If you subscribe to the Goop, and I do, you know her last newsletter was on Chicago restaurants. While I agreed with a bunch of her picks it was kind of…meh…well, expected at least. And I feel like I would know. Of the 14 restaurants she recommended I have been to 8. And it’s not that I don’t agree that a lot of those places are great, but its not my list per se.
- Big Star: Bucktown/Wicker Park Probably the dining experience I will miss the most. Which is silly because part of the reason I love it so much is because it REMINDS me of Austin-where we are moving- but nonetheless. This place is just cool and I feel cool when I am there. Which also means that there is usually a wait. You can’t make a reservation, it is basically a bar that serves food and if you are squirrly like me it is never too hard to find a spot or two at the bar. The margaritas rule, or they did last I could remember, their guacamole is superior. My favorite tacos are the Poblano-which are now off the menu but still available if you request them, and the pork belly. But everything here is good. I will miss it greatly.
- DMK: Wrigleyville Although I have been in a Twitter battle (where they refuse to engage with me) about them taking my favorite burger, the old Italian #5 off the menu!!! with this burger spot in Wrigleyville, it is still one of my ultimate favorites Chicago. Pete is making me tell you that it’s not that I think this is one of the Top 3 restaurants in Chicago-I don’t- but it is one of my favorite go-tos. In the end it is just a burger bar- but the burgers are unreal. I have contemplated at length what makes them so good, and I think it starts and ends with the bun. But no matter. In the battle of Chicago burger spots (Kuma’s, Urban Burger, Burger Bar) DMK reigns supreme for me. The restaurant group also recently opened Fish Bar next door, which I have not tried yet because 7 months into my pregnancy fish makes me want to vom- but I have heard it is good and has a fun atmosphere.
- GT Fish & Oyster: River North Ok so I know I said I can’t handle fish right now. But this is different. This spot was recently opened by Chef Giuseppe Tentori of Boka and Pete and I went 3 times in the first 4 days of opening. Mostly because Pete has serious manlove for Chef and his food, but also because it is delicious. It has a great atmosphere, casual but not scrubby- it would be a great spot for a first date. Impressive but not stuffy at all. And if you want to experience joy in your life the key lime pie dessert situation rules. Other favorite dishes include: Clam Chowdah, Fish Tacos, and Lobster Mac n’ Cheese.
- Alinea: Lincoln Park Celebrity/Rockstar Chef Grant Achatz original Chicago restaurant. Super fancy, like crazy wait for a reservation, 12 or 24 course tasting meal of molecular gastronomy madness. If you are into food and want to say you tried one of the best restaurants in the world, it is worth the hype. Achatz has since opened Next and Aviary which I don’t think we are going to get the chance to visit before we leave, but I have heard they are amazing as well.
- Boka: Lincoln Park Pete and I stumbled upon Boka when we first moved here and were busy trying all of the “must see” Chicago restaurants. Two years later Boka is more like a second home, a really fancy one that serves delicious food. But as nice and upscale as this restaurant is- it lacks the annoying pretentiousness that so many of its peers seem to feel they must employ. Although they are now (quite deservedly) Michelin star rated, they seem to lack a Michelin Star ego. When I brought my mom here on her last visit they accommodated her crazy Atkinsish diet needs- basically meat and vegetables without a hint of seasoning, and created a delicious off-menu meal to suit her needs without so much as an eye roll. I may have rolled mine, but not them! Bonus- the cocktails whipped up by recently voted top mixologist in Chicago Benjamin Schiller are uh-mazing. Even when preggars he has created some super tasty “mocktails” for me. Double Bonus- Look for Pete’s plaque on the bar.
- Table 52: Gold Coast Started by Oprah’s former Chef Art Smith this adorable, cozy spot in the posh Gold Coast serves legit southern favorites with an upscale twist. I love the space, a tiny old carriage house, and that atmosphere here. The food is ridiculous. The mac n’cheese- there are no words. And even though Art Smith is a famousy Chicago Chef- he still can be found in the restaurant most nights visiting tables in the dining room. Which I think is neat.
- Gemini Bistro: Lincoln Park If there were awards for “most visited” I think it would go to Gemini Bistro. It is just such a pleasant dining experience Pete and I go here abooutttt once a week. Partially because the menu is so good and so accessible. It has something for everyone, sorted “small” “medium” and “large” they have everything from delicious light soups and salads, to rowdy steaks and burgers. The menu also adapts to the season with new dishes and specials constantly being offered so it is hard to get bored. The atmosphere lends itself just as well to a family meal with los bebes if you go at 5:00, or a hot date at 8:00. It is just the perfect neighborhood spot- but is worth the trip if you are staying elsewhere in the city. It is also worth mentioning that the owners of Gemini will soon (as in June 7) be opening another restaurant in Lincoln Park called Rustic House- which I am told will have a similar vibe but be a bit more like a steak house. I am super bummed we will be missing that but I am sure it will be amaze.
- Twin Anchors: Old Town While this classic Chicago spot is technically in Old Town, I think we can just get over that and let it stay on this list bc Old Town and LP are basically the same. OK!? This place is pure Chicago nostalgia. Pete’s Dad used to hang out here. The rat pack used to hang out here. It’s just cool old and funky- and delicious. They are not messing around with their ribs, but everything I have had on this classic barbq/pub menu has been yums.
- Riccardo Tratoria: Lincoln Park Ok, so I am jumping on the Goop bandwagon with this one. But this little cozy Italian spot is amazing. The pastas are so good its like they should be called something else because they are so much better than regular pastas- and I am nothing nothing if not a pasta afficianado. Riccardo is a bit fancier than our normal neighborhood night out, but aren’t you worth it?
*Honorable Mention* Perrenial Virant: Lincoln Park We liked Perrenial in its former incarnation, but after being completely redone and rehelmed under Michelin Chef Paul Virant, I am sure this place is going to be ridiculous. One of Pete’s friends is the manager so we are lucky enough to get to try it tonight before it officially opens next week- so I will report back on the new scene asap!
- Bristol: Bucktown When I say what “Chicago” food is all about I mean seasonal ingredients, farm to table, unpretentious, casual, hipster-friendly spots with great specialty drinks. And that is Bristol. I also mean no reservations, which is the biggest pain in the ass thing about most Chicago restaurants. But at the good ones it is worth it. And Bristol is consistently delish. Their dishes change often, but their monkey bread with dill dipping sauce is a regular on their menu and in my heart and belly. Also it is in a great area for going out after.
- Avec: West Loop Another no reservations, casual, seasonal place. If Bristol is my favorite “Chicago” spot, Avec is Pete’s. The Chorizo stuffed dates are reason enough to go, but I also really dig the decor. It makes me feel sleek and Sveedish. The seating options are peculiar- either bar or communal tables (I choose bar) and there is always a wait. But it is worth it.
- Longman & Eagle: BFE?? I dont know Logan Square?? This spot is in a RANDAR localle. And when it received a Michelin Star last year right after it opened lots of people were like whaaa?? So I tied on my bib and headed out to investigate. And was more than pleased. The decor is right up my alley, lots of funky black laquer and penny tile, but the food is for sure the star. The dishes are rowdy, but our group shared everything we got and thought every single thing was whoaaa mah gah delicious. And now it is a hotel too? Peculiar, what will those hipsters think of next.
*Honorable Mention* Girl and the Goat: This would have made my list but it is on EVERYONE’s list and I didn’t want to be redundant. Opened last year by Top Chef Winner Stephanie Izard this place has been the food hot spot to try, and we did for Pete’s Birthday this year and were not disappointed. Definitely worth the hype, and in a cool charming up-and-coming part of town.
And that is my list. I had a lot of fun thinking about what would really be my favorites of the favorites. We have been lucky enough to try a huge number of highly recomended Chicago restaurants, but for my money these are the best. And if you were to see my body you would know I actually indulge when I eat- unlike the Goopster so you can trust me. I hope. I am definitely going to miss dining in this city.
What about you, dear readers, what are your favorite Chicago spots? What do you think of my list?