The 27 Best Restaurants in Chicago This December

A re-creation of a 1930s Shanghai supper club, a festival of rural Midwestern flavors, and more

Toasted cinnamon Danish at Blackbird   Photo: Courtesy of Blackbird

Acadia

    

1639 S. Wabash. South Loop. 312-360-9500
Contemporary. Ryan McCaskey, the Saigon-born chef, pulls out all the stops with lobster, truffles, and other luxurious foodstuffs. Seven-course tasting menu ($125). Serious wine program.
D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Alinea

    

1723 N. Halsted. Lincoln Park. 312-867-0110
Progressive American. Revelatory bites from Grant Achatz come served on boughs, pillows, or the table itself. Tasting menus, $210 to $265; wine pairing menus offered.
D Wed–Sun. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Blackbird

    

619 W. Randolph. West Loop. 312-715-0708
Contemporary. Some of David Posey’s dishes riff on familiar flavor patterns, but others take you to the far reaches of the flavor universe, such as butternut squash soup with roe, char, peaches, and stout foam.
L Mon–Fri, D Mon–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, outdoor dining, high noise level. $$$$

Boka

    

1729 N. Halsted. Lincoln Park. 312-337-6070
Progressive American. Giuseppe Tentori fuses an idiosyncratic mix of underutilized ingredients (veal breast), sweet accents (spicebush), and sharp tones (juniper). Wine list is outstanding; ditto the service and chic decor.
D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$$$

Cafe Spiaggia

    

980 N. Michigan. Gold Coast. 312-280-2750
Italian. The small but interesting menu at Spiaggia’s sibling changes daily, and everything is executed with real mastery. Tony Mantuano’s pastas and seafood quietly, memorably dazzle. Impressive wines and cheeses.
L & D daily. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Everest

    

440 S. LaSalle. South Loop. 312-663-8920
French. Jean Joho’s nuanced multicourse menus ($94, $120, $165) deliver at the highest levels, as in the megasmooth foie gras with buttery croutons, bedded on rich pineapple. Assured service and an extraordinary wine list.
D Tue–Sat. Free dinner parking (free valet), wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Goosefoot

    

2656 W. Lawrence. Lincoln Square. 773-942-7547
Contemporary American. At Chris Nugent’s 34-seat BYO, every dish of the nine-course $115 prix fixe menu is beautiful without being too fussy, from chestnut soup with white alba mushrooms to a chocolate ganache enfolding hazelnut nougatine. Servers will charm.
D Wed–Sat. Free dinner parking, wheelchair accessible, BYO (up to $5 corkage). $$$$

Grace

    

652 W. Randolph. West Loop. 312-234-9494
Contemporary. Curtis Duffy’s meticulous tasting menus (10 to 12 courses, $185), crafted in a glassed-in kitchen, overflow with jaw-dropping ideas and flavors. Smart details such as bread pairings also set the experience apart. Service is not quite four-star. Yet.
D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Graham Elliot

    

217 W. Huron. River North. 312-624-9975
Contemporary. The celeb chef’s namesake restaurant serves tasting-menu-only special-occasion cuisine. Elliot applies the same precision to every dish, but the more adventurous preps truly soar. Solid wine pairings, well poured.
D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Les Nomades

    

222 E. Ontario. Streeterville. 312-649-9010
French. The gilded vibe at this throwback extends to Roland Liccioni’s menus, which burst with rich flavors, as in the Kobe beef with trumpet royale mushrooms. Notable wine list and affable staff. Three courses, $65 (before 5:30 p.m.); four and five courses, $115 and $130.
D Tue–Sat. BYO (up to $5 corkage) (Thu only). $$$$

The Lobby at the Peninsula

    

The Peninsula, 108 E. Superior. Gold Coast. 312-337-2888
Contemporary. Lee Wolen has a way with divergent textures and tastes. How ingenious to combine almond-crusted foie gras torchon with a potent grapefruit sauce. A string duo plays familiar pop songs from a balcony while prompt and amiable servers take extraspecial care of diners.
B, L & D daily. Tea service daily. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

L2O

    

Belden-Stratford, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. Lincoln Park. 773-868-0002
Contemporary seafood. Matthew Kirkley’s takes on fish and mollusks are admirable and delicious, if a bit fussy. But you will never tire of the mini rosemary croissants. Excellent wines. Prix fixe menus from $140 to $198.
D Thu–Mon. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Moto

    

945 W. Fulton Market. West Loop. 312-491-0058
Contemporary. Update: Expect Homaro Cantu to fill his ever-changing 14-course tasting menus with shape-shifting oddities such as shriveled freeze-dried grapes in milky gazpacho, braised bison with chilies pulverized into pixie-like dust to mimic an arid Southwestern landscape, and olive oil foams next to emulsified olive jellies and braised octopus for a whimsical take on a seafood platter. Cantu uses playful presentations at will, but don’t underestimate his skill in showcasing traditional flavors in new forms. Wine pairings take the experience to another level.
D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Naha

    

500 N. Clark. River North. 312-321-6242
Contemporary. Carrie Nahabedian’s enthusiasm for market ingredients never wanes, as in an autumnal Bartlett pear tarte Tatin with foie gras. Worldly wines, including many by-the-glass choices.
L Mon–Fri, D Mon–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$$$

Next

    

953 W. Fulton Market. West Loop. 312-226-0858
Contemporary. Grant Achatz’s stunner changes its identity three times a year. Dave Beran’s sixth menu, a Kyoto kaiseki, featured one of Next’s finest hours, the “Japanese maple forest”: shrimp, bottarga, and more, hidden in a daikon radish “lantern.” Through December 31, Next emulates a Bocuse d’Or cooking competition. For tickets, go to Next’s website far in advance. And pray.
D Wed–Sun. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

North Pond

    

2610 N. Cannon. Lincoln Park. 773-477-5845
Contemporary American. Update: This hideaway in Lincoln Park manages to offer beef and mushrooms to the cautious crowd and squid and watermelon to the up-for-anythings, but always with a surprising dimension. Bruce Sherman’s menu exploits the seasons, with tomatoes, sweet corn, and eggplant on a late-summer visit showing how produce with character can make the familiar new again. Desserts, while they may not swim in sugars, push the envelope on which ingredients can moonlight in sweet roles.
D Tue–Sun. Br Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

The Publican

    

837 W. Fulton Market. West Loop. 312-733-9555
Contemporary American. Don’t be lulled into porky bliss by all the salty-sour-sausagey delights. Paul Kahan’s beer hall rivals most restaurants—with or without tablecloths. Farm chicken, sausage, and fries, for example, mix exquisitely, and desserts evince top talent.
D nightly. Br Sat, Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly (brunch only), outdoor dining, high noise level, will seat past 11 p.m. (Fri, Sat). $$

Schwa

    

1466 N. Ashland. Wicker Park. 773-252-1466
Contemporary. Michael Carlson turns out brilliant food at this most unlikely BYO, where the kitchen staff and waitstaff are one and the same. Don’t be surprised if candied sweetbreads and parsnip custard show up in dessert. Nine courses, $115. Securing a reservation can be trying.
D Tue–Sat. BYO (up to $5 corkage), high noise level. $$$$

Sepia

    

123 N. Jefferson. West Loop. 312-441-1920
Contemporary American. Andrew Zimmerman amazes palates with his evolving menu in this 19th-century print shop setting. Charcuterie includes brilliant duck mousse and the best bologna you’ve ever tasted. Cindy Schuman’s desserts, such as almond blancmange, keep pace, as do the tremendous wines and cocktails. Excellent service.
L Mon–Fri, D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$$$

Shanghai Terrace

    

The Peninsula, 108 E. Superior. Gold Coast. 312-573-6744
Pan-Asian. Far from the typical oversize, unfocused hotel restaurant, this elegant re-creation of a 1930s Shanghai supper club honors classical Cantonese cooking. Splurge on delicacies such as abalone and bird’s nest soup.
D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining (L Mon–Fri, D nightly). $$$$

Sixteen

    

Trump International Hotel & Tower, 401 N. Wabash. River North. 312-588-8030
Contemporary. Thomas Lents impresses with seasonal savoir-faire and artistry that never veers into preciousness. The view, of course, also amazes. Tasting menus are 4, 8, or 16 courses ($110, $150, $210). Serious wine program.
B daily, L Mon–Sat, D nightly. Br Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Spiaggia

    

980 N. Michigan. Gold Coast. 312-280-2750
Italian. In a soaring space with perfect service, Tony Mantuano and Sarah Grueneberg take the finest delicacies—from Savini black truffles to Venetian clams—and fashion magnificent fare.
D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Takashi

    

1952 N. Damen. Bucktown. 773-772-6170
Contemporary French/Japanese. Takashi Yagihashi cooks the classics (clay-pot chicken) as expertly as he coaxes the most delicate flavors into coexistence: Think scallops and soba gnocchi in Parmesan foam. A harmonious meal from start to finish.
D Tue–Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$$$

Tallgrass

    

1006 S. State, Lockport. 815-838-5566
Contemporary. The refined but vibrant cooking of Robert Burcenski makes the trip worthwhile. Sophisticated choices fill the three- to seven-course menus ($48 to $88). Stellar desserts and cheeses and a fine wine list.
D Wed–Sun. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Topolobampo

    

445 N. Clark. River North. 312-661-1434
Mexican. Rick Bayless forages in remote nooks of Mexico to bring incomparable new dishes to the most ambitious of his three restaurants on this busy corner, such as a wonderful Baja-inspired olive-wood-smoked quail coated in sunflower seeds and chilies. Yet expect classics, too. Smooth service; intriguing wines and tequilas.
L Tue–Fri, D Tue–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly. $$$$

Tru

    

676 N. St. Clair. Streeterville. 312-202-0001
Contemporary American. In a space with a Warhol and a Richter, Anthony Martin’s platings parallel that level of artistry. Consider river salmon accompanied by the river: rocks, water, and dry ice. Smart wine pairings. Multicourse menus, $115 and $158.
D Mon–Sat. Wheelchair accessible. $$$$

Vie

    

4471 Lawn, Western Springs. 708-246-2082
Contemporary American. No one has mastered canning and pickling like Paul Virant. From lamb bacon on mint-infused peas to wood-fired lobster tails with braised pasta, Vie delivers a festival of rural Midwestern flavors.
D Mon–Sat. Free dinner parking, wheelchair accessible, child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage) (Tue only, for parties of 1–5). $$$$

 

HOW WE PICK THE RESTAURANTS: These listings are not advertisements. They are a selective guide to establishments recommended by Chicago’s dining critics. Visits are anonymous and all expenses are paid by Chicago. These listings are updated regularly. “Update” indicates reappraisals of listed restaurants.

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3 months ago
Posted by DavidKamran

All hagerty und old ....

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