The classic American Bar at the centre of Chicago's "Viagra Triangle". Big windows so you can watch (in summer at least) the parade of expensive cars and expensive people, while the bar itself is a curving, dark mahogany glory. Always busy, often with live piano jazz, get that inner glow with the perfect martini, then tuck into the greatest steak on earth. Absolute heaven!
For general information on restaurants, events, bars, shows see:
- Chicago Magazine (a mostly medium-to-upscale monthly)
- Chicago Reader (a free edgier Friday weekly)
- Chowhound’s Chicago Board (individual reviews and comments, but generally on target)
- WTTW Public TV’s Check Please (see restaurant list)
You can eat well and with a lot of ethnic variety in Chicago. There are too many good restaurants of all kinds and nationalities to name here. If it were up to me, I’d buy a copy of Chicago Magazine, check out Chowhound (which, by the way covers other areas in the US) and check out WTTW’s Check Please site if I was interested in eating well and interestingly (and I am).
University of Chicago: Situated around the Hyde Park area, this is a beautifully constructed university by industrialist John D. Rockerfeller
Capital Grille and Chicago Chop House really have to be experienced! Try the dry aged beef...
This restaurant situated on the Chicago River serves great sushi and modern Japanese cuisine. It’s very smart and tends to attract a rather beautiful crowd. You can choose between the red room or the green room, depending on what mood you’re in; or there’s also a wonderful river-front patio.
If you’ve got something to celebrate and feel like splashing out, the 23-course tasting menu at Alinea in the Lincoln Park area is a must. It’s an eye-popping $195 at first glance, but with the exchange rate as it is, it does represent excellent value. Everything is exquisitely presented and tastes wonderful.
If you’re after old-world charm, I can strongly recommend The Peninsula or the Four Seasons. The Peninsula is located in the middle of Chicago’s magnificent mile of department stores and designer boutiques, has a fabulously grand lobby and is home to Shanghai Terrace – arguably Chicago’s finest Chinese restaurant. The lobby lounge is lit by twenty-foot-high windows, and the bar, in contrast, is intimate and low-lit, with a roaring fireplace and a surprisingly hip crowd. Despite its excessively grand décor, I’ve always found it very difficult to leave the Four Seasons – the CEO hotel of choice. The service is friendly, super-competent and never intrusive; the views spectacular – of the Michigans (Avenue and Lake); and the pampering genuinely top-notch.
The New American food at Seasons is delicious and you can easily lose a week at the extraordinary spa and pool. Every bit as impressive as its New York sibling, the Chicago Seasons happens to be cheaper, too.
The Peninsula Chicago 108 East Superior Street (at North Michigan Avenue), Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA Tel: (1-312) 337 2888Fax: (1-312) 751 2888 chicago.peninsula.com
Four Seasons120 East Delaware Place, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. 60611-1428 Tel: 1 (312) 280-8800 Fax: 1 (312) 280-1748
Charlie Trotter’s on West Armitage is very expensive but also worth it: the epitome of New American gastronomy, punters are consistently dazzled by the freshness of the ingredients, the innovation of the daily changing menu, the exceptional wine cellar and the courteous and knowledgeable staff. It’s a touch over-formal but, after a few bottles, you’ll forget the stuffiness.
A tip: for the ultimate, sublime experience, get a reservation at the kitchen table. Also formal but utterly magical is TRU in Streeterville. A rather unique combination of gallery and eatery, this hip establishment houses two of Chicago’s most eminent chefs (Rick Tramanto and Gale Gand), sommelier Scott Tyree’s 1,400-bottle wine selection and an original Andy Warhol. From the moment you enter through the deliciously decadent black drapes, you’ll be stunned. Try the caviar, kobe beef and truffle-garnished scallops for a lasting memory. And don’t forget to wear a (louche) jacket.
Charlie Trotter's, 816 West Armitage Chicago, Illinois 60614 Tel: 773 248-6228
If you’re looking for food with a view, try The Signature Room at the John Hancock Centre. With better views than the building’s observation deck, this is Chicago’s brunch centre. The prices are reasonable and you’re guaranteed to wow your colleagues/clients. The service can be a little variable – it took the waitress 15 minutes to find me a fork – but the weekend live jazz more than makes up for the occasional shoddiness.
The Signature Room at the 95th® 875 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60611 Tel: 312.787.9596
For something completely different, try X/O in Boys Town. This ultra cool spot dishes a delightful variety of creative eclectic small plates – including tapas with a twist – and offers some of the city’s best cocktails. The champagne concoctions and martinis are as spectacular as the atmosphere – fuelled by a DJ with a Hoxton haircut at weekends. If you can, try to sit on the patio.
3441 N Halsted Street Chicago, IL 60613 Tel:(773) 348-9696
DIY Dining. Good for two people, better for more. I've heard several times that Koreans consider this the best place in town. This is as far as you could get from the touristy places, and it's about dining experience, not decor. Most of the customers will be Korean families, and the staff speak passable English. The prices are quite reasonable, especially if you share dishes.
Definitely go for the barbeque dishes. One order is enough to feed two or more people. They will promptly bring out a smoldering charcoal pot and grill, then bring you at least 20 little bowls of spicy vegetable side dishes, and a big plate of marinated meat, which you now have to cook on the provided grill. Between sampling all the bowls, and keeping track of what's cooking, you'll have plenty to keep you busy. Dining should always be this fun.
5247 N. Western Ave (773) 334-1589. Western or Foster busses, Brown line Western station is 15 min walk.
This charming little cafe is one of those places Chicagoans take guests to, because they love it so much themselves. Well-known for tasty breakfasts and lunches, but their delicious dinners are one of the best-kept secrets in the city. Expect long waits for breakfast or lunch on the weekends, but at night, you'll find it sparsely populated.
Wishbone (there are two- one is across the street from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios) is a great restaurant that specialises in real American food - southern food. You won't find food like this easily in big American cities, so give it a try.
All the food is fresh and made from scratch. A Wishbone breakfast will take you well into late afternoon. Try the corn pancakes with sweet red pepper sauce, shrimp and grits, red eggs, or the crab cakes or vegan black bean cakes. For dinner, try the hoppin' John (also available as a side dish) or jambalaya. People come here for the side dishes alone - mashed sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, sauteed spinach, spectacular home fries, and cheese grits.
Both restaurants are bright and airy, with some unusual and delightful folk art on the walls. Friendly servers and a good attitude.
This is real down-home American food - fresh and delicious!
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