Chicago 30 Under 30: The Restaurants

Taste what this year's honorees bring to the table
March 31, 2014
by Sarah Freeman

You've checked out our list of 2014's up-and-coming culinary talent, now find out where to see them in action. Use our 30 Under 30 Google Map to find the honorees' restaurants and bars, and check out the Zagat ratings and reviews in the slide show below before you go.

25 Degrees

Food: 21
Decor: 19
Service: 21
Cost: $24

"Imaginative burgers", including a "build-your-own" option, are joined by sandwiches, sides, "adult milkshakes" and "refreshing" cocktails at this "casual", "modernistic" River North chain link; it may be "a little pricey" for what's on offer, but loyalists "love the atmosphere" and "bar scene" ("no place for old men"); P.S. outdoor tables are "lovely during the warm months."

736 N. Clark St.; 312-943-9700


Food: 29
Decor: 28
Service: 29
Cost: $273

"Expect to be wowed" at Grant Achatz's "unrivaled" Lincoln Park New American, a "culinary experience of a lifetime" (and Chicago's Most Popular restaurant) where "transcendent flavors", "unforgettable, artistic presentation" and "mind-blowing technique" highlight a multicourse tasting menu that's akin to "going on a food safari"; "über-modern" decor is enhanced by "interactive, accommodating" staffers, and while you may need to "bring the Brink's truck" to pay, well, that might be the cost of "foodie heaven."

1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110


Food: 26
Decor: 27
Service: 27
Cost: $60

Some of the "most interesting cocktails ever" come from Grant Achatz's "cool" West Loop lounge where the "expertly crafted" "over-the-top" drinks feature "playful, whimsical" touches and especially "inventive" presentations, and are offered alongside a recently retooled Eclectic menu (which may not be reflected in the Food score); "top-notch" service and "chic" banquette-enhanced digs also make it a place to "impress" – if you can "get over the sticker shock" that is.

955 W. Fulton Market; 312-226-0868

Bang Bang Pie Shop

Limited daily offerings include one chocolate, one cream, one fruit and one savory pie, baked fresh in-house, along with vegetarian biscuits made from scratch every hour and featured in a handful of egg and brunch-style dishes. Drip coffee from Gaslight Roasters rounds out the funky Logan Square spot's wallet-friendly menu, with beans available to take home – and you can BYOB if you're so inclined.

2051 N. California Ave.; 773-276-8888

Bar Pastoral

You can "get your wine and cheese on" at this boozy spin-off adjacent to Lakeview cheese shop Pastoral that serves American nibbles sourced from the store, either straight up or worked into affordable small plates by former Top Chef-testant Chrissy Camba (ex Vincent); quaffing options include vino by the glass, champagne on tap and craft beers, all enjoyed in a "cozy, intimate" space with tufted leather banquettes and light fixtures from vintage farm equipment.

2947 N. Broadway; 773-472-4781

Begyle Brewing

This homegrown microbrewery in North Center proffers its signature suds in an on-site store with a funky, utilitarian vibe where you can sample brews at the counter to choose the contents of your growlers, bottles or kegs. The brewer has adopted a community-supported model through subscription memberships (guaranteed growlers on a regular basis, discounts), but nonmembers are welcome at the retail spot. P.S. Brewery tours are available on Saturdays.

1800 W. Cuyler Ave.; 773-661-6963

The Berkshire Room

From The Fifty/50 team, this swanky cocktail lounge in River North’s Acme Hotel pairs specialty craft drinks and rare brown spirits, plenty of wines and global beers with a short menu of New American ‘snacks’ from chef Chris Curren; the retro-mod room is done up with whiskey crates, terrazzo floors, whitewashed walls and steel shutters repurposed from a Kentucky distillery, and has multiple seating options, including at the back-lit bar.

15 E. Ohio St.; 312-894-0800

Big Star

Food: 26
Decor: 19
Service: 17
Cost: $19

"Hipsters" pile into Paul Kahan's "affordable" Wicker Park Mexican for "flavorful" tacos "like you've never tasted" plus "delicious", "strong" margaritas, "solid" beers and a "top-notch bourbon selection"; it's cash-only and the "modern garage-type" space can seem "acoustically tragic", but it's still "always packed", especially on the happening patio ("if you can grab a spot, never leave"); P.S. "ridiculous waits" may be remediated by a recent expansion.

1531 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-4039

The Brixton

Creative New American gastropub plates and snacky bar bites are served along with house cocktails and lots of wines by the glass at this casual, funky Andersonville hangout. The bi-level space (formerly Brasserie 54 by LM) has been remodeled with a loft-like feel warmed by touches like a glowing bar, bookshelves and candlelight, plus a loungey upstairs with a pool table and a fireplace.

5420 N. Clark St.; 773-961-7358

The Butcher & Larder

"The highest quality" of locally sourced meats from "responsible farmers" defines this "reasonably priced" Noble Square butcher whose "professional" staff is "happy to answer questions" and trim "to order"; "exceptional" sausages and rillettes round out the "huge selection" of "beautiful", "hard-to-find" cuts, which are offered alongside "fantastic" to-go lunch sandwiches.

1026 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-687-8280


It's all about the cocktails at this speakeasy-inspired rooftop bar atop the Rafaello Hotel that tempts imbibers with carefully prepared craft and classic tipples often made with rare spirits, plus boutique wines and a smart selection of microbrews. Its dark, fireplace-enhanced interior with leather couches and a clubby vibe opens onto a spacious patio with city views and plenty more seats.

201 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-924-2531

The Garage

The rolling Salsa Truck is based out of this West Loop brick-and-mortar garage and kitchen where hipsters gather (on weekdays only) to munch on budget friendly Mexican street foods, themed daily specials and house beer. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served till supplies run out in a utilitarian, whitewashed brick setting with a bar and leaning tables and a retail area selling foodstuffs and records.

116 N. Aberdeen St.

Girl & the Goat

Food: 27
Decor: 24
Service: 25
Cost: $58

"Believe the hype" say fans of this spendy West Loop "blockbuster" where "genius" Stephanie Izard takes diners on a New American "culinary adventure" courtesy of "mind blowingly interesting" small plates including "brilliant" nose-to-tail creations ("how is it possible for pig face to be so delicious?"); the "warm", "casual" digs have a "lively" (some say "noisy") buzz and service is "knowledgeable", so many are left with but "one wish" – to be able to "get in more often."

809 W. Randolph St.; 312-492-6262


Accessed through Roots Handmade Pizza, this hidden rooftop in Ukrainian Village serves farm-to-table New American dishes, many made with ingredients from the on-site garden; you can sit outside on the deck or indoors amid reclaimed materials, birch bark wall coverings and a tufted leather bar that pours elaborate craft cocktails alongside a hefty beer list; P.S. it has seasonal hours, so call before going.

1924 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-645-4949


Food: 23
Decor: 21
Service: 22
Cost: $90

A "flavor tripping menu" awaits at this expensive West Loop New American from Homaro Cantu (Moto) where the "extremely creative" molecular gastronomy fare is offered in two multicourse tasting menus via "attentive" servers; the high-ceilinged space has red walls that contribute a "cool" feel to match the food.

951 W. Fulton Market; 855-834-6464


Food: 23
Decor: 18
Service: 21
Cost: $9

“Coffee snobs” clamor for “craftsmanship in a cup”, like “amazing lattes”, “properly well-made drip” and the “best espresso”, at this Chicago-born chain where “exacting baristas know their stuff”; “while prices are higher” than at other places, the “casual hipster crowd” doesn’t mind, especially since the comfortable digs feel like a “second living room”, making it an overall “ideal place to caffeinate.”

1233 N. Wells St.; 312-548-3319


Using only farm-raised heritage birds to make customized fried chicken sandwiches, bowls, tenders and daily specials (including fried chicken skins), this fast-casual shop from the Nellcôte team feeds budget-conscious poultry purists in a funky Ukrainian Village space. Artisanal soft drinks include root beer on tap and fresh lemonade, or you can BYOB – just know that hours are based on the day’s chicken supply. P.S. A portion of all proceeds helps support gay rights, and instead of mints you can grab a free Leghorn-branded condom at the register.

959 N. Western Ave.; 773-782-3936

Little Goat

Food: 22
Decor: 22
Service: 21
Cost: $28

Stephanie Izard's Randolph Street takeover continues with this dedicated bakery adjacent to her same-name West Loop diner, where the budget-friendly menu is comprised of fresh breads, sweet pastries, bagels and a handful of soups, salads and sandwiches; the funky, rustic-modern surroundings are accented by a marble counter and distressed wood bread bins, a view of the baking action, a retail area with artisanal products and, naturally, goat references everywhere.

820 W. Randolph St.; 312-888-3455

Lula Café

Food: 26
Decor: 20
Service: 23
Cost: $30

"Classic dishes with a twist" feature on the somewhat "small" farm-to-table menu at this midpriced Logan Square Eclectic where the "interesting" and "divine" fare is often reminiscent of a "Top Chef episode"; "funky" staffers (think "tattoos and rad beards") enhance the "cool, unassuming" space, and though seating can be a bit "tight", especially during the "excellent brunch", there's always the patio.

2537 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-489-9554


Food: 27
Decor: 25
Service: 26
Cost: $72

Given the "inventive", "always changing" seasonal menu, "well-prepared" dishes and "excellent" wine list, regulars insist you "won't go wrong" at Michael Kornick's Near North New American; "professional" staffers work the "high-energy" space that's "elegant without being stuffy", so all in all it's a "special-occasion" "go-to" – with "special-occasion" tabs to match.

868 N. Franklin St.; 312-482-9179

Perennial Virant

Food: 26
Decor: 23
Service: 24
Cost: $53

Paul Virant (Vie) makes uses of "incredibly fresh" local ingredients in "delicious", "unfussy" dishes that are "interesting" "without being crazy" at this "light, airy" New American in Lincoln Park's Hotel Lincoln; "excellent" cocktails and "knowledgeable" service further explain why you can "count on a great meal", so though the bill's not cheap, it's still considered "reasonable."

1800 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-981-7070

The Publican

Food: 26
Decor: 23
Service: 23
Cost: $50

"Try everything" say fans of Paul Kahan's "inspired" West Loop New American, where the pork-centric menu allows for a "superb pigtastic experience" and includes other "well-prepared, full-of-flavor" share plates plus oysters too; "lots of craft beers" and "stiff" cocktails up the "cool" factor and the "huge communal tables" add group appeal, so even if it's "loud" and the bill can "add up quickly", it's still considered "all the rage (and rightfully so)."

837 W. Fulton Market; 312-733-9555

Publican Quality Meats

Food: 26
Decor: 18
Service: 27
Cost: M

From chef Paul Kahan and across the street from his resto The Publican, this "outstanding" West Loop "turn-on" for "adventurous" foodies offers "top cuts of meat", "amazing sausages" and other "unique" "gourmet items", all in a butcher/market/cafe mash-up; it's "pricey", but a staff that's "accommodating" and an atmosphere that's "cool" add value.

825 W. Fulton Market; 312-445-8977

The Radler

This spacious Logan Square beer hall pours more than 150 beers (with an emphasis on German and Austrian brews) paired with Teutonic entrees, housemade wursts and pretzels. The open space has a rustic feel, with exposed ductwork, brick walls lined with street art, vintage clocks and handcrafted furnishings including some communal tables.

2375 Milwaukee Ave.; 773-276-0270

Rhine Hall

This West Town distillery and tasting room is dedicated to boutique brandy, crafted on-site from Michigan apples chopped in a bicycle-powered machine. The family-owned spot houses an industrial-chic brandy bar featuring artisan cocktails with utilitarian stools and view of the still. P.S. tours are available.

2010 W. Fulton St.; 312-243-4313

Slurping Turtle

Food: 22
Decor: 21
Service: 19
Cost: $27

Diners can "slurp down" a "comforting bowl of steaming ramen" or "dive into" more adventurous "noshes" at chef Takashi Yagihashi's "hip" River North izakaya starring "casual Japanese food with modern flair"; if the service can seem a touch "iffy", fans instead focus on the "funky" ultramod decor, advising wafflers to just "do it" and go.

116 W. Hubbard St.; 312-464-0466

Sportsman’s Club

This Humboldt Park brown-on-brown hipster take on the old-school neighborhood tavern offers midpriced craft cocktails, beers and brown spirits poured at a long wood bar with art deco lighting. The retro sporting vibe continues throughout the surroundings decorated with taxidermy and antlers, chandeliers and duck-decal barware, while an old tape deck reels out tunes till late. P.S. It's cash only.

948 N. Western Ave.; 872-206-8054


Food: 28
Decor: 23
Service: 25
Cost: $66

Fans are "blown away" by "true master" Takashi Yagihashi's "inspired", "soulful" New American–New French dishes at this Bucktown destination, where the "beautifully" presented Japanese-tinged dishes are set down by a "courteous" crew; the "cozy" space has an "understated upscale" vibe, and "pricey" tabs go hand in hand with the "fine-dining" experience.

1952 N. Damen Ave.; 773-772-6170


Food: 27
Decor: 27
Service: 28
Cost: $150

When you want to "splurge and impress", fans suggest this Streeterville "fine-dining" destination that "hits all the high notes", from Anthony Martin's "artistic, creative and sublimely delicious" contemporary French tasting menus to the "thoughtfully paced flow of courses" overseen by a "personable" staff; the "elegant" art-filled dining room (jackets required) further ups the ante, and while the cost may make it a "once-in-a-lifetime" meal for some, at least it's a "truly special" one.

676 N. St Clair St.; 312-202-0001

West Loop Salumi

Heritage pork and grass-fed beef go into the handcrafted, house-cured sausages and other products at this small artisanal shop in the West Loop. Shopping hours are limited to weekend daytime only, though the goods can be found at numerous prominent restaurants and markets – and are shipped nationwide.

West Town Bakery & Diner

Affordable, sustainably sourced and organic baked goods, plus breakfast and lunch fare, are served all day at this duo of cafes with pastry cases full of goodies, proprietary coffee and full bar service including a Bloody Mary juiced to order. The West Loop branch is done up in neighborhood graffiti art and TVs (the Formica tables, diner stools and pastry cases remain, from previous tenant Bleeding Heart Bakery – as does the build-your-own deep-fried donut sandwich), while the similarly styled River North location in the Acme Hotel features a walk-up window.

1916 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-904-1414

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