and nigiri that steal the show. It’s also important to note that while the offering is topnotch, the atmosphere is decidedly low-key, just right for a weeknight dinner. Both this location and the one in Gold Coast offer delivery and takeout.

Next & The Aviary

Next & The Aviary

953 W. Fulton Market, West Loop

How could we do a Chicago guide without mentioning Grant Achatz, the Midwestern wunderkind of molecular gastronomy? His restaurant, Next, and bar, The Aviary, are tops in our book. Expect flavors, textures, and combinations that you’ve never encountered before. Next is an interpretation of French cuisine harkening back to 1906. The Aviary is more than a cocktail bar or lounge. It’s a lab. To get a coveted reservation (or a ticket, as the website indicates), sign up online.

Riccardo Trattoria

Riccardo Trattoria

2119 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park | 773.549.0038

This is the kind of authentic Italian standby that has no need to futz with the basics. Everything, whether it’s a seasonal pasta or ossobuco, is prepared perfectly and true to tradition, the way chef Riccardo Michi has been doing it for years (go if you're especially hungry, as portions tend to run large).

Avec

Avec

615 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.377.2002

Avec is one of Chicago's enduring food destinations. It boasts a sleek all-wood interior, and rows of communal tables that aren't exactly comfortable, but do the job (particularly because long lines dictate that you shouldn't exactly linger). It’s technically a wine bar, so there’s an extensive wine list in addition to a selection of beers and cocktails. Food-wise, the menu is broken up into shareable plates that range from charred octopus to stuffed dates, and large plates like confit chicken paella and whole roasted fish.

Au Cheval

Au Cheval

800 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.929.4580

Exposed brick, leather banquettes, and mood lighting make this the ideal date spot—whether it’s of the romantic or friendly variety. They don’t take reservations, so we suggest cozying up at the bar for a classic burger (many say it’s the best in town) and a cold beer (there are tons of domestic and international options). The brunch shouldn’t be missed—the fried house-made bologna sandwich with a side of hashbrowns is the restaurant’s most popular order.

Athenian Room

Athenian Room

807 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park | 773.348.5155

This beloved neighborhood haunt is one of the best family-friendly meals in town. The menu is packed with tasty dishes that are just simple enough to accommodate a kid’s palate. The roasted chicken in particular seems to net the most acclaim from diners both big and small.

Q

Q

1160 N. Dearborn, Gold Coast | 312.642.1160

By far the best BBQ in Chicago. The menu is short and, unsurprisingly, meat heavy but what makes Q special are the house wood-smoked meats and the distinctive rubs and pickles they concoct so consistently.

Arami

Arami

1829 W. Chicago Ave., West Town | 312.243.1535

This West Town gem has some of the freshest sushi in town. The Japanese dishes here—uni shooters, sashimi, nigiri—are all authentically modern, a testament to chef Nelson Vinansaca.

Longman & Eagle

Longman & Eagle

2657 N. Kedzie Ave., Logan Square | 773.276.7110

This is another great Chicago gastropub that has pretty impressive and rarified food and drinks. There are also a few very affordable and sleekly decorated guestrooms, featuring the work of some great American craftsmen and designers, just upstairs.

Piccolo Sogno

Piccolo Sogno

464 N. Halsted St., River North | 312.421.0077

A collaboration between a chef and a wine connoisseur, Chef Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo opened Piccolo Sogno in 2008. The modern and rustic Italian food is all about the freshest, seasonal ingredients and Italian wines. The best seats in the house, especially in the summer, are in their quiet outdoor patio.

RL

RL

115 E. Chicago Ave., Magnificent Mile | 312.475.1100

RL Restaurant (yes that’s RL for Ralph Lauren), has the old-fashioned feel of an English club, with dark paint on the walls, leather seats, and art arranged salon-style on the walls. It’s a prime spot for ladies who lunch. Stop by for their chopped salads, club sandwiches, and tomato soup.

City Mouse

City Mouse

311 N. Morgan St., Fulton Market District | 312.764.1908

Tucked inside the Ace Hotel, City Mouse is the latest offering from beloved local triumvirate Jason Vincent, Ben Lustbader, and Josh Perlman of Giant. Here, the guys call upon seasonally-driven Midwestern inspired fare for their all-day menu, which translates to dinner selections like cornbread with parmesan and the "Country Mouse"—a cheddar, caramel, and caviar shooter (a wink to local favorite Garrett Popcorn), plus a particularly satisfying lasagna, layered with lemon ricotta and mushroom duxelles. The crowd-pleasing brunch runs the gamut from gluten-free house doughnuts and avocado toast to sweet cornmeal griddle cakes, and—wait for it—a particularly decadent cinnamon pretzel roll. The dining room itself intentionally blends into the lobby, and there's an outdoor patio with ample fire pits and space heaters for those balmier Chicago days. If you come in for dinner, swing by the Waydown, the hotel's unpretentious rooftop bar for panoramic city views and a solid cocktail list by Caitlin Laman.

Passerotto

Passerotto

5420 N Clark St., Andersonville | 708.607.2102

In Andersonville, chef (and Chicago native) Jennifer Kim has created a unique eatery, combining the cuisine of her Korean-American heritage with a distinct central Italian influence. It’s hard to picture what that means, but you’ll appreciate it when you sit down to dishes that are unlike anything you’ve tasted before: Kimchi Pajeon Farinata, a crisp chickpea pancake with charred scallions and baby garlic pesto; cavatelli with nori butter, asparagus and pickled ramps; and a lamb ragu with dubokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes). The space is remarkable, too: a cavernous, brick-walled, slightly industrial room with a long marble bar decorated with vintage David Bowie prints and Korean ceramics

Octavio Cantina

Octavio Cantina

5310 N Clark St., North Side | 773.293.1223

Half the pleasure in coming here for dinner is just looking around: Original building features have been restored and a huge thirty-foot mural of Mexico dominates one of the many brick walls. Seats are a rich blood red, and wood floors are interspersed with colorful tiles. Soft tortillas are handmade in the kitchen before being blistered over the grill and filled with all manner of slow-stewed meats and quick-fried fish. Margaritas come in pitchers, and there are great slushies for the kids.

Frunchroom

Frunchroom

4042 N. Milwaukee Ave., Portage Park | 773.853.2160

“Frunchroom” is Chicago slang for the front room of a house, typically the lively social center for entertaining guests. That welcoming, family-friendly environment is the atmosphere chef and owner Matt Saccaro wanted to create at his Portage Park restaurant. The cuisine is inspired by traditional Jewish and Italian delis, which means platters of house-smoked and cured fish (sardines, lox, sable, trout salad) and charcuterie like Andalusian chorizo, duck prosciutto, and pork belly terrine. The dining room is small, cozy, and relaxed, the kind of place locals come for Sunday mornings to read the paper while slathering scallion-cream cheese on bagels and drinking endless cups of coffee. In other words, it’s pretty much perfect.

Tied House

Tied House

3157 N Southport Ave., Lakeview | 773.697.4632

The typical caution against filling up on bread before dinner flies out the window at Tied House, in Lakeview, where Parker House rolls are served with addictive sides like chicken liver mousse, green tomato marmalade, and buttery bone marrow. Some of the best entree options are on the lighter, side, including vegetarian dishes like maitake mushrooms in a shoyu and leek broth that’s packed with umami. If there’s room, though, meat-based items (milk braised pork with cabbage salsify and apple, short rib with black garlic and yellow foot chanterelle mushrooms) is worth the extra calories.

Lonesome Rose

Lonesome Rose

2101 N. California Ave., Logan Square | 773.770.3414

In a blue, rectangular clapboard building in Logan Square, the team from Land and Sea Dept., which run popular spots like Lost Lake and Cherry Circle Room, have scored another hit with Lonesome Rose. The decor gives off a Southern California vibe (lots of light wood accents, potted cacti and ficus, and sunlight streaming through oversized windows), but the food is pure Tex-Mex. The chile con queso is probably the best you’ll find in the city (you’ll want to add black beans), and the fried chicken torta with pickled peppers is a winner, too. There’s also a basement bar, Golden Teardrops, convenient when you want an after-dinner drink without having to travel too far.

Bar Biscay

Bar Biscay

1450 West Chicago Ave., West Town | 312.455.8900

Hugging the coastlines of Northern Spain and Western France, the area around the Bay of Biscay is the foundation for the most sublime Galician seafood, Bretagne cheese, and of course, Bordeaux reds. While this West Town eatery is about 4,000 miles away from there, the chefs have taken a valiant stab at recreating the gastronomic experience of the region. Sharing the tapas-style small plates is the way to go, the best of which include bowls of cockles doused in sherry butter, jamon serrano with manchego and pickled mushroom, and white anchovies with grilled asparagus. The best seats are the cozy wooden booths, but the long, wide bar is a comfortable alternative.

Pacific Standard Time

Pacific Standard Time

141 W. Erie St., River North | 312.736.1778

Pacific Standard Time reminds us of some of our favorite restaurants in L.A. (Botanica, Gjusta, we're looking at you), and it’s clear that chef Erling Wu-Bower took cues from coastal California, both in menu, open kitchen, and modern, light-filled space. Drawing from Mexican, Italian, and Mediterranean flavors, you can expect plates of oven roasted asparagus marinated in black garlic molasses, trout in a fennel-mushroom broth, and margherita pizza with pistachio pesto from a wood-burning oven. For dessert, the huckleberry sundae and the sunflower cotton cake with strawberry syrup are winners. And since it's Chicago, a city that does happy hour particularly well, grabbing cocktails (we go for the rhubarb spritzes) at the bar is a popular way to kick off a visit. Photos: Brian Willette

Radio Anago

Radio Anago

226 W Kinzie St., River North | [email protected]

Radio Anago isn’t a typical sushi bar. Design and atmosphere take center stage at this River North spot, with its sexy purple banquettes and dim lighting that’s more reminiscent of a supper club from the 1950’s than a sushi bar from 2018. They serve all the standard rolls you could want (yellowtail sashimi, freshwater eel, salmon roe), but it’s worth ordering the Japanese-style, roasted matcha-enhanced fried chicken and the Sakura Blossom Last Word—a cocktail made of gin, green chartreuse, lime, and sakura cherry.

Aba

Aba

302 N Green St., Fulton Market | 773.645.1400

Hovering above Fulton Market in Ballast Point, Aba is the brand new, 4,000 square foot rooftop restaurant that’s turned into one of the city’s buzziest warm weather hangouts (though with several fireplaces spread throughout, it’ll likely remain a hot spot well beyond the summer season). The best way to tackle the Mediterranean-themed menu is by sharing everything, especially the small plates that includes five kinds of hummus (the avocado and fava bean is our favorite), and the red beet tzatziki with horseradish, dill, and finger limes. For dessert, the frozen Greek yogurt with olive oil and sea salt is simple, but so satisfying.

Bellemore

Bellemore

564 W. Randolph St., West Loop | 312.667.0104

A newcomer to the fine dining scene in Chicago, Bellemore is the latest from chef Jimmy Papadopoulos (of the Eastern European-themed restaurant Bohemian House). The food is as elegant as the surroundings—an enormous dining room with curved leather banquettes, vases of seasonal flowers and greenery, and a long marble bar that’s perfect for solo dining or drinks while waiting for dinner. Plating is an art form here, and entrees, like an oyster custard topped with Osetra caviar, tiny squares of green apple, lemon, and dill, and desserts (rhubarb shortcake with goat’s milk sorbet, pickled green strawberries and crispy farro verde) are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Small Cheval

Small Cheval

1732 N Milwaukee Ave., Old Town

Some Chicagoans swear that Small Cheval has the best burgers in the city. And it just got easier to test the theory since they opened a third location in Old Town, near the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park (the other two are located in the downtown Loop). The burger they’re known for is the “double stack,” two patties with cheddar cheese, dijonnaise, pickles, and two slices of maple-glazed bacon. The food menu is small (hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries), so don’t come here for a salad. But when you’re craving a summertime burger outside on a picnic table with a pitcher of locally-made Half Acre microbrew, there’s no place better.

Elske

Elske

1350 W Randolph St., West Loop | 312.733.1314

Chicago hasn’t been immune to the Nordic food craze of the past few years, and it reaches new heights at Elske, a Danish-influenced West Loop restaurant from husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey (formerly of Blackbird, a few blocks away). The spare, airy dining room is thoroughly Danish, and made warm and inviting with jugs of wildflowers, ferns, and candlelight. The menu, meanwhile, is both curious and comforting, consisting of dishes like fermented black bean agnolotti with morels, sugar snap peas, and sherry and aged duck breast and grilled confit with ember roasted kohlrabi, kraut, and creamed duck fat. After dinner, there’s a huge outdoor fireplace—the perfect place to finish your Pinot Noir.

Revolución Steakhouse

Revolución Steakhouse

3443 N. Broadway, Boystown | 773.661.9893

Every neighborhood needs Boystown's Revolución. That is to say: a casual, unpretentious, no-reservations-necessary spot for great margaritas by the pitcher (we’re partial to the watermelon-basil). And it doesn’t hurt if that place also knows exactly how to make the perfect steak and shrimp fajitas and pollo rostizado (oven-roasted half-chicken with truffle mashed potatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro chimichurri). Come for weekend brunch to try their Mexican-influenced twists on classics, like the Horchata French Toast and blueberry Margarita pancakes, made with a lemon zest compote and dulce de leche.

Barcocina

Barcocina

2901 N Sheffield Ave., Lincoln Park | 773.687.9949

While Mexican fare is the anchor of the Barcocina menu, the food takes cues from other parts of the world, too, like Korea (short ribs with kimchi) and Thailand (a chicken quesadilla with spicy chiles and peanuts). It’s a testament to chef Matt Williams’ skill that everything is equally great, and the large, warehouse-style space is made cozier with communal tables and wood-paneled walls that give off a warm, welcoming feel. There’s a fire pit on the patio for pre- or post- dinner cocktails. Our favorite is the House Fire, made with Cointreau, jalapeno-infused tequila, and the homemade sour mix.

Alinea

Alinea

1723 N Halsted St., Lincoln Park | 312.867.0110

Grant Achatz needs no introduction. The chef has helmed what is arguably the greatest restaurant in America since its 2005 opening (just watch the first episode of Chef's Table season two...there are no words). Alinea has received every accolade going (including a whopping three Michelin stars) but, awards aside, this thoroughly modern restaurant's greatest success is remaining open (and packed to the rafters) for over a decade. Spaced out across a few floors, the beauty of Alinea is choice—sixteen to eighteen courses on the first floor, a more subdued ten courses on the second (wine pairings available with both). The cuisine is on the experimental end which means lots of foam, the odd sprinkling of molecular dust, and a heavy dose of nostalgia mingled with modernity. The perfect example of a signature Alinea dish is the translucent pumpkin pie: that sweet, spiced pumpkin pie flavor distilled into clear gelatin and poured into a tradition pie crust—genius. A recent shake-up means that executive chef Mike Bagale is moving on and veteran staffer Simon Davies—who started in the restaurant as an intern over nine years ago—is taking the reigns. And finally, last year's renovation (aside from knocking down a few walls) meant the freed-up staff travelled the world for gastronomic inspiration—the new menu packs a nuanced, flavorful punch, and the space is a pleasure all its own. (Reservations open the fifteenth of each month.)