1723 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
Grant Achatz needs no introduction. The chef has helmed arguably the greatest restaurant in America since its May 2005 opening.
Pacific Standard Time
141 W. Erie St., River North
COVID-19 update: Temporarily closed. 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 (Closed)
226 W. Kinzie St., River North
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.
1732 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park
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.
3157 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview
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.
1350 W. Randolph St., West Loop
COVID-19 update: Temporarily closed. 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.
564 W. Randolph St., West Loop
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.
2101 N. California Ave., Logan Square
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.
302 N. Green St., West Loop
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.
1531 N. Damen Ave., Wicker Park
Unlike so many of the city’s more popular watering holes, this indoor-outdoor Tex-Mex spot is bright, airy, and massive in size. It’s part of One Off Hospitality Group (Dove’s Luncheonette, Avec) and as evidenced by the deep tequila/beer/cocktail list and 2am closing time, values a good time above all. To balance out the copious amounts of booze, order tacos and lots of guacamole from the walk-up window—it's usually faster than waiter service.