In a city swelling with skyscrapers, nationally beloved sports teams and acclaimed music, some might forget to note the incredible variety of dining options of the Chicagoland area. With such a wealth of options available, Chicagoland diners demand more than mere sustenance; they demand an experience. To that end, here are several gems in the area to try.
Brunch and Sushi with a Fruitful Twist
Orange, 3231 N. Clark St., Chicago
The people at Orange decided that breakfast, the meal often-touted as the most important of the day, deserves a bit more creativity. Upon arriving at this restaurant, located just north of Belmont on Clark, one is likely to see a line going out the door toward the street for seating, and with a look at the menu, it all makes sense. From Popeye’s Breakfast, an omelet mixed with spinach, tomatoes, and garlic oil with white cheddar on top, to Orange Rosemary French Toast, an orange-infused French toast decorated with almonds and rosemary cream reduction, and garnished with rosemary, slices of orange, and maraschino cherries, to the Pancake Flight with a theme that changes each week, Orange has no paucity of creativity. Perhaps the most innovative dish Orange offers, though, comes in the form of “frushi,” the melding of fruit and sushi. If the thought of fig wrapped in rice and presented with chopsticks and your choice of fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices sounds tempting, then brunch at Orange is certainly worth a look.
Fine Fashion, and Dining, Too
Landmark Grill + Lounge, 1633 N. Halsted St., Chicago
Few things inspire a scene like lush furnishings, and Landmark has plenty of gorgeous, mood-inspiring space for dining. With music at just the right level to keep conversation flowing, and house specialties like Live and Let Chai, a martini made with Absolut Vanilia, chai liquor, Captain Morgan, and accents of cinnamon and nutmeg, Landmark’s menu matches its chic furniture’s feel, as well.
Caribbean-Latin Fusion to Funky Live Music
Cuatro, 2030 S. Wabash, Chicago
Executive Chef Edie Jimenez, a Chicago native, mixes his Latin roots with Caribbean flavors to outstanding results, earning Cuatro its three-star restaurant rating. To make the evening that much better, look for music acts ranging from single musicians and DJs to full bossa nova sounds that fuse a little grooving and dancing with that renowned food.
Chicago-Style Pizza (Pot) Pie
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., 2121 N. Clark St., Chicago
When people think of pizza in Chicago, deep-dish pizza dominates the discussion. Almost literally flipping the idea of the deep-dish pizza on itself, CPOG specializes in the Pizza Pot Pie, ready in half-pound and single-pound servings with triple-raised dough, homemade sauce, Boston butt sausage, and whole mushrooms. Despite the more-recognized deep-dish restaurants around, CPOG thrives on its innovative take on what pizza could be. Its location has also weathered historic events, found just across the street from the garage of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Local legend suggests that lookouts for the violent event watched from the floor above CPOG.
Drinks, Dinner, and Dancing
Lalo’s Restaurant, 500 N. LaSalle, Chicago
Anyone who can appreciate a worthwhile margarita should know about Lalo’s. Though it has several locations, none are franchised; the restaurants stay within the family. What makes Lalo’s really stand out, though, is the salsa dancing, with free lessons from 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Wednesday nights. As they say, “At Lalo’s, the hottest salsa is not always found on our tables.” To watch or to learn, Lalo’s makes for a great dinner and dancing spot.
Shortest Trip to Asia
Joy Yee’s, 521 Davis St., Evanston
Most people think of Chinese or Thai restaurants as quiet calm places or hole-in-the-wall shops; Joy Yee’s is neither. Having recently undergone dramatic renovations to the Evanston iteration, Joy Yee’s provides a high-energy experience with highly attractive food—so attractive that its menu dedicates pages upon pages to pictures of its entrées. The music thumps, the people keep coming in, and the food never disappoints for presentation or for taste. For what may be the best East Asian available, a quick trip to Evanston is the best thing short of a trans-Pacific flight.
Future Foods, Present Dining
Moto Restaurant, 945 W. Fulton Market St., Chicago
Combining passions for science and cuisine, Executive Chef Homaro Cantu’s investigations in molecular gastronomy produce some of the most intriguing foods ever created. Nitrogen-cooled pans offer a new way to prepare simple dishes, while high-end lasers help to cook the inside of a steak while leaving the outside soft—marking a method for consistently providing the perfect steak. Additionally, the chefs at Moto warm heat- retaining polymer boxes, place entrées within, and bring, box and all, to the diner to watch it bake right at the table. Moto even provides edible menus that change in flavors regularly. Besides necessitating creative minds, Moto also requires its chefs serve the food, as well, to fully explain its preparation, its intended presentation, and of course, its eminent edibility. All of this coming from a staff with an executive chef, sommelier, and pastry chef who have each worked at four-star restaurant Charlie Trotter’s.