Movable Feasts

Call them “underground,” “unofficial,” or “occasional.” Whatever the name, restaurants that don’t have a permanent address and that eschew traditional licensing are popping up all over town. Eating at one is the dining equivalent of choose-your-own adventure: diners, who exchange hushed e-mails to get on the list, show up where they’re told and eat whatever the chef feels like preparing. It’s fun, sure. But at $25 to $100 a pop, are they any good? Chicago checked out a few to find out.

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$100 for five courses; includes tax and gratuity

THE SETUP: Bill Dugan, an old salt with a gritty ingenuity for finding top seafood purveyors, supplies culinary luminaries such as Charlie Trotter through his wholesale business, Superior Ocean Produce, and his retail business, The FishGuy Market (4423 N. Elston Ave.). Every Friday, he turns The FishGuy into a dinner party for 12.

A TYPICAL MEAL: Creamy shrimp with asparagus and sweet vinaigrette to start, followed by crispy sautéed red snapper tossed with mango papaya relish and buttery lobster tossed with orzo pasta.

THE VERDICT: The priciest, but true seafood lovers can justify the price tag. Dugan, a yarn-spinning bon vivant, is also a draw. By presenting the context for the meal-where the fish came from, how it was caught-he transforms a passive meal into an interactive cultural lesson.

HUSH FACTOR: Low. You just gotta beat 11 others to the reservation. Call 773-283-7400, e-mail, or visit Plan a week out.



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