In 2016, I had the opportunity to visit a lot of area restaurants, ranging from fast-food places to very upscale spots. Below are some of the ones that stood head and shoulders above the others.
Analogue ( 2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.; AnalogueChicago.com ): Analogue was a relatively simple, relaxed site with Southern fare that was simultaneously straightforward, traditional (although with the occasional twist) and more complex than one might've originally thought. NOTE: Analogue closed in summer 2016.
Charlatan ( 1329 W. Chicago Ave.; CharlatanChicago.com ): With cuisine labelled as "Italian countryhouse meets Midwest farmhouse," this spot has items like goat cheese-stuffed chicken breast and sports phrases such as "Che cazzo fai?"
Oyster Bah ( 1962 N. Halsted St.; OysterBah.com ): Being from the Chesapeake Bay area, I'm normally a bit skeptical of Chicago's seafood offerings. However, this spot has some of the best seafood I'd had in a long time. Don't skip the stuffies!
Arami ( 1829 W. Chicago Ave.; AramiChicago.com ): This Japanese spot has a rather nondescript exteriorbut the interior ( decor- and cuisine-wise ) is the total opposite. Maki, ramen, sashimithey're all excellent.
Travelle Kitchen + Bar ( 330 N. Wabash St.; TravelleChicago.com ): Chef de Cuisine Ricardo Jarquin offers some stunning dishes at this Langham Chicago spot ( in the former IBM building ). Some of them include the chilled English pea soup ( with lump crab, cucumber and yuzu ), pork and clams, and the banana-and-peanut butter pot de creme.
LondonHouse Chicago's rooftop bar ( 85 E. Upper Wacker Dr.; LondonHouseChicago.com ): This is the city's only tri-level rooftop venueand boasts everything from imaginative cocktails to tasty dishes to an unforgettable view from the 23rd-floor cupola.
Green Zebra ( 1460 W. Chicago Ave.; GreenZebraChicago.com ): What do you mean you don't like vegetarian fare? Green Zebra will change your mind, thanks to items like the beet ( not beef ) tartare and pumpkin pot stickers.
Runner-ups include NaKorn, Nonnina and Cafe Spiaggia.
Here's looking forward to 2017!
Note: Restaurant profiles are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.