A Taste of Fall Menus from Chicago's Best Restaurants
Kiss your blueberries and your peaches and your strolls through twilight streets with ice cream in hand goodbye for now. Summer is officially over, but take solace knowing that fall not only is the best wardrobe season, but its ingredients lend themselves to some of the best dishes of the year. As the weather chills and the sunlight ebbs, wrap a scarf around your neck and use it as a bib for heartier dishes rolling out on menus around Chicago.
Both locations of Roka Akor are beefing up their menus with a variety of new fall dishes crafted by executive chefs Brett Vibber (Chicago) and Jason Alford (Skokie). Dive in headfirst with a hefty plate that will knock your idea of steak 'n' eggs upside-down: grilled Wagyu flat-iron steak, ponzu vegetables, and tentsuyu poached egg yolk. Colors, textures, and umami flavors explode in the roasted beet and tako salad, laden with red, gold, and Chioggia beets, purple spinach, tamari-glazed hazelnuts, and jalapeño-miso vinaigrette. Guests can also indulge in nautical fare with the roasted shellfish platter, a new robata grill addition brimming with mussels, clams, king crab, and other shellfish, designed to feed two.
The recent appointment of a new executive chef means new menu items were imminent at The Gage. Peter Coenen has been promoted from chef de cuisine to executive chef at the Michigan Avenue gastropub, and his years of experience working in the industry culminate with a slew of new menu items that are entirely his own. Coenen enriches The Gage menu with coffee-rubbed pork with grits, shelling beans succotash, shaved prosciutto and fig salad, and red-eye jus; New England lobster roll with fried onions, grilled lemon, and dirty kettle chips; pan-roasted halibut with grilled okra, shiitake mushrooms, Brussels sprouts leaves, and chorizo broth; and grilled rack of elk with crispy kale, toasted almond, apple-celery emulsion, quince mostarda, and elk demi glace.
Sixteen continues its seasonally evolving menu progression with a brand new fall menu starting tonight. Over the past year, executive chef Thomas Lents and pastry chef Patrick Fahy have guided guests through seasonally immersive dining experiences in winter, spring, and summer, changing the menu entirely each time. The new iteration signifies the autumn harvest and the conviviality of communities gathering to prepare for cooler months ahead. Dishes are designed to represent various stages of autumn, from the bounty of regional harvests to the fatted slaughter before winter. Guests can look forward to feasting on apples and turbot from the Normandy Coast, grapes and fowl from the Hudson, autumn lamb, suckling pig, and lots more as part of Sixteen's multi-course tasting menus (à la carte dishes are also available). To watch a video preview of the fall menu, visit here.
Slowly but surely, things are starting to segue from summery plates to autumnal ones at NAHA. The seasonally inspired Armenian/American standby still has a few warm weather-esque items in tow, so if you still crave Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crabs with late summer succotash or the best grilled cheese and tomato soup that will ever grace your lips, go now. Otherwise, enrich your soul with the likes of fire-roasted Berkshire pork shank, Yukon Gold potato gnocchi with braised oxtails and spinach, risotto with braised short ribs and red Russian kale, and whole-roasted squab with foie gras, bacon, and potato rosti.
Fall is soup weather, and soup doesn't get much better than the varieties peddled at Embeya as part of their guest chef soup series. The seasonal soups return October 14, featuring a different soup from a different guest chef on Monday nights. Flavors are still to be determined, but chefs include Lee Wollen of The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago, Sarah Grueneberg of Spiaggia, and Curtis Duffy of Grace.
And what's autumn without a slice or several of apple pie? Some of the most comforting, grandma-esque pie in town can be found at Grange Hall Burger Bar. House-baked pies are the dessert specialty at the homey burger spot, with the current iteration being Michigan apple pie. The apples of choice are Honey Crisps picked from the owner's farm in Coloma, Michigan. They're sweet and tart, nicely juxtaposed by heady cinnamon, layered into a flaky, buttery hand-rolled crust. In case you're looking to eat lighter (what's wrong with you), Grange Hall also has spiced apple sorbet, made with the same Honey Crisps.
(Apple pies at Grange Hall Burger Bar. Photo: Grange Hall Burger Bar)