Where can you find world-class cuisine of all types at super-reasonable prices? Chicago. From tapas to American comfort food to traditional French, there’s something for every taste in the Windy City. Dig in!
Tapas has come to the Windy City with a bang! Visit Sangria, which serves up top-notch Spanish food in a sprightly, modern setting. These are dishes you’ll want to share with friends, like marinated, grilled mussels with chipotle mojo and fresh tomato; crisp-fried calamari, and serrano ham with manchego cheese. Then sample the huge selection of tapas, like ceviche of ahi tuna, bacon-wrapped dates, warm goat cheese, or chicken enchiladas. And with prices between $3.50 and $7 each, you’ll want to order just about everything. Or if you’re dining a deux, not with a group, try the seafood paella, grilled swordfish, or oven-roasted chicken with green olives, Spanish onions and garlic. And whatever you do, be sure to order the eponymous drink; there’re even specialty sangrias, like white peach, raspberry, and mango, as well as scores of sultry Spanish cocktails like a Spanish mimosa and mojitos. Oh, and Sangria has a small but fun wine list – check out the rose champagne!
Tru’s motto is “fine dining with a sense of humor.” Tru strives to maintain the integrity of every ingredient in each of its dishes, and its chefs are extremely focused on staying “Tru” to their craft. The minimalist in you will revel in this exquisitely designed restaurant. Its all-white decor, especially its sheer white drapes, give it a hushed, serene ambience, a sense of perfect calm. Every detail is perfect, from striking artwork to exquisitely designed plates (order the “stairway to caviar heaven,” where three kinds of caviar crown each step of a three-tiered, staircase-shaped plate!) And of course, glassware, flatware and linens are all top-notch. Tru’s extensive, cutting-edge, well-balanced wine list features wines from hot, up and coming areas that complement the light, seafood-based menu (prix fixe only) with Asian-Mediterranean influences. You might start your meal with langoustine ravioli with edamame and lemongrass-kaffir lime emulsion, or butter-poached Maine lobster, or swan creek ricotta gnocchi. For entrees, go for the roasted milk-fed veal tenderloin or the veal sweetbread ragout with sauce surpreme. But be sure to save room for dessert; try the chocolate mousse crepe with banana bisque and candied mint, or an old-fashioned root beer float. Both are divine!
Fuse at Hotel 71
Critics and lay-diners agree: French-American cuisine is fabulous at Fuse, where a simply presented menu lets the flavors in the dishes speak for themselves. Try the yellow and red beet carpaccio with frisee, mache, orange supremes, chives and truffle vinaigrette, or chef Aubriot’s signature dish, seared foie gras with bittersweet chocolate sauce – it’s just perfect a cold winter evening. Then dive into roasted black cod with poached egg, black olives, truffles, and zucchini puree, or braised short ribs with parsnip puree, glazed Brussels sprouts and braising liquid. Whatever you do, don’t rush: this is “slow food” made to be enjoyed leisurely!
I recommend a stay at Hotel 71, where style and design meet form and function. Here is a hotel committed to helping its clients take care of business smoothly, then relax when work is done. With 422 guestrooms and 32 suites, it can accommodate events of just about any size, and guests also enjoy a twenty-four hour fitness center, broadband Internet connections, three telephones in each room, and more. Urban and sophisticated yet proud of its Midwestern values, it’s a friendly yet elegant environment.
Heaven on Seven
It’s the best Cajun restaurant outside of New Orleans! This cozy family-run joint really is heaven for Cajun lovers. If you’re craving an oyster po’ boy, jambalaya, chicken fried steak or New Orleans-style BBQ, Heaven on Seven is it. And lovers of all things hot n’ spicy can bring a unique hot sauce to add to the Wall of Fire, an extensive collection of hot sauces around the world.
South Water Kitchen
If you’re looking for old-fashioned comfort with an upscale twist, look no further than South Water Kitchen, adjacent to hot, trendy Hotel Monaco. Located in the loop, South Water Kitchen harkens back to a time when dinner was an important event, never something eaten in a rush while standing at the kitchen counter. Warm lighting, rich colors, and fringed lamps on the tables are reminiscent of a stately Chicago saloon circa 1910, and reasonable prices will certainly make you feel like you’re traveling back in time. Order a drink from the bustling bar, then start with a hearty butternut squash soup or a deviled-eggs salad. Then move on to one of the wide selection of sandwiches, like hickory-smoked turkey pastrami with cranberry mayonnaise on country rosemary bread. Stick-to-your-ribs entrees could include sautéed tilapia accompanied by mashed potatoes, spinach, and caper-butter pan sauce, or crock-simmered pot roast with root cellar vegetables and smoked pepper gravy. This is truly an anti-fast-food establishment!
If You Go:
901 West Weed Street
Chicago, IL 60622
71 East Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
South Water Kitchen
225 N Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60601
Heaven on Seven (on Wabash)
11 North Wabash Ave., 7th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602
www.heavenonseven.com (Check their Web-site for other locations.)
676 North Saint Clair Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Sheree Bykofsky is the author of The Best Places to Kiss in and Around NYC and the 52 Most Romantic Dates in and Around NYC
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