Chicago has thousands of restaurantsand Windy City Times checked out a few of the spots last year. Below are some of the best that this writer witnessed ( in no particular order ):
Twain ( 2445 N. Milwaukee Ave.; www.twainchicago.com/ ): This Logan Square restaurant deserves all the business it can get. The Grahams ( chef Tim and sommelier wife Rebekah ) evoke Midwestern nostalgia with dishes like creamy chicken and dumplings ( inside pots similar to what your grandmother used ) and drinks like The Sconnie ( with Korbel and Sprite )and now it offers brunch.
Marchesa ( ( 535 N. Wells St.; marchesachicago.com/ ): This River North spot manages to be simultaneously majestic and intimate. The eatery features upscale Italian, Spanish and French dishes, and Executive Chef Mark Sabbe definitely knows what he's doing. Offerings like the orecchiette pomodoro e rapini must be tasted to be believedeven if the prices make this spot a special-occasion restaurant rather than an everyday haunt.
Prosecco ( 710 N. Wells St.; prosecco.us.com/wordpress/ ): Marchesa partners partners Jason Clark and Kathryn Sullivan Alvera actually worked together at nearby spot Proseccobut this restaurant will treat you like royalty, from the exuberant waitstaff to the Italian dishes that will have you returning for more.
LiqrBox ( 873 N. Orleans St.; liqrboxchicago.com/ ): And things become even more complicated, as Prosecco Executive Chef Mark Sparacino also spearheads this innovative clubstaurant that will take you back to your childhood. Sparacino serves items such as ( large ) pizza rolls, shrimp corn dogs, creamy mac 'n' cheese served in a parmesan bowl and a loaf of cheesy breadwith part of it cut out to hold tomato soup. It's perfect comfort food.
FRIO Gelato ( FRIOGelato.com ): Serving genuine Argentinian gelato, FRIO ( which now has three locations, in Andersonville, Lake View and Evanston ) has several exciting flavorsand styles. There are gelato shops in Argentina that revolve solely around the dulce de leche ( understandable ), but FRIO ( in which everything is made in-house ) has flavors such as frutilla ( strawberry ), malbec con frutos rojos ( malbec wine with berries ), queso y miel ( cheese and honey ), menta granizala ( mint chocolate chip ), banana and many others. For me, it's never too cold to have gelato, especially when it's this good.
Tied House ( 3157 N. Southport Ave.; www.tiedhousechicago.com/ ): Next door to the popular spot Schubas Tavern, Tied House occupies the spot where Harmony Grill used to bebut it certainly isn't the same as its predecessor. The exciting and complex dishes include beeswax-aged mackerel, which comes with leek, yellow beet, horseradish and duck sauce; and milk-braised pork, with cabbage, salsify and apple. Even the bread service is a step above that of most restaurants.
Mott St. ( 1401 N. Ashland Ave.; www.mottstreetchicago.com/ ) is an Asian-themed restaurant for the adventurous. For example, the menu takes appetizers like grilled cauliflower and adds sahmjang butter, fennel seed and almonds. However, the centerpiece ( if you're lucky enough to get there on time ) is the Mott Burgera wondrous concoction consisting of double chuck patties, sweet-potato shoestrings, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, miso butter and American cheese.
Dog Haus Biergarten Lincoln Park ( 2464 N. Lincoln Ave.; lincolnpark.doghaus.com ): This spot surprised me. Just when you think you've seen everything regarding hot dogs ( and burgers ), Dog Haus ups the game with gourmet items like the pun-worthy Scott Baioli ( smoked bacon-wrapped dog, cheddar cheese sauce and caramelized onions, garlic aioli )all served on those sweet King's Hawaiian rolls.
Streeterville Social ( 455 N. Park Dr.; LoewsHotels.com/Chicago/Downtown ): This spot is elusive only because it's seasonal. On the rooftop of The Loews Hotel, I was lucky enough to partake of a brunch that include the tasty ( and huge ) avocado toast, gluten-free wild-rice pancakes and more. During the summer, this place is a must-try.
Ronero ( 738 W. Randolph St.; www.ronerochicago.com/ ): "Ronero" refers to someone who has mastered the art of distilling rumand, this West Loop spot has approximately 200 different bottles of the drink. However, it offers so much more, like empanadas and pollo al vino rojo ( a half-chicken with pate and roasted raisins )as well as music and an atmosphere that epitomize Latin America.
Honorable mentions: Aurelio's Pizza Wrigleyville, The Florentine, The Dearborn, The Purple Pig, Mercat a la Planxa, The Bakery at Fat Rice, Bounce Sporting Club, Lark, Homestead on the Roof, Travelle and Conrad's Grill.