Last year, I had the pleasure of visiting dozens of spots covering a wide variety of cuisines. Here are some of the bestso indulge in what these spots have to offer:
Roanoke Restaurant and Club ( 135 W. Madison St.; TheRoanokeRestaurant.com ): Brunch at this Loop spot was absolutely wonderful, thanks for a delicious variety of itemsincluding the French toast and the power bowl, as well as an impressive range of cocktails and mocktails.
Taureaux Tavern ( 155 W. Van Buren St.; TaureauxTavern.com ): Nestled in the Loop's financial district ( as the restaurant's name notifies, as "Taureaux" is French for "bull' ), this restaurant not only excels with Gallic dishes, but with Italian and U.S. ones as well.
Tuscany on Taylor ( 1014 W. Taylor St.; TuscanyChicago.com/location/chicago ): For anyone looking for classic Italian dishes done well, this is the spotand it's been serving said classics since 1990. Not only are the antipasti delightful, but you can't go wrong with the pizzas ( cooked in a wood-burning oven ) or the decadent desserts.
Victory Italian ( 434 W. Ontario St.; VictoryItalian.com ): Continuing along the Italian-restaurant track, the vibe at this River North spot is extremely cooldown to the many photographs of celebrities that dot the walls. As for the food, just start with an appetizer pizza or meatball salad ( with a giant beef-and-veal ball ) and go from there.
Le Colonial ( 57 E. Oak St.; LeColonialChicago.com ): The revered French-Vietnamese spot may have altered locations, but not its standards. From cocktails such as the Chanh Day ( Grey Goose vodka, passionfruit and fresh lime ) to appetizers like the cha gio ( spring rolls of shrimp, pork and Asian mushrooms, with chili-lime dipping sauce ) to the signature chicken-fried rice, this place definitely warrants a visit.
Mango Pickle ( 5842 N. Broadway; MangoPickleChicago.com ): Mango Pickle features reimagined Indian dishes courtesy of Chef Marisa Paolilloan Italian-American who fell in love with Indian cuisine while residing in Mumbai with her husband for nine years. The result is a menu full of delicious ( and affordable ) itemsand, yes, there's a vegetarian menu.
Avil Taverna ( 1335 W. Wrightwood Ave.; avil.us ): Another Avil has since opened, in River North ( and I plan to visit it soon ), but this Lincoln Park spot was sheer bliss. Adhering to authenticity to Greek culture while also putting its own spin on certain dishes, the menu includes everything from lobster spaghetti to a dessert consisting of housemade vanilla ice cream surrounding a caramel baklava center, with shredded phyllo on top.
GT Fish & Oyster ( 531 N. Wells St.; GTOyster.com ): This place, of course, specializes in seafoodbut encompasses far more than the name implies. The fried-oyster slider is a must-have, but the crudo, duck-leg confit, tuna poke and even the strawberry key-lime pie aren't far behind.
Tao Chicago ( 632 N. Dearborn st.; TaoChicago.com ): Located at the former Excalibur nightclub, the size of the space is almost matched by the extensiveness of the menu. The true highlight turned out to be the wagyu rib-eye teppanyakiand it's worth the celebration-only price of $89. However, everything I tried was a treat for the taste budsand don't miss the giant fortune cookie.
Runners-up: Francois Frankie, Grand Trunk Road, Flight Club, City Mouse, The Purple Pig, River Roast and Bonci Pizza