124 Best Dishes

We scoured the city for the top offerings on Chicago’s world-class restaurant scene. From appetizer through dessert, from über haute pineapple rum soup to down-home juicy fried chicken, here’s your road map to the 124 yummiest dishes around.

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Lamb Wellington from One Sixtyblue

KEY: STARTERS | ENTREES | DESSERTS | OTHER GOOD STUFF

GREEN GARLIC SOUP WITH WILD MORSELS
Aigre Doux
Who knew garlic could be so mild and soothing? Aigre Doux’s confident servers pour a creamy, subtle green garlic broth tableside over a little mound of chopped fresh morels to make a palate-pleasing soup. For diners who love both morels and subdued garlic essence, it’s sensational—when chef Islam can get his hands on enough green garlic to make it. 230 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9400 [$12] 

POLENTA FRITA
Al Primo Canto
Deep-fried polenta sticks are the highlight of this sleek new Brazilian spot. The crisp, golden-hued beauties could easily be mistaken for hefty french fries, yet they taste like a cross between corn pudding and hush puppies. A dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano contributes just the right garnish. Could easily make a meal of these, and you can, but they are also one segment of a $30 all-you-can-eat feast. 5414 W. Devon Ave.; 773-631-0100 [$4/side]

PINEAPPLE WITH BACON POWDER
Alinea
Another Grant Achatz dish that’s so amazing looking, you just stare at it gaga. Served on a paddle and shaped like a miniature pillow, it’s constructed out of dried pineapple coated in smoky bacon powder and black pepper, then covered with a thin crust of pineapple “glass.” Follow instructions and pop the whole thing in your mouth; you’ll be glad you did. 1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110 [$195 tour menu]

CRAB RANGOON
Always Thai
These delicate cream cheese and faux crab-filled gems make others seem overly thick and leaden. Served whistling hot, the light melt of cheese blends perfectly with flaky, nearly transparent wrappers. For an extra splash of flavor, dunk into accompanying sweet-sour sauce. Eight to an order, but we bet you’ll want more. 1825 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-929-0100 [$5] 

GOLDEN CUPS
Amarind’s
Pop-in-the-mouth Thai treats look almost too adorable to eat. Don’t let that stop you. The crisp-battered, dainty petal-like cups come stocked to the top with a colorful medley of corn, peas, shrimp, cilantro, and shiitake mushrooms. Count on plenty of action in each bite. 6822 W. North Ave.; 773-889-9999 [$7]

PANNA COTTA
Anteprima
This Piedmontese standard literally means “cooked cream,” but one too many lumpy panna cottas threatened to put us off the trail for good. Then we found Anteprima’s flawless version, a terrific, creamy dome of smooth vanilla that all but disappears on your tongue. We’re back. 5316 N. Clark St.; 773-506-9990 [$6]

GRILLED BABY OCTOPUS AND FINGERLING POTATO SALAD
Aria
Aria captures the essence of Mediterranean cuisine within the confines of one plate. Delicate, feathery mizuna is topped with warm potatoes and perfectly crusted octopus with supremely tender flesh. Preserved lemon brightens the dish, and the earthy tang of black truffle vinaigrette adds the perfect finishing touch. Fairmont Chicago, 200 N. Columbus Dr.; 312-444-9494 [$14]

THAI BITE-SIZED SALAD
Arun’s
This tiny dish may pack more flavors and textures per square inch than any other in Chicago. A fresh betel nut leaf is topped with toasted coconut flakes, bits of dried shrimp, ginger, lime, shallots, peanuts, and slices of Thai hot chili peppers. The friendly waitress warned us about the superhot chilis, then instructed us to add two spoonfuls of pungent caramelized tamarind-coconut sauce, wrap it up, and eat it in one big bite. It’s an amazing mouthful. 4156 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-539-1909 [$85/12-part dinner] 

ROASTED SQUAB
Avenues
Deep-red rare squab breast is pan-seared with a basting of butter and thyme. Then it’s sliced and arranged with truffled ricotta topped with shaved truffles and a salad of wild Washington State huckleberries and micro greens seasoned with light honey vinaigrette and truffle oil. A sensational presentation from a sensational restaurant. The Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St.; 312-573-6754 [$17/tasting portion]

ROASTED RED PEPPERS
Azucar Tapas Restaurant & Cocktail Bar 
What do you get when you roll an artfully cut, roasted, and peeled red pepper around an earthy blend of Mahón, tetilla, and manchego cheeses, mushrooms, and herbs? A shareable plate of elegant comfort food. The lemon chickpea purée and a fennel-parsley salad add to the yum factor: a clear-cut case of more is more. 2647 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-486-6464 [$9] 

EGGPLANT PARMESAN
Ballo
Lovers of lightly battered and fried, melt-in-your-mouth, marinara-topped, oozing-with-mozzarella baked eggplant, unite. And declare this congenial River North hangout your headquarters before the rest of the city gets in on your secret. 445 N. Dearborn St.; 312-832-7700 [$18] 

TEMPURA GREEN BEANS
Bin Wine Cafe
Not eating enough vegetables? Add this appetizer to your diet. Crisp string beans are lightly fried in golden tempura, zested with lemon rind, and served with a side of rich aïoli made with citrus zest and a bit of honey to cut the bitterness. It’s an excellent source of iron and vitamin C, and more than satisfies the USDA-recommended daily fat intake. 1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-486-2233 [$8/two people; $13 for four]

ROASTED CHICKEN
Bistro Campagne
Those who deny the superiority of organic products obviously have not feasted on chef Michael Altenberg’s organic roast chicken in savory wild mushroom ragoût topped with some of Chicago’s best onion frites. The chicken, with its pristine, juicy flesh and layered fat content, is so popular that Altenberg is afraid to take it off the menu lest he face a revolt by angry customers. 4518 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-271-6100 [$19]

 

Plate from CB2

 

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