The food equivalent of Lollapalooza, Chicago Restaurant Week is back for its 11th anniversary. While some might shun the event (it’s actually two weeks, from January 26 to February 8) because of incessant crowds and difficult reservations, others go bananas for the bargain prix fixe menus offered for lunch and dinner all over town. Produced by Choose Chicago, the event means $22 lunch menus and $33 or $44 dinner menus at 370-plus restaurants. At many places on the list, the deals are a steal considering the usual prices and caliber of the food. Since tables book up fast, here are 12 places to put on your calendar ASAP, and you can snag your spot here.
Feast on veggie-centric delicacies at Bad Hunter; photo by Anthony Tahlier
One of the buzziest tables in the West Loop, Bad Hunter is offering both brunch and lunch menus for Chicago Restaurant Week this year. For brunch, diners start with pastries like mocha-spiced kouign-amann or sweet potato and goat cheese scones, followed by entrees like braised cabbage with taleggio, smoked ham and fried egg or a veggie burger with tomato jam and mustard aïoli. Come lunch, first courses like hominy aguachile and tempura-fried lemons and broccoli precede entree options like Carolina Gold rice bowls and smoked ham and taleggio grilled cheese. For dessert, there’s mint chocolate chip cookies or fennel-grapefruit sorbet.
802 W. Randolph St.; 312-265-1745
LH Rooftop at LondonHouse
Journeying back in time to borrow inspiration from the Native American tribes who dwelled in and around Chicago, LH Rooftop’s executive chef Jacob Vestergen is cooking up three-course dinner menus unlike anything else in town. Each of the three courses features native Midwestern ingredients, using traditional techniques popular during winter hundreds of years ago. This means butternut squash is baked in clay and served with cured venison and maple consomme, while pheasant comes with tobacco sauce, marinated cranberries and ash-roasted sweet potato. For dessert, pastry chef Claire Crenshaw uses local honey with broiled grapefruit, honey mousseline and lavender shortbread.
85 E. Upper Wacker Dr.; 312-253-2317
Visit Barrio to check out one of River North's hottest new restaurants; photo by Mark Ballogg
A new addition to the Restaurant Week roster, Barrio is going all in with brunch, lunch and dinner. It’s a great opportunity to try one of River North’s splashiest Mexican newcomers, eating your way through churro French toast and barbacoa short-rib hash for brunch, cornbread with agave sea salt butter and forest mushroom tacos for lunch and queso fundido, roasted sweet potato guacamole, chimichurri scallops and cocoa tacos for dinner.
65 W. Kinzie St.; 312-940-9900
Restaurant Week is also a great chance to revisit local classics, like Le Colonial. A perpetual hot spot in its own right, the contemporary French-Vietnamese charmer pulls out all the stops for the occasion, offering both lunch and dinner tasting menus highlighting some of the dishes that have made the restaurant such an enduring fixture. Lunch includes items like crab and asparagus soup, rice noodles sautéed with bean sprouts and chicken, and a caramelized lemon tart for dessert. For dinner, guests also get a side dish and enhanced options like tuna tartare and filet mignon with yams, string beans and garlic chile sauce.
937 N. Rush St.; 312-255-0088
Another Restaurant Week newcomer, Split-Rail is also the most irreverent option. In the tradition of the West Town restaurant’s Titanic-themed New Year’s Eve menu, the Restaurant Week dinner menu is titled “Battle of the '90s Sitcoms: Friends vs. Seinfeld.” Featuring menus inspired by two of the decade’s most popular shows, each dish on the five-course menu spotlights food-centric episodes, including dishes inspired by Rachel’s trifle from Friends or The Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. Going a step further, the restaurant will also be decked out in nostalgic '90s sitcom decor.
2500 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-697-4413
Table, Donkey & Stick
One aspect of Restaurant Week is how it encourages diners to get out of Downtown and into the neighborhoods — to places like this cozy nook with Alpine style in Logan Square. The charcuterie program here is stellar, from peameal bacon with raspberry piperade to duck kielbasa with celeriac sauerkraut and pickled shishitos. You’ll also get to delve into house-baked breads (get the rye baguette) and other hearty options like cider-glazed red kuri squash, rabbit meatloaf, duck heart hash, brown butter–roasted bluefish and pork schnitzel.
2728 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-486-8525
This Italian spot always knows how to bring it on Restaurant Week, with lunch, dinner and brunch menus. The latter offers dishes like smoked trout deviled eggs, date and fennel sausage croquettes, finocchiona and spinach baked eggs and vanilla-hazelnut cream puffs. The lunch menu features braised pear and fennel salad, wild boar Bolognese and porchetta sandwiches, while dinner adds potato gnocchi, fluke piccata and chicken saltimbocca.
18 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-578-0763
Brunch, lunch and dinner are all served at Acanto; photo courtesy of Acanto
One way to augment your Restaurant Week reservation is to pair your dinner with a show. Thanks to its on-site music venue, Chop Shop is the only restaurant that adds a concert option to the deal (for additional ticket costs, of course). The Bucktown restaurant features a three-course dinner menu by new executive chef Adam Grandt, with starters like buffalo cauliflower, house charcuterie and butternut squash soup with burnt orange and toasted pepitas. Second courses include housemade mushroom gnocchi, braised short ribs and a chicken “Juicy Lucy” burger. Save room for desserts like caramelized pear tarts with salted butter rum ice cream or chocolate mousse. Bands playing during Restaurant Week include EGI, Kraak & Smaak and Elderbrook.
2033 W. North Ave.; 773-537-4440
Considering Bon Appetit just named The Loyalist’s burger one of the best in America, you’d be wise to snag a table here before seats become impossible. The famous burger is available as one of the entree options during dinner, along with a tempura fried chicken sandwich, a roasted beet salad as a starter and a grilled mint sundae with red wine chocolate sauce for dessert.
177 N. Ada St.; 773-913-3774
See what all the burger buzz is about at The Loyalist; photo by Huge Galdones
As one of the West Loop pioneers, nationally acclaimed Blackbird remains a score for Restaurant Week. The prix fixe lunch brings highlights like crispy Brussels sprouts with apple cider, orange and Parmesan; warm shrimp salad with pickled walnut; duck confit with broccoli and mustard greens; roasted whitefish with kabocha squash and enoki mushrooms; and gingerbread crémeux with dry fruit compote and spiced streusel.
619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708
Another long-standing staple, Frontera Grill is still difficult to get into after decades. But try your luck for either lunch or dinner during Restaurant Week. Among the offerings are banana leaf–steamed corn tamales, grilled spiced pork tacos and seasonal tres leches cake with toasted meringue.
445 N. Clark St.; 312-661-1434
Since opening late in 2015, this West Loop pasta palace remains one of the hottest tickets in town. It's bound to book up fast for dinner, so make a reservation ASAP for a taste of chef Sarah Grueneberg’s incomparable Italian cooking. This includes roasted squash crostino, slow-roasted cabbage and mushrooms over creamy polenta, meat sugo with fusilli pasta and chocolate budino with chocolate-hazelnut streusel and whipped crème fraîche.
1020 W. Madison St.; 312-888-3041