Eating/Drinking

Consider This Your Chicago Restaurant Week Cheat Sheet

Photo by Derek Richmond/Courtesy of Avec

Basically the culinary version of Lollapalooza, Chicago Restaurant Week is an annual spectacle designed to showcase one of the best food cities in the world, during the time of year when, let’s face it, the doldrums tend to keep people at home. While some prefer to avoid CRW (it’s technically two-plus weeks, this year January 24–February 9) because of the increased crowds and clamor, others love it for the can’t-beat-the-bargain menus for lunch, dinner, and brunch at more than 400 eateries all over town and the suburbs. Tables book up fast, so peruse our list of 20 restaurants to check out.

Photo by Jeff Marini/Courtesy of Aba

Aba
Offering: Brunch for $24, dinner for $48
Overview: This perpetually red-hot Mediterranean spot from Lettuce Entertain you and C.J. Jacobson has a lot to salivate over, from the Instagram-friendly, plant-filled decor to green falafel with avocado tzatziki, dark chocolate babka, and short rib shakshuka, just to scratch the surface.

Avec
Offering: Lunch for $24, dinner for $48
Overview: In case you haven’t yet experienced this essential Chicago restaurant and wine bar, Restaurant Week is an apt opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. And you’ll definitely be fussing once you tuck into dishes like brussels sprouts panzanella; wood-oven paella studded with confit chicken thighs and morcilla sausage; and those chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates, an iconic Chicago dish on par with the best deep-dish.

Bellemore
Offering: Lunch for $24, dinner for $48
Overview: This West Loop marvel, from the incomparable Boka Restaurant Group and wunderkind chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, is a feast for the eyes (the faux taxidermied birds here are a treat) and the taste buds. Pay a visit during Restaurant Week for proof, when tasting menus include carrot toast with pistachio, mint, and lime; venison tartare with spicy turnips and cave-aged Cheddar; arctic char with lentils, cashews, curry, and grapes; and triple chocolate mousse cake with candied cocoa nibs, toasted coconut, and caramel.

Photo by Anthony Tahlier/Courtesy of Bellemore

Bixi Brewery
Offering: Brunch for $24, lunch for $24, dinner for $36
Overview: This is the latest concept from the owner of Owen & Engine, one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago and home to the best burger ever, and it’s doing something special here. Fortunately, there’s plenty of opportunity to sample the goods with menu options for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and dishes such as cinnamon rolls with miso toffee, short rib lo mein, massaman curry with winter squash and tamarind chutney, and coconut cake with grilled pineapple. Don’t miss the house-brewed beers, either.

Blackbird
Offering: Lunch for $24, dinner for $48
Overview: One of the O.G. West Loop pioneers, nationally renowned Blackbird remains a must-visit for Restaurant Week. Lunch and dinner highlights include crumbed skate wing with sunchoke kimchi, braised pork with fish sauce and coriander, and chocolate banana cheesecake.

Cebu
Offering: Dinner for $36
Overview: This humble Wicker Park entry puts a fun, contemporary spin on Filipino cuisine, and it’s one of the more unique openings in recent memory. Use Restaurant Week as an excuse to get acquainted—and become obsessed—with items like vegetable lumpia with pineapple sweet-and-sour, duck inasal glazed with annatto oil, moringa pasta with tofu tempura, and dark chocolate mousse with jackfruit compote and banana cake.

Photo courtesy of Cebu

City Mouse
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: With recently appointed chef Matt Danko at the helm, the time is right to sample the goods at this whimsical, inventive American restaurant at the Ace Hotel. On deck: beets with fig leaf and sherry cream, ricotta agnolotti with smoked tomato and honey, pork collar with mustard and celery root, grilled eggplant with cauliflower and spiced roti, and Ruby chocolate cremeux with almonds and grapefruit.

Daisies
Offering: Brunch for $24, lunch for $24, dinner for $36 or $48
Overview: Known for its house-made pastas and locally sourced seasonal ingredients, Daisies is the pinnacle of neighborhood restaurants in Logan Square. A visit for brunch, lunch, or dinner will show you why, especially when menus include fried pierogi with raspberry jam, scrambled egg bruschetta, fried parsnips with fermented cherry and duck cracklins, pumpkin manti with guanciale, and raspberry pretzel pie.

Flora Fauna
Offering: Dinner for $36
Overview: This tropical River North newbie has been garnering lots of buzz since opening a few months ago. Restaurant Week is a good chance to taste and see what all the hype is about. For the occasion, the eclectic menu includes jackfruit dandan noodles; winter squash dumplings with plantains and tofu; salmon ceviche; cauliflower fried rice; turkey lettuce wraps with puffed rice noodles; and tres leches cake with strawberry-infused coconut milk, roasted pineapple, and toasted coconut.

Photo by Sandy Noto/Courtesy of Galit

Galit
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: One of the biggest openings of 2019 is on board for Restaurant Week, and you’d be wise to take advantage. Since its inception, Galit has asserted itself as a game changer with its innovative, modern Middle Eastern cooking by chef Zach Engel. Start with habit-forming hummus, before grazing on pumpkin tershi with urfa beiber or labneh with hyssop sumac sesame and warm, pillowy pita. Mezze options include falafel with mango, cumin-y orange-glazed carrots, and kale tabouli, followed by shareable entrées like stuffed cabbage with lamb kebab, chicken thighs with Bulgarian feta, and basmati pilaf. For dessert, there’s ma’amoul cookies with dates and ras al hanout.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen
Offering: Brunch for $24, dinner for $48
Overview: Run by husband-and-wife duo Thai and Danielle Dang, this Vietnamese-inspired restaurant is one of my all-time favorites for any meal and any occasion. The warm, stylish atmosphere is perfectly matched by dishes that are deeply thoughtful and soulful. For instance: baby octopus with eggplant salad, chopped clams with toasted rice crackers, beef rib eye pho, braised pork cheeks with roasted shallots and Thai chili, and Vietnamese rice pudding with whipped vanilla custard.

Kostali
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: One of the newest big-name restaurants in town, Kostali is a chic Mediterranean entry from the talented minds behind Naha and Brindille. For Restaurant Week, chef-owner Carrie Nahabedian is serving a dinner tasting that includes insalata verte, baby chicken tagine, and olive oil cake. Be sure to peruse the epic wine list for pairings, courtesy of Carrie’s cousin and co-owner, Michael Nahabedian.

Photo courtesy of Kostali

Lonesome Rose
Offering: Lunch for $24, dinner for $36
Overview: With its color scheme of light pinks, soft greens, and cacti planters, this Logan Square oasis always reminds me of a would-be desert-themed Wes Anderson film. And that’s only part of the charm, as the neo-Tex-Mex menu is always laden with delights. For Restaurant Week, lunch and dinner selections range from chicken tacos with creamed black kale and loaded baked potato flautas to zesty shrimp cocktail and avocado tostadas with pickled squash and sunflower seeds. And for dessert, soft-serve chocolate ice cream with shortbread cookie crumble.

Monteverde
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: Since opening in 2015, this West Loop pasta palace has remained one of the hottest tickets in town. If its usual popularity is any indication, you’re going to want to snag a reservation ASAP to sample chef Sarah Grueneberg’s incredible Italian cooking. Available for dinner this year, the menu includes ’nduja arancini, polenta gratinata with Gorgonzola fonduta and Medjool dates, roasted winter squash tortelloni, stuffed cabbage with porcini Bolognese, and chocolate budino with winter citrus and hazelnuts.

Moody Tongue Brewing Company
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: You’ve never experienced a brewery like this one. Chicago’s quintessential “culinary brewpub” features the dexterous talents of Jared Wentworth, a Michelin-starred chef whose résumé and skills are massively pedigreed. See for yourself during Restaurant Week, when his dinner degustation features the likes of beet tartare with spruce-infused ricotta and birch syrup; charred broccoli salad with soy-pickled hen egg and calamansi vinaigrette; chicken breast with vegetable pavé; pork belly with sunchoke-black truffle risotto; and ambrosia with charred pineapple, lime sherbet, coconut, and milk jam.

Photo by Jordan Balderas/Courtesy of Moody Tongue

Onward
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: Nestled in Rogers Park, a neighborhood not typically known for tasting menus, Onward serves the type of food more commonly found on Randolph Street. It’s worth the visit any time of year, but Restaurant Week is an apt showcase of the restaurant’s envelope-pushing flavors and techniques, like Alaskan king crab bisque with gochujang, roasted brussels sprouts tartine with chicories and apple saba, winter squash mezzaluna with spiced pepitas, rabbit boudin blanc with green onion pierogi, and citrusy panna cotta with candied kumquats and cardamom.

Rooh
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: Based in San Francisco, this West Loop newcomer is unlike any other Indian restaurant in town, as evidenced by its gorgeous presentations of inspired plates like potato tikki with kale and spinach tempura, avocado and green chickpea chat, lamb keema hyderabadi with buttered pao, jackfruit kofta with tempered spinach sauce, butter chicken with red pepper makhani and cashew butter powder, and carrot halwa cake. Get it.

Sable Kitchen & Bar
Offering: Dinner for $36
Overview: This River North standby has long been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to mixology and elevated bar fare. It’s the kind of place that transcends trends, cementing itself as a true Chicago classic over the years. Always one of the most reliable options for Restaurant Week, its 2020 menu is no different, with dishes like buttercup squash falafel with date yogurt, lamb meatball skewers with mustard seeds and lentil puree, and bourbon pecan pie with malted marshmallow and salted caramel sauce.

Photo courtesy of Rooh

Split-Rail
Offering: Dinner for $48
Overview: I’m thrilled I live close to this Ukrainian Village restaurant, which regularly features fun interpretations of American classics. For Restaurant Week, chef Zoe Schor is serving an amazing astrology-themed menu divvied into such sections as Earth & Air (e.g., crunchy red salad with beets and Pecorino, truffled potato soup with trout roe) and Fire & Water (e.g., firecracker shrimp with Thai chilies, Nashville hot lamb ribs). Each section has its own dessert: beet-y red velvet cake for Earth & Air and chocolate cake with chile-spiked ganache for Fire & Water.

Table, Donkey & Stick
Offering: Dinner for $36
Overview: The thing I love most about Restaurant Week is how it encourages diners to branch out and explore neighborhood dining scenes, and few places exemplify that notion quite like this Alpine-style bastion in Logan Square. The charcuterie program here is famed for good reason, from bresaola and saucisson sec to gravlax and duck liver mousse. You’ll also get to taste cozy plates like house-baked Swabian pretzels with raspberry mustard, potato dumpling salad with beets and puffed wild rice, brussels sprouts gratin with charcuterie bits, sweet potato cappelletti with smoked tomato brodo, and sirloin steak with Concord grape glaze and carrot puree.