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By Ari Bendersky | January 1, 2010 | Food & Drink
1723 N. Halsted St., 312-867-0110; alinea-restaurant.com
With inventive molecular gastronomical preparations and acclaimed offerings from star chef Grant Achatz, Alinea presents an ever-evolving tasting menu of sensory wonders.
615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002; avecrestaurant.com
A single bite of her chorizo-stuffed dates, currybraised pork shoulder or whole roasted fish tells you why chef Koren Grieveson won Best New Chef accolades from Food & Wine magazine last year.
Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6754; chicago.peninsula.com
Alinea alum Curtis Duffy oversees the finest in fine dining. With uncomplicated contemporary fare, the multicourse tasting menus show why Avenues garners the highest of critical ratings.
Café des Architectes
20 E. Chestnut St. (inside the Sofitel), 312-324-4063; cafedesarchitectes.com
Gorgeous ambience and chef Martial Noguier’s Mediterranean-inspired French fare belie a hotel setting. Enjoy chilled Madagascar shrimp and Swan Creek Farm suckling pig as well as a first-rate 30-minute executive lunch.
816 W. Armitage Ave., 773-248-6228; charlietrotters.com
Don’t expect a loud, rushed affair. You’ll be treated to a gastronomic experience that will touch every sense.
Cibo Matto at TheWit Hotel
201 N. State St., 312-239-9500; cibomatto.therestaurantsatthewit.com
Enjoy Todd Stein’s modern Italian-influenced cuisine at the semiprivate chef’s table or from the glass-enclosed private room while sipping wine from the 2,000-bottle case. Fancy a quick snack? The chic lounge will do the trick.
440 S. LaSalle St., 40th Floor, 312-663-8920; everestrestaurant.com
Everest, sitting high atop the Chicago Stock Exchange, is one of Chicago’s most celebrated spots. Chef Jean Joho perfectly crafts ele gant yet accessible French-influenced cuisine in a sophisticated setting.
445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434; fronterakitchens.com
Whether serving freshly shucked oysters in a smoky chipotle-garlic salsa or pork loin with mole coloradito, James Beard Award winner Rick Bayless is nothing if not on the cusp and always fresh.
Gene & Georgetti
500 N. Franklin St., 312-527-3718; geneandgeorgetti.com
Bone-in rib eye. Veal chops. Chicken Vesuvio. Fried calamari. Minestrone. Eggplant parm. Shrimp de Jonghe. Linguine with clam sauce. Serving since 1941. It doesn’t get more oldschool than this.
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
1028 N. Rush St., 312-266-8999; gibsonssteakhouse.com
An institution if ever one existed, Gibsons serves mouthwatering cuts of beef, twice-baked potatoes and wedges of carrot cake. The bar gets packed and loud. Celebs pay homage.
217 W. Huron St., 312-624-9975; grahamelliot.com
After receiving the highest praise with four stars while helming the kitchen at Avenues, Graham Elliot Bowles opened his namesake River North spot with a more laid-back approach and full-of-flavor, wholesome, creative dishes.
51 W. Hubbard St., 312-828-0051; hub51chicago.com
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Rich Melman’s kids score with their first spot. The disparate menu—from sushi to tacos to sea bass and filet mignon—and extensive beer and wine list offer great variety for everyone.
600 W. Chicago Ave., 312-822-9600; japonaischicago.com
Japonais dazzles with its spectacular, exotic interior and intense Asian flavors, with specialties including Kobe prime rib, king crab nigiri and whole maple-leaf-smoked duck.
2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-868-0002; l2orestaurant.com
Laurent Gras’s spot in the Belden-Stratford building was named Esquire’s 2008 Restaurant of the Year. The elegant yet cool space balances the French-Asian fusion-focused seafood selections that Gras orders in from around the globe.
5707 N. Clark St., 773-561-1600; mhenry.net
The Far North Side craved a great brunch spot and the adorable M.henry filled the void, delivering fresh baked pastries, organic ingredients and a vegetarian-friendly, Latininfused brunch.
Mon Ami Gabi
2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-348-8886; monamigabi.com
A modern classic, Mon Ami Gabi is a quintessential French bistro in a throwback setting featuring fantastic steamed mussels, warm duck confit and the traditional steak frites in various preparations.
Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave., 312-239-4030; nomirestaurant.com
NoMI provides a luxurious setting with sweeping views of the city, all of which enhances the beautifully executed sushi and prime meats that make up the French-inspired menu.
464 N. Halsted St., 312-421-0077; piccolosognorestaurant.com
This “little dream” stole the scene in 2008 with its sprawling outdoor garden, a respite from the rushing city. Delicious antipasti, crackly crust pizzas and tender braised short ribs delight.
161 N. Jefferson St., 312-669-9900; provincerestaurant.com
Bright pink hues, a dramatic wine case andpetrified trees adorn the walls of this new West Loop treasure that features a sustainable, locavore menu focusing on Latin-influenced dishes.
837 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9555; thepublicanrestaurant.com
The latest from the Blackbird/Avec team, the Publican conjures a German beer hall with communal tables. The menu features local, sustainable fare with a big focus on pork, seafood and fish.
115 E. Chicago Ave., 312-475-1100; rlrestaurant.com
Both the food and the clublike setting of Ralph Lauren’s bistro (adjacent to Chicago’s flagship store), featuring prime sirloin, meaty crab cakes and lobster bisque, reflect the designer’s style and class.
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Pl., 312-649-2349; fourseasons.com
Whether you’re popping in for afternoon tea or planning a private party, Seasons’ lavish space and award-winning French cuisine will change the way you look at hotel restaurants.
123 N. Jefferson St., 312-441-1920; sepiachicago.com
The warm dark woods and Art Nouveau décor of this former 1890 print shop complement sea scallops with pork belly and house-made pastas.
Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6744; peninsula.com
Chef Chi Ping Xu melds contemporary cuisine with classic preparations. Traditional dishes like kung pao prawns and XO lobster are served in an ornate Asian setting.
110 W. Illinois St., 312-644-0500; sundachicago.com
You may have missed backpacking through Southeast Asia, but that’s OK since all those flavors have now come to you: crab-crusted ahi tuna, Malay-style Chilean sea bass, traditional noodle dishes and, of course, inventive sushi are all there for the taking.
504 N. Wells St., 312-595-2300; sushisamba.com
Brazil isn’t known for its sushi but that doesn’t stop this eclectic joint from serving some of the most creative rolls around. The upscale party environment beckons with its indoor rooftop bar, superfresh seafood and ceviche, sprawling raw bar and more.
52 W. Elm St., 312-573-4000; tablefifty-two.com
It might be enough that Oprah’s former chef Art Smith opened this quaint Gold Coast spot, but the Southern hospitality and rich dishes like pistachio-encrusted chicken really draw you in.
159 E. Monroe St. in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute, 312-443-8650; terzopianochicago.com
Modern art. A gorgeous setting. Spectacular views. Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano’s creations. What more could you ask for? How about one of the coveted covered piazza tables to enjoy local ingredients with a refreshing glass of wine?
The Signature Room at the 95th
875 N. Michigan Ave., 312-787-9596; signatureroom.com
Sweeping views atop the John Hancock building add to the excitement of the contemporary American menu.
676 N. St. Clair St., 312-202-0001; trurestaurant.com
Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand’s luxe restaurant showcases white linens, impeccable service, a knowledgeable staff and the signature Caviar Staircase—a tasting of sturgeon caviars.
71 W. Monroe St., 312-332-4040; vivere-chicago.com
Capturing the true essence of Northern Italian cooking in a contemporary setting, Vivere has premier fare, plus a 45,000-bottle wine list.
Photograph by Laurie Proffitt