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Chicago’s 2018 James Beard Nominees

A’s List: Get a Taste of Chicago’s 2018 James Beard Nominees

Chef Lee Wolen of Boka restaurant

Chef Lee Wolen of Boka

Another year, another class of James Beard nominees from Chicago. Some names you’ll recognize as previous nominees, while others are new in the game. Nevertheless, if you haven’t checked them out by now, it’s time to make a reservation. Here’s our cheat sheet on what to eat and drink at each sweet spot.

Another year, another class of James Beard nominees from Chicago. Some names you’ll recognize as previous nominees, while others are new in the game. Nevertheless, if you haven’t checked them out by now, it’s time to make a reservation. Here’s our cheat sheet on what to eat and drink at each sweet spot.

Boka

Why we love it. A world-class restaurant on its own, Boka is situated next door to Alinea in the heart of Lincoln Park’s theater district. Since Lee Wolen’s arrival as executive chef in 2014, the new American-styled eatery’s garnered all sorts of prestigious accolades from the likes of Michelin, Food & Wine and others. For 2018, they’re up for four Beard awards: Chef Wolen for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category; Meg Galus for “outstanding pastry chef”; “outstanding restaurateurs” for BOKA partners Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm; and “outstanding service” for Boka. The last one is particularly notable as a recent diner to the restaurant was so impressed with the food and service that he tipped staffers $2,000 in cash on a more than $700 meal. He tipped $300 to the waitstaff and then handed each kitchen staff member a crisp $100 bill.

What to eat. Boka is best experienced by ordering its nine-course tasting menu. It’s seasonal, at the chefs’ discretion and always full of surprises. Not in the mood for such a fancy feast and over-the-top production? Another top recommendation is the whole-roasted, dry-aged duck for two. It’s dry aged for 21 days, which brings out the best possible flavors, and when it arrives to your table hand carved, it’s accompanied by grilled foie gras sausage, sweet creamed corn, a fresh salad and house-made bread.

Elske

Why We Love It. The Poseys are the epitome of a culinary power couple–without the pretension. Though they separately boast a host of high-profile awards (Anna was StarChefs’ Rising Pastry Star for 2015 and David was part of the Blackbird team when the restaurant won a Michelin star in 2014), they couldn’t be humbler. They allow their food to speak for them. The Poseys are up for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category at Beard.

What to eat. Elske offers two menus, tasting and a la carte, and both switch up regularly. Some staples: sweet potato dumplings with braised kale, dill and crispy shallots; lightly grilled lobster terrine with fennel, blood orange and rye bread; and crispy veal sweetbreads.

Elske offers tasting and a la carte menus. (Photo: Elske)

Elske offers tasting and a la carte menus.

Fat Rice

Why We Love It. Husband-and-wife team Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo have created a tiny culinary empire at the corner of Diversey and Sacramento, in Logan Square. Fat Rice, The Bakery at Fat Rice and The Ladies’ Room flow seamlessly into one another. Fat Rice, of course, is the flagship of the three. Its culinary influences range from Portugal to the island nation of Macau. Conlon draws upon his Portuguese heritage and travels to many exotic nations for inspiration. Conlon competes against fellow Chicagoans in the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category at Beard.

What to eat. One of Fat Rice’s specialties is arroz gordo, which literally means “fat rice” in Macanese. Their version features jasmine rice laced with sofrito, chorizo and salted duck. It is then topped with curried thighs, char siu pork, linguiça sausage, prawns, steamed clams, tea eggs, chicken-fat-fried croutons, olives and pickled chillies.

Marisol

Why We Love It. Lula Cafe chef/owner Jason Hammel takes the reins at Marisol, located in the space formerly occupied by Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. Situated on the first level of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, it’s surrounded by an immersive art environment by artist Chris Ofili. The menu is hyper-seasonal, filled with bright flavors that match perfectly with the artwork. That’s due in part to the talents of Sarah Rinkavage, a James Beard Award “rising star chef of the year” finalist.

What to eat. Dishes that caught our eye this season? White sesame risotto with white asparagus, spring onion and stracchino cheese; shaved Brussels sprouts topped with smoked whitefish; and fried quail with cashew butter and smoked date honey.

Marisol is surrounded by Chris Ofili's artwork.

Marisol is surrounded by Chris Ofili’s artwork.

Parachute

Why We Love It. The tiny, award-winning 40-seat restaurant serves globally inspired, Korean American fare in Avondale. Parachute’s menu is designed to be shared, and dishes are proportionate to ordering a variety of items for the table. They’re so serious about seasonality that the menu sometimes changes nightly. Owners and wife-and-husband team Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark compete against fellow Chicagoans in the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category at Beard.

 

What to eat. Always start a meal with the baked potato bing bread that’s been fried in a cast-iron skillet. The Korean specialty snack is always on the menu and arrives to the table pipping hot and filled with scallions and cheddar bacon. But don’t fill up on it because you’ll want to save room for dessert: sourdough beignets stuffed with peanuts and huckleberry jam.

Roister

Why We Love It. This is the more price-conscientious effort of Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, as it serves casual fare in a far less intimidating setting than their crown jewel Alinea restaurant. Roister is where guests get to sample their versions of fried chicken sandwiches, steak and eggs, and shrimp ‘n’ grits as alt rock and old-school hip-hop pound the speakers.

What to eat. During dinner is where Roister truly shines as Executive Chef Andrew Brochu—a two-time Beard nominee including this year for the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category—cranks out a global menu of universal favorites taken to the next level. The highlighted dishes are recommended to be shared between two to six people: the 32-ounce, 30-day, dry-aged Porterhouse; a whole braised, poached and fried chicken; and Rohan duck served with Carolina Gold rice.

 

Chicago Weekly Planner: Chef’s Dinners, Cocktail Class & Late-night

Chicago Weekly Planner:

Chef's Weekly Planner at Bistro Campagne

Chef’s Weekly Planner at Bistro Campagne

Chef’s Dinners at Bistro Campagne

In case you needed another reason to revisit one of Lincoln Square’s most enduring gems, Bistro Campagne just rolled out a new monthly dinner series that promises to get guests a front-row seat to all the culinary action. Executive chef Luke Creagon and beverage director Alex Uribe have created the “Chef’s Dinner at the Bar” series, taking place on the third Thursday of each month. For each event, the intimate 12-person affair (divvied into two seatings) features a three-course dinner menu with cocktail pairings inspired by France’s influence on dining and culture across the world. As the name suggests, seatings take place at the restaurant’s bar at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The next dinner takes place April 26, so be sure and snag one of the reservations via phone.

Weekly Planner

Cocktail Class at Entente

In other bar news, Lakeview’s Michelin-starred Entente invites guests behind the bar for an intimate cocktail-shaking shindig on April 22. Courtesy of head bartender Ryan Hoffman, the event is a unique opportunity for guests to learn how to mix and shake and muddle some of the restaurant’s cocktails, followed by tastings of three to four drinks. From making their own syrups to learning about bitters, every step of the mixology process will be spotlighted. Seating is very limited and tickets are $75 per person. Reservations can be made by calling Entente, and each guest will leave with a gift bag of mini spirit bottles. The event takes place from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Monday Specials at Waydown

If you’d rather just get right to drinking, Waydown has a new Monday promo that should help take the sting out of the work week. The esteemed cocktail bar, located on the roof of the Ace Hotel, just added a new promo called “$6 Mondays,” wherein drinks are steeply discounted and happy hour runs all day long on items like the Waydown burger and cocktails like daiquiris, gimlets and Manhattans. Also look for more casual drinks like Old Style, Founder’s All Day IPA and Estrella Jalisco.

Late-night Hours at Bar Biscay

There’s a new late-night dining destination in West Town, thanks to the recent arrival of Bar Biscay. The coastal-inspired restaurant, which features a menu of French and Spanish dishes and drinks, just instated late hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 11:00 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays until midnight. Dishes to savor include shareable pintxos like gougeres with garlic aioli, scallop crudo and wild mushrooms with runny eggs. Additionally, if you’re just looking for a nightcap, the bar is open until 1:00 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday., with plenty of cocktails, wines and vermouth on tap.

 

Weekly Planner: Cooking Classes and New Brunche Locations

The Moonlighter Launches Brunch

One of the newest brunch menus in town can now be savored at Logan Square newcomer The Moonlighter. Available every Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:00 a.m., brunch features inventive comfort fare by chef Mickey Neeley, whose menu boasts the likes of corn flake-crusted bananas Foster French toast with vanilla bean pudding and a country breakfast burger with fried beef patties (!), bacon, American cheese and sausage gravy. This being a bar after all, it’s no surprise that the brunch cocktail game is strong as well. Look for the Winter Shield, a low-ABV option made with Cynar, sherry, lemon and soda water; and the Carthay Boulevardier with High West Double Rye whiskey, Contratto aperitif, Bonal quinquina aperitif wine and Cocchi Torino vermouth.

 

Cooking Class at Commons Club

Class is always fun when you get to eat your work. And you don’t need to worry about detention. Commons Club is in the midst of a cooking class series titled “Cooked!”, with the next event taking place March 30. The series if designed for both kitchen newbies and culinary pros, inviting attendees into the Virgin Hotels Chicago’s kitchen to cook alongside chef Moosah. Each class includes a themed globally inspired lesson with cooking demonstration and three-course chef’s dinner, a sake shot and a cocktail of your choice, plus an apron and cooking diary to take home. The cost is $85 per person and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant. The next classes take place April 27 and May 25. Brunch

 

French Toast @ Moonlighter

French Toast @ Moonlighter

Happy Hour at Tack Room

The latest happy hour in town can be found in Pilsen’s historic Thalia Hall, where the saloon-themed Tack Room now features a weekly promo on Fridays from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. During this time, guests can sip on $8 cocktails like Mezcal Corpse Revivers and Mistral Pisco Sours, the latter made with chocolate and espresso pisco, plus allspice liqueur, lemon and egg whites. To further entice, Tack Room’s aptly dubbed “Happiest Hour” also features live Latin music by local bassist Jaime Garza.

 

 

New Brunch at Francesca’s on Chestnut

In other brunch news, Francesca’s on Chestnut has upped the ante on the weekend tradition with a new menu all its own. Just in time for the turn of the seasons, fresh menu additions include shrimp and grits with Italian polenta, South Carolina shrimp and tomatoes; arancini Benedict with prosciutto, poached egg and hollandaise; and rigatoni alla Paesana with roasted sausage, wild mushrooms, peas and a light tomato cream sauce.

Weekly Planner: Happy Hour at Imperial Lamian, Moscow Mules

Moscow Mules for a Good Cause

Moscow Mules & Mutts at The Bristol

Moscow Mules & Mutts at The Bristol

Puppies and cocktails seem like a pretty win-win combination, and The Bristol combines the two for an evening of cuteness, altruism and of socialization. Moscow Mules & Mutts is the apt name for the shindig, taking place March 21 on the second floor of the restaurant from 6:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. By partnering with ALIVE Rescue, a local no-kill pet shelter, The Bristol invites attendees to sample passed vegetarian apps, sip Moscow Mules, participate in a raffle and meet puppies who need a good home. You’ll also get to learn about the company’s volunteer opportunities and how to adopt. Tickets are $30, with proceeds going towards ALIVE Rescue. Tickets can be purchased here.

Happy Hour at Imperial Lamian

It’s not every day a happy hour comes along that features bao buns. Setting itself apart from the standard, Imperial Lamian has a new happy hour promo with an impressive variety of modern Chinese specialties to choose from. Available weekdays from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., offerings include steamed or fried mantao buns, crispy wontons, spring rolls, hargao buns and braised pork belly. A highlight is the new “one bite lamian,” which serves the noodles and broth separately. This allows customers to choose their desired noodle (regular, flat or hand-shaved) and their desired broth for dipping and sipping (braised pork belly, mushroom, brisket and char siu are a few options). To drink, happy hour options include $5 select wines, $15 Sapporo pitchers, $5 rum cocktails and $5 beer and shot combos.

 

RW52 Menus at El Che Bar

Considering how successful and popular Chicago Restaurant Week is, it makes total sense that a restaurant would want to extend the format throughout the year. El Che Bar is doing just that (sort of), with a Restaurant Week-inspired tasting menu available every Tuesday evening throughout the year. Dubbed RW52, the menu changes monthly to keep things fresh and dynamic, featuring seasonal ingredients and ever-changing flavors. Considering the whopping amount of dishes dished out during this year’s Restaurant Week, including 965 empanadas and 952 steaks, it’s no surprise that the restaurant would want to further that ethos and reach out to new diners on an ongoing basis and at an affordable price point.

Sabor de Agave Dinner at Dove’s Luncheonette

Here’s a fun (and boozy) dinner to help cap off your weekend. Agave-based beverage pairings are the highlight at Dove’s Luncheonette’s “Sabor de Agave” dinner on March 18. Starting at 7:00 p.m., the Southern-inspired Mexican menu will feature a five-course spree by chef de cuisine Tom Carlin and cocktail pairings by Eden Laurin of The Violet Hour. Expect plenty of mezcals from Oaxaca and lots of soulful, hearty fare to compliment. Tickets are $70 per person, with limited seats available. For reservations, contact general manager Corina Hanc at corina@doveschicago.com.

Best Restaurants for Boozy Brunch in Chicago

What is brunch without a little booze?

Boozy Brunch at The Promontory

Boozy Brunch at The Promontory

And this being winter (albeit a warmer than usual one), a little booze is always a welcome distraction from the season. When it comes to imbibing at brunch, you could stick with the coffee and orange juice route, but the weekend repast is just so much more satisfying with a brunch cocktail or two. From inventive Bloody Marys to coffee-infused cocktails, here are our picks for Chicago’s most essential boozy brunch beverages.

 

The Promontory: This sprawling Hyde Park Mecca certainly has a way with warming cocktails. With a whole list of drinks to choose from, running the gamut from beer cocktails to booze coffee, there’s something for everyone (if you’re over 21, that is). Standouts include the Mighty Coffee, a toasty libation infused with rum, creme de banana and a dash of maple whipped cream. Coffee bitters can be found in the Cafe Amore, which also features bourbon, port, Averna and egg white for a light and fluffy texture. For something sweet and dessert-y, try the Orange Meringue. It’s almost like a grown-up Orange Julius, what with its creamy, citrusy blend of vodka, Combier, fresh orange juice, vanilla dn egg white.

Boozy Brunch Bloody

Boozy Brunch Bloody

The Gage: It’s all about the classics at The Gage, where a concise lineup of boozy options range from Irish Coffee and mimosas to Bloody Caesars, which consist of vodka, hot sauce, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce. What really sets it apart from a Bloody Mary is the mix of tomato juice and clam juice, lending a pleasant salinity to the drink.

Gather: Lincoln Square’s quintessential neighborhood go-to, Gather features lots of beverage choices at brunch. These include lots of playful twists on classic flavors and drinks, like the Brown Derby made with bourbon, grapefruit and honey syrup, the Tangled Up in Blue with gin, sparkling wine, Aperol, lemon and blueberries, and the Sunny Side of the Mountain with rye, Genepy Des Alps liqueur, peach-chamomile syrup, lemon and fresh rosemary.

Dove’s Luncheonette: The entire cocktail menu at Dove’s Luncheonette is a dreamy, inventive, and refreshing twist on the brunch norm. Of the many tempting options, there’s City Snow made with mezcal, egg white, Licor 43, lemon and Mexican chocolate; a paloma-like Topo Pequeño with tequila, grapefruit juice, grenadine, orange bitters and a fizzy splash of Topo Chico; and Diabo Suave with Del Maguey Vida, ginger beer, lime and creme de cassis.

Flo: “Brunch” and “shots” don’t usually go together, unless you’re a real party animal. But at this Mexican-accented West Town staple, you’d be wise to think twice. The restaurant does a nice “breakfast shot” by mixing house bacon-infused bourbon with butterscotch Schnapps. It’s served with an orange juice chase.

avec: The brunch cocktail list at avec isn’t long, but the focus here in more on quality over quantity. The Harissa Bloody Mary is a wonderfully spicy riff on the norm, while the Face the Day is great for caffeine fiends, with its mix of cold-brew coffee, dark rum and chocolate bitters.

Uncommon Ground: Aptly, you can expected a bunch of uncommon brunch libations at Uncommon Ground. Try the Sienna Sunrise, a perky blend of rum, Aperol, orange liqueur and lime. Or The Hayride is especially apropos for winter, made with house-infused spice rum, local apple cider and ginger syrup, served warm in a mug.

National Margarita Day, Arami Omakase, Mr. Brown’s Lounge

National Margarita Day at Tuco & Blondie

Margarita Day @ Tuco & Blondie

Margarita Day @ Tuco & Blondie

Now here’s a food holiday we can get on board with. National Margarita Day takes place February 22, and in honor of the sacred occasion, Tuco & Blondie is celebrating with a special margarita flight. The flight contains three 4-oz. margaritas including the smoky Mezcal Margarita, the Black Cherry Margarita, and the Classic Margarita. Available during lunch and dinner, the flight costs $10.

February Specials at Mr. Brown’s Lounge

In case you haven’t yet paid a visit to West Town’s wonderful Jamaican oasis, Mr. Brown’s Lounge, February is an apt time to get hooked. All month long, the restaurant and bar is running a slew of specials for Black History Month, through the eyes of Jamaicans. This includes $4 Red Stripe all day, all month long, plus weekday happy hour from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. with $3.50 Red Stripe and $6 Island Rum Punch. Food-wise, the Wing ’n Ting special features two grilled jerk wings with a scoop if island mac & cheese and Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda.

Omakase at Arami

Omakase at Arami

Omakase at Arami

One of the best sushi restaurants in Chicago just got even better, with the addition of two new omakase experiences at Arami. The menus, which are tastings that change on a daily basis based on what’s freshest and what the chefs deem best, provide a unique, dynamic approach to the “chef’s choice” template. The first option is a nine-course meal for walk-in diners comprised of dishes from sushi chef Nelson Vinansaca and chef Joseph Fontelera from the hot kitchen

A margarita is a cocktail consisting of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice often served with salt on the rim of the glass. The drink is served shaken with ice (on the rocks), blended with ice , or without ice (straight up). Although it has become acceptable to serve a margarita in a wide variety of glass types, ranging from cocktail and wine glasses to pint glasses and even large schooners, the drink is traditionally served in the eponymous margarita glass, a stepped-diameter variant of a cocktail glass or champagne coupe.

 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book contains a recipe for a Picador using the same concentrations of tequila, triple sec and lime juice as a Margarita.[1] One of the earliest stories is of the Margarita being invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria, halfway between Tijuana and RosaritoMexico, created for customer and former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to many spirits, but not to tequila.[2][3] This story was related by Herrera and also by bartender Albert Hernandez, acknowledged for popularizing a Margarita in San Diego after 1947, at the La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla.[4] Hernandez claimed the owner of La Plaza, Morris Locke, knew Herrera and visited Mexico often.
Wikipedia

Chicago’s Best Restaurants This Week

Chicago’s Best Chicken Wings

 Wings and the Super Bowl go together like eggnog and Christmas. Which is why now is an appropriate time to round up some of the best wings in Chicago, so you can feast your way around the city preparing for the big game. From classic wings to newfangled, here are some of the best.
Jake Melnick's Corner Tap

Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap

Weekly Planner: Mezcal Class, National Pizza Week, Bottomless Ramen 

National Pizza Week at Macello

What New Year’s resolution? Forget all about those healthy commitments and dive face-first into National Pizza Week, which runs until January 13. You can celebrate accordingly at Macello in the West Loop, which has a special pie on the docket for the occasion. It’s called the “pizza amore” pie, made with Barese sausage, pancetta,

Coco Pazzo

Coco Pazzo

A’s List: Where to Drink Non-Alcoholic Cocktails with a Scene

Marchesa is absolutely stunning. One of the newest sensations in Chicago’s River North, the multi-level restaurant is inspired by 1920s Paris. You get that sense from the lower-level “cave” that feels like a hidden paradise for those who want to get away from the crowds to the second-floor “apartment” boasting elegant sitting parlors, baby grand piano and cigar patio.

It’s the type of cosmopolitan establishment where you just want to settle into one of the beautiful banquettes and sip a Champagne cocktail. Or a Negroni. Or the particularly potent Vieux Carre of rye, cognac, sweet vermouth and Bénédictine.

The glamorous bar at Marchesa

The glamorous bar at Marchesa

Where to Eat on New Year’s Day 2018 in Chicago

Soothe your Champagne hangover on New Year’s Day

Stella Barra: New Year's Day 2018 in Chicago

Stella Barra: New Year’s Day 2018 in Chicago

Since you’ll more than likely be hungover from the previous night’s revelry, it’s of the utmost importance that you eat well on New Year’s Day. Plus there’s just something so fitting about starting the new year off with a sensational first meal. Here’s where to soothe your hungover wounds in Chicago on January 1, 2018.

Shaw’s Crab House: Start the new year  day in style with a bevy of brunch specials at Shaw’s in River North, a revered restaurant with particular renown for its weekend brunch. Build-your-own omelets, Belgian waffles and a decadent seafood spread will all be on-hand, along with surf & turf options and a sprawling sweets table. In addition, all attendees will be given a $25 gift cart to use towards lunch in 2018. Brunch costs $59 for adults, $10 for kids 7-12 and free for children under six.

Kizuki: Nothing soothes a Champagne hangover quite like a hearty bowl of ramen, which is what makes Wicker Park’s Kizuki such a perfect destination come New Year’s Day. The restaurant has just the hangover cure with lunch starting at 11:30 a.m.: 10 different bowls of ramen will be offered, including staples like the tonkotsu shoyu ramen with pork broth, soy sauce and black garlic oil; and the yuzu shio ramen with French sea salt, kelp and Japanese citrus.

Frontier: Nothing satisfies a New Year’s Day hangover quite like a boozy brunch. Frontier understands this perfectly, and the West Town restaurant and bar is celebrating appropriately with drink specials like mimosa towers, plus comfort food options like beignets, bacon flights, Wagyu sirloin steak and eggs and chicken biscuits. Brunch will be served from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!: For the 12th time, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! is featuring its famed pajama brunch, encouraging patrons to attend in their comfiest attire. From 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., the Spanish classic features a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar along with a myriad of sweet and savory brunch tapas. For those who dine in pajamas, they’ll receive a gift certificate equal to the price of their meal for a future visit.

Stella Barra Pizzeria: Here’s another pajama brunch to add to your radar. The casual, comforting affair runs from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and includes endless warm cinnamon roll bread pudding, egg enchiladas, short rib hash and more. There’s also $5 Bloody Marys, mimosas and bellinis. Again, for those who dine in pajamas, they’ll receive a gift certificate equal to the value of their meal.

Dining Chicago Makes The Most of Christkindlmarket

In the thick of the holidays, it’s that time of year for shopping, gifting, family and perhaps most importantly: mulled wine. The latter is where Christkindlmarket comes in. Chicago’s iconic German market/festival is back in action for the season, serving up holiday eats through Christmas Eve in the heart of the Loop. Here’s everything you need to know about the market this year, and how to make the most of this merry tradition.

Dining Chicago Makes The Most of Christkindlmarket

Dining Chicago Makes The Most of Christkindlmarket

 

The longstanding German fete takes place in Daley Plaza through December 24 (there’s also a spin-off market in Wrigleyville and another in Naperville, but this one is the most iconic). While there’s plenty of trinkets to peruse and purchase, the heart of the festival is the food. Much of the items up for grabs come from German roots, from those hefty schnitzel sandwiches to the giant pretzels.

Upon arrival to Christkindlmarket, which is free to attend and open all day and evening, is the warming, fragrant aroma of holiday spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The scent permeates the festival, wafting through the air and igniting cravings for snacks aplenty. It’s all thanks to vendors like Pemberton Candies, which slings English toffee and gourmet chocolates, as well as Niche Gourmet’s marzipan, gingerbread, and German snacks. But whatever you do, don’t miss out on a trip to the Sweet Castle. This is where you’ll want to fill up on sweet, spice-roasted nuts, along with German cookies, popcorn, cotton candy, and stollen, the famous German holiday cake similar (but better) to American fruitcake.

Aside from all that candy, you’ll probably need to balance the sugar with some savory schnitzel. Germany’s fried pork sandwiches are best enjoyed at Schnitzelhaus, which features the savory comfort food along with chicken sandwiches, German-inspired burgers, potato pancakes, and soul-soothing goulash. Another solid savory option is DönerMen, a Chicago-based company slinging curry wurst sausages, kebabs, curry fries, and other Berlin-born flavors. And don’t forget to snag a pretzel or two from Pretzel Haus. The doughy treats come in various flavors, including some stuffed with cheeses, sauces and sweet fillings.

The coveted mulled wine

The coveted mulled wine

Other edible options include baked cheese from the Baked Cheese House, sweet and savory crepes and waffles courtesy of Crepes Paname, doughnuts and stollen from Chicago’s iconic Dinkel’s Bakery, and sauerkraut and potato pancakes at Traditional German Food, LLC.

The drinks are just as important, especially on cold December evenings. This includes hot teas at TeaGschwender and Christkindlmarket’s most famous beverage, the Glühwein (aka spice-infused mulled wine), served in collectible ceramic boots.

Weekly Planner: Mezcal Dinner, Feast of the Seven Fishes

Weekly Planner: Mezcal Dinner, Feast of the Seven Fishes

Mezcal Dinner @ Mi Tocaya Antojería

Mezcal Dinner @ Mi Tocaya Antojería

Mezcal Dinner at Mi Tocaya Antojeria

Wine dinners and beer dinners are a commonplace occurrence around these parts, but mezcal dinners? That’s something pretty new and enticing. At the buzzy Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Logan Square, chef Diana Davila is hosting a series of mezcal dinners this winter, starting with an event on December 14 in conjunction with Mezcal Union, a producer from Oaxaca. The dinner entails a four-course meal paired with tasting portions of mezcal, as well as a special mezcal cocktail. There are two seatings for the dinners, the first at 6:00 p.m. and the second at 8:00 p.m., and tickets are $95 per person. Snag yours here.

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Cafe Spiaggia

In other, slightly more festive, tasting menu news, Cafe Spiaggia embraces Italian holiday tradition for its Feast of the Seven Fishes on December 21. Inspired by their own grandmothers’ traditions, chef Tony Mantuano and executive chef Joe Flamm will serve up a six-course spread at both 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., with dishes like steelhead tartare, fluke crudo, fritto misto, bucatini with clams, octopus and whole snapper. Tickets are $75 per person, and wine pairings are available for an additional $25. Go here to reserve your seat.

 

Eden Adds Bakery Bar to Brunch

In case you needed another reason to get out of bed on Sunday, the jumbo rice krispie treats at Eden should do the trick. The restaurant has added a bakery bar to its Sunday brunch routine, available for takeaway from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. each week. So in addition to brunch dishes like panettone French toast and sweet potato-pork belly hash, you can sweeten things up with snacks like s’mores bars, chocolate chip cookies, turtle brownies, dream bars and those aforementioned rice krispie treats, to name a few.

Happy Hour at Regards to Edith

Just in time to help fuel the holiday drinking season, Regards to Edith became the latest restaurant to board the happy hour train. Now available every Friday from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., the weekly promo is the perfect way to ease into the weekend and cut off work a tad early. During this two-hour period, guests can partake in $2 Budweiser bottles, $5 draft beers, $8 select wines by the glass and $4 cheese fries made with aged cheddar mornay and pickled peppers.