Chicago restaurant week (Jan. 22 through Feb. 4) is HUGE. This year over 350 restaurants are participating. Some deals are better than others. But it isn't always about the deals.
For me, I love to get a jump start on restaurant week at First Bites Bash. By checking out the offerings from 60 plus restaurants, I can not only plan ahead for restaurant week but for the entire year.
In order to get the most out of First Bites Bash, you need a game plan.
There are many ways to go. The earlier you get there the better as the venue gets more crowded and chaotic as the evening continues.
If you are a party of four or more you may be able to sample everything between your group.
In that case, you could grab a table, a drink and some appetizers. Perhaps some Guacamole and Chips from Albany Park's new hotspot Ixcateco Grill (station 58); some sushi and ceviche from Jellyfish (Station 32); a taste of Remington’s, Lobster Deviled Eggs, (Station 60) and RoSal’s, Stuffed mushrooms - stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs & spinach, topped with mushroom sauce (Station 75)
At that point you could continue with a soup and salad course…or just go for broke splitting up the rest of the stations according to location and assigning each guest to an area. (make sure you get the map of station locations).
As for myself and my guest, we are breaking down the choices to 15 each. As much as I wish I could, I cannot try the offerings from the 60+restaurants. I'm thinking, maybe if I pace myself 15 plus a dessert or two but, no way, 60.
I began my elimination process this morning by leaving out the restaurants where I have previously dined--with the exception of a couple of my all time favorites.
After the painful extraction, I came up with 15 must-tries.
Here’s my list and what's on the menu...
- May Street Steakhouse Cinnamon chipotle and coconut Allen brothers beef tenderloin fajita (vegetarian option available also), Station 77.
- Chop Lobster Mac & Cheese, Station 71.
- Cindy’s Rooftop Restaurant & Bar Celery Root Veloute - pickled celery, foie gras mousse, celery salt, Station 9.
I picked Current for two reasons: One, I have never eaten there and two, I have never had Chicken Liver Mousse which for some reason seems to be trending at this year's bash. The Mousse will be served with red onion preserve, pickles, crostini, Station 31.
- Devon Ahi Tuna Tartare: with avocado, mango, pineapple stack, and cilantro oil, Station 50.
- Farmhouse Chicago Pork Sausage, Savory cabbage, spicy pickles, marmalade, pickled mustard seeds, Station 57.
- Frontier “Nashville” Fried Gator Legs, Station 21.
- Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse Although, I've dined at Gibson's many times I just can't resist their USDA Gibsons Prime Angus Beef Tartare, Station 47.
- Intro I picked Intro because I love their chef driven concept and have not dined there as of yet--not necessarily because of Chef-in-residence Stephen Gillanders Banana Budino--however it does sound pretty delish, Station 63.
- Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Another of my all time favorite restaurants that I couldn't resist plus I love Ahi Tuna Tartare, which for some reason is getting harder and harder to find in Chicago, Station 61.
- South Branch PB&J: smoked pork belly, date jam, crumbled goat cheese, candied walnuts, micro celery, Station 37.
- Summer House Santa Monica What's better than a taste of summer on a cold Chicago night. Summer House's Ahi Tuna Tostadas - watermelon, thai chili, avocado, crema, cilantro, lime, yellow corn tortilla should fill the bill, Station 64.
- Tanta Tiradito Chalaco: peruvian bay scallop, peruvian yellow chili emulsion, chalaca, Station 44.
- Texas de Brazil Flank steak & chimichurri sauce with horseradish mashed potatoes, Station 68.
- Vermilion Third bite: trio layers of pomegranate chicken kabab, quinoa chickpea venezuelan arepa, and mango slaw, with a duo of mango-chipotle mole & chimichurri mint chutney, Station 16.
If you don't have tickets for this year's First Bites Bash, make sure to put it on your list for next year because 2016 is SOLD OUT. However, you're not too late for Chicago Restaurant Week, check it out here and here.
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