354 W. Hubbard. River North. 312-988-0078
American brasserie. With red leather seating, crystal chandeliers, and more woodwork than a British country manor, Brendan Sodikoff’s retro brasserie glows with sepia tones. The menu reads like a page from the Eisenhower era—chicken liver, broiled salmon, blackened steak—but the dishes are rich, complex, and assured. The mussels and marrow starter soaks crunchy toast in white wine broth; a cunning cauliflower salad gets notched up with crisp apples and aged white cheddar. Gribiche-dressed schnitzel and juicy roast chicken bring the pleasures of the past to life. Sides of knishes and potato pancakes, plus a dandy selection of decadent pies and cakes, add extra smiles.
B, L & D daily. Wheelchair accessible $$
564 W. Randolph. West Loop. 312-612-5640
Contemporary Asian. This beautiful, dramatic room creates an almost-giddy anticipation for the food. Thai Dang’s cuisine satisfies some of those expectations, but not all. Dishes often deliver sprinkles of novelty on Asian classics, such as a green papaya salad enhanced by housemade beef jerky. Others march to the contemporary small-plate drum and add Eastern inflections, such as escargots and smoky eggplant in green curry. Dang offers a few opportunities for adventuring, such as shrimp heads, but you won’t be forced outside your comfort zone (unless your neighbors order a stinky durian).
L Mon–Fri, D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining $$
College of DuPage, Culinary & Hospitality Center, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn. 630-942-6881
Contemporary American. This serious—and stylish—fine dining restaurant has professional chops as well as a teaching mission. GM Jean-Pierre Leroux and executive chef Nadia Tilkian create a relaxed experience from amuse-bouches to petits fours. Crispy-skinned, succulent duck breast stuffed with foie gras on butternut squash purée and diced beets hits the mark, and pan-roasted striped bass over a fricassee of frog’s legs and white beans comes pretty close. Service and execution could be smoother, but a delightful opera cake with white pepper ice cream and an award-winning wine list compensate nicely.
L Wed–Sat, D Wed–Sun. Br Sun. Free dinner parking, wheelchair accessible, outdoor dining $$
1400 W. Taylor. Little Italy. 312-829-2828
Italian. This Taylor Street institution continues to dish up hulking portions of Italian staples at reasonable prices. While the menu sounds familiar—fried calamari, veggie risottos, and veal tenderloin—specials, such as a salmon fillet with leek sauce, can surprise. The pasta options feel dated, but the wines remain as affordable as ever. Friendly service.
L Mon–Sat, D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, high noise level $$
2657 N. Kedzie. Logan Square. 773-276-7110
Contemporary American. The buzz never dies down at this corner tavern, where the cooking is hyperseasonal, wildly creative, and unapologetically heavy. Earthy pasta dishes and protein-packed salads give way to maple-braised pork shank, roasted venison, or—for the more conventional carnivore—a Slagel Family Farm burger. Veggie choices are fewer but also well wrought. Dessert includes stunners such as olive oil doughnuts nestled in almond cream. Grab a pre- or postmeal bourbon concoction at L&E’s Off Site Bar, a tiny garage–turned–watering hole. For a less gluttonous but equally yummy experience, try brunch.
Br, L & D daily. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining, will seat past 11 p.m. $$