If you’re travelling to Chicago, there are smokin’ restaurants aplenty to keep your dining game lit. From modern Korean spots to a unique in-store dining experience, check out these hot Chicago restaurants and book your tables while you can.
From the team that brought you Oriole, meet Kumiko, your new fave for cocktails mixed with carefully selected spirits — and “spiritless” creations, too. Partner and creative director Julia Momose joined forces with Lara and Noah Sandoval, whose aforementioned eatery consistently appears on OpenTable’s annual 100 Best Restaurants in America lists. The a la carte drink menu features both cocktails and spirit-frees, and each drink is served in a specially chosen vessel that enhances the experience, many of which were found during Momose’s recent visits to Japan. We recommend the gin-based Seaflower cocktail and chef Sandoval’s singularly delicious Japanese milk bread.
Rave restaurant review: “Unexpected once-in-a-lifetime experience marrying exotic cocktails and delicious bites.”
This is next-gen Korean-American fine dining with a global influence from chefs Andrew Lim and Thomas Oh. Located in the River West/Fulton Market neighbourhood, there are traditional dishes aplenty, including pancakes and k.f.c. (Korean fried chicken) alongside offerings that have a decidedly international flare, such as Brussels sprouts with brown butter, Parmesan, and walnuts, and cheese corn with chipotle peppers, cotija cheese, and herbs. For meat lovers, there is an array of marinated and non-marinated grilled meats in choice cuts, including a prime short rib and rib eye as well as an American Wagyu New York strip from Lone Mountain Ranch.
Rave restaurant review: “First time having Korean food, great experience! Friendly staff and the food was amazing! There was so much food with the Feast package, and it was a great value! I will definitely return and highly recommend Perilla.”
Did you ever wish you had a Scandinavian friend with a super-stylish home and award-winning cooking chops and you could just invite yourself over for dinner whenever you wished? Consider your wish granted, courtesy of chefs David and Anna Posey and their passion project, Elske. The restaurant, whose name means love in Danish, is inspired by their travels through and shared love of Denmark (he oversees the savoury and she handles sweets). There is an a la carte menu and a very reasonable $95 tasting experience (currently clocking in at nine courses, including their signature duck liver tart with salted ramp and buckwheat). Don’t miss the inviting patio and fireplace, perfect for getting hygge with it with a digestif, alcoholic or spirit-free, after a deeply satisfying Danish-American meal.
Rave restaurant review: “Everything was perfect! Service was impeccable. Extremely well-chosen wine list matched the menu. We did the tasting menu. Top to bottom, every course was spot on and a well-planned progression. A classic.”
Chef-partner Matt Kerney invites vegans and omnivores alike on a seasonal tasting experience that is progressive yet approachable and highlights the finest local and global ingredients. Reserve a table at this 22-seater jewel for an intimate journey of six, nine, or 12 courses in Chicago’s historic Uptown neighbourhood where the food redefines fine, but the vibe is relaxed with a side of swank. Kick things off with a selection from the tableside cocktail cart and then put yourself in Kerney’s capable hands for a date night to remember that includes a Bloody Mary sorbet and a take on rice and beans that is a game-changer.
Rave restaurant review: “Great dining experience. Warm and professional service. Elegant and comfortable space. Each course was beautifully presented. Delicious flavors. Talented chefs. They deserve Michelin stars. Chicago should be proud for having this calibre of restaurant. Highly recommended.”
Believe the hype. From the team behind Hanbun, the beloved suburban food stall specialising in casual Korean cuisine by day and fine-dining supper club by night, comes Jeong, arguably one of Chicago’s hottest newcomers. Chef Dave Park and general manager Jennifer Tran paired up romantically in culinary school and professionally at Hanbun, and now are taking their vision to the next level with this sophisticated spot serving traditional Korean ingredients married with modern techniques. Ingredients are sourced from local purveyors and Korean producers, and many of the base ingredients are prepared in-house, such as the silken tofu and kimchi. Expect the unexpected when it comes to textures and flavors, all of which are combined and executed with unerring precision. There are a la carte options, but the seven-course tasting menu, which includes salmon tartare with dwenjang yuza gastrique, bubu arare, and crème fraîche, is the way to go; tack on the wine pairings to experience the full expression of Park’s unique vision.
Rave restaurant review: “My second time there, got the tasting menu, and every dish was on point. My date also got the tasting menu, and on the fly requested dairy-free, which they accommodated without hesitation. Still salivating over the salmon, the really freaking big (and delicious) scallop, and that steak. Cannot wait to return.”
DMK Burger Bar
Call it a quest. David Morton and Michael Kornick spent a year travelling across America in search of the best burgers. Their expedition yielded DMK Burger Bar and its well-respected 100% grass-fed patties, bison, and natural turkey burgers (there’s a terrific veggie burger, too) served on artisan buns. Their creations have earned them numerous accolades from local and national media, including The Food Network, Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and Fox News, which selected their burgers as one of the 10 best in America. They’ve got salads galore, including a very Elaine-like “Big Salad,” satisfying sides like mac n’ cheese, and, of course, 15 bespoke burgers from which to choose, but our go-to is the roasted hatch green chile with a fried farm egg, Sonoma jack, and smoked bacon. Quench your thirst with an impressive selection of craft beer and cocktails and raise a glass to DMK’s charitable side, which includes monthly support of local charities benefiting hunger, wellness, children, and the environment through donations.
Rave restaurant review: “Terrific burgers in a relaxed atmosphere. Lots of great variety and good options for our vegetarians and gluten-free friends. Definitely return here.”
Blue Door Farm Stand
The team at Blue Door Farm Stand will make you a believer — in their philosophy around food, community, and hospitality. That may sound lofty, but they deliver, giving diners the chance to eat the best of the Midwest’s homegrown ingredients in a welcoming space among friendly faces. Their emphasis on hyper-seasonality means that whatever you’re eating is harvested at its peak and delivers the best flavors in every bite. With a menu from chef Fernando Osorio that gently emphasises vegetables (think carrot hummus and sumptuous salads), you can still satisfy carnivores with the Amish chicken, a New York strip, or the farmstand burger, which gets gussied up with cheddar and caramelised onions and the optional egg and bacon. The brunch here is a hit with Lincoln Parkers with classics served alongside nifty upgrades, like the City Ham Benedict, which arrives on a black pepper and honey biscuit with arugula and herbed hollandaise.
Rave restaurant review: “LOVE The Blue Door! It’s a favorite of my weekly dining group of women!! We all look forward to going!!”
The Table at Crate
Do you believe in form and function when it comes to dining? Check out this elegant collab (pictured at top) between Crate and Barrel and Cornerstone Restaurant Group and James Beard-nominated chef Bill Kim (of Urban Belly and Belly Q fame). Switching things up cuisine-wise, Kim will serve a plant-centric menu that celebrates Midwestern seasonality and lighter, brighter fare that is layered in herbaceous flavor. The menu is divided into shareable Bites, Garden, Greens, Tartines, Bowls, and Mains, with many ingredients sourced from local farms and purveyors. Like the food, the cocktails will take cues from the seasons, with a dedication to housemade syrups and juices. The space will delight design aficionados and foodies alike. Bonus: You can shop while you eat; the stoneware, glassware, and flatware on which you’re served are available for purchase. Bigger bonus: You can have a cocktail while you shop, which is something we’ve only done while online at home from our sofas.
Rave restaurant review: “Great menu, service, and exceptionally good food. Pick your favourite or share with friends. Light meals with a great variety. You can shop before, during, or after. Eat at the restaurant inside or out, stop at the cafe in the lounge upstairs. If you’re a Crate fan or not, you will enjoy the experience. Don’t miss the dessert either!”
Sometimes a dream is a wish your appetite makes. Making it come true is easy at Piccolo Sogno, whose name means little dream. Specialising in rustic Italian fare that pairs perfectly with one of their 400+ Italian wine selections, Piccolo Sogno is chef Tony Priolo and wine expert Ciro Longobardo’s vision of bringing the spirit of eating and drinking in Italy to life in Chicago realised. This is a menu that inspires leisurely dining — eat your way through all the courses, from the insalate and pastas to the pizzas and the secondi. The wines are astoundingly affordable, so this River West spot is the place to engage staff to help you find a bottle or two to complement your meal.
Rave restaurant review: “Have loved Piccolo Sogno for years — dine there as often as I can obtain a reservation!!”
Top Chef’s Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat fame has yet another hit on her hands with Cabra (which means, naturally, goat in Spanish). A Peruvian-inspired cevicheria atop the Hoxton Hotel, Cabra is a feast for the eyes and the stomach, with sweeping city views and a menu that delivers flavour-bomb food. Start with one of the clever ceviches or tiraditos (duck ceviche, ftw!), and then dive into some cold and hot shared plates with your dining companions, such as the yuca fries and goat (of course!) empanadas, and round things out with an order of skirt steak. With a lively vibe, Cabra is the place to go when you’re hungry for fun.
Rave restaurant review: “The food, service, and atmosphere were phenomenal! The waiter was very helpful when making the food selections. The food was very flavorful and presented well. The city view was great. It was a very pleasant dining experience.”
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Photo credits: Sammy Faze (Kumiko); Anthony Tahlier (Cabra); Galdones Photography (Piccolo Sogno); all photos courtesy of the featured restaurants.