Show Me Chicago's best bets on where to eat for Chicago Restaurant Week 2019

Show Me Chicago's best bets on where to eat for Chicago Restaurant Week 2019

Many of Chicago's most celebrated restaurants are back for Chicago Restaurant Week (CRW) 2019 that, once again, will be dishing up unmatched dining deals to power us through the winter.

The "week," actually two weeks, kicks off on January 24 with First Bites Bash (FBB)--the perfect spot to help you decide what restaurants you'll want to visit during restaurant week and beyond--since it is not humanly possible to visit all 395 participating restaurants in just 14 days.

FBB features food tastings from more than 70 of Chicago's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. It's always in a beautiful setting--this year, for the first time, at the Field Museum--with beautiful people--beautiful food and an intoxicating vibe.

Chicago’s 12th annual Restaurant Week (January 25 through February 7) is already taking reservations, here.  CRW features a prix fixe menu starting at $24 for brunch and lunch, and $36 and/or $48 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity). Some restaurants offer lunch, dinner and brunch, others may just offer one or two meal options. The well-designed website offers all you need to know about each participating restaurant and several options for search by cuisine and location.

The only thing the website doesn't do is tell you where to go.

That's why we're here to share some of our favorites and make some suggestions, to get you started.

FREE REIN

Free Rein chef Aaron Lirette. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Free Rein chef Aaron Lirette. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

We lost GreenRiver (a favorite of mine) in 2017 but, the good news, we got Free Rein in 2018 with the same Michelin-starred chef, Aaron Lirette, and much of the GR team. The Free Rein concept is inspired by the raucous fun of early French brasseries with an all-day menu and both casual and more formal seating areas along with an attractive bar area and creative bar menu.

Combining French influence with New American style, Free Rein embraces the liberties of its culinary team to spark new energy into old world familiarities. For CRW, Free Rein will be offering lunch for $24 and dinner for $48.

ALK (About Last Knife)

ALK. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

ALK. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

There's lots of Chicago in this new spot that opened last fall in the totally renovated Atlantic Bank Building that is now Hotel Julian.

When you enter, you'll see an unfamiliar face on the wall. Great for trivia.

The face on the wall belongs to Chicago's least known famous architect, Benjamin Marshall who designed the building along with others including the Drake Hotel, The Blackstone, and the Edgewater Beach Hotel. But Marshall is perhaps better known for his Gatsby-like parties with showgirls whose bathing suits dissolved when wet back in the "roaring twenties."

It's also interesting to note that ALK steakhouse, gastropub and bar was inspired by the 1980s movie "About Last Night,"--much of which took place on Chicago's Gold Coast.

For CRW ALK will be showcasing their signature steak dishes offering a three-course lunch for $24 or a three-course dinner menu for $36.  For an additional charge, guests can imbibe on one of ALK creative cocktails such as Ricky Martin's Revenge AKA La Vida Loca; or the Murder She Wrote cocktail, featuring Johnnie Walker Black.

ALK is under the command of executive chef Dan Weiland, who’s done turns at Blackbird, Avec and, most recently, West Town’s botanic brewery, Forbidden Root. (168 N Michigan Ave)

LE SUD

I'm still waiting to get to this hot neighborhood spot in Roscoe Village, so I can't say for sure if this should be in my top 12 but I've heard only good things about it. Le Sud, has been described as a cozy neighborhood restaurant that  brings the taste of Southern France to Chicago--what could be better on a cold Chicago night.

The menu focuses on fresh, high quality ingredients, enhanced with modern techniques. Executive Chef Ryan Brosseau (Table, Donkey & Stick; Perennial Virant) is at the helm of the kitchen.

For restaurant week, Le Sud is offering a three-course dinner menu ($36) with four different options for both appetizers and entrees, and three choices for dessert. With dishes like roasted brussel sprouts with brown butter and sweet potato puree, pan-roasted duck breast with lavender-honey glaze, steak frites with sorrel butter and chocolate and orange mousse, you probably can’t go wrong.  (2301 W. Roscoe St.)

DUCK DUCK GOAT

Duck, Duck Goat. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Duck, Duck Goat. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Another place, I've been wanting to try is Stephanie Izard's (Girl and the Goat and others) Duck, Duck Goat in the Fulton Market District.  The recently opened spot offers Izard's take on authentic Chinese food. You'll find such menu items as hand pulled noodles, house made dumplings, wontons, spring rolls and more.

The welcoming and fun design of the restaurant comes from Boka Restaurant Group and design firm, AvroKO, who created a space that says “everytown Chinatown.” For CRW Duck, Duck Goat will be serving dinner for $48 and a $24 brunch menu. (857 W Fulton Market)

CITY MOUSE

Outdoor patio, City Mouse at Ace Hotel. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Outdoor patio, City Mouse at Ace Hotel. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Not surprisingly, City Mouse has a special relationship with cheese. The name of the restaurant comes from the Aesop’s fable “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.” Not to mention that the West Loop location was, for decades, an Italian cheese factory called Anona. 

The seasonal menu, under the direction of Jason Vincent (Giant) has a Midwestern flair with entrees like their signature burger and gas station breakfast sandwich. Even though the space is relatively large with seating for 250 it manages to convey an intimate vibe.

For CRW, the Mouse will roar with a prix fixe lunch menu at $24 and a 4-course prix fixe dinner menu for $36.

And there's more. City Mouse is open daily, with indoor and outdoor seating, and a low-key lounge for working or playing. ( 311 N Morgan St)

TRAVELLE

CRW is a good time to try some of the pricier spots such as Travelle (in the Langham Hotel), that can be a real steal with a prix fixe menu. Travelle is offering brunch and lunch for $24 and dinner for $48. If you want to save even more money go for lunch rather than dinner. The dinner portions may be larger but beyond that the menus are the same.

The three-course dinner menu is available Sunday-Thursday from 5-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5-11 p.m. The three-course menu is also available for lunch Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and brunch Saturday and Sunday from 12-3 p.m.  (330 N. Wabash Ave.)

LH at the LONDON HOUSE

Upscale dining at LH. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Upscale dining at LH. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

This Restaurant Week, LH Rooftop’s Executive Chef Jacob Verstegen is serving a throwback menu inspired by London House Jazz Club – the hotel’s namesake that occupied the ground floor of the London Guarantee and Accident Building from 1955 to the early 1970s.

·The menu will feature reimagined supper club-inspired dishes, paying homage to the jazz club that hosted music greats in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The meal begins with bread service of housemade Seeded Parkerhouse Rolls with cultured goat butter. From there, guests may choose from three courses with items like Aged Beetroot TartareWarm Spot Prawn CocktailFilet Mignon, and Dover Sole. The third course includes a dessert choice of either Mascarpone Cheesecake or Warm Pear Cobbler.

The three-course dinner menu, including an amuse bouche and bread service, is available 5-10 p.m., January 25 to February 7 for $48 per person.  (85 E. Upper Wacker Dr., Floor 21)

PICCOLO SONGOPiccoloSongo

Piccolo Sogno which means “little dream,” in Italian, has been going strong since 2008.  The menu showcases regional Italian dishes from homemade pastas and hand-tossed, wood-fired pizzas to Roman-style pork and Mediterranean sea bass--plus homemade gelato and sorbet complimented by an impressive all-Italian wine list.

For their CRW menu Piccolo Sogno is offering both lunch ($24) and dinner ($36) menus. (464 N. Halsted St.)

Al Fresco Alert

Put Piccolo Sogno on your calendar for summer. For my money, Piccolo Sogno has one of the best outdoor spaces in the city and that is saying a lot as Chicago has an amazing lineup of al fresco places. Its tree-laden courtyard setting, aglow with twinkling lights, is located in the hustle and bustle of West Town but has the feel of a country estate--perhaps the Italian countryside.

WALTON STREET KITCHEN

At the bar at Walton Street Kitchen. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

At the bar at Walton Street Kitchen. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

New this year, the Walton Street Kitchen + Bar on the Gold Coast showcases thoughtfully executed American cuisine, creative craft cocktails and an impressive wine selection. The action takes place in an inviting atmosphere that features a happening bar area, a  spacious comfortable dining room and a not-to-be-missed cozy Library Lounge (on the first floor).

Walton Street Kitchen is offering prix fixe menus for lunch ($24) and dinner ($48) for CRW.

INA MAE'S TAVERN & PACKAGED GOODS

NOLA comes to the heart of Wicker Park at Ina Mae's featuring N'Orleans soul food with African, Caribbean, French, and Spanish influences along with  a to-die-for Gumbo named for chef Brian Jupiter’s great-grandmother.

Favorites include crab-stuffed shrimp, eggplant Orleans, blackened catfish with tasso and shrimp sauce and NOLA spaghetti with andouille, crawfish and crab meat. For dessert there's tradition praline cheesecake and warm beignets. For CRW Ina Mae's is dishing up a 3-course dinner for $36 per person. (415 N. Wood St).

ABA

Aba interior bar. Photo: Lettuce Entertain You

Aba interior bar. Photo: Lettuce Entertain You

This West Loop hotspot has been on the radar of foodies and food critics since it opened last spring. The space, in a word, is magnificent.

Aba seats 150 indoors, and another 50 + on the the rooftop patio. The food and the ambiance are Mediterranean with the addition of steaks, raw proteins and chilled shellfish focusing on small plates.

Aba is offering a 4-course dinner for CRW at $48. (302 N. Green St., 3rd Floor)

Al Fresco Dining Alert

Aba is another spot to put on your calendar for summer dining. Their amazing rooftop over-flows with plants, French street lamp pendants, fire pits and fireplaces that transport you to the Mediterranean.

BELLEMORE

Chef/Partner Jimmy Papadopoulos knows what he's doing at the West Loop's Belllemore (picture at top of the post) that's been open for just over a year. Most recently Papadopoulos was Executive Chef at Bohemian House where he received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award. 

“Bright, Bold, and Beautiful” describes the cuisine at Bellemore--a perfect match for the open space, designed by Karen Harold of Studio K, that features a light-filled space with soaring ceilings, sliding glass doors and a squeaky clean open kitchen.

Bellemore is offering both lunch ($24) and dinner ($48) menus for CRW. This is not only a good spot for city dwellers, it's great for those in the burbs--since it is an easy walk from the Ogilvie Metra Station. (564 W. Randolph)

Other Hot Choices

Some of our other favorites for CRW 2019 include HotChocolate Chicago, Raisu Japanese Fine Dining, Mezcalina Restaurant, Bar Roma, Monnie Burke's, Pacific Standard Time, Joe's Seafood, Mastros, RPM Italian, RPM Steak, Lena Brava, Summer House, Monteverde, ERIS Brewery and Cider House.

CRW Lunch picks

See my 5 favorite picks for lunch on "A Bite of Chicago."

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Filed under: Chicago Restaurants.

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