It’s almost time for Restaurant Week, which means all of your favorite Chicago restaurants will be swamped with bargain-seeking customers. Between January 26 and February 7, participating restaurants will offer prix fixe menus — some of which aren’t actually bargains, so always check the math before you dine.
Luckily for you, I’ve already picked out my favorite specials. Each restaurant below offers a good value meal — something interesting and unique beyond the normal three-course menu of salad, salmon, and lava cake. Each still has plenty of reservations (though perhaps not during prime time on a Saturday night). Call your friends, pick an evening, and grab these bargains before they’re all booked.
Dinner and Shopping
Bar Pastoral (2947 N. Broadway), the Lake View restaurant affiliated with the multi-location gourmet cheese and wine shop, has definitely upped its Restaurant Week game this year. Some delicious dishes are on the $36 menu, like a warm butternut squash salad with roasted Brussels sprouts and bruléed soft cheese with a cookie crumble for dessert. There’s no combination that’s not of great value. Best of all, anyone who visits during Restaurant Week gets a 15 percent off coupon for any Pastoral location.
Award Winning Value
Mfk (432 W. Diversey Pkwy., Lake View) is one of my favorite spots in town, and its chef Alisha Elenz just won a Jean Banchet Award for Rising Chef of the Year. So even though this menu doesn’t offer guests any choices (which is usually a no-no in my book), I still think it’s worth trying. It’s a four-course, $48 meal that would regularly cost about $10 more, and it includes dishes like roasted cauliflower with salsa verde and mussels and clams with chorizo and cider.
Queer Eye for Restaurant Week
I appreciate a witty take on Restaurant Week more than anything. Split-Rail (2500 W. Chicago Ave., Humboldt Park) is doing a Queer Eye-themed menu, with one set of selections all inspired by the dreamy Antoni and the rest influenced by the rest of the crew, complete with entertaining quotes. It’s not possible to tell if this dinner is of superb value (these dishes are unique to Restaurant Week), but the selection is solid, including an avocado-chocolate mousse, a wild boar Bolognese, and a yellowtail crudo.
A Beautiful Lunch
If you’re looking for a downtown lunch during Restaurant Week (in a really pretty dining room), check out Free Rein (224 N. Michigan Ave., Loop). The meal includes choices like saffron spaghetti with lemon and chili flake, celery root soup with truffle, and a limoncello semifreddo. The spread is definitely worth it. Plus, it’s nice to treat yourself to a fancy lunch once in a while.
Luxe Life (at a Discount)
Where else but at Heritage Restaurant & Caviar Bar (2700 W. Chicago Ave., Ukrainian Village) can you get uni, king crab, oysters, and, of course, caviar all on one Restaurant Week menu? Since this dinner is specially designed for the occasion, I can’t crunch the math to tell you if it’s a great deal, but the offerings do make my mouth water. Cauliflower panna cotta with wild hackleback roe? A “million-dollar rice bowl” with king crab, uni, trout roe, and herbs? Sign me up.