Filini Bar & Restaurant ( 221 N. Columbus Dr.; filinichicago.com/ ) is an Italian restaurant with an unusual situation that I witnessed recently.
It was a tale of two Filinis, actually. The ground level of the restaurant ( located in the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel ) was bustling, thanks to the spot's happy hour. A mix of hotel guests and businesspeople who work nearby were loudly whooping it up and having a great time.
The second level, however, was a different story. The elegant floor ( with some of the coolest booths around ) was practically devoid of diners the entire time I was therewhich was a shame.
Filini should be a destination restaurant for practically anyonea group of friends, family members, people who are dating, etc.
The evening was enjoyable, thanks to spiffy service and very satisfying dishes. ( Note: The online menu may not reflect some of the dishes I had. ) The roasted cauliflower appetizer alone would have me coming back for more, and the Brussels sprouts were enticing as well, and I'm not the biggest fan of either vegetable. ( Unfortunately, these are currently not on the menu. )
However, other highlights are. The burrata ( with tomato preserve, seeded lavash and basil ) was one of the better I've had, and the artistically plated salmon ( with asparagus, red veined sorrel and smoked Arctic char roe ) was divine. My favorite item, however, was relatively simple: pizza with fennel sausage, mozzarella, roasted garlic and spicy tomato saucewhich isn't that spicy if I can eat it.
Nowadays, restaurants have all sorts of attractions ( besides food ) to draw people in search of more well-rounded experiences.
Located on the Chicago River in the River East Arts Center ( and very close to tourist-centric Navy Pier ), Pinstripes ( 435 E. Illinois St.; pinstripes.com/chicago-illinois/ ) is one such place, as it has bocce ( $5-$12/hour ) and bowling ( $8-$15/hour ) in addition to its primarily contemporary American dishes.
As for the food, there are seasonal, locally sourced menu featuresincluding a new farmers' market salad, featuring butternut squash, pomegranates and a pecan vinaigrette.
The offerings are hardly exoticbut they don't need to be, and they're solidly done. An ahi tuna salad featured properly seared tuna, organic mixed greens, sesame crostini and red-wine vinaigrette, while the prosciutto-fig flatbread was sufficiently tasty. Stuffed mushrooms were bursting with zucchini, goat cheese, artichoke, sundried tomato and roasted red pepper.
In addition, my dinner guest really liked his roasted cauliflower pasta dish, and the open-faced grilled salmon sandwich had just enough cucumber-dill yogurt to balance the well-cooked fish. If there was a weak link, it was the venue's Moscow Mule, which was practically watery.
Pinstripescome for the bowling ( or bocce ), and stay for the burgers ( or whatever else tickles your fancy ).
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.