Even though Chicago didn’t have much of a winter this year, it’s still refreshing to see spring ingredients like fiddlehead ferns and rhubarb start to sprout on menus across town. As the weather continues to warm and restaurants freshen up their menus, there are plenty of bright new dishes to try. From a spring-splashed steak to various preparations of those obsessed-over ramps, here are 13 new spring dishes to try in Chicago.
Peas, asparagus and borlotti beans are just a few of the bright additions freshening up the menus at tesori. Thawing out from winter, the Loop Italian mainstay has added a handful of new dishes, like spaghetti with pea shoots, fennel pollen, garlic, fresno peppers and lemon; and wild-caught salmon with asparagus, crispy guanciale, balsamic-glazed onions and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
65 E. Adams St.; 312-786-9911
Wild spring onions lend their luster to a steak au poivre dish at The Blanchard. At once decadent and spicy, the burly entree gets a welcome splash of color and aroma from the onions, which contrast the meat with vegetal notes and a bit of heady char.
1935 N. Lincoln Park W; 872-829-3971
Inspired by a recent trip to Portugal, chef Abraham Conlon updated menus at Fat Rice with a bevy of fresh additions that fuse international flavors with local ingredients. A prime example is his truta do Madeira, a grilled trout dish with passion fruit–ramp butter, black olives and chiles. It’s a plate rooted in traditions of Madeira, the Portuguese island lined with river systems teeming with trout. Passion fruit is another popular ingredient on the island, but by mixing it with ramps, Conlon manages to give the dish a Midwestern tilt.
2957 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-661-9170
Mon Ami Gabi
With winter in the rear view, vegetable courses are shifting away from hearty root vegetables toward the likes of steamed artichokes with lemon Dijon. At Mon Ami Gabi, executive chef Michael Battocletti renders the artichokes tender and aromatic, heaps them with shaved vegetables and serves them with lemony sauce for dipping or dressing. The restaurant is also featuring a spring vegetable casareccia pasta with asparagus, radishes, peas, poached egg, preserved lemon and Grana Padano cheese.
2300 N. Lincoln Park W; 773-348-8886
Asparagus takes the spotlight at Le Bouchon, as Bucktown’s beloved French bistro gives the spring staple a French accent. A menu newcomer, toothsome stalks of French white asparagus are flecked with nasturtiums and brioche bread crumbs, finished with an enriching glaze of brown butter hollandaise.
1958 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-6600
The Loop’s lavish new lobby bar is embracing the tropics and getting downright beachy with its latest batch of sweets. Courtesy of sous-chef Melissa Cozzi, pineapple guava macarons are as tasty as they are cute. Pineapple gel and guava buttercream are sandwiched between two crispy meringues. Each cookie is finished with a little squeeze of pineapple gel.
39 S. LaSalle St.; 312-750-9012
Dos Urban Cantina
Asparagus, carrots and rhubarb all shine on Dos Urban Cantina’s latest menu. The seasonally inspired modern Mexican restaurant continues to impress with its beautiful octopus-asparagus medley, which pairs tender braised octopus with sweet pea purée, asparagus, green beans and sugar peas. It gets a savory enhancement from chicharron prensado, a Mexican staple made by frying carnitas in its own fat before pressing them. For dessert, pastry chef Jennifer Jones Enyart draws inspiration from carrot cake for her new flan, a silken custard served over ginger-orange cream-cheese cream and topped with mango and papaya glazed in ginger-lemongrass syrup. It’s all topped with spiced candied pecans and carrot chips. Then there’s rhubarb angel food cake. The tart spring fruit is poached in a syrup infused with Mexican vanilla bean, fennel seed, hibiscus and arbol chile, then poured over angel food cake and accented with whipped mascarpone and fennel seed–studded cookies.
2829 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-661-6452
Summer House Santa Monica
Between the new poke menu and the new rosé-filled wine cart, Summer House Santa Monica just might be the springiest restaurant in Chicago. Embracing vibrant flavors and readying for hotter temps, the Lincoln Park fixture rolled out a few new lunchtime poke varieties, including one made with spicy big-eye tuna (pictured) and another with Ora King salmon, each served over a choice of sushi rice with ginger or a kale salad with Napa cabbage. For drinks, rosé is the star of Summer House's new seasonal wine cart, which roves the dining room filling glasses with varietals from Monterey, Provence and beyond. The restaurant even has its own exclusive rosé, "Take Me Home," which was selected by wine director and sommelier Ryan Arnold.
1954 N. Halsted St.; 773-634-4100
Cauliflower takes the spotlight at Giant in an herb-packed entree that sings of spring. Putting vegetables front-and-center, chef Jason Vincent covers cauliflower in a sauce made of mint, basil and parsley before roasting it until caramelized. It's all topped with Parmesan for added richness and salt.
3209 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-252-0997
There’s lots to savor at Steadfast this season as chef de cuisine Todd Harris and pastry chef Chris Teixeira amp up the spring menu. Get started with a maple-sweetened carrot soup with coconut and compressed apple or a coriander-spiced rabbit with orange and fennel. For entrees, fava beans add fresh flare to lamb shank, while white asparagus adjoins whole Mediterranean sea bass. For pastry and dessert, Teixeira is baking up purple potato bread and saffron sourdough with accompaniments like pickled ramps and anchovies with leeks and capers.
120 W. Monroe St.; 312-801-8899
Trevor Teich is always good for a whimsical interpretation of seasonal fare, and his latest multicourse tasting menu for his fine-dining pop-up restaurant Claudia is no exception. The spring menu is bursting with color and pizzazz, most evident in his pre-dessert course, a popsicle with peas and carrots. The dish is Teich’s ode to both the season and childhood snacks. It’s a carrot creamsicle coated in a crumble made from freeze-fried English peas, almond flour, butter and sugar. Reservations for the spring menu can be made via Claudia’s website.
327 N. Bell St.; 773-856-3113
Strawberry-rhubarb French toast is livening up the breakfast menu at this familial Bridgeport classic, while spring dinner fare includes newcomers like gnocchi with peas, asparagus and roasted tomatoes in tarragon butter sauce, and pan-roasted sea bass (pictured) with pickled red onions in a green, herbal mole.
3267 S. Halsted St.; 312-929-2486
True to form, chef CJ Jacobson handily applies a Mediterranean accent to seasonal, locally sourced fare at River North's Ēma with his latest crop of creations including a toasty farro risotto (pictured) with baby artichokes, spring onions and spinach; grilled asparagus with citrusy olive tapenade and za'atar sabayon; and spiced carrots with peppered walnuts, rosemary, housemade labneh cheese and zhoug, a potent chile sauce popular in the Middle East.
74 W. Illinois St.; 312-527-5586