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David Lissner
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To-Go Cocktails from Chicago’s Best Bars and Restaurants

Chicagoans can order these pre-mixed cocktails.

Chicago’s best bars and restaurants

Drink Up! To-Go Cocktails from Chicago’s Best Bars and Restaurants

Mid-June, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that would allow bars and restaurants to offer customers premixed cocktails to go, bottled and ready to enjoy at home.

Now, with approval from the City Council, Chicagoans can order these pre-mixed cocktails, which provide a much-needed revenue source for hospitality businesses devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as importantly, ready-to-go cocktails and cocktail kits give you, at home, the chance to sample some beautiful beverages that use sometimes exotic ingredients to bring your at-home drinking game up a notch or two (and probably three).

Premixed Cocktails to Go

Absolute Best 18 Steakhouses in Downtown Chicago

Here are the best 18 steakhouses in downtown Chicago. 

Chicago’s Union Stockyards helped build the city’s reputation as the place to go for beef. Since those early days of the city, that reputation has grown and though the stockyards are now gone, the renown of the city for serving the very finest red meat has continued to grow.

Because Chicago is so closely identified as a meat and potatoes town, our steakhouses are driven to deliver even greater levels of excellence because Chicagoans and those visiting Chicago expect the bet, and few could deny that the beef in this city is the best in the world. Great steak requires great chefs and knowing how to skillfully butcher and perfectly prepare a steak is an entrance requirement to the kitchens of Chicago’s steakhouse chefs.

You may visit Chicago for the many excellent restaurants, but you really don’t know Chicago until you sit down to enjoy a beautifully prepared steak.

Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar brings to Naperville two of America’s favorite proteins – steak and sushi

Winner of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, Shinto Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge is recognized as a place that will satisfy carnivores and pescatarians alike…and there’s also good vegetable representation on the menu. In short, there’s a lot to make most everyone happy.

The hibachi grill is recognized as one of the best cooking surfaces in the world for steak:

America’s favorite proteins – steak and sushi

A Lenten Fast at an LA Steakhouse? Yes, It Can Be Done!

Cleveland Rocks…the Steakhouse

Cleveland, Ohio, is home to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but there are more reasons than just that excellent museum to visit the city.

Cleveland has a few steakhouses that are part of larger national organizations but also many that are unique to the area, found nowhere else in Ohio, the Midwest…or even the world. That’s what we find most intriguing about Cleveland.

Here are six of Cleveland’s best steakhouses, each one unique, each one offering a different atmosphere and different takes on the highest quality USDA prime steaks.

Best Veggies at Chicago’s Best Steakhouses

Steakhouses, in any city you might visit, are usually the places you go for premium EVERYTHING.  Always a luxe dining experience, a steakhouse dinner in a city like Chicago – with its long history as the place you want to be if you’re in the mood for a good piece of meat – can also always be counted on to offer you the best fish, the best wine…and the best veggies.

As we cruise into the harvest season, you can bet that Chicago steakhouses will be leveraging the best product to set alongside that beautiful steak you’ve ordered.

Here are five of Chicago’s Best Steakhouses, each offering the best veggies you’re likely to find anywhere, and that you’re most likely to find in a Chicago steakhouse.

III Forks. III Forks in Chicago’s River North has earned a platinum reputation for being one of the best places in the city to find a good steak, and it’s on the way to earning an equally distinguished reputation for its vegetable offerings. Off-the-cob cream corn highlights the Midwest’s premier crop, and you can also enjoy sautéed spinach (a classic side for steak) and seasonal vegetables, all harvested at the height of freshness to make your steak dinner even more special.

STK. Broccoli is the favorite vegetable of…some people. At STK Chicago, broccoli is raised to unheard of heights of deliciousness with a bacon vinaigrette and a crumble of foie gras, special ingredients you’re not likely to find anywhere else, both complementing the lush green deliciousness of this in-season vegetable. The Foraged Mushrooms are a special side, featuring fungi that require a lot of time and attention to find in the forest, and the perfect side dish to one of STK’s magnificent steaks.

Tavern on Rush. You know you’re in for some high-quality produce when the steakhouse menu has a special section devoted to veggies. In addition to many salads, including the classic Caesar, there’s broccolini with garlic and oil, a classic accompaniment to red meat, Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta, as well as a whole platter of vegetables, magnificent. You might actually be tempted to forego the steak and enjoy just the vegetables (but that would be a mistake; you’ll want at least a filet to go with the veggies, or you’ll be hungry later).

Maple & Ash. So many of the items served at Maple & Ash have had a brief appointment with the huge wood fires that cook and flavor just about everything served here, including steaks, of course, but also many thoughtful vegetable preparations. The Wood-fired Maitake Mushrooms are the perfect accompaniment to the prime steaks; the smokiness in both harmonize with one another perfectly. The sweet corn with garlic butter and basil is sourced from Klug Farms, a local producer recognized for outstanding quality, and the asparagus is something special with orange, almond and mint.

Prime & Provisions.  At Prime & Provisions, there’s the prime steak…and then there’s the provisions, some of the most delicious produce you will find in any restaurant, including a steakhouse. Look in the “gluten-free” menu to find some truly outstanding vegetable offerings, including Tuscan Kale and Romaine Caesar and also Pickled Purple Cauliflower with carrots and fennel. Vegetables this good make every bite of USDA prime beef even more delicious.

Artango’s Thanksgiving Dinner Will Please the Norbert in Your Life

Artango is making life easier for us by serving food that is going to make all of us happy. Add to that the bonus that we don’t have to cook, or clean up, and we’re all going to split the bill, so it’s actually a very economical way to enjoy each other’s company. On Thanksgiving Day, from 2pm until 10pm, Artango Steakhouse will offer a three-course prix fixe menu for $55 per person ($20 for children aged 6-12).

We have a dear old-friend, let’s call him Norbert, who has proclaimed many times that “Thanksgiving food is totally drab and boring.” He says he doesn’t like the bland turkey, the gloppy gravy, the sour cranberry sauce…and don’t even get him started on the candied yams with marshmallows on top.  Every year, he whines that nearly all the food at Thanksgiving is “under-seasoned to the point of invisibility.”

Artango Steakhouse

Artango Steakhouse

Now, just to be clear, Norbert may be a snob but he’s not a sociopath; he likes being around people, and he likes chatting at a table of good food – he just doesn’t think there’s much good food to be had at a Thanksgiving table.


This year, instead of having Norbert to our house to share our Thanksgiving dinner, we’re all going to ARTANGO, which just might be the better option for all of us. Going out to eat at Artango on Thanksgiving is a good way for all of us to get together, try something new, and ensure that, for maybe the first Thanksgiving ever, Norbert will shut up about how much he hates the holiday food and maybe eat a dinner he actually enjoys.


Artango is making life easier for us by serving food that is going to make all of us – the traditionalists and even hard-to-please Norbert – happy. Add to that the bonus that we don’t have to cook, or clean up, and we’re all going to split the bill, so it’s actually a very economical way to enjoy each other’s company, and perhaps for Norbert, for the first time ever, a way to enjoy a meal on Thanksgiving.


On Thanksgiving Day, from 2pm until 10pm, Artango  will offer a three-course prix fixe menu for $55 per person ($20 for children aged 6-12).



Executive Chef Saul Roman’s menu is a nod to traditional Thanksgiving standards (like stuffed turkey breast) but it also features some nontraditional holiday options like ahi tuna ceviche, lobster bisque, grilled salmon and gelato.


Spicing up the usual Thanksgiving entertainments (arguments about politics, about who was supposed to bring the creamed onions, etc.), there will be entertainment. Live from Buenos Aires, the Guillermo Paolisso Trio will be playing a fusion of Latin jazz, Argentine folklore, Brazilian bossa nova and Argentine tango. The music starts at 5pm, and even if you have Thanksgiving dinner at home, you might consider dropping by for some after-dinner entertainment.


If you have a Norbert in your life, or just want to change it up a little for the holiday, consider Thanksgiving at Artango. We’ve included the whole menu below, and if you want to learn more or make reservations, just visit  Artango.

Thanksgiving Prix Fixe Menu at Artango


Course One, select one

·         Sopa de Langosta (lobster bisque soup)

·         Empanadas (beef and olives; Roquefort cheese, leeks and walnuts)

·         Ceviche (ahi tuna, seaweed, Huacatay sauce)

·         Ensalada Verde (Boston lettuce, frisee, cucumber, zucchini, heart of palm, quail egg)

·         Sopa de Calabaza (pumpkin soup, creme fraiche, pumpkin seeds)


Course Two, select one

·         Pasta de Langosta (pasta, grilled vegetables, lobster sauce)

·         Pavo Relleno (stuffed turkey breast, mashed potato, seasonal vegetables)

·         Salmon (grilled salmon, quinoa tamale, passion fruit sauce)

·         Bife de Chorizo (NY strip steak served with homemade chimichurri sauce and mashed potatoes)

·         Ojo de Bife (ribeye steak served with homemade chimichurri and mashed potatoes)


Course Three, select one

·         Oblivion (chocolate cake and mousse, dulce de leche)

·         Flan (cinnamon and cardamom-infused flan, dulce de leche, meringue)

·         Argentine Gelato (chocolate, dulce de leche, limoncello, mango, yerba mate)

Sneak Peek: The Darling Also Has a Little of the, Um, Daring

Lindsey Marks – who performs burlesque as Lady Jack – is chatting in front of a large Alice in Wonderland painting in the downstairs dining room at The Darling, on W. Randolph St.. This new space, owned by Sophie Huterstein, who also owns L.A.’s The Wellesbourne, is next door to J.P. Graziano, purveyor of exceptional Italian sandwiches since long before the Randolph Corridor became the most happening restaurant strip in Chicago.

Lindsey Marks in front of hidden stage

Lindsey Marks in front of hidden stage

Marks is coordinating entertainment at The Darling, including burlesque acts, and as we chatted, the Alice in Wonderland painting scrolled up to reveal a singer doing his rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”


Didn’t expect that.


A little bit of daring, and doing what isn’t expected, is a big part of what The Darling is all about. Says Huterstein, “The Darling is an elegant hideaway that offers both an intimate dining and cocktail experience on one floor, and a decadent lounge-like social club on the next.”


The ground Floor entryway is “hidden” behind a wall of flowers in what appears to be a flower shop.  Currently, all the flowers are paper, but Huterstein says that they plan to sell real flowers from this “shop,” though it seems unlikely that they will be sold before the snow flies in Chicago.


Chef James Martin, previously of A10, told us that what sets The Darling apart is “The balance of excellent service, food, cocktails and a wide range of entertainment. People will see right away how beautifully different The Darling is from anything else in the city.”

Darling Buds of May

Darling Buds of May

“We hope,” Huterstein adds, “that guests will get a kick out of the immersive/thematic details and moments of whimsy that serve to compliment delicious food, drink and genuine hospitality.”


The first floor is all about the small plates. The real standouts for us were the pork belly, a delicious combination of the belly, poached pear, pumpkin puree and crispy sage, as well as the shrimpiest shrimp toast we’ve had, big boys mounted on brioche smeared with garlic confit crema and dressed in saffron and cherry peppers.

Darling Buds of May

Darling Buds of May


Upstairs on the second floor, there’s more performance space and bigger plates, like the Seafood Platter with house-smoked trout dip, crab cakes, and smoked mussels. Huterstein seems especially excited about the Grilled European Sausages, currywurst and bratwurst, with German mustard, pretzels and gherkins.

Some of the cocktails reflect the whimsical tone of The Darling. The drink called The Darling Buds of May,” for instance, features egg foam on top of the drink imprinted with an alarmingly precise image of the flowers. How did they get the lines on those flowers so sharp, the colors so clear? The answer is that they imprinted the images on an edible disk designed to dissolve into the cocktail. Clever.


Martin handles food on both floors, and in addition to Marks, entertainment will be managed by DJ/Dr. Victor Nwankow. When he isn’t working on his residency requirements at Stroger/Rush, Nwankow creates playlists for surgeons in the operating theater and guests at The Darling. He also curates other DJs who will be invited in to entertain guests at this trippy, intriguing new place on Randolph.




What Food Pairs with Scotch Whisky? At Chicago’s SideDoor, Lots!

It doesn’t seem that Scotch whisky would be a great pairing with food: the spirit is big, sometimes smoky and seems like it could steamroll all but the most powerful flavors.

Faroe Islands salmon tartare

Faroe Islands salmon tartare

But you might be surprised how well Scotch can pair with foods. We were eager to try pairing Scotch whisky with Scottish-type food

It doesn’t seem that Scotch whisky would be a great pairing with food: the spirit is big, sometimes smoky and seems like it could steamroll all but the most powerful flavors.


But you might be surprised how well Scotch can pair with foods.


Standing on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean outside the Ardbeg Distillery on the isle of Islay in Scotland, we were served glasses of the peaty whisky and locally harvested oysters, which we thought would surely be an imbalanced pairing. But it wasn’t. It was a beautiful pairing, proving the adage, “what grows together, goes together.” The whisky seasoned by the local salt spray matched the saltiness of the oyster pulled from local Islay waters, and the smokiness meshed with the oysters’ oceanic tang. You like smoked oysters, right? Smoky whisky and oysters yield the same combination of flavors.


Back in Chicago, we were eager to try pairing Scotch whisky with Scottish-type food.


SideDoor is the gastropub on the west side of the old McCormick mansion, the urban palace built by the family of the Scots-Irish magnate Cyrus McCormick. We tried the pairing of Kumamoto and Blue Point oysters with Oban 10 year old Scotch whisky, distilled oceanside in Scotland and evincing the brininess that works so well with oysters. Oban lacks the peaty intensity of Ardbeg, enhancing the oyster flavor without peatiness. With slight salinity seasoning both Oban whisky and the oyster, the flavor of the sea creature seemed to come through even more clearly. Conclusion: both peaty and un-peated Scotch whisky pairs well with oysters.


For a tartare made with salmon harvested in the Faroe Islands (about 200 miles north of Scotland), we switched to a 10-year-old Macallan. A Speyside whisky distilled far away from the peat fields of Islay, Macallan has no notes of peat at all, which seemed like the right choice for a fish of this quality. The light Dijon sauce and capers matched the relative lightness of the Scotch. This was a superbly balanced pairing.


Scallops also made a very good pairing with the Macallan, the light and sweet sherry notes of the whisky, aged in sherry barrels, was a very pleasant match for the light, sweet flavor of the scallops.

Angus cap steak with 10-year-old Ardbeg

Angus cap steak with 10-year-old Ardbeg

Angus beef originated in Scotland, and for this heartier entrée, we chose the 10-year-old Ardbeg. The peaty weight of this whisky matched the robust flavor of the Angus cap, and although the steak worked well with the beefy Scotch, the chimichurri sauce tasted just slightly off when washed down with whisky. When we visit again, we’ll get the Angus beef cap with our Ardbeg but take a pass on this tangy green South American sauce, which we’ve had before and liked a lot, but which is not a friendly pairing with Scotch.


For dessert, with a little Ardbeg still left in the glass, we ordered the sticky pudding, a U.K. favorite: a spongy cake topped with toffee sauce and served with ice cream. We greatly enjoyed the combination of smoky dram and sweet cake. The sugariness of the pudding pleasingly played off the heaviness of the Scotch.


Scotch with dinner is not for everyone. If, however, you think you might like a wee drop with your meal, the whisky works much better than you might imagine. Sometimes the whisky contrasted with what we were eating (as with dessert at the end of the meal) and sometimes it compared with what we were eating (as with the oysters at the beginning of the meal). Either way, it was an interesting experiment.


One other advantage of having whisky with rich food is that the solvent qualities of the drink cleanse the palate and refresh the taste buds for the next bite. You should try it, at least once, and a good place to do so is with a whisky or two and a few plates of Scottish-type food at SideDoor in River North.