From old standbys to new hot spots, keeping tabs on Chicago's bars and restaurants can be overwhelming. Considering the constant influx of movement and openings, it’s only natural some places slip through the cracks. So, while these 10 restaurants may not get all the fanfare, they deserve just as much praise.
Perhaps it gets lost in the fray of its busier, more booze-focused sister spots Scofflaw, Slippery Slope and The Heavy Feather, but Scofflaw Group’s first full-fledged restaurant deserves acclaim for serving exemplary seafood and show-stopping desserts in a beautifully nautical-themed space on the western edge of Logan Square.
Must-order: BBQ fish collars with Sink BBQ sauce and kimchi
3213 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-486-7465
Good Stuff Eatery
Shake Shack and M Burger get a lot of the attention when it comes to high-quality “fast-food” burgers. Good Stuff Eatery, however, not only serves the best fries of the bunch, but also has some pretty killer patties. The fact that the restaurant, owned by DC-based Spike Mendelsohn, is nestled under the “L” tracks in the Loop probably isn’t doing it any favors in terms of visibility either.
Must-order: Prez Obama Burger with applewood bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese and horseradish mayo
22 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-854-3027
The Victor Bar
North Center isn't the first neighborhood you think of when you envisioning craft cocktails in Chicago. That fact, coupled with the completely nondescript facade, makes The Victor Bar a cocktail lounge that’s pretty easy to pass over for other prominent North Side drinking dens like The Sixth and Band of Bohemia. But you’d be remiss in not paying a visit to this dimly lit and deeply comforting Parisian-inspired bar, where friendly bartenders are adept at shaking and stirring up any number of classic cocktails and newfangled creations.
Must-order: Mezcal old fashioned
4011 N. Damen Ave.; 312-526-3233
This River North restaurant takes its seafood very seriously. In fact, when it opened it was the first restaurant in town dedicated exclusively to sustainable fish and seafood, so it’s been a bit of a pioneer in the industry. And it continues to be, despite the fact that it’s nestled just far enough off the beaten path Downtown to get lost a little bit. From oyster towers and shrimp rolls, to Skuna Bay salmon and crab hushpuppies, Kinmont does a lot of things and they do them well.
Must-order: Catch of the day
419 W. Superior St.; 312-915-0011
After two years on one of Chicago’s first cook-on-board food trucks, the authentic Jamaican-style jerk chicken concept found a permanent home in River West. The 3,500-sq.-ft. restaurant offers a fast-casual take on the food-truck staples, like its famed jerk chicken, jerk brisket, coconut rice and salted buttered potatoes. The secret to Jerk’s success is owner and Jamaica native Dion Solano’s secret jerk sauce, which is used as a marinade before the meat is flame grilled.
Must-order: Jerk chicken
811 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-763-2870
The Cotton Duck
The line between visual and edible art is skewed at this gallery/restaurant hybrid. Rotating art exhibits accompany a seasonal menu, and drinks take their cue from the artists' work. Although the restaurant is BYOB, mixologist and co-founder of Rare Botanical Bitters Company Adam Seger created a menu of house sodas and spirit-free cocktails, which are accompanied by an alcohol recommendation.
Must-order: Crispy chicken liver tartine and n’duja risotta with charred octopus
941 N. Damen Ave.; 773-661-6131
All hail the neighborhood tavern, which is making a comeback in Humboldt Park thanks to Rodney Staton and Jason Balutan. The concise menu offers gourmet bar snacks, including smoked catfish dip and tortilla espanola — plus seasonal entrees like a glorious roasted half chicken and one of the best under-the-radar burgers in town.
Must-order: Roasted half chicken with baby carrots and glazed garlic jus
2759 W. Augusta Blvd.; 773-661-1084
In the last couple years, Chicago has seen a welcome resurgence of fine-dining destinations like Oriole and Smyth. But don't forget about the O.G. Under the direction of dexterous chef Anthony Martin, Tru is as good as its ever been. It helped pave the way for the tasting menu and continues to exhibit culinary prowess through its famed caviar service and ever-changing lineup of beautiful, seasonal dishes.
Must-order: Multicourse prix fixe
676 N. St. Clair St.; 312-202-0001
Considering the countless steakhouses that dot Chicago's dining landscape, it's easy to overlook Rural Society tucked inside the Loews Chicago Hotel. The South American–accented steakhouse, though, is one of the more unique offerings in town, thanks to the watchful tutelage of famed chef Jose Garces. Here, Argentinean plates, wood-grilled steaks, housemade sausages and rustic pastas make for a memorable and meaty meal.
Must-order: Grass-fed skirt steak from Uruguay
455 N. Park Dr.; 312-840-6605
There are a lot of bakeries throughout Chicago, but few are as adorable and heartwarmingly nostalgic as this Bucktown gem. Refreshingly, the shop eschews trends and buzzy items (no Cronut knockoffs here) for straight up Americana: perfect cupcakes, cookies, scones, oatmeal sandwich cookies and more. The cafe is small but mighty, with a loyal following of locals. So, perhaps it's almost best that it stays a "secret."
Must-order: Slice of whatever cake is available that day
2246 W. North Ave.; 773-384-7655