A Bite of Chicago's top 5 lunch picks for Chicago Restaurant Week

A Bite of Chicago's top 5 lunch picks for Chicago Restaurant Week
Topolobampo. (credit: Emilia Czader photography)

Good News: Due to the Polar Vortex during Chicago Restaurant Week (CRW), the dates have been extended for 5 more days. Scheduled to end Thursday, February 7 it will now extended to February 12. 

Those of you who read "A Bite of Chicago," Show Me Chicago" or "Chicago Eats" know that I am a big fan of lunch. For three reasons:

  1. It isn't a big time commitment.
  2. Generally the portions are smaller at lunch than at dinner.
  3. Prices at lunch are usually less than at dinner.

With this year's CRW spanning 14 days (January 25-February 7), I should be able to fit in four or maybe five lunches. (along with two weekend brunches).

Here's my plan:

First, I want to revisit some of Chicago's classic long established restaurants. Then check out some of the new trending spots.

Here's how I made my selections:

I went to the CRW website, where I searched what restaurants were offering lunch. Next, I looked for locations limiting my search to River North, Loop and the West Loop. Next I checked the menus.

Here are my picks:

TOPOLOBAMPO

 (credit: Topolobampo)

(credit: Topolobampo)

Almost since its beginning in 1989, Topolobampo has been recognized as one of the finest (if not the finest) Mexican restaurant in the country. Rick Bayless's Michelin-starred Topolobampo is known for its refined, regional Mexican cuisine often served via five or seven-course tastings.

Bayless is known for his creative themed menus (many teamed with the restaurant's outstanding Mexican fine art collection), his unique al a carte menu offerings, his superb wine program and excellent service.

With all these accolades, things can get pretty pricy at Topolobampo.

That's where CRW comes in. For $24 you can get a 3-course prix fixe lunch menu where you can select from three starters, three mains and two desserts. Right now, I'm thinking that I will start with the Classic Ceviche featuring albacore, lime, tomato, serrano chile, olives and cilantro. For my entree, I leaning towards the Feature Fish, Mole Otoñal Red chile glazed “sea to table” fish, creamy delicata mole (pasila chile, delicata squash, roasted pecans), grill roasted delicata & oyster mushrooms, apple, garlicky shoots. For dessert it has got to be the Cajeta Brownie Sundae. Since this is a special occasion I will probably spring for one of their agave pairings or a creative cocktail (for an extra charge). (445 N. Clark).

PACIFIC STANDARD TIME

PST. Photo: Pacific Standard Time

PST. Photo: Pacific Standard Time

New in 2018, Pacific Standard Time (PST) has been creating a lot of buzz. Mostly good, aside from considerable criticism about the name.

The name, of course is a reference to the California themed menu. The hearth-driven restaurant, located in Chicago's River North neighborhood comes with a West Coast soul.

Rated on many top ten lists, this newcomer is the brainchild of partners Erling Wu-Bower and Joshua Tilden (among others). Many of the menu items are cooked in PST's wood-fueled hearth ovens.

For CRW, PST is offering a three-course prix fixe lunch menu with two choices for starters, four choices for entrees and two dessert choices. PST is also offering a special prix fixe dinner menu for $48. (141 W. Erie)

THE LOBBY

The Lobby at the Peninsula Chicago

The Lobby at the Peninsula Chicago

The Lobby, inside the second to none Peninsula Chicago (ranked #1 Chicago Hotel in 2017 by Travel and Leisure Magazine) offers an exquisite setting with a light-filled space for lunch (bright--even on a cloudy day), soaring ceilings and an inspired American contemporary menu.

This is another place that can become very pricy (and usually worth every penny) but during CRW, you can get a 3-course prix fixe lunch menu for $24. Diners can choose from two starters, three entrees and two desserts. The Lobby is also offering a special prix fixe dinner menu for $48. (108 E. Superior).

COLD STORAGE

Cold Storage.

Cold Storage.

Cold Storage a relative newbie (since late 2015), located off the lobby of  Swift & Sons. in the "hot" (even on a cold day) Fulton Market District. Executive Chef Chris Pandel's menu brings in the best Seafood from both coasts and throughout the Great Lakes. Buying directly from the fisherman and oyster farmers, their seafood is fresh. A full service bar features fish friendly wines and a Chicago-centric draft and bottle beer selection.

For CRW, Cold Storage is offering a $24 prix fixe lunch menu with two choices each for the first and second courses followed by a Chocolate Chip cookie with ice cream for dessert. The first course choice of the Micro Tower of shrimp, oyster, king crab, smoked mussels, scallop ceviche convinced me immediately to put Cold Storage on my exclusive CRW lunch list.  Cold Storage is also offering a special prix fixe dinner menu for $48. (1000 W Fulton Market).

THE PUBLICAN

The Publican. (credit: adsanford.com)

The Publican. (credit: adsanford.com)

The Publican was one of the pioneers in the West Loop before it became the hot restaurant destination that it has become.

The comfortable setting takes diners back to a concept based on century-old public houses marked by lively political conversations and beer. Each item on the menu has its place of origin listed next to it: cobia caught in Destin, FL; lettuce grown in Buckley, Michigan and jamón Serrano from Salamanca, Spain.

It's a meat-lovers dream with portraits of pigs hanging on the walls with the real thing on the menu including an outstanding braised pork belly and pork rinds along with trays of oysters, a soy-tinged ham chop and more--you get the idea.

For CRW week, The Publican is featuring a $24 prix fix lunch menu starting with a choice of a Charcuterie Plate or a Cheese Plate. The Charcuterie Plate with the butcher’s selection of two house cured meats with pickled vegetables, mustard, & bread is my pick. The second course offers two choices followed by a Publican Quality Cookie. (837 W. Fulton Market).

For more CRW picks, visit my review of Bar Roma and  Show Me Chicago's Best Bets for Chicago Restaurant Week 2019.

Bites roundup of specials around town

Restaurant Week is getting the buzz, but it’s not the only news in town.

Bistronomic

1. Bistronomic is celebrating its eighth anniversary from Sunday, February 9th to Sunday March 10 (Valentine’s Day and Holidays excluded) with two special cocktails ($8) and a two-course prix fixe ($20.19) featuring a “French” burger and dessert. The menu is available Sunday -Thursdays for lunch, brunch and dinner.

Bistronomic, 840 N. Wabash, 312.944.8400

2. lll Forks

On Wednesday, February 6 , lll Forks Prime Steakhouse in Lakeshore East, will hold  a “Sommelier for a Day” wine tasting from 5-7 pm. Sommelier Anton Licko will lead participants through a sampling of six different wines from the Napa Valley paired with an array of hors d’oeuvres. The fee to attend is $25. RSVP at 312.938.4303.

3. Perry’s Steakhouse & Grill

Wine grapes are affected by the altitude where they’re grown, which-in turn affects the wine made from them. Through February 13, Perry’s Steakhouse & Grill in Oak Brook is featuring a special wine showcase designed to “elevate” participants’ knowledge. Called “Wines With a View,” the special ($28) includes tastings of three different wines, each of them made with grapes grown at different altitudes.

Perry’s Steakhouse & Grill, 5 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook 630.571.1808

4. Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine

Looking for a cheese class that will walk you through the basics? Check out Pastoral’s ”Cheese 101,” ($25) on Wednesday, January 23 from 6:30 to 7:30. Short and to the point, the class will have you selecting cheese like a pro. A complementary glass of wine or beer is included.

131 N. Clinton ( in the Chicago French Market) tickets available on Pastoral’s website

5. Davanti Enoteca

Both the Davanti Enoteca on Taylor  Street and the Davanti Enoteca in Western Springs offer Happy Hour menus Monday-Friday from 3-6 pm. While both feature a $6 glass of red or white wine together with a menu of $6 bites, the exact selections vary.

Expect items like  arancini, meatballs, ricotta with honeycomb and Tuscan toast, and white anchovies with olives and pecorino.

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