302 N Green St., Fulton Market
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.
1639 S. Wabash Ave., South Loop
Acadia's 10-course prix fixe menu, which includes two cocktails that are mixed table-side, earned it a Michelin star. But if you don’t have the time (or budget) for the full experience, go just to sit at the bar and order the burger, which is served with bacon onion jam, gruyere, and taleggio mornay. Though it's best reserved for exceptionally special events, their private dining room has space for 20.
1664 N. Ada St., West Town
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.
1829 W. Chicago Ave., West Town
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.
807 W. Webster Ave., Lincoln Park
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.
1 W. Washington St., The Loop
Atwood's airy open dining room means that every seat—be it bar, booth, or window—is the best seat in the house. It's the kind of reliable place that covers all its bases by serving a great omelet at breakfast, quickie but filling lunch, and a solid seafood or steak dinner at night. The private mezzanine area seats up to 30, making it particularly well-suited for business lunches.
800 W. Randolph St., West Loop
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.
615 W. Randolph St., West Loop
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.
1633 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
Balena is the second restaurant the team behind The Bristol and Formento's, and it manages to capture the same sophisticated but comfortable vibe as the former, with tall ceilings, rustic furnishings, and some seriously cool firefly-like light fixtures. The menu here is straight-up Italian, filled with classic dishes like a potato gnocchi in a mushroom sauce, a fennel sausage and onion pizza, and a classic roasted chicken with romesco and walnut parmesan. The private room has its own bar that's decorated with back-lit wine bottles for a cool stained-glass effect.
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.
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