Travel

Chicago Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
Pacific Standard Time
141 W. Erie St., River North
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
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.
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.
Octavio Cantina
5310 N Clark St., North Side
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.
Tied House
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.
Elske
1350 W Randolph St., West Loop
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.
Bellemore
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.
Bar Biscay
1450 West Chicago Ave., West Town
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.
Lonesome Rose
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.
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