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Destination Guide: Chicago Restaurants

Alexandra Paretta / November 23, 2015

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This windy city has something to offer to everyone. It’s the forefront of fine-dining, the arts, entertainment, and loyal sports fans in the mid-west. We’re talking of course about Chicago, Illinois. Because there’s so many things to do, places to see, and food to eat, we took it upon ourselves to highlight the incredible fine-dining scene Chicago has orchestrated.

Chicago is constantly evolving. From its rich history and roots in art, sports, and food alike, this city has a way of pushing the envelope while remaining true to its nature. Like many big cities, Chicago is home to dozens of ethnic backgrounds including Greek, Italian, Puerto Rican, Chinese, and Vietnamese. It has attracted innovative thinkers and designers from the architects who designed the many skyscrapers it has, to performing artists like dancers, singers, and comedians in its massive theatre scene. There’s one thing that is certain about the city – whatever niche people are drawn to, it’s an all-or-nothing attitude with irrevocable dignity.

So when it came to exploring Chicago’s haute-cuisine, it wasn’t easy to choose our absolute favorites. But after our experience, we’ve composed our list of restaurants that gastronomy junkies absolutely must delve into in the grand city of Chicago.

 

Alinea

It’s not a long shot to call this restaurant the best in the country. Aside from being awarded 3-Michelin Stars for over five years, it has been recognized on a global scale as one of the best in the world. Chef Grant Achatz believes his creativity comes to him when he is working his hardest. From there, he creates seasonal menus between 18 and 22 courses that are theatrical and alluring to the senses.

Cuisine: Molecular Gastronomy
Location: 1723 North Halsted 60614
Web: https://website.alinearestaurant.com
E-mail: tickets@alinearestaurant.com

Matthew Gilson

Brook trout, maple syrup, sherry vinegar, and curry squash by chef Grant Achatz of Alinea. © Matthew Gilson

Matthew Gilson

Tropical Fruit | Rum, vanilla, and kaffir lime by chef Grant Achatz of Alinea. © Matthew Gilson

Christian Seel

Interior of Alinea. © Christian Seel

 

Grace

Chef Curtis Duffy’s restaurant takes elegance to new heights. The soft and neutral dining room allows a contrast for the spectacular and visual meal that lies ahead. Diners have the option between two 8-12 course menus: Flora or Fauna. Flora focuses on vegetarian cuisine while Fauna emphasizes on seafood and other protein. Each dish is beautifully crafted with simple ingredients of the highest quality.

Cuisine: Contemporary American
Location: 652 W Randolph St. 60661
Web: http://www.grace-restaurant.com
E-mail: info@grace-restaurant.com

Michael Muser

Winter vegetables, huckleberry, amaranth, and tarragon by chef Curtis Duffy of Grace. © Michael Muser

Michael Muser

Alaskan King Crab, kalamansi (citrus fruit), cucumber, and lemon balm by chef Curtis Duffy of Grace. © Michael Muser

Michael Muser

Main dining room at Grace. © Michael Muser

 

Sixteen

Even veteran diners still have plenty of flavors to expose their palate to. At Sixteen, it is the goal of Chef Thomas Lents to have guests experience a multitude of tastes in just one sitting. Located on the 16th floor of the Trump Hotel, the dining room has towering ceilings and colossal glass windows that give guests the experience of dining amongst many of Chicago’s gorgeous buildings.

Cuisine: French-inspired American
Location: 401 N. Wabash Ave. 60611
Web: http://www.sixteenchicago.com

Neil Burger

Breast of young hen, Australian black truffle, lemon confit, and braised leek by chef Thomas Lents of Sixteen. © Neil Burger

Neil Burger

Heirloom wheat with artichoke and truffle by chef Thomas Lents of Sixteen. © Neil Burger

Neil Burger

Interior of Sixteen. © Neil Burger

 

Acadia

Layering flavors. Subtlety. Contemporary techniques. When blended with the essence of traditional cooking, you will find how Chef Ryan McCaskey harmonizes the old with the new. Like many chefs, McCaskey’s goal is to create a unique culinary memory for each guest, accompanied by excellent service and hopsitality. Here, cultural diversity is celebrated in the ingredients and styles that are accumulated from all over the world.

Cuisine: Contemporary American with traditional roots
Location: 1639 S Wabash Ave. 60616
Web: http://www.acadiachicago.com

Anthony Tahlier

Bone marrow, peekytoe crab, and caviar by chef Ryan McCaskey of Acadia. © Anthony Tahlier

Anthony Tahlier

Pig heart tartare, bacon chip, and whitefish caviar by chef Ryan McCaskey of Acadia. © Anthony Tahlier

Anthony Tahlier

Bar interior of Acadia. © Anthony Tahlier

 

Boka

Standard flavor combinations, simple techniques, and an affinity towards seasonal produce and ingredients. Chef Lee Wolen creates dishes that are so stunning, it’s hard to believe how uncomplicated his approach to creating a menu is. Boka has been a foodie favorite for about a decade, but needed an element of change. Since Chef Wolen walked into the Boka kitchen in 2014, it’s evolved to a new standard.

Cuisine: Contemporary American
Location: 1729 North Halsted Street 60614
Web: http://www.bokachicago.com

Galdones Photography

Roasted and shaved beets with peanuts, blue cheese, avocado, mustard greens, and dill by chef Lee Wolen of Boka. © Galdones Photography

Galdones Photography

Cured fluke with caviar, puffed buckwheat, and dashi made of black garlic and tomato by chef Lee Wolen of Boka. © Galdones Photography

Simeone Deary Design Group

Interior of Boka. © Simeone Deary Design Group

 

EL Ideas

Chef Phillip Foss is a bit of a shock-artist when it comes to his fine-dining approach. Not to the extreme of inducing fear or disturbance, but his experimental style is guaranteed to give diners an experience that is unlike any other. There is plenty of opportunity for chef-guest interaction that is engaging, humorous, and insightful about how this BYO restaurant came together. If you’ve ever had the urge to literally lick your plate clean, that type of behavior isn’t frowned upon here – it’s encouraged!

Cuisine: Experimental BYO
Location: 2419 W 14th St. 60608
Web: http://www.elideas.com
E-mail: reservations@elideas.com

El Ideas

Shigoku oyster gelled in a smoked duck consommé with daikon kimchee, mushroom, and soy by chef Phillip Foss of El Ideas. © El Ideas

El Ideas

Ossetra caviar with fennel cream, toast, and chervil by chef Phillip Foss of El Ideas. © El Ideas

El Ideas

Interior of El Ideas. © El Ideas

 

Elizabeth

Several years ago, Chef Iliana Regan had one the most successful supper clubs in Chicago. After growing popularity, she decided to open her first restaurant, Elizabeth, named after her late sister. Success was immediate. Her experience growing up on a farm influenced her approach to the creation of colorful dishes that tell a story and are served in whimsical atmosphere – artisanal fine dining if you will. Her style is simple and playful, but stands out in Chicago for its focus on local and seasonal fish, meat, and foraged fruits and vegetables.

Cuisine: “New Gatherer” with locally foraged ingredients
Location: 4835 N. Western, Unit D, 60625
Web: http://website.elizabeth-restaurant.com
E-mail: info@elizabeth-restaurant.com

Iliana Regan

Dried and cured bear meat with puffed wild rice, curry marshmallow, and cheddar cheese by chef Iliana Regan of Elizabeth. © Iliana Regan

Iliana Regan

Porridge of sprouted spelt berries, root vegetables, quail egg, Parmesan espuma, and crispy chicken skin by chef Iliana Regan of Elizabeth. © Iliana Regan

Monica Kass Rogers

Interior details at Elizabeth. © Monica Kass Rogers

 

Tru

When art and food come together, that’s where you’ll find chefs like Anthony Martin. Originally an art student, this chef discovered a way to combine his passion for food and the arts when he pursued his culinary career. At Tru, Martin’s creations complement the collection of contemporary works of art displayed throughout the restaurant. One standout dish is their signature Coral Caviar – ten carefully selected caviars by Martin and his team.

Cuisine: Progressive French
Location: 676 N. St. Clair Street 60611
Web: http://www.trurestaurant.com

Tru

Coral Caviar | Several varieties of sturgeon roes presented on abalone shells set within a molded coral serving piece by chef Anthony Martin of Tru. © Tru

Tru

Maitake Crunch, Ramp, Oxalis | Maitake (mushroom) chip served on a moss-covered grape vine, topped with ramp purée and silver, magenta, and rainbow oxalis by chef Anthony Martin of Tru. © Tru

Tru

Interior of Tru. © Tru

 

Contributing Writer

A thrill-seeker who enjoys venturing into the unknown, as long as there is a surrounding of good food, music, and conversation.

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