Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week Recommendations

Chicago Restaurant Week 2018 runs January 26th through February 8th. Prime reservations book quickly, so start thinking about where you plan to dine this year and celebrate two weeks of dining deals.

Restaurant Week

Photo: Choose Chicago

Over 370 restaurants take part (including 115 new participants for 2018!), enabling you to get a taste of Chicago’s restaurant scene. Between the neighborhood favorites and downtown hotspots, you can also feast on delicious multi-course menus all across the city and suburbs.

Restaurant Week

Photo: Choose Chicago

The 11th annual culinary celebration features special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for brunch or lunch, and $33 and/or $44 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity). I always love a deal, and aim to dine at what would otherwise be the more expensive restaurants.

Restaurant Week

Photo: Sepia

The following is my list of Restaurant Week recommendations:

  • Avec (lunch or dinner)

  • Bad Hunter (brunch or lunch)

  • Blackbird (lunch)

  • Boka (dinner)

  • Gemini (dinner)

  • Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab (lunch, dinner)

  • Le Colonial (lunch, dinner)

  • Monteverde (dinner)

  • Naha (lunch, dinner)

  • RPM Steak (lunch, dinner)

  • Sepia (lunch, dinner)

  • The Loyalist (dinner)

Are you taking advantage of Chicago Restaurant Week? Where do you plan to dine?

Tastefully,

Christina

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Gemini: A Dinner and Brunch Favorite

Gemini, the Lincoln Park hot-spot formerly known as Gemini Bistro, undertook an extensive, and necessary, restoration in early 2017. After re-opening in April, it quickly became one of my favorite restaurants of the year.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Eater Chicago

Previously dark and dingy with an omnipresent sewer odor, Gemini is now bright and spacious, showcasing a large and lively bar, and, based upon many visits in 2017, has finally rid itself of any signs of that pervasive smell. The menu, too, underwent a makeover, keeping a few favorites from the previous iteration of Gemini, including its outstanding burger and truffle fries, as well as the steak frites.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Eater Chicago

Perhaps my favorite thing about the restaurant, aside from the professional, yet fun, waitstaff (special shout-out to Syliva at the bar!), is the ever-changing and seasonal menu. Weekly visits never get stale with rotating specials and new menu items.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Gemini Chicago

Separated into four sections, the dinner menu features Mains, Sides, Starters and Salads – in that order. While by no means a small plates restaurant, diners can easily share a few plates, or opt for an individual meal, which is hard to come by these days.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Gemini Chicago

The Baby Wedge salad, featuring an outstanding house-made buttermilk ranch dressing, is a stand-out. The Chicken Tinga Nachos and Indonesian Fried Shrimp cannot be missed from the starters. Favorite main dishes include the Gemini Burger, Sea Scallops, Butternut Squash Tortellacci, and Vegetable Lasagna. The Handcut Tuffle-Parm Fries are a must. The special soup and fish offerings are traditionally on-point, as well.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Gemini Chicago

Weekend brunch features an abbreviated dinner menu, in addition to breakfast favorites including a lovely Housemade Granola, a beautiful Nova Lox Platter, Mexican Chorizo Chilaquiles, and your choice of six different Lincoln Park Benedicts.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Gemini Chicago

Gemini has become a regular dinner destination for many, which is high praise in a city of endless dining options. I look forward to many more visits in 2018.

Lincoln Park, Bistro

Photo: Chritiques at Gemini Chicago

Gemini is open for dinner seven days a week, in addition to weekend brunch. Reservations are recommended Thursday through Saturday.

Gemini  2075 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

Tastefully,

Christina

Millennium Park, Chicago

Chicago Gourmet – 10th Anniversary Celebration!

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

Chicago Gourmet is just about the best day of the year for anyone who loves great food, an array of wine, beer and spirits, the beautiful setting of Chicago’s Millennium Park, and, let’s be honest, fun.

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

This year’s iteration, which is also the food and wine festival’s 10th Anniversary, was no exception, and lived up to all expectations. Beautiful weather, bountiful food and drink tasting opportunities, and friendly revelers enjoying the great weekend abounded.

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

After planning this event for the 10 past years, Bon Appétit, who produces the event, has it down to a science. Plenty of seating, room to roam, friendly and helpful staff, all contribute to a successful event. Some lines for tastings can get long, but they move quickly with most all attendees being patient and courteous.

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

Some of my favorite bites and sips from the event were:

  • Seafood Stuffed Pasta Shell from Dirk and Terry Fucik at Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop.

  • Tuna Taco from John Gatsos at Tavern on Rush.

  • Cold Cucumber and Seafood Salad from Alisha Elenz at mfk.

  • Papaya Salad from Jintana Charernsook of Jin Thai Cuisine.

  • Fried Chicken from Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp at Honey Butter Fried Chicken.

  • RumChata Cupcake from Brown Sugar Bakery.

  • Ube Cookie from Warm Belly Bakery.

  • Mini Butter Cakes with Vanilla Ice Cream from Mastro’s Steakhouse.

  • Salted Caramel Fudge Brownies from Mindy Gohr at Bittersweet Pastry Shop.

  • Sparkling Rosé from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Washington.

  • Champagne from G.H. Mumm Champagne, France.

  • RumChata shots.

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

A number of live cooking demonstrations, seminars and book signings also took place throughout the weekend, along with morning and evening special events. The city was definitely abuzz with all of the activities.

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

Did you attend Chicago Gourmet? What were your favorite bites and sips?

Millennium Park, Chicago

Photo: Chritiques at Chicago Gourmet 2017

See you there next year!

Tastefully,

Christina

West Loop, World Cuisine

Proxi – Taste the Nations Without Leaving the City

I love everything about Proxi, the new restaurant from the folks behind the perennial favorite Sepia.  The decor, ambiance, service and food are all exquisite, and a perfect place for a drink and small bite at the bar, or a full service sit down dinner with friends or with a business prospect.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Eater at Proxi

The menu is inspired by bold flavors of multi-cultural street foods using pristine ingredients executed perfectly. The decor, with over-sized leather booths, are separated by a lively and bright central bar, a great spot for happy hour or pre-dinner drinks. Brass-framed mirrors, rustic wood floor planks, and custom-designed cement tiles had me spending as much time taking in the decor as I did enjoying the food.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Eater at Proxi

Quality cocktails abound, including the Revive & Recover, a Pisco-based drink with Luxardo Aperitivo, lychee and lemon, as well as the El-OTAY!, a margarita of sorts with grilled corn infused tequila, agave, lime and Tajin salt. Spanish style Gin & Tonics have a nice spot on the menu, and the beers, ciders and wines are well rounded and do not disappoint. Our server was fantastic, and we fully trusted her to curate a drink pairing throughout our meal.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi on Yelp

If you only try one bite, be sure it is the Tempura Elotes. A sophisticated take on the Mexican street food, it is, in one word: magical.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi on Yelp

The Roasted Eggplant is smooth, creamy, and evocative of Middle Eastern babaganoush or Indian baignan bharta, served with warm and soft pita bread.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi on Yelp

Two excellent seafood starters are the Baby Octopus and Raw Tuna, with the tuna surprisingly being my favorite, with cooling coconut milk, lemongrass and a refreshing ginger sorbet.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi on Yelp

If you’ve never tried Fried Fish Collars, you are missing out. They have been my favorite food of the year, and this iteration, with a Thai garlic-chili sauce, took me right back to Thailand and did not disappoint.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi

The Black Pepper Pork dish is interactive and fun, requiring some hands-on lettuce wrap making skills. Labeled bottles of sriracha and hoisin sauce add some flavor to the butter lettuce, peanuts, apple and mint accompaniments.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi on Yelp

Definitely save room for dessert. Among my favorites were the Pot de Creme and Tres Leches. While decadent, both are still light and refreshing enough to follow a flavorful meal, perfectly rounding out an excellent international experience.

West Loop, World Cuisine

Photo: Proxi on Yelp

Proxi is open for dinner seven days a week. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on the weekends.

Proxi

565 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL

Tastefully,

Christina

Mexican, Logan Square

Quiote – Inspired Mexican Cuisine in Logan Square

After visiting Quiote recently, it quickly became one of my favorite new restaurants, where I enjoyed one of the best meals of the year. Stylish and modern, this small-plates Mexican restaurant is an ode to the agave, the flavors of the various regions of Mexico, and the stories of the artisans and producers behind it all. And, if Mezcal is your drink of choice, this place was made for you.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

The Logan Square restaurant comprises a basement mezcal bar, a street-food-inspired lunch, and a dinner service with composed modern Mexican plates, effectively making it an all-day dining establishment offering everything from coffee, to tacos, to short ribs, to your favorite late night cocktails.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

The decor is minimal and the space simple, allowing the flavors of the food to shine. Steer clear of the cocktails if smoky Mezcal is not your thing, and instead focus on the well-curated wine list. The dining room serves modern Mexican cuisine, complemented by local ingredients and rotating seasonal menus, inspired by the regions of Mexico and their unique flavors, ingredients and dishes.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

We started with the Pan y Tostada, featuring buttered and toasted bread from Publican Quality Meats and housemade tostadas, along with a salsa verde and some of the world’s best butter.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

The tostada is again featured in the Crab Tostada, served with mustard seed, black lime, hot sauce, and watermelon radish, which was one of the best bites of the evening. The flavors all balanced perfectly against each other.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

Avocado Salad, with Brussels sprouts, tomatillo salsa, and quinoa, all lying below a bed of Cotija cheese, was surprisingly light, bright and and flavorful, and perfect for veggie lovers and meat eaters, alike.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

The Mexicali Shrimp, effectively two shrimp tacos, with mojo de ajo, sun-dried tomato and jalapeño, was a table favorite and a second was quickly ordered.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

The sleeper hit and the favorite amongst the meat eaters was the vegetarian Tamal Oaxaqueno, with mushrooms, salsa morita, and crushed peanuts. The melt-in-your-mouth Short Rib, with green chile caldo, sungold, turnips and radicchio was also enjoyed.

Mexican, Logan Square

Photo: Chritiques at Quiote

Luckily, despite trying most of the menu, we saved room for the housemade Churro, served warm with Pioncillo ice cream, banana, and chile peanut butter. It was incredible.

I look forward to visiting Quiote again, especially when the menu changes to feature new seasonal ingredients.

Reservations for dinner are highly recommended. Visit during lunch hours for tacos, and on Sunday for a Mexican brunch. The Mezcal Bar is open late night. Everything is closed on Tuesdays.

Tastefully,

Christina

Quiote

2456 N. California Avenue, Chicago