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A’s List: Great Late-Night Fare Beyond Burgers & Pizza

There was a time when dining out after hours meant your only choices were burgers, greasy slices of pizza or burritos as big as your head. But as Chicago’s culinary landscape continues to evolve, it’s extended to the late-night crowd. These offerings from trendy and classic establishments are made from scratch, creative and certain to satisfy your cravings.

Grilled catfish at Kingston Mines

Grilled catfish at Kingston Mines

There was a time when dining out after hours meant your only choices were burgers, greasy slices of pizza or burritos as big as your head. But as Chicago’s culinary landscape continues to evolve, it’s extended to the late-night crowd. These offerings from trendy and classic establishments are made from scratch, creative and certain to satisfy your cravings.

Dorian’s. It was great to relive our younger years with Saved By The Max – Saved By The Bell Pop Up Shop Diner & Bar, the kitschy Bucktown/Wicker Park sensation that has since moved on to a permanent space in West Hollywood. But now it’s time to grow up again—especially those of us who watched the show in its prime—as the owners have created the more sophisticated Dorian’s in its space. To get to it, you must enter a record store selling the likes of Bessie Smith, David Bowie and Wes Montgomery on vinyl. Dorian’s is an effortless experiment boasting a Michelin starred chef (Brian Fisher of Entente) and incredibly talented music director (Joe Bryl of Funky Buddha Lounge, Sonotheque and Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar fame) kicking out rare groove, experiment jazz, Afrobeat and samba. Most dishes from the Asian-focused menu are shareable, including mushroom wontons, chicken bao and the short rib banh mi. The beverages are fun too, with large-format cocktails like the $70 Cookie Monster—which is served in a cookie jar-inspired container.

HopCat’s gastropub menu complements its large selection of craft beers.
(Photo: HopCat Chicago)

Furious Spoon. You’ll also find a Michelin-starred chef overseeing the menu at this hip-hop inspired ramen joint boasting locations in Logan Square, Wicker Park and Wrigleyville. Shin Thompson is behind the project and menu highlights range from the signature Furious ramen with chashu pork belly, spicy miso, white pepper chicken, “fury” sauce and a poached egg to Holy Cow ramen (chili-infused noodles, spicy beef bone soup, fresno chilies and ground beef and string bean stir fry). There are also cocktails on draft.

HopCat. The from-scratch, gastropub-style food from this Grand Rapids-based operation is meant to match the hundreds of craft beer selections. Most items are also meant to share. Pretzel Nuggz, for example, are flash-fried, salted and served with warm cheese sauce and spicy horsey mustard for dipping. Meat Head pizza rolls are filled with pepperoni, cherry smoked bacon, chorizo and mozzarella. And the signature Crack Fries—beer battered and sprinkled with HopCat’s signature cracked black pepper seasoning—may be topped with chili, poutine or sloppy Joseph mix.

Kingston Mines. Since 1968, Kingston Mines has not only served as a Chicago blues institution, but as a worldwide phenomenon. Musicians and tourists from all over visit this Lincoln Park music venue for entertainment 365 days a year. The menu, served late night, offers soul food favorites, including barbecue ribs, fried chicken, red beans and rice, and jalapeno corn bread muffins. While many of the dishes are fried, guests have the option of ordering a few such as catfish and shrimp in other styles. They may order them grilled or blackened. There’s a full bar menu.

La Josie’s Mexican-focused menu features made-to-order guacamole, ceviche, oven-roasted Amish chicken and more. (Photo: La Josie)

La Josie. Updated Mexican fare is on offer at La Josie, a sleek West Loop lounge and eatery serving food late night. It’s one of the area’s most popular places to frequent for larger groups because many dishes are share-able. Guests should start off with one of the ceviches, which consist of camaron (tiger shrimp), huachinago (red snapper) and Mahi Mahi. Tacos are the most popular item to order at La Josie. Choose from al pastor (adobo pork), carnitas (baked pork shoulder), grilled Amish chicken or asada (grilled skirt steak). Other shareables include entrees like pollo rostizado of oven-roasted Amish chicken, black beans and Mexican rice or parrillada of grilled skirt steak, chicken breast, house-made chorizo, grilled veggies and rajas poblanos. The beverage menu ranges from a mezcal Old Fashioned to craft beers on draft.

Peach Pit After Dark. Ironside Bar & Galley is the latest Chicago establishment to jump aboard the pop-up restaurant/bar theme. For them, it’s the infamous hangout of the “Beverly Hills, 90201” crew, who turned the cheery diner into an after-hours hot spot during a few seasons of the series. Ironside’s recreation of Peach Pit After Dark features themed dishes and drinks (“Mrs. Teasley’s Mac and Cheese (Order it with lobster because you’re in Beverly Hills, after all!),” “Brandon Walsh Cherry Chocolate Manhattan”), life-sized cutouts of the characters, a deejay spinning music from the 1990s, “90201” episodes playing throughout the space and more. It’s open on the lower level of the bar seven nights a week.

See previous A’s List columns right here.

Get into These New Fall Favorites

This season promises something exciting for all, whether you’re in the mood for a laid-back evening of cozy dining or flashy night on the town.

Beef Wellington is served tableside at Mason. (Photo: Matthew Lowell)

Found Hotel. The trendy River North hotel catering to younger travelers boasts two concepts: Mason steakhouse and Blind Dragon. The former pays homage to classic steakhouses with roomy, decadent booths and generous steak offerings. Yet, Mason dotes between classic and contemporary with original cocktails and beef Wellington served tableside. Underneath is Blind Dragon, a slick, Asian-inspired cocktail lounge and karaoke bar. Only open for a few weeks, it’s already become a hang for the likes of Chance The Rapper, Drake and a Kardashian or two.

Funkenhausen updates classic German fare. (Photo: Funkenhausen)

Funkenhausen. Chef Mark Steuer—formerly of Carriage House, El Che Bar and Hot Chocolate—merges his heritage with his new restaurant in West Town. He skillfully combines Southern accents with German classics on the menu at Funkenhausen. Think ricotta dumplings filled with kielbasa, gooseberries and oyster mushrooms; veal schnitzel with baby squash; and charred broccolini in buttermilk dressing. It gets even better as the soundtrack consists of classic and contemporary funk during service.

Hampton Social Streeterville showcases a variety of share-able dishes.
(Photo: Hampton Social)

Hampton Social StreetervilleThe Streeterville outpost marks the third in the Chicago area, plus there are others across the country. In addition to its nautical theme, Hampton Social serves as a popular stop for after-work revelers. Its cheery atmosphere makes it a popular destination for larger groups for after-work festivities as well as brunch. Dishes that are shareable are most appealing, particularly brick-oven pizzas, jar of king crab, and “naked” shrimp consisting of pan-seared jumbo shrimp, coconut cream sauce, peanuts and peanut sauce.

Maki rolls and other Asian-focused dishes are on the menu at TAO Chicago.
(Photo: TAO Chicago)

TAO ChicagoThe River North venue is the largest one to date, situated on more than 34,000 square feet, which includes 275 seats for dining on the first-level dining room and an upper-level nightclub with 7,000 square feet. There’s visual overload in TAO, and of course that’s deliberate. A 16-foot-tall Quan Yin statue overlooks guests as they dine on signature dishes like lobster wontons, lobster fried rice, Peking duck, crispy snapper in “sand” and the tuna sashimi pringle.

Home-style favorites like meatloaf have been updated at Twain.
(Photo: Matthew Lowell)

TwainChef Tim Graham pays homage to famed American author Mark Twain with this cozy Logan Square eatery serving updated Midwestern fare. Inspired by his Missouri upbringing—which is also where Mark Twain hailed—Graham puts his own spin on dishes like surf and turf, the Wedge salad and Pigs in a Blanquette. For the former, he finesses it with home-style meatloaf, barbecue unagi and nori-crusted onion rings. Desserts are homey as well, from hand-cranked, seasonal ice cream paired with sheet cake to gooey butter cake topped with seasonal fruit like rosemary roasted peaches.

Where to Feast on Fried Chicken in Chicago

The sun is shining, the temperature is heating up and cravings for summery classics like fried chicken are at an all-time high, making it an apt time to round up some of Chicago’s finest variations of this all-American specialty. From new dishes to timeworn favorites, here’s where to get your fix right now.

Chicken & Farm Shop

Chicken & Farm Shop

Feed: While many restaurants and hot spots and newcomers throughout the city peddle buzzy interpretations of fried chicken, Feed has been perfecting the comfort food formula for years. The frills-free, Southern-inspired eatery in Humboldt Park is still among the best destinations for chicken in any form in Chicago. The rotisserie chicken is a popular go-to, but don’t shy away from the fried birds either, especially the dark meat portions. If you’re really feeling hungry, order the 1/2 chicken with two sides, with savorous options like corn pudding, fried okra, succotash, potato salad and mac & cheese.

Chicken & Farm Shop: Nestled inside Soho House Chicago, you’ll find a pastoral restaurant capable of transporting you and your senses to the English countryside. Decked out like a sunny, serene cottage, Chicken & Farm Shop knows a thing or two about comfort in all forms. In addition to the heartwarming ambience, that notion is evident in the menu offerings too. As the name suggests, chicken is king here, and the kitchen has a particular penchant for frying. Nuggets, sandwiches and buttermilk battered chicken and waffles are all on hand, offering different takes on the staple.

The Roost: Armed with a food truck and some family recipes, North Carolina native Joe Scroggs began a fried chicken revolution in Chicago when he took his fiery fried chicken recipe to the streets on his popular food truck. In 2012, The Roost branched out well beyond its food truck roots and into a  restaurant space at the northern tip of Lakeview, serving signature hot or herb-seasoned fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and peach cobbler.

Roister: When one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world opens a restaurant with fried chicken as a star attraction, it’s safe to assume that it’s going to be above-average chicken, to say the least. The folks behind Alinea put fried chicken in a whole new spotlight at Roister, where the humble comfort food ascends to glorious new levels. The highly Instagrammable dish is part of a multi-step whole-chicken preparation that’s served with sunchokes and chamomile, and there’s also a more casual fried chicken sandwich that gets a punch of sunchoke hot sauce and some fragrant chamomile mayo.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken: Chicago’s mighty fried chicken pioneers are still at the top of their poultry game, as Avodnale’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken still draws crowds of hungry customers to its casual eatery every day of the week that it’s open. The popularity and hype is legit. The boneless, locally sourced chickens are fried until golden brown, then served as a platter of breasts, drumsticks and thighs, or in alternative options like sandwiches, mac & cheese, nachos, French toast and tacos. In case it wasn’t clear, this is fried chicken heaven. Then there’s the namesake honey butter, which gilds the lily as a sweet and creamy topping to any and all fried chicken creations.

Dove’s Luncheonette: When most people think of Tex-Mex, be it classic and no-frills or totally neoteric and adventurous, they think of enchiladas and tacos and tequila. Fried chicken may not be the most obvious go-to, but it fits in well at Dove’s Luncheonette, which does a top-notch job with clever Tex-Mex in Wicker Park. A nod to chicken-fried steak, a Texas staple, the chicken-fried chicken was an instant hit at the sunny restaurant, and it remains as fiendishly popular as ever. That’s thanks to the comforting combo of buttermilk fried chicken and creamy, spicy chorizo verde gravy. The heaping plate gets a welcome dose of brightness and sweetness thanks to peas and pearl onions.

Oyster Bah: Seafood gets top billing at this familial, nautically inspired Lincoln Park haunt, but you’d remiss to skim over the fried chicken, which is a real sleeper hit on the expansive menu. The rendition here contains a hulking portion of crispy chicken seasoned with Old Bay spices, served with sides of cole slaw and fries. Those spices are key, adding just the right mix of heat and herbs. For those looking for fried chicken at home, the restaurant also offers the same chicken to-go from its adjoining carryout and delivery concept, Seaside’s.

Dine in Summer Style at These Waterside Restaurants

 

Dine in Summer Style at These Waterside Restaurants

Dine in Summer Style at These Waterside Restaurants

Summer in Chicago is the best time of year to dine with a waterside view overlooking sea-sized Lake Michigan, drinking in the panoramic views as you simultaneously drink wine, cocktails and beer. Whether it’s a skyscraper-sized view or a casual cafe, these are some of your best options for beachy views and waterside vibes in the city this season.

The Signature Room: Just above the waterside Chicago’s most iconic location for dining with a soaring view is undoubtedly The Signature Room. Unless you’re paralyzed by a fear of heights, that is, because in order to get to the restaurant you’ll need to ascend an elevator to the 95th floor of the John Hancock. Once here, you’ll savor modern American cuisine with a seasonal tilt, plus craft cocktails, wine and beer. No matter where you’re seated, you’ll be rewarded with majestic, awe-inspiring views of Lake Michigan and the skyline. The best seats in the house, though, are the ones perched up against the north-facing glass wall, which affords a stunning vista of Chicago’s beach-lined north side.

Cite: One of the most criminally underrated restaurants when it comes to sky-high dining in Chicago, Cite gets you so close to the lake you may actually feel like you could fall in. Located on the 70th floor  of Lake Point Tower, the only skyscraper east of Lake Shore Drive, and just in front of Navy Pier, the soaring restaurant has extraordinary views from every angle. The seafood, steaks, cocktails and tasting menus aren’t too shabby, either. Using French techniques and a seasonal mentality, the restaurant features ever-changing dishes like lobster tail with butter gnocchi, sesame-crusted Alaskan salmon, venison strip loin with poached pear and rack of lamb with ratatouille.

Caffe Oliva: When it comes to beachy dining in the city, it doesn’t get much better — or beachier — than Caffe Oliva. This bright and sunny cafe is literally located right on Ohio Street Beach alongside Navy Pier, providing a warm, relaxing vibe to your patio dining experience. This year’s menu is better than ever, featuring an eclectic lineup of shareable plates like Greek bruschetta, fried calamari with lime aioli, coconut shrimp, margherita flatbreads, blackened whitefish with tzatziki and a slew of sandwiches and burgers. There’s also a kids’ menu, desserts, brunch and a ton of cocktails. Keep the group party going with one of Caffe Oliva’s fish bowls, designed to satisfy a thirsty group with potions like the “Finding Nemo”: blueberry vodka, pineapple juice, sour, fresh lemon juice and Swedish fish.

Pinstripes: If the idea of dining and drinking at a bowling alley sounds like a joke to you, then clearly you haven’t spent any time at a Pinstripes. This beloved mini-chain is popular for good reason, and their Streeterville location (the only one in city limits) backs it all up with the added bonus of being right on the Ogden Slip harbor, with a lengthy fire pit-lined patio overlooking the lake. In addition to bowling and bocce inside, Pinstripes sets itself apart as a restaurant destination in and of itself, with casual yet inventive Italian food that’s great both for snacking-while-gaming and for a leisurely meal al fresco or indoors.

Cafe Spiaggia: For upscale Italian fare with an equally impressive vista, don’t miss Cafe Spiaggia. Or really if you’re feeling decadent, it’s even more upscale sister restaurant Spiaggia. But due to its more accessible offerings, Cafe Spiaggia is certainly an easier stopover for a quick lunch with a sensational overlooking the top of the Magnificent Mile and Oak Street Beach. The restaurant offers a contemporary, elegant take on classic Italian cuisine, making for a fine meal while nestled along the windows above one of the most famous shopping streets in the country.

Weekly Planner: Brunch News Edition

Brunch News Edition

Brunch @ Booth One

Brunch @ Booth One

Lowcountry Adds Brunch

Fasten those bibs, because brunch is served at Lowcountry. The South Loop outpost of the boil-in-a-bag seafood concept, which specializes in Cajun-style shellfish, has added weekend brunch to its popular portfolio. A slight departure from its usual eat-with-your-hands bag-centric menu, the brunch offerings span a spectrum of Southern comforts, from fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese to snow crab cake Benedict, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles. Of course those seafood boils will still be available as an option, filled with customizable provisions like sausage, crab and shrimp. Cheesy grits, honey butter cornbread and garlic beignets are available as sides. For something sweet, opt for the deep-fried Oreos, and wash it all down with a mimosa, Bloody Mary or a quenching highball. Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 3:00 p.m.

New Breakfast and Brunch Menus at Booth One

Booth One has been a smash hit since it debuted last year, racking up the accolades and drawing hordes of diners for its glam dinner service. Now, the glitzy Gold Coast bastion has added breakfast and brunch, providing even more opportunities to sample the decadence. The weekday breakfast menu consists of various toasts (avocado, tahini-banana-honey and smoked salmon), plus pastries aplenty, wholesome bowls (yogurt with muesli and peaches or acai with raw coconut and goji berries) and specialties like asparagus and fontina omelettes, ham and hashbrown Benedict, black truffle scrambled eggs and shirred eggs Florentine. Come weekend brunch, the breakfast lineup is adjoined by a series of lunch-y items, like Brussels sprouts leaves salad with mustard vinaigrette and Medjool dates, Yang’s Imperial lobster toast with caviar and beef Wellington with mushroom bordelaise.

RL Restaurant Rolls Out Breakfast

In other breakfast news, Magnificent Mile mainstay RL Restaurant has rolled out a brand new breakfast menu. Already regarded as a power lunch Mecca and steakhouse staple, RL’s new breakfast offerings are sure to be a quick hit for the downtown set. Now open at 7:00 a.m. with Ralph’s Coffee blends crafted by La Colombe, the abbreviated menu consists of basic favorites like croissants in both savory and sweet flavors, fresh fruit, yogurt, brownies and cookies. Breakfast is offered from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. daily.

Bottomless Brunch at Old Town Pour House and The Boundary

Finally, for brunchers who prefer their weekend repast with limitless booze, sister spots Old Town Pour House and The Boundary have just the ticket. The new “bottomless boozy brunch” is available every Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day, wherein bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys are available with the purchase of an entree, all for $30. Entree options include indulgent offerings like stuffed French toast with vanilla ice cream-battered brioche and a pork Benedict with smoked pork shoulder, poached eggs, English muffin, BBQ hollandaise and habanero hash browns.

Best Restaurants in Boystown

With June being Pride Month, there’s no better time of year to spend dining and drinking in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. The vibrant Lakeview area enclave is best known perhaps for its clubs, drag brunches and rainbow pylons, but the neighborhood is becoming a serious dining destination in its own right, thanks to restaurants like these:

Wood in BoysTown

Wood in BoysTown

Wood: One of the most popular — and acclaimed — restaurants in Boystown, Wood is beloved not only by locals, but by esteemed dining guides like Michelin. The restaurant has routinely been listed as a Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient, which recognizes culinary excellence at bargain prices. Courtesy of chef Ashlee Aubin, the menu makes it easy to see where all the accolades have been coming from. Dinner features dazzling presentations like avocado salad with quinoa and poppy seed vinaigrette, ahi tuna with fried plantains and black bean aïoli, soft-shell crab with English pea risotto and salsa verde, and Burrata with roasted strawberries and toasted rye sourdough. And those are just the starters. Large plates really bring the wow with dishes like smoked St. Louis-style spare ribs with togarashi rub and roasted peanuts, hanger steak with hash brown gratin and bearnaise, and merguez sausage with bacon-braised lentils and chickpeas. The cocktails are not to be missed either.

Pingpong: “Chopstick cuisine” is the bill of fare at this bustling, contemporary Asian restaurant and bar on the Broadway strip. The space is slick and artsy, providing a fun backdrop for shareable dishes like seared tuna with wasabi butter, peanut noodles, salt and pepper calamari, spicy seafood ramen, dan dan noodles and pad see ew, all of which do a nice job toeing the line between classic inspirations and modern, inventive interpretation. Cocktails are just as noteworthy, what with a lineup of beverages inspired by 1930’s Shanghai. These include the Ginseng Margarita made with Korean red panax, tequila and lime; the Nobility with gin, Jasmine tea tonic and mint; and the Opium Haze, which combines Maker’s Mark, sage and fig preserves.

Lark: At the risk of stating the obvious and perpetuating the superficial stereotype, Boystown is one of Chicago’s sexiest neighborhoods. It’s a sentiment that holds true for the local bars and restaurants, as well as the denizens and clubs. One of the best examples as far as restaurant goes is Lark, a tasty addition to the main drag along Halsted Street. The food menu boasts the likes of tempura green beans, Cubano sandwiches and pizzas draped with prosciutto, and the people-watching is just as good, thanks to an incredible happy hour and something called the “after dark” period, which has late-night DJs and vintage board games.

HB Home Bistro: The confines and the food are as cozy as the name suggests at this quintessential Boystown staple. Within the homey dining room, the popular restaurant serves up a mix of New American plates and European influences. That means baby beet salads with pistachio butter and grilled asparagus with romesco and soft-boiled egg share menu space with artichoke and edam fritters and papatas bravas with roasted jalapeño aïoli and tomato jam. For heartier plates, the kitchen turns out innovative offerings like BBQ beef tongue, Amsterdam-style mussels with star anise-steeped beer broth and shawarma-spiced lamb breast with English pea hummus, red quinoa tabbouleh and fried chickpeas.

D.S. Tequila Company: You don’t need to stick to chef-driven, homey eateries to get high-quality food in Boystown. Even the clubbier spots in the area have interesting options to savor. As evidenced by spots like D.S. Tequila Company, a rambunctious people-pleaser with a playful menu of burgers, tacos, quesadillas, margaritas and frozen drinks. The place is popular for good reason, thanks to its upbeat environs, energizing music and broad menu loaded with everything from bourbon chicken tacos and mac and cheese-topped burgers to churros, blackberry margaritas and watermelon “frosé,” which looks to be the cocktail of the summer.

Yoshi’s Cafe: For years, Yoshi’s Cafe has been a keystone in the Boystown community, revered for its elegant ambience, warm hospitality and its fresh, original take on fusion cuisine combining elements of French and Japanese cooking. The restaurant is a timeworn fixture for locals, as the quality and technique are unparalleled. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with menu favorites like Wagyu beef brisket gyoza, vegetarian tofu burgers, whole loupe de mer, or strip loin au poivre. One of the standout signatures, however, may very well be the vegan roasted kabocha pumpkin, filled with vegetables, tofu and mushrooms in a sweet and spicy apricot sauce with sesame oil and soy sauce.

Weekly Planner: Taco Joint’s Specials and ROOF on theWit’s Movie Series

Happy Hour at Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social

Happy Hour at Punch Bowl Social

Happy hour is the happiest of all when you’re surrounded by bowling alleys, bocce courts, karaoke rooms and dart boards. The West Loop’s brand new Punch Bowl Social, a behemoth dining and gaming complex out of Denver, has jumped on the happy hour bandwagon, offering deals and specials on weekdays from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. During this time, visitors can enjoy $4 beers like Schlitz, Old Style and PBR, $6 well drinks, $8 punch and $7 select cocktails. There are also plenty of bargains on dishes like $2.50 street tacos, $7 pimento cheese, $6 wings and $9 burgers. Additionally, late-night hours at Monday entail happy hour deals and free games.

Taco Joint’s Daily Specials

Speaking of deals, Taco Joint has a slew of them as part of its new series of daily specials. Both Lincoln Park and River North locations of the popular crowd-pleaser are participating, offering bargains like $6 margaritas on Margarita Mondays, $12 Tecate and taco combos on Tuesdays, 50% discounts on full pours of tequila, mezcal and sotol flights on Wednesdays, $25 margarita bottles on Thursdays, and $7 combos of Modelo Especial and Partida Blanco tequila on Fridays and Saturdays. It all wraps up on Sundays with bottles of margaritas and six tacos for just $40. And this doesn’t even touch on the restaurant’s weekday lunch specials, which feature the likes of taco platters paired with margaritas or Modelo, barbacoa chilaquiles and combos like half tortas and salads.

Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social; photo by Amber Boutwell

ROOF on theWit’s Movie Series

One reliable harbinger of summer to come is the ongoing al fresco movie series at ROOF on theWit, wherein popular flicks are screened at one of downtown’s hottest rooftop bars from June through September. This year’s lineup looks better than ever, kicking off June 4 with a screening of mega-hit Black Panther. It starts at 8:30 p.m., followed by other must-see films like Pulp Fiction on June 25, Ready Player One on July 30, Spider-Man: Homecoming on August 20 and I, Tonya on August 27. It wraps up with the Blues Brothers on September 10.

Kuma’s Corner Pop-up at AIRE

In other summery rooftop news in the Loop, AIRE is teaming up with one of Chicago’s burger legends for a fun pop-up series that’s not to miss. The 24th-floor bar, perched atop the Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago, welcomes Kuma’s Corner for an ongoing series running on Saturdays from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., starting June 2. During this time, the legendary burger restaurant, famed for its piled-high beef burgers on pretzel buns, will feature its famed Led Zepplin, Darkthrone, WASP and Pig Destroyer burgers for $10 apiece. It’s all served alongside AIRE’s regular offerings of shareable plates, cocktails, beer and seasonal dishes.

Best New Bakeries in Chicago

Best New Bakeries in Chicago

Now that those pesky New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory, it’s safe to say that cravings for pastries are back in full-force, and Chicago’s got a slew of recent bakeries and sweet spots to satisfy that itch. From impeccable croissants to pie shop expansions, here’s the low-down on the freshest pastry shops and dessert destinations in town, and what to eat when there.

Maison Marcel: Best New Bakeries

Maison Marcel: Best New Bakeries

Maison Marcel: One of the best new bakeries in recent memory, Maison Marcel is a game-changer for Chicago’s French pastry scene. Applying a French accent to locally sourced ingredients, the Lakeview bakery, cafe and patisserie turns out fragrant loaves, the flakiest croissants, buttery brioche, apple tartes and much more, all courtesy of baker Arnaud Brochard. The space is warm, cozy and sunny, providing the perfect ambience for noshing and lingering over a pain au chocolat and and a cappuccino. There’s also a full-blown cafe menu with wholesome plates like porridge and mushroom omelets, but the spotlight is rightfully on the pastries — Maison Marcel’s bread and butter.

Jennivee’s Bakery: A far cry from your typical bakery, this Lakeview newcomer features a variety of internationally inspired sweets, late-night hours and cakes by the slice. Owned by Jennifer Vailoces, a native of the Philippines and a member of the LGBTQ community, her namesake bakery features a kaleidoscope of cakes and cupcakes in different flavors, from mango cream and tres leches to the stunning “purple velvet,” a sure-to-be signature containing ube chiffon cake, ube mouse and young coconut shavings. The bakery is open until midnight most days of the week, and even until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

La Boulangerie: Another French bakery is making moves in Chicago, though this time it’s a return to roots for La Boulangerie. The bakery originally opened in Logan Square, though closed and moved to Lakeview due to a conflict of croissant interests (https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170209/logan-square/la-boulangerie-bakery-croissant-sales-logan-boulevard-new-wave-coffee) with its coffee shop neighbor. After expanding to Ravenswood, La Boulangerie is now back in its original ‘hood, this time in a new location with ample space and the look and feel of a friendly market. Those famed croissants are back, along with macarons, sandwiches, eclairs, tarts, caneles and madeleines, to name a few.

XO Marshmallow: If you have an Instagram, you’ve likely at least seen pictures of this Rogers Park marshmallow cafe, the cutest, most colorful, most Instagrammable cafe in Chicago. This place is custom-made for the Instagram era, with a kaleidoscopic menu of housemade, fluffy marshmallows in flavors like butterbeer, Champagne, bourbon, green tea, Nutella and salted caramel. You can enjoy any marshmallow as is, put them on hot chocolate, get a warm s’more or try novelties like a donut s’more or even a “s’maco,” a s’more taco folded in waffle taco shells. The pint-sized cafe is just as photogenic, outfitted with bright pinks, yellows, light greens, “X” and “O”-shaped pillows and signage saying “I Love You S’more.”

Hoosier Mama Pie Co.: One of Chicago’s most revered pie shops got bigger and better with a recent expansion to its original West Town bakery that more than doubled its seating space. Even cuter and cozier than before, the shop feels like an old fashioned cottage home, far away from any city, with large window booths, vintage tables and a brand new counter overlooking the baking kitchen. There’s also a steady stream of multiple pies to choose from daily, from sweets like apple and ginger custard to savories like chicken pot pie and frito chili pie.

Firecakes: Lucky for suburban Oak Park, they’ve not got an outpost of one of Chicago’s best donut shops. Firecakes recently debuted its latest, adding fried chicken sandwiches and maple-bacon sliders to its fried dough repertoire. There’s another location slated for Wells St. Market in the Loop this spring.

West Town Bakery & Tap: In other expansion news, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group brought its West Town Bakery brand to Wrigleyville’s hot new Hotel Zachary. Adapting to its bar-filled ‘hood, the casual cafe and eatery has branded itself as West Town Bakery & Tap, offering a mix of imaginative baked goods, cold-brew coffee and a fully loaded bar with beer and cocktails on tap. The most distinctive element here is the cocktails inspired by bakery favorites, like Bloody Marys garnished with chocolate-dipped chicharrones and boozy shakes made with red velvet cake and baking spices. There’s also donuts, cake balls, sundaes and soft-serve ice cream.

Hottest New Brunch in Chicago

Brunch is a booming business in Chicago, with new restaurants and menus emerging seemingly every week. Especially lately, the city has seen a surge in reputable brunches debut, each offering a stylistic and innovative approach to the weekend pastime. From internationally inspired dim sum to morning fare rooted in culinary traditions of France and Spain, here are some of the newest additions to Chicago’s brunch scene.

Tied House, Chicago

Tied House, Chicago

Brunch in Chicago

Tied House: In other hot new restaurant developments, Lakeview’s red-hot Tied House also added brunch to its menu lineup, and if the acclaimed dinner offerings from chef Debbie Gold are any indication, you’re not gonna want to sleep on this. The menu starts with breads and bowls, including babka, sour cream coffee cake, quinoa “trail mix,” whole-grain porridge with orange blossom honey and “corn flakes” with chocolate, banana and brazil nut milk. Then things move on to “brunch-ish,” a standout menu section with the likes of biscuits and gravy with chicken liver; short rib hash with potatoes and farm egg; Dutch-style pancakes with creme fraiche and apple butter; and breakfast ramen with lamb bacon, bok choy and sea beans. Then there’s the “lunch-ish” section, where you’ll find pork jowl pastrami melts, avocado toast with sweet peas and yogurt, rigatoni with guanciale and ricotta salata and a burger with secret sauce, cheddar cheese and pickle. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

Punch Bowl Social: Last but certainly not least, the massive new dining and entertainment complex in the West Loop, Punch Bowl Social, also added brunch to its lengthy lineup of offerings, which also includes lunch, dinner, cocktails, bowling, bocce, karaoke, darts and arcade games. In addition to baked goods and sweets from West Town Bakery, celebrity chef Hugh Acheson outfitted the menu with unique takes on comfort food classics, like a grits breakfast bowl with Tasso ham, sauteed kale, pickled peppers, white cheddar and poached eggs; ricotta cheese pancakes with blueberry jam and fresh lemon curd, and monkey bread French toast with salted caramel, candied walnuts and bacon. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Fort Willow: Borrowing inspiration from Chinese-style dim sum, wherein a parade of small plates and snacks rove around the dining room and fill up tables, Bucktown’s new Fort Willow is offering something new for the weekend set. The clandestine, whimsically designed restaurant and bar, which features a makeshift tree and swing right in the middle of the room, keeps with its eclectic, international food theme for its brand new weekend brunch. In lieu of typical dim sum items like dumplings and buns, Fort Willow features bites like egg rolls with chorizo, potato and cheese; Benedict with ham, poached eggs and harissa hollandaise; and housemade Fritos with salsa verde, cheese and a fried egg. To drink, there’s a French 75 with gin, blueberries, lemon and Cava; Irish coffee made with demerara, Dark Matter coffee, Irish whisky and fresh cream; and a Bloody Mary with vodka, fresh-squeezed tomatoes, jalapeño and basil.

Bar Biscay: One of the hottest new restaurants in town just added brunch to its repertoire, providing more opportunity to sample the goods at this West Town sensation. Similar to the dinner menu, which draws upon flavors from the Bay of Biscay with ingredients from Spain and France, Bar Biscay’s new Sunday brunch menu. Look for dishes like asparagus with jamon Serrano, greens, a soft egg and chervil emulsion; tortilla española topped with fried squid; Basque sausage “bun” with espelette pepper maple syrup; and a savory porridge with wild mushrooms, wheat berries, poached egg and greens. Crepes are a big deal as well, featured on their own menu section with fillings both sweet and savory. Drinks follow a similar tune, adapting a European accent to staples like a Bloody Mary with vermouth and cachaca, Cava mimosas and a Biscay 75 with Cava, Cognac, bitters and Maraschino liqueur. Brunch is served on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

The Perfect Day of Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

In Chicago, dining and drinking is a full-fledged tourist attraction in and of itself,  Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

Right up there with other world-famous institutions like the Bean, the Willis Tower and Navy Pier. Eating in Chicago’s West Loop Considering this, strategy is important when planning out a day of dining in the big city, as coordinated restaurant and bar stops are pivotal. One nifty way to break it all down and simplify things is by divvying your days into neighborhoods, honing on on specific areas in order to really dig into local flavors and get a taste for what Chicago’s neighborhoods are all about. And when it comes to prioritizing which neighborhood to start eating in, it’s hard to beat the restaurant-packed West Loop. With more celebrity chefs and crowded dining rooms than any other part of the city, the West Loop is ground zero for some of the best dining not only in Chicago, but the country at large. If you’ve got 24 hours to spare in the city, here’s how to make the most of it in the West Loop:

"Sawada" Chicago's West loop

“Sawada” Chicago’s West loop

Breakfast: Start your day with a bang by enjoying a hearty, inventive breakfast at Little Goat. Seeing as this is a diner helmed by Top Chef icon Stephanie Izard, you can rest assured that you won’t find your typical hashes, pancakes and omelettes here. Rather, buckle up and tuck into novelties like “everything” crumpets, sesame cheddar biscuits, sourdough pancakes, French toast topped with crispy chicken and BBQ maple syrup, parathas burritos and bibimbap breakfast bowls studded with cauliflower “rice” and guanciale. This doesn’t even cover the sweet pastries, milkshakes and desserts, but you might want to save that for another time if you’re gonna continue eating around the neighborhood the rest of the day. 

Breakfast: Start your day with a bang by enjoying a hearty, inventive breakfast at Little Goat. Seeing as this is a diner helmed by Top Chef icon Stephanie Izard, you can rest assured that you won’t find your typical hashes, pancakes and omelettes here. Rather, buckle up and tuck into novelties like “everything” crumpets, sesame cheddar biscuits, sourdough pancakes, French toast topped with crispy chicken and BBQ maple syrup, parathas burritos and bibimbap breakfast bowls studded with cauliflower “rice” and guanciale. This doesn’t even cover the sweet pastries, milkshakes and desserts, but you might want to save that for another time if you’re gonna continue eating around the neighborhood the rest of the day. 

Lunch: Come lunch, see what all the fuss is about and follow the lines into Bonci, a pint-sized counter-service pizza spot from one of the world’s most revered pizza-makers. The tiny eatery features an ever-changing lineup of scissor-cut Roman-style slices, priced by weight and cut to customizable sizes. A far cry from your standard pepperoni or sausage, this stuff features seasonal toppings and beautiful, high-quality vegetables and sauces, all layered atop a crisp, airy bread-like crust.

Pick-me-up: At this point, it’s pivotal to keep the party going and stay energized. You can do so by hurling ice-carved shot glasses at a giant bell at Federales. This raucous Mexican bar and eatery features plenty of tequila drinks, shots and snacky items like chips, salsas and tacos to keep fueling your day-long binge. For food, keep it light by sharing some spicy fruit ceviche and maybe some queso fundido. In addition to margaritas aplenty, the cool thing to do here is an ice glass shot. Various tequilas are served in ice-carved shot glasses, which you can throw at a giant bell once you’ve consumed them.

Moneygun Eating in Chicago's West Loop

Moneygun Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

 

Cocktail hour: Whet your appetite for dinner with a cocktail stop at Moneygun, a dreamy and dark corner bar with a refreshingly simple menu anchored by a bevy of classics. It’s the rare place where you can cozy up to a booth and enjoy a well-made Long Island Iced Tea, a Dark & Stormy, a dirty martini, a piña colada, a Cosmo or a Cuba Libre, all under one roof. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If the weather’s nice, mosey over into the large back patio, which is equipped with a bocce court.

 

Dinner: At this point, you’ve hopefully made reservations for dinner, as pretty much any restaurant in the neighborhood gets clamorous come 6:00 p.m. And if you’re going to make reservations months in advance, make them at Monteverde. This pasta palace is revered for good reason, with its laudable lineup of fresh, handmade pastas enrobed in rich sauces and tossed with bracing ingredients. Start with the skate schnitzel and smoked fish rillettes before progressing into wok-fried arrabbiata or cacio whey pepe, a bucatini dish with pecorino, ricotta whey and a four-peppercorn blend.

Monteverde Eating in Chicago's West Loop

Monteverde Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

Dessert: The sweets at Monteverde are wonderful and all, but you’re going to want to save room for the can’t-miss confections coming out of the immaculate kitchen at Proxi. Here, star pastry chef Sarah Mispagel shines with desserts inspired by different international cultures and strewn with bright, seasonal accompaniments. Get the silky-smooth avocado mousse with tapioca pearls, pandan leaf, grapefruit, cocoa nibs and coconut, or the tres leches cake with cajeta, mango and meringue. If you’d like to just keep it simple, the mochi ice creams and sorbets are always riveting as well.