Top Picks for Chicago Restaurant Week
Jellyfish Makes a Splash in the Gold Coast
Slick, modern Japanese fare is on deck at Jellyfish for both lunch and dinner during Restaurant Week. Get this on your mind now: chicken- and bamboo-laced Sapporo soup, pan-seared duck salad, and coconut bread pudding for lunch, plus more options at dinner like torched hamachi and roasted Hawaiian pork.
Italian Class at Baffo
Diners fawning over Eataly can get themselves a bargain taste of Baffo, the hulking food market's crown jewel, during Restaurant Week for both lunch and dinner. Lunch opens with antipasti options of wild arugula with spiced almonds or carne cruda raw Piemontese beef with olive oil, sea salt, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Entrees include pappardella with meat ragu, pan-seared trout with sweet and sour peppers, and grilled skirt steak, followed by dessert options of chocolate sponge cake with crunchy hazelnut or housemade sorbet and gelato. The dinner menu is even bigger, featuring new options like hand-pulled mozzarella, octopus, prosciutto with gnocchi fritto, thick spaghetti with oven-dried tomato, and walnut sponge cake with salted caramel mousse.
Keep it Classic French
One evergreen bet is classic French cuisine at Bistro Campagne. The Lincoln Square bistro joins the Restaurant Week fray with time-honored staples such as onion soup, steak tartare, roast chicken, steak frites, crème brûlée, and pain perdu.
Gourmet Bargain at Blackbird
Year in and year out, Blackbird is one of the best bargains for Restaurant Week. The Restaurant Row progenitor consistently offers a prix fixe lunch menu of progressive American cuisine, and this year is no different. On deck is steak tartare with rye berries, spicy radish, oxalis, and lemon; mixed greens salad with crispy potato and basil-Dijon vinaigrette; lima bean soup with carrot cream, apple-celery slaw, orange, and tarragon; duck sausage with dried parsley root, Brussels sprouts, buttermilk, and mustard seed; wood-grilled sturgeon with salsify, black trumpet mushrooms, buckwheat, and grapefruit; dark rum cheesecake with pineapple shaved ice, kinako, caramelized puffed rice, and mustard; and winter coupe with salted caramel ice cream, brownie bits, fudge sauce, candied almonds, and, whipped creme fraiche.
Contemporary Southern Comfort at Carriage House
Down-home soul food gets a contemporary update at Wicker Park's Carriage House, which is happily participating in the Restaurant Week festivities with a buttery dinner prix fixe. Expect first-course options like fried green tomatoes and fried chicken thighs, entrees like catfish fry plates, chicken and dumplings, and braised pork shank, and desserts like beignets, malted chocolate mousse, and housemade bourbon ice cream.
High-end Vegetarian Fare at Green Zebra
The city's preeminent spot for vegetarian fine dining, Green Zebra enters Restaurant Week with a dinner menu brimming with roasted red beet salad and toasted Israeli couscous, carrot stew and adzuki bean potstickers, harissa risotto, winter squash pot pie, sweet mango sticky rice, and brownie sundaes.
Go Local at Local Root
Head to Streeterville for one of the cutest locally minded eateries in Chicago. Local Root features seasonal and locally sourced ingredients year-round, and Restaurant Week offers a nice opportunity to experience that at both lunch and dinner. Local Root serves up lunch fare such as kale and quinoa salad with balsamic gastrique, stuffed portabella with housemade marinara, turkey baguette, Champagne chicken, bread pudding, and flourless chocolate cake. At dinner, options range from golden eggplant towers and Amish chicken to fresh seafood and croissant bread pudding.
Mexican-French Fusion at Mexique
Fusion fare surpasses the cliche at Mexique, one of Chicago's enduring destinations for unique, upscale dining. At lunch, this means ceviche, carne asada huarache with goat cheese fondue, enchiladas with chicken and roasted tomatillo salsa, pumpkin creme brûlée, and chocolate enchiladas with chile-ancho chocolate sauce. Come dinner, things expand to cactus salad with roasted beets and sorrel vinaigrette, saffron-crusted milk-poached bacalao, braised pork cheeks with sweet potato puree, and those same salacious desserts.
Raising the Bar on Bar Food
Looks may be deceiving at The Monarch. What seems like an average Wicker Park bar is actually a dining destination worth seeking out, on full display for all your foodie needs during Restaurant Week with a can't-miss dinner degustation. Get your fill of dishes like bruschetta with olive tapenade and feta, potted chicken liver pate, fried Brussels sprouts with curry vinaigrette, roasted wild mushroom soup, braised pork shoulder with cornbread grits, fried green tomato sandwiches, butterscotch pudding, and chocolate-bourbon pecan pie.
Latin With an Organic Accent
Organic cuisine with a Latin note is at the forefront of Nana, a Bridgeport bastion for brunch, lunch, and dinner. For Restaurant Week, the family-run spot cooks up homey items for lunch and dinner such as avocado fries, grilled shrimp and fried oyster po' boys, breaded pork loin, pan-roasted cod, and tres leches cake.
Top-tier Local Fare at Nightwood
Restaurant Week is the perfect reason to head to Pilsen and feast at Nightwood. The restaurant does locally sourced cooking like no other restaurant in town, with an acute sense for the contemporary and vibrant. Think dry-aged beef tartare with tallow-roasted bread, sunchoke and clam bisque, braised pork and coal-roasted vegetables, and apple bread pudding. There's also a lunch menu available February 4-6 and February 11 and 12. This abbreviated menu includes duck egg omelets, wood-grilled beets, spinach and endive salad with buttermilk-hemp dressing, fried oyster and coppa sandwich, the famed Nightwood cheeseburger, and cookie plates.
Beef Things Up at Sullivan's Steakhouse
Sometimes you just want a nice steak preceded and accentuated by hearty, honest cooking. For this most Midwestern of repasts, make a dinner reservation at Sullivan's Steakhouse, which offers refined, rustic comfort fare with appetizer options like cheesesteak egg rolls, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and crispy Shanghai calamari. Diners then select a salad course between wedge salad and classic Caesar, followed by entrees like New York strip, rib-eye, filet mignon, salmon, lobster tail, and herb roasted chicken.
Criminally Good Menu at Ada St.
Ada Street always takes a unique approach to cookery. The restaurant has quickly emerged as one of the can't-miss destinations for Chicago Restaurant Week, nailing an exciting, fresh theme each year. This year, the restaurant is serving a menu inspired by infamous criminal's last meals. The morbidly fascinating idea, executed (pun intended) by chef Zoë Schor, features a slew of dishes inspired by foods requested by criminals for their last meals. First course options include marinated olives with cheese curds and toast inspired by Victor Feguer, a murderer who requested a sole olive as his last meal; or Merguez sausage flatbread with feta and spicy piquillo pepper sauce, a riff on the pepperoni pizzas and Coca-Cola requested by freeway killer William George Bonin. For the main course, guests select from an "original recipe" fried chicken plate inspired by John Wayne Gacy's last request for a bucket of KFC; a plate of Wagyu hanger steak and eggs a la Ted Bundy's final meal; or grilled pork chop with corn pudding and pickled red onion, which was served to Rainey Bethea, the last person to be publicly executed in the U.S. in 1936. For dessert, go for Ben & Jerry's mint chocolate chip ice cream — as served to Tim McVeigh — or sponge cake with cherry compote, which was given to Lindbergh kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann. There's also an after-dinner drink included on the prix fixe menu: the Rumor Has It cocktail featuring Buffalo Trace bourbon, Bitter Truth EXR, and cherry vanilla bitters, a riff on Gary Gilmore's last meal with contraband Jack Daniels. The dinner menu costs $44 per person during Chicago Restaurant Week.
- Matt Kirouac