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Smyth

Beef tongue pastrami Photos: Jeff Marini   Smyth 177 North Ada Street West Loop Contemporary $$$$$ Few chefs think harder about what they cook than John Shields, who helms the kitchen of this sophisticated, tasting-menu-only spot. Shields is a kitchen wonk, prone to intellectualizing his cooking in a way that takes after his former boss, … Read more

Avec

Wood oven fideo paella Photo: Jeff Marini However you feel about small-plates dining, you can credit Avec with its proliferation. Fifteen years ago, the West Loop pioneer started a trend that launched a thousand servers asking, “Have you dined with us before? Let me explain how our menu works.” And yet, even in its teenage … Read more

Bavette’s

Classic ribeye with truffle mac and cheese Photo: Nick Murway   Bavette’s 218 West Kinzie Street River North Steakhouse $$$$$ Bavette’s is everything a steakhouse should be right now. Its alluringly moody interior allows for the transference of whatever vibe you’re demanding from the place—exquisitely fancy, stylishly downtown, date-night romantic. Its steaks range from the … Read more

Momotaro

Sashimi platter Photos: Jeff Marini This self-described “multidimensional Japanese restaurant” from the Boka Restaurant Group comprises three levels and 10,000 square feet and cost $3.4 million to build. Its expansive menus cover many genres—robata, hibachi, sushi—each with its own rules. In lesser hands, all this might lead to some kind of culturally dodgy theme park. … Read more

La Chaparrita

Carne asada (top) and al pastor tacos Photo: Jeff Marini There is so much to love about La Chaparrita that it’s hard to know where to start. The Mexico City–style taquería attached to a Little Village corner grocery may look like nothing special—a Santa Muerte altar here, colorful papel picado decorations there—but look closer. The … Read more

Everest

Roasted Maine lobster Photo: Jeff Marini   Everest 440 South La Salle Street, 40th floor Loop French $$$$$ Whether you consider it a relic, a civic treasure, or a mixture of both, there’s no denying that Everest is the last of its breed. Despite small efforts to lighten it up over its 32 years—goodbye, animal-print … Read more

Fat Rice

Sweet and sour tamarind tofu (top left) and the arroz gordo Photo: Jeff Marini Fat Rice may be the most universally beloved restaurant in Chicago. Prized in equal measure by discerning diners, of-the-moment chefs, and food writers—along with pretty much any intelligent life form, really—Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo’s gloriously diverse homage to the former … Read more

North Pond

Bison loin carpaccio Photo: Anna Knott One of Chicago’s savviest restaurateurs, Bruce Sherman has built an estimable career of making American food that’s both brainy and fulfilling. His take on pork and beans, for example, consists of grilled tenderloin and boudin noir paired with smoked Mexican peruano beans and hakurei turnips and served with tomato-bacon … Read more

The Publican

Ham chop Photos: Jeff Marini   The Publican 837 West Fulton Market West Loop American $$$$ The Publican may well be the most Chicago restaurant there is—charmingly boisterous, gleefully beer-soaked, and full of oh so much meat. Though it was Paul Kahan’s third restaurant in his now-swaggering One Off Hospitality empire, it still feels like … Read more

EL Ideas

Sweetbreads Photos: Jeff Marini Phillip Foss’s tiny BYO draws a self-selecting clientele: the kind of people who want to know every detail of how that chawanmushi with morels and snails was prepared, or exactly what temperature the compressed octopus tentacles were sous-vided at to make them so tender. And the loquacious Foss, whose Douglas Park … Read more