November 10, 2011
A recap of the restaurants I've reviewed in the last six weeks or so:
2601 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-292-9463. The owners of Webster's Wine Bar and The Bluebird created this Logan Square newcomer, which has a predictably impressive wine list (and staffers who can discuss it expertly). But the clean, bright, season-driven cooking by chef John Anderes (ex-Avec) ensures that this will never be merely a wine bar with food. Recommended: Tartines, steelhead salmon with Brussels sprouts, grilled Amish chicken. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $15-$22. Credit cards: A, DC, M, V. Reservations: Recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible, metered parking lot nearby.
816 W Armitage Ave., 773-248-6228. You could build a dining scene for an entire city with the talent that has passed through the kitchen at 816 W. Armitage in the 24 years that Charlie Trotter has operated his culinary laboratory there. But for all the accolades that have followed Trotter's' culinary magic and reinvented-daily menu, the restaurant also has been a standard-bearer of gracious and elegant service. Expensive, yes, but a singular dining experience. Open: Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Prices: Grand Menu $165, vegetable menu $135. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Required. Noise: Hushed. Other: Jacket required; wheelchair accessible; valet parking.
1967 N. Halsted St., 312-929-3227. "We designed the whole restaurant around it," is how chef/partner Jason Paskewitz talks about the built-in rotisserie oven he inherited at this Lincoln Park location. Sort of an affable country cousin to Paskewitz's Gemini Bistro a few blocks away, Rustic House offers simple but charming decor and a menu focused on the rotisserie's slow-cooked output — sourced from Gepperth's Meat Market across the street. The wood-burning grill does fine work as well, however. Recommended: Maple-glazed pork belly, gnocchi with foie gras, rotisserie chicken, rotisserie duck (Wednesday only). Open: Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Entree prices: $17-$44. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible; valet parking.
1800 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-981-7070. City fans of Paul Virant's outstanding suburban restaurant, Vie, can save on gas now that the chef has established Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park. The decor (completely redone from the former Perennial look) echoes Virant's love for home preserves with light fixtures made from vintage Mason jars and shelving loaded with pickled fruits and vegetables, all of which are destined for the kitchen at some point. If your comfort-food definition includes pasta with goat sausage and braised-rabbit gnudi, you'll be in heaven here. Recommended: Sturgeon with braised beef, butternut-squash "tart tatin," bar snacks plate, goat-cheese puffs. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday, brunch Saturday-Sunday. Entree prices: $17-$25. Credit cards: A, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-challenged. Other: Wheelchair accessible; valet parking.
Michael Jordan's Steak House
505 N. Michigan Ave., 312-321-8823. No matter how many steakhouses a city may have — and Chicago sure has a ton — there always will be room for one this good. The prime, dry-aged steaks are outstanding, especially the 45-day-aged MJ Delmonico, but chef James O'Donnell offers some real cooking on the rest of the menu, and Hillary Rikower's desserts are sweet indulgences. Recommended: Garlic bread, crab cake, merguez-crusted lamb chops, shrimp and grits, 23-layer chocolate cake. Open: Dinner and lunch Monday-Sunday. Entree prices: $25-$48. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Strongly recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.
465 E. Illinois St., 312-981-8400. This River East restaurant's multiple personalities include a sleek-looking sports bar in the front room, a nightclubby river-view lounge in back and, in the middle, a 100-seat dining room, all curves and cream colors. The menu is contemporary American with touches of style and, the handful of prime steaks aside, pretty affordable. The location might keep Quay below the radar for quite some time, but it's a good one to keep on your list. Recommended: Halibut with rapini; scallops and short ribs; ale-steamed mussels; "upside down" Key lime tart. Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday, lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday. Entree prices: $14-$42. Credit cards: A, DC, DS, M, V. Reservations: Recommended. Noise: Conversation-friendly. Other: Wheelchair accessible, valet parking.
Four Stars: Outstanding
Three Stars: Excellent
Two Stars: Very good
One Star: Good
No stars: Unsatisfactory
The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.