5420 N. Clark St., Andersonville
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
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.
4042 N. Milwaukee Ave., Portage Park
“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.
3443 N. Broadway, Gold Coast
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.
311 N. Morgan St., West Loop
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.
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.
Parson’s Chicken & Fish
2952 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square
As the name suggests, you can come here for excellent chicken and fish, both fried to perfection and not at all greasy. But an emphasis on booze is to be expected from the guys that brought you Longman & Eagle. The bar stays open till 2am nightly (3am on Saturdays!) and serves craft cocktails and beer on tap, as well as a lethal Negroni slushy. They also make excellent use of the outdoor space (complete with freestanding bar and ping-pong tables) which functions as a patio in summer or an ice skating rink in the colder months.
115 E. Chicago Ave., Magnificent Mile
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.
464 N. Halsted St., River North
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.
Longman & Eagle
2657 N. Kedzie Ave., Logan Square
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.
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