2148 W. Chicago. Ukrainian Village. 773-276-7567
Italian. A comfy converted house where Italian wines, personable servers, and the aromas from the kitchen attract a loyal crowd. Creating those aromas are enticements such as tagliatelle Bolognese and Sangiovese-braised short rib over saffron risotto. It would be silly to deny yourself a picture-perfect bowl of panna cotta, or a shot of housemade limoncello, for that matter.
D Mon–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$
230 W. Kinzie. River North. 312-464-9544
Contemporary American. Brendan Sodikoff’s debut project mixes gilt and shadows, but ace servers keep things light, steering you through the menu of winter-combatant comfort food. Intriguing cocktails and an impeccably curated beer list invite lingering in the candlelit space. Fudgy brownies satisfy with simplicity.
D nightly. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage; if you share one glass with another table), outdoor dining, high noise level, will seat past 11 p.m. (Fri, Sat). $$$
28 E. Center, Lake Bluff. 847-295-1000
Contemporary American. True to its name—the Indonesian word for “innovation”—this avant-garde but welcoming dining room is always full of surprises: fillets of Louisiana black drum in a seafood broth with saffron and sherry; a sweet corn soup spiked with bourbon. An inventive cocktail list, smart daily specials, and the congenial waitstaff make this a find on the North Shore.
L Mon–Fri, D Mon–Sat. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$
2119 S. Halsted. Pilsen. 312-526-3385
American. One never knows quite what to expect from this adventuresome spot. Jason Vincent thrives on spontaneity, tweaking his menu almost daily, offering everything from Japanese mackerel fried in foie fat and venison-topped rutabaga-stuffed casoncelli to simple spit-roasted chicken and milk chocolate cakes topped with malted vanilla ice cream. The service needs to lighten up, but the space is infinitely cozy and the wine list and butter cake dessert are top-notch.
D Mon–Sat. Br Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining, high noise level. $$$
Raffaello Hotel, 201 E. Delaware. Streeterville. 312-280-0700
Italian. Stuffy, self-important, and overpriced, this luxury restaurant nevertheless serves adept and occasionally transcendent food. Veal-filled ravioli in a pistachio cream sauce and braised-beef risotto in a red wine sauce with gremolata travel in a higher plane. Homemade love shows in the pastas, and romance flickers in the silvery white tiles of the central fireplace.
L & D daily. Wheelchair accessible, outdoor dining. $$$$
Quince at the Homestead
1625 Hinman, Evanston. 847-570-8400
Contemporary. Andy Motto’s lively food makes a vivid contrast to the relaxed setting—wood beams, white tablecloths, comfortable banquettes, and even a fireplace. Basil shellfish emulsion accented with curry enhances an appetizer of liquid cauliflower ravioli. Savor seared duck breast; duck confit two ways; and foie gras mousse with wild rice and cherries, a duck egg yolk mustard sauce, and crispy capers made with duck egg whites. Cardamom chocolate mousse with flourless chocolate cake and ginger anglaise makes for a sweet ending. Descriptive wine list.
D Tue–Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$$
3868 N. Lincoln (entrance on Byron). North Center. 773-327-3868
Contemporary American. It’s easy to forget the subzero situation outside at this upscale Hawaiian-tinged spot, where sweet flavors infuse the savories—crispy mushroom salad benefits from Asian pear; roast chicken from a honey-orange soy sauce. Conversely, desserts carry savory flavors, such as adzuki bean cake with maple confit of butternut squash and vanilla miso ice cream.
D nightly. Br Sat, Sun. Wheelchair accessible, child friendly, outdoor dining. $$$
52 W. Elm. Gold Coast. 312-573-4000
American Southern. Serving straight-up Southern cooking in a warm and charming setting, T52 is a study in contrasts. Classic belly-warmers include shrimp and killer grits and perfectly fried catfish. But chef Art Smith also wows with a decidedly un-Southern duck leg with beluga lentils, braised cabbage, green curry, and cherry wine. The pear and apple tart features intense caramel ice cream.
D Tue–Sun. Br Sun. Wheelchair accessible (side entrance), child friendly, BYO (up to $5 corkage; limit one bottle, not on T52’s list), outdoor dining. $$$