Friday, January 30, 2015

In Honor of Chicago Restaurant Week 2015, a Savory Salute to Some of My Local Favorites

Chicago Restaurant Week originated in 2008, but I only began paying attention and partaking last year.

I enjoyed terrific meals at Smith & Wollensky downtown, McCormick & Schmick's in Skokie and at Farmhouse Tavern in Evanston. (All three restaurants are participating again this year.) 

Now running 2 weeks--through February 12--with more than 300 city and suburban eateries participating, Chicago Restaurant Week 2015 begins today.

You can find all the listings on the Choose Chicago website, and see the special 3- and 4-course menus the restaurants are offering. With appetizer, entree and dessert, lunches cost $22, while dinners are $33 or $44.

Liking the generous $33 dinner value offered by The Capital Grille, a pal and I will be trying that acclaimed steakhouse for the first time, and with a group of friends I will head to Frontier for a wild-game Restaurant Week experience including Smoked Wild Boar Shank

I'm also intrigued by Oceanique for seafood in Evanston and Las Tablas Colombian steakhouse in Lincoln Park.

Though obviously not dirt cheap, Chicago Restaurant Week offers the chance to try some different places for considerably less than you might ordinarily. I recommend checking out the website and making reservations in advance through Open Table.


The rest of this piece isn't directly tied to Chicago Restaurant Week, and not meant to imply that any of
the places named below are participating in the promotion (though some may be).

But while I am on the subject of food, and dining, I thought I would salute some of the places I most relish in and around Chicago, with many being in the North Suburbs due to my living in Skokie.

I do not base this on exhaustive research but rather personal proclivity, and any favorites of yours not indicated by me are very likely omitted due to a lack of familiarity. Although food quality is certainly a major component, it's not the only criteria I consider.

Though this will be different than my Memorable Meals of 2014 recaps, recency and frequency of eating somewhere certainly factor in.

I probably won't include many places I've only visited once, but on my Chicago Dining World Tour, mainly in 2013--on which I explicitly tried to get to restaurants representing as many different ethnicities as possible--I did experience some meals I really thought the world of.

So like any opinions I offer here, take these with a grain of salt, but these are the Chicago Area Restaurants I Most Savor in various categories:

(Located in Chicago except where noted; some may have multiple locations)

Pizza - Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Pizano's. All three have great deep-dish, while Pizano's has the best thin crust I've ever had.

Italian Beef - Al's, Johnnie's, Portillo's

Hot Dogs/Polish Sausage - Poochie's (Skokie), Superdawg, Jim's Original, Gene & Jude's (River Grove), Murphy's, Chicago's Dog House. With a shout out to the dear, departed Hot Doug's.

Gyros - Dengeos (Skokie), Flips (Glen Ellyn)

Delis - Manny's, The Bagel (Skokie), Kaufman's (Skokie), Schmaltz Deli (Naperville)

Bagels - New York Bagel & Bialy (Skokie)

Steak/Chops - Gibsons, Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, Chicago Chop House, Lawry's The Prime Rib

BBQ Ribs - Carson's, L. Woods (Lincolnwood), Sweet Baby Ray's (Elk Grove Village, Wood Dale)

BBQ Sandwiches - Smoque, Real Urban Barbecue (Highland Park, Vernon Hills)

Burgers - Labriola Bakery Cafe (Oak Brook), Hackney's (Glenview), Rudy's, Bat 17 (Evanston)

Seafood - Players Grill (Deerfield), McCormick & Schmick's, Bob Chinn's (Wheeling), Glenn's Diner

Mexican - Las Fuentes (Morton Grove), Wholly Frijoles (Lincolnwood), Taco Nano (Winnetka), El Tipico (Skokie), Carbon, BIG & little's, Nuevo Leon, Taqueria Las Comales

Thai - Siam Rice, Ruby of Siam (Skokie)

Indian - Himalayan (Niles), Viceroy of India (Lombard), Tiffin, Cuisine of India (Mt. Prospect)

Italian - The Noodle (Wilmette), Maggiano's

Greek - The Greek Islands, Psistaria (Lincolnwood), Mykonos (Niles)

Cajun - Dixie Kitchen (Evanston), Heaven on Seven

Chinese - China Chef (Morton Grove), Lao Sze Chuan, PF Chang's, The Great Beijing (Lincolnwood), Golden Wok II (Glen Ellyn) 

Other Ethnic - Sushi Inn (Japanese, Lombard), Kabul House (Afghan, Skokie), Staropolska (Polish), Laschet's Inn (German), Cafecito (Cuban), Taste of Cuba (Cuban, Lincolnwood), Pita Inn (Mediterranean, Skokie), Tapas Barcelona (Spanish, Evanston), Cafe Central (Puerto Rican), Shokran (Moroccan), Irazu (Costa Rican), Ay Ay Picante (Peruvian), Libertad (Latin American, Skokie), Jilly's (French, Evanston)

Brunch - Annie's (Skokie), Walker Bros., Marcello's Father & Son (Sunday only), Lucky Platter (Evanston), Lou Mitchell's

Ice Cream, etc. - Homer's (Wilmette), Margie's Candies, Mario's Italian Lemonade

Salads - Panera, Pizza Capri, Sopraffina, Sweet Tomatoes

Chains - McDonald's, Ruby Tuesday, Red Lobster, Bakers Square, Outback Steakhouse

Random Other Places I Like - Alinea (only been there once but it was great), Sarkis Cafe (Evanston), Fogo de Chao, Firehouse Grill (Evanston), Sparky's (Skokie), Curt's Cafe (Evanston), Ridgeview Grill (Wilmette), Seven Dwarfs (Wheaton), The Walnut Room at Macy's

Of related note, I point you to Zagat's just released ranking of the Top 50 Restaurants in Chicago. The Capital Grille will be the 12th of these I've dined at. And of's list of 25 Classic Restaurants Every Chicagoan Must Try, I've been to 15.

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