We like to think of this site as our hobby . We also like to think it is our ‘duty’ to try the some of the best restaurants wherever we are, so that we can pass along that knowledge to others. 🙂 Steve does a great job researching each city months before we even get there. He meticulously looks through articles, reads reviews and listens to what the locals have to say. He puts pressure on himself to come up with an All-Star line up, but we never know how it will end up until we try it for ourselves. This trip, he knocked it out of the park! Here is a day-to-day recap of our findings!
Checked in at The James Hotel
Lunch at RL Restaurant: we met up with a friend here for classic traditional American fare in a cozy spot just off of the Magnificent Mile.
Dinner at The Purple Pig: “Cheese, Swine, and Wine” is their slogan and they nail all 3 of these in this new fantastic restaurant along Michigan Avenue. We loved everything we sampled from their menu which consists of variations on rustic Mediterranean small plates. Extensive and excellent wine list – including a few of our favorite wines – Juan Gil and Clio from Spain. The Fried Deviled Egg with Arugula and Caper Berries, Charred Cauliflower with Toasted Breadcrumbs, Cornichons and Parsley as well as their Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes were some of the best dishes we’ve had in Chicago. Voted one of the Best New Restaurants in the America by Bon Appetit in 2010. Press: Bon Appetit
Breakfast at Bongo Room: Our return to The Bongo Room was as good, if not better, than our first visit. After a 4 mile jog from Downtown to Wicker Park our stomachs were ready for its creative takes on breakfast fare. After downing a liter of water and 4 cups of their special Bongo Room coffee blend from Intelligentsia we were sufficiently hydrated, caffeinated, and ready to eat. We chose a combo of savory and sweet with their Veggie Croissant Sandwich and the Red Velvet Chocolatey Cocoa Hotcakes topped with warm vanilla creme and toasted walnuts. Yes, you read that right. The pancakes were decadently delicious!
Lunch at Big Star: this Taqueria/Dive Bar in Wicker Park from the same team of Blackbird/Avec/The Publican instantly became one of our favorite spots in Chicago. Their outside patio has a casual and eclectic vibe with bright yellow metal chairs surrounding reflective silver tables while the inside bar/restaurant area is like the inside of a large car garage. Pull a seat up to the bar and enjoy some honky tonk music played on an old record player and try some of their fantastic guac, salsa, tacos, beer, and one of their rotating $3 whiskeys of the day. Cash only.
Drinks at The Publican: We wanted to make a return to The Publican a priority this trip – both to get some interior photos of this unique gastropub and to try some of their hard to find Belgian and European beers. We were successful on both goals and loved the Bellegems Bruin – a Flanders style ale from Belgium (similar to our favorite Monk’s Cafe) and the Weihenstephaner Vitus from Germany – a Hefeweizen-Bock beer.
Dinner at Blackbird: this contemporary restaurant in the West Loop area from chef Paul Kahan has been a destination spot for foodies since it opened in 1998 and has maintained it’s creativity, reputation and high quality. The space is surprisingly small with a clean white minimalist aesthetic that is intimate yet not cramped. The aged pekin duck breast with green garbanzos, tequila braised radish, watermelon and white sesame as well as the duck fat poached elk strip loin with whole wheat knefla, crispy broccoli, strawberries and bergamot cream were perfectly prepared and easily among two of the top dishes we have tasted anywhere.
Coffee at Intelligentsia: We dropped in for a cup of their artisanal coffee after another 4 mile run. Blessed with a beautiful morning, this run went down the picturesque Lake Shore Drive on Lake Michigan around the Aquarium and up through Grant and Millenium Parks – culminating in an overheated Steve jumping in front of several kids to get doused with cold water from the Crown Fountain.
Lunch at Grahamwich: re-invented classic soda and sandwich shop by Graham Elliot. He has created tasty and affordable takes on classic sandwiches in a fun, clean, vibrant site. Stop in for a french press coffee and pastry in the morning or stop by for one of their gourmet sandwiches from a rotating menu and some of their homemade potato chips for lunch! We loved their Grilled Cheese and Pastrami Reuben.
Snacks at Fox & Obel: gourmet market, cafe, and bistro with a great selection of beers, wine, cheese, breads and pastries. The Lemon Blueberry Shortbread Bites were a yummy treat.
Dinner at Gilt Bar: well prepared classic cocktails and upscale affordable gastropub fare in this River North hotspot. We enjoyed their Le Bar St. Germain Cocktail and Housemade Bolognese with bucatini, charred tomato and parmesan.
Breakfast at XOCO: casual Mexican “street food” from Top Chef Master Rick Bayless. The Wood Oven Chicken Chilaquiles and Torreja (Wood Oven French toast with Bacon-Pecan Sprinkles) and Cafe con Leche were all fantastic and a better value than the food next door at Frontera Grill. Open for breakfast and lunch.
Lunch at GT Fish and Oyster: highly anticipated newly opened seafood restaurant Downtown with absolutely gorgeous interior and wonderful food. Clean modern interior with a wooden boomerang-shaped standing-bar in the bar area and beautifully designed chalk art on the wall in the main dining room. The lobster roll was fantastic and the key lime pie – deconstructed in layers in a jar with crumbled ginger snaps and toasted marshmallow topping was the best dessert we have had in a long time.
Dinner at Girl and the Goat: this West Loop gem from Top Chef Season 4 Winner and James Beard Nominee Stephanie Izard is certainly one of the hardest seats in town to get – and we can see why. Rustic and lofty interior, friendly/knowledgeable waitstaff, and unique/delicious small plates were all top notch. The menu is broken down into equal parts of Veggie, Fish, and Meat dishes – the latter of which not surprisingly incorporates goat into many dishes. If you don’t have a reservation enjoy a drink (or two) while you wait and enjoy the fun ambiance. Press: Food and Wine
Lunch at Frontera Grill: we stopped into the Frontera Grill for a quick lunch prior to heading to the airport. Their Pork Tacos Al Carbon were fantastic and the Duck Carnitas Quesadillas were very good.