It’s that time again. Chicago Restaurant Week rolls around January 30-February 12 all across town, but if you want to score reservations at some of the hottest spots, your best bet is to act now. Be warned: this year features more restaurants than ever before–308 are participating at last count–so your decision may be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve stepped in to lend a hand, to not only highlight the best of the crop, but to also showcase some of Chicago Restaurant Week’s newcomers. Some may be familiar names (those offbeat places you’ve always wanted to visit but never had a chance), while others just weren’t around this time last year. Whatever the case, you’re certain to get your money’s worth, since it’s just $22 for three courses during lunch, and $33 or $44 for three or four courses during dinner. Take a look at our top 10 picks for Chicago Restaurant Week and let the culinary adventure begin.
Baffo at Eataly (The Shops at North Bridge, 44 E. Grand Ave.)
Shop for gourmet goodies, books, and gadgets at this Italian-inspired market, then head to the Italian eatery Baffo for a four-course feast at a price you cannot beat. The dinner includes such starter delights as hand-pulled mozzerella and charred octopus, as well as four hearty choices for your entree. We suggest going for one of the hand-made pastas, the thick spaghetti noodles topped with fresh basil and tomato sauce or pappardelle tossed in traditional meat ragu. A walnut spongecake topped with salted caramel mousse and pear gelee is one of two tantalizing options for dessert.
The Duck Inn (2701 S. Eleanor St.)
Or you can head to the burgeoning dining community of Bridgeport for the spanking-new Duck Inn. Highly regarded chef Kevin Hickey’s doing three courses, with choices like portobello and porcini soup, a pickled and beer-brined chicken thigh and chocolate beignets for dessert. Those are made with love, featuring salted peanut butter ice cream and banana custard.
Kinmont (419 W. Superior St.)
Seafood lovers should appreciate this River North gem specializing in sustainable fish and crustaceans. Dinner is your best option, as you’ll start with city farm lettuces drizzled in champagne vinaigrette, then sip lobster bisque, and follow that up with local walleye topped with brown butter. If all that sounds just a bit too healthy, don’t worry. For dessert, you’ll get to indulge in a milk chocolate custard topped with goat cheese, chocolate crumbles and cherry compote.
Local Root (601 N. McClurg Court)
Stray from your usual lunch routine and make your way to Streeterville for locally sourced and organic fare. For Chicago Restaurant Week, you may go totally vegetarian if you like with selections such as a kale and quinoa salad, portobello stuffed with spinach, goat cheese and house-made marinara and a slice of flourless chocolate cake.
MAX’s Wine Dive (1482 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
Of course you’ll get the famed, crispy fried chicken if you dine during dinner. Go for the three-course deal, so you can also get a generous bowl of mushroom bisque filled with truffle and parmesan. Dessert consists of mascarpone cheesecake with apple butter and candy brioche or a Texas-style cake topped with salted caramel and candied pecans.
moto (945 W. Fulton Market)
Leave it to owner Homaro Cantu and executive chef Richie Farina to do something completely unconventional for restaurant week. Instead of the usual prix-fixe menu, they’re throwing a “cocktail soiree,” which happens 6-8pm Tuesday through Saturday throughout Chicago Restaurant Week. Look for them to pair signature small bites with wine in the Moto Lab, a.k.a. the cocktail lounge.
Parrot Cage (7059 S. South Shore Dr.)
The menu being served at this underrated South Shore spot proves that you can get authentic gourmet cuisine on this side of town. The creamy celery root soup with bits of sliced duck prosciutto, grilled calamari with Tuscan kale as well as pasta mixed in with butternut squash and other local veggies are definitely something to consider.
Sumi Robata Bar 702 N Wells St.
The sexy and innovative Japanese “robatayaki” spotlights a menu of grilled meats and vegetables that are grilled in traditional robata style. During dinner, look forward to lamb, shishito, salmon and chicken thigh. There’s also tea-smoked duck breast, fried dumplings and flavored Japanese shaved ice.
Table, Donkey and Stick (2728 W. Armitage Ave.)
If you were ever curious about the eating and drinking traditions of the Alps, look no further. TD&S is that place you’ve been a little intimidated by, and restaurant week is the ideal opportunity to try it out. Lucky for you, the special menu represents what you should expect on a regular basis: house-made sausages and charcuterie, plus dishes such as braised veal brisket, a roasted sweet potato as well as roasted monkfish accompanied by fresh rutabaga, turnips and leeks.
TETE Charcuterie (1114 W. Randolph St.)
The very meat-centric TETE features a vegetarian dinner menu that looks as good as the four-courser with a pickled beef cheek salad, duck confit tart and grilled strip sirloin. While the vegetarian menu is only three courses, it makes up for it with flavorful, satisfying selections such as a shaved Brussels sprout salad and herb pappardelle with caramelized celery root crème, hazelnut and brown butter.