Brrrrr! It's cold out there. February has been especially brutal--the bitter winds, the icy streets, and the polar vortex. Of course that never stops a true Chicagoan.
That's why they call us Chicago tough.
One of our favorite ways to kill the chill is hot chocolate. And more recently hot cocktails. Falling ice...and no where to hide? Check out our hot list for 2019 and get inside.
The independently-owned River North steakhouse Benny’s Chop House (444 N. Wabash) has two warm cocktails or hot 'tails on their menu this season. Sure to cure your winter blues is the Fat Mint ($15)--pictured at the top of this post). Fat Mint features Vahlrona dark chocolate, Northshore vodka, whipped cream and a peppermint stick.
Not a fan of chocolate? Try their 6th Spice Girl ($14) with Plantation rum, spiced cider, spiced butter and a cinnamon stick.
Tradition, tradition. The all-ages (no booze) hot chocolate at Margies Candies (1960 N. Western Ave and 1813 Montrose) is sure to kill the chill with its lush chocolate flavor, rich and creamy and no surprises. It comes topped with a cookie and whipped cream.
Walk up to the take out window at Bombobar (832 W. Randolph) and say, I'll have the Love Monster Hotter Chocolate ($9).Or order one for you and another for your significant other and you'll win their heart on Valentine's Day or any day. The fast-casual walk up eatery, attached to Bar Sienna in the West Loop, is the perfect spot to satisfy your cravings--any day of the year--open 7 days a week year round. The hot cocktail pictured above comes complete with swirl marshmallow, a heart cookie, pink cotton candy, valentine’s day sprinkles, purple drizzle and white chocolate mini bombo.
George's Ice Cream and Sweets
George's Ice Cream and Sweets located in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood is a sweet lovers dream for everything from their cupcakes to milkshakes. But their specialty hot chocolates do not take a back seat to anything. They are infused with a unique mix of seasonal flavorings from pumpkin spice and the to die-for Nutella to my favorite the salted caramel to the refreshing mint--simple but delicious or simply delicious. 5306 N Clark St.
One of my favorite spots for grabbing a cup of hot chocolate is the Park Cafe, located in Millennium Park--not just for the hot chocolate but for the atmosphere. The Café, located next to the park's ice rink even has rubber mats on the floor so skaters can keep their skates on. The hot chocolate is made with milk and chocolate and comes topped with mini marshmallows. You can get it to-go, or to drink inside. In addition to hot chocolate, the Park Café serves coffee, churros and other handheld desserts
Maybe it's the churros, maybe it's the price, but for an uncomplicated cup of xoco (cocoa) this Pilsen enclave, xurro, named after the original Mayan drink hits the spot. Choose from five different hot chocolates, Abuelita Mexican, White, Spice Mexican, Mayan Mocha and Peppermint from $2 to $3 plus made on the spot churros for $1 each. Sans the Styrofoam cup this place rocks. Pilsen (2214 S. Wolcott) and five other locations.
Tex’s Inebriated Hot Chocolate, envisioned by The Fifty/50 Group's Executive Pastry Chef Chris Teixiera, with dark chocolate drinking cocoa, cassis liqueur, walnut liqueur and house-made marshmallows can be yours for ($9) at West Town Bakery (1916 W. Chicago) or West Town Bakery + Tap (3626 N. Clark St.).
Katherine Anne Confections is a local organic chocolatier with an amazing array of exquisite chocolates from truffles to rich luscious, creamy hot chocolate. It has been said that Katherine Anne's hot chocolates contain almost as much chocolate as a half-pound box of truffles. 2745 W. Armitage.
Not to be left in the cold, Mindy Segal's Bucktown Hot Chocolate restaurant has to be on the radar of any hot chocolate lover. Segal's rich hot chocolate, can be ordered by the percent of chocolate that matches your taste. The menu offers a variety of hot chocolate including light (milk chocolate), medium (with a dollop of caramel) to dark, and the popular Black and Tan, which is part hot chocolate, part hot fudge. 1747 N Damen Ave, 773-489-1747.
A favorite of many is Rick Bayless' 40-seat casual Xoco Restaurant--a hot chocolate lovers paradise. His bean-to-cup Mexican "sipping chocolate" is made with freshly ground cacao beans, roasted on the premises. Rick pays the same attention to detail with his sipping chocolate menu as he does with his world-famous margaritas. What else can you expect from Bayless and a place who's name literally shouts cocoa. 449 N. Clark Street.
Specials Around Town
Newly appointed executive chef Joe Lambert has been part of the culinary team at Nico Osteria, one of the Boka Group’s long-running hits, for the last five years. Lambert says the menus “lean Italian,” a description that gives the kitchen considerable wiggle room.
Asked to give a few pointers for navigating the dinner menu, Lambert says the dishes are all designed to be shared. With that in mind, he suggests starting with one of the crudos followed by an antipasti, perhaps the sardines with an onion-current agrodolce or the calamari stuffed with seafood sausage. Depending on the size of the group, diners can continue with a pasta or a piatti (main course) or both. To finish the meal, there’s a trio of cheeses, pastries and gelato/sorbetto. At this point, it’s time for a nightcap or a coffee or both, followed by a simple “Ciao.” Nico Osteria, 1015 N. Rush Street, 312.994.7100
Come for the Food; Stay for the Conversation
There are a lot of good restaurants in Chicago, and Catch 35 is one of them. When I was there last week, our group of four focused on the Restaurant Week menus ($36, $48), which were both good values. But as we perused the menus and discussed the various options, we noticed something else: we were having an actual, back-and-forth conversation, and we weren’t shouting.
Granted, the bar area was noisy, but you expect bars to have a buzz. The scene oozed big city sophistication, from the vaulted ceiling and the huge, eye riveting chandelier to the live music and the guests dressed for a 21st-century night on the town.
So what did we eat during our extended dinner? Think fish, steak, clam chowder, Key lime pie, and a killer chocolate cake. The only thing missing was the deafening noise that’s so much a part of the current scene. Catch 35, 35 W. Wacker Drive, 312.346.3500
Sex and the City Revisited
Are you still mourning the end of "Sex in the City"? If the answer is "yes" (or you're simply curious as to why it was such a big hit), stop in at Curious Carrie's, a pop-up located in the Below Deck space at Ironsides Bar and Galley. Wednesdays-Saturdays from February 14-March 30, the cozy spot will be serving era-appropriate cocktails and comfort food. Curious Carrie's, 546 N. Wells Street
Dumplings go global on Wednesday, February 27 when Imperial Lamian hosts "Dumpling Days," a fund raiser for the non-profit charity Pilot Light. From 6pm-8pm, guests will enjoy dumplings cooked by visiting chefs Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno), Abe Conlon (Fat Rice), Brian Enyart (Dos Urban Cantina) and host chef Alan Tan. The restaurant's signature soup dumplings will be served throughout the event, along with unlimited cocktails and wine. Guests must be over 21. Tickets ($50) are available from Brown Paper Tickets. Imperial Lamian, 6 Hubbard Street 312.595,9440
Chicago's Best WingFest
If your idea of Paradise includes all-you-can-eat wings (and even if it doesn't), mark your calendar for Saturday, April 13 and snag a ticket for the 20th annual Chicago's Best WingFest. From noon -4pm, guests will be able to sample an array of wings from forty different restaurants, all of them hoping to be named Best of the Fest. The wings will run the gamut from mild too hot. The event sells out every year. For tickets, click here. Credit Union 1 (UIC Pavilion), 525 S. Racine.
Filed under: Chicago restaurants