You’re probably aware we’re in the throes of pumpkin season. Menus at restaurants, bars and bakeries — and, of course, Starbucks — are filling up with the orange gourds in every way, shape and form. But there are plenty of ways you can enjoy the season beyond the cloying pumpkin spice standard. Here are 17 pumpkin dishes and drinks you should be ordering right now in Chicago.
Tiramisu at il Porcellino
An Italian classic fuses with harvest season at River North’s il Porcellino. New to the dessert cart this season, pumpkin tiramisu is a cozy riff on the staple, sporting layers of spice-roasted pumpkin, espresso, lady fingers, mascarpone and nutmeg.
59 W. Hubbard St.; 312-595-0800
Flan at Dos Urban Cantina
From a Mexican-inspired apple crisp to a cocktail infused with turkey broth syrup, Dos Urban Cantina is destination number one for innovative seasonal dishes. Another prime example is pastry chef Jennifer Jones Enyart’s new pumpkin flan with caramelized chicharróns.
2829 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-661-6452
Macarons at RM Champagne Salon
True to form for a chic Parisian lounge, RM Champagne Salon is rightfully renowned for its delicate macarons. The dainty desserts rotate flavors year round, with the latest batch being a lustrous pumpkin version made with a buttercream of puréed pumpkin, freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon.
116 N. Green St.; 312-243-1199
Nitro coffee and pumpkin pecan pie at Beatrix
Pumpkins are rolling all over the menus at Beatrix, both in beverage form and dessert. For a caffeine jolt, try the pumpkin cream nitro coffee, which features housemade pumpkin and vanilla whipped cream. It pairs nicely with a slice of pumpkin pecan pie, made with shortbread crust, pecan filling, pumpkin mousse, cinnamon and whipped cream.
Chai at Argo Tea
Pumpkin spice latte, eat your heart out. Argo Tea has an apt substitute this season with its habit-forming pumpkin chai. Easily its most popular seasonal drink, the autumn warmer (also available iced) contains antioxidant-rich rooibos and heady pumpkin spices.
Cupcake at Swirlz
At Chicago’s original cupcake bakery, pumpkin pairs with some pretty unique flavors far beyond the typical cinnamon and clove. One of its seasonal novelties, Swirlz’s pumpkin cupcake features a layer of white chocolate and a crown of coffee buttercream, capped off with a smattering of white chocolate curls.
705 W. Belden Ave.; 773-404-2253
Beers at DryHop Brewers and Corridor Brewery & Provisions
When it comes to autumn imbibing, pumpkin beers are almost as ubiquitous as pumpkin lattes. And if it’s the former you’re looking for, do it right by visiting sister breweries DryHop Brewers and Corridor Brewery & Provisions. Both are serving two unique riffs on pumpkin beers this year, and both happen to have adorably unique names. Starry Night in Sleepy Hollow is a pumpkin stout at DryHop, brewed with squash, lactose and pumpkin pie spices, while the Nibble, Nibble Little Mouse at Corridor is a pumpkin spice and walnut farmhouse ale.
Margarita at Broken Shaker at the Freehand Chicago
Leave it to the Broken Shaker to completely reinvent the idea of pumpkin beverages. Ever the crafty cocktail bar, responsible for the likes of Salted Pretzel Sazeracs and Cocoa Puff juleps, Broken Shaker’s latest invention is its Squash the Beet margarita. It features Olmeca Altos Reposado tequila and Ancho Reyes shaken with Mexican-spiced pumpkins, yellow beets and fresh lime. Spicy pepita salt provides the finishing touch along the rim.
19 E. Ohio St.; 312-940-3699
Desserts at Magnolia Bakery
It's practically raining pumpkins at Magnolia Bakery, where the October menu is filled to the brim with bright orange desserts. Current offerings include icebox pie, muffins, cake, cupcakes, cheesecake, pie, whoopie pies, brownies and thumbprint cookies with maple glaze.
108 N. State St.; 312-346-7777
Milkshake at Chicken & Farm Shop
The milkshake of the month at adorably pastoral Chicken & Farm Shop just so happens to be an homage to pumpkin pie. Sure to whet your appetite for the ensuing holiday season, the dessert-in-a-cup is made with vanilla ice cream, organic pumpkin purée, graham crackers, light brown sugar, bourbon vanilla extract and cinnamon, topped off with some housemade whipped cream and crumbled graham crackers.
113-125 N. Green St.; 312-521-8000
Pie at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Joe’s may be best known for its seafood and steaks, but the perpetual River North hot spot is also famed for its sky-high pies. For the fall months, one of the standouts is its pumpkin pie, an apt homage to a classic with graham cracker crust, pumpkin chiffon, housemade whipped cream spiced walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup.
60 E. Grand Ave.; 312-379-5637
Los picarones at Tanta
Take a trip to South America by way of River North to get a taste of pumpkin in a way you’ve likely not tasted before. Or at the very least, Tanta’s los picarones are a far cry from your typical pumpkin pie. They’re Peruvian sweet potato and pumpkin fritters, served with warm chancaca syrup, a classic sweet sauce in South America made by simmering sugar cane stalks with cloves, cinnamon, star anise, figs and orange peel.
118 W. Grand Ave.; 312-222-9700
Spaghetti squash at GreenRiver
Pumpkin seeds get their spotlight at GreenRiver, where chef Aaron Lirette has rolled out a handful of colorful new fall dishes. One of which is a roasted spaghetti squash medley flecked with toasted pumpkin seeds and other autumnal notes like frilled honeycrisp apples, housemade cider vinegar and raclette.
259 E. Erie St.; 312-337-0101
Short ribs at Bistronomic
They’re really packing in the fall flavor at Bistronomic, especially in one particular dish that loads up short ribs with roasted Brussels sprouts and pumpkin purée. There’s also a red wine reduction, which rounds out the savory dish quite nicely, and altogether it’s a big plate of warming comfort.
840 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-944-8400
Lamb at STK
One of the mightiest new entrees on STK's brand-new menu is autumn on a plate. It's a show-stopping presentation of Australian rack of lamb, which gets crusted with pumpkin seeds and served over parsnip purée with heirloom beets and shallots. Be sure and bring an appetite.
9 W. Kinzie St.; 312-340-5636
Soup and cocktail at Lawry's The Prime Rib
Pumpkin manifests in both edible and potable forms at one of Chicago's most iconic steakhouses. On the food menu, chef Leonard Delgado has a smoky pumpkin flower soup, his take on the classic Latin sopa de flor de calavaza. Along with chopped pumpkin flowers, he blends zucchini, roasted poblano, carrots, onion, garlic, corn and tomato purée. It pairs nicely with the Sage Wisdom cocktail, featuring bourbon, sweet potato and pumpkin purée, Amaro Nonino, cardamom bitters and demerara syrup.
100 E. Ontario St.; 312-787-5000
Pancakes at Seven Lions
If there's any food with a natural inclination for pumpkin spice, it's pancakes. Especially when the pancakes are adorned with a bourbon- and maple-based syrup, cream cheese frosting and Cinnamon Toast Crunch streusel. It's everything you could crave on a crisp morning, available during brunch.
130 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-880-0130