20 Must-Try Spring Dishes Around Chicago

By Sarah Freeman  |  April 14, 2015

Clear your eating schedules; spring is here. It's time to shun those hearty stews filled with heavy meat and root vegetables in favor of fresh seafood and early vegetables. Check out what Chicago chefs are planning for this exciting season that marks the return of ramps, carrots and peas in colorful dishes.

  • Ramp Risotto at Two

    One of the best uses of spring’s most clamored-after ingredient is ramp risotto. This creamy dish is prepared with roasted ramp purée and garnished with pickled ramps, roasted ramp bulbs and housemade bacon.

  • Halibut at Piccolo Sogno

    ‘Tis the season for Alaskan halibut. This tender fish is served with spring onions, peas, carrots, farro, lemon oil and mint.

  • Goat Cheese Ravioli at RPM Italian

    The second ramp sighting on our list comes courtesy of chef Doug Psaltis, who uses them in a pesto that acts as a bed for goat cheese ravioli. 

  • Array of River Salmon at Tru

    Each spring chef Anthony Martin gets a rare shipment of river salmon. He prepares it two ways. First, the belly is cured for 10 hours. Second, salmon roulade is cold smoked with herb mousse. The final presentation is meant to evoke a salmon stream.

  • Vegetables Salteados at Black Bull

    Seasonal vegetable charred on the grill is one of the most simple and satisfying treats of the season. These get topped with a soft-boiled egg, carrot mousse and salsa verde.

  • Carrot Salad at The Winchester

    Chef Greg Bastien’s cooking philosophy is all about showcasing ingredients in their most basic form. Take the carrot salad, which mixes the root vegetable with fennel and pumpkin seed and complements it with avocado and citrus-ginger vinaigrette.

  • Credit: Derek Richmond

    Madai Nigiri at Momotaro

    It's difficult to go wrong with any of the raw seafood presentations here, but if you want a taste of spring opt for the madai (similar to snapper) nigiri topped with watermelon radish.

  • Credit: Galdones Photography

    Trout at BOKA

    Chef Lee Wolen has a way with seasonal ingredients, whether it's his famous heirloom carrot salad or this lightly smoked sea trout, accompanied by cauliflower, apples and radish.

  • Bunny Slope at Lula Cafe

    Lula takes on the savory cocktail trend with a carrot cocktail made with aquavit, carrot, white pepper and sage.

  • Spring Bruschetta at Ada Street

    Best enjoyed in the backyard, adjacent to fresh herb gardens and a Ping-Pong table, the spring bruschetta is topped with spring pea hummus and grilled fennel.

  • Slow-Roasted King Salmon at Bohemian House

    King salmon gets the VIP treatment — it's slow roasted in butter and then tossed with fresh spring ingredients such as peas, mushrooms and ramps.

  • Shaved Carrot Salad at Travelle

    This beaut comes from chef Tim Graham, who garnishes his take with roasted chile vinaigrette and sunflower.

  • Sea Scallops at Blackbird

    This dish is almost too pretty to eat — the scallops are served with foie gras torchon, sunflower and radishes over grape dashi.

  • Jonah Crab & Baby Artichoke Salad at CH Distillery

    Last season’s asparagus get a second chance with baby artichoke accented by preserved lemon, Jonah crab, lardo and crispy shallots.

  • Spring Vegetable Salad at Quartino

    One of chef John Coletta’s favorite spring ingredients is flower pollen, which he sprinkles over shaved carrots, celery, beets, fennel, radishes, yellow squash and zucchini. The salad is dressed with lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

  • Asparagus Soup at Mon Ami Gabi

    This vibrant soup is made with spring peas and asparagus, and accented with minted crème fraîche.

  • Saturn at Three Dots and a Dash

    This River North tiki bar welcomes spring with its first major menu change in over a year. In addition to an entire section devoted to riffs on Painkillers, the menu also brings back an opening favorite, the Saturn (Royal Dock gin, passion fruit, lemon, Falernum and orgeat).

  • Credit: Anjali Pinto

    Spring Tartine at The Bristol

    Take a bite out of spring with one of executive chef Sean Pharr’s inaugural menu additions, fresh spring tartine topped with black pepper ham, whipped ricotta and soft-boiled egg.

  • Spring Lamb at La Sirena Clandestina

    Lamb is the meat of choice as spring goes into full swing. Chef John Manion combines lamb sausage and lamb terrine on a plate with Greek yogurt, Meyer lemon and fava beans.

  • Sourdough & Cheddar Waffle at Café des Architectes

    Starting this Friday, April 17, pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky will be offering these bubble waffles on her dessert menu. They're made with housemade cheddar from Chestnut Provisions and topped with sweet cream cheese, macerated strawberries, strawberry sorbet, green almonds and caramel.