Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.
Michael Dorf stood with his brother Josh, smiling over the barrel filled with wine from grapes they'd just crushed, fermented, and pressed. He claims that despite tastings and classes, he'd never begun to understand wine until this moment. As his understanding grew, he laid the foundations for City Winery: a full winery facility, restaurant, and concert venue inside urban Chicago. He now watches over more than 400 international wines and 20 house wines. Inside the winery, these wines—made from nine US and international varietals—age inside stainless steel tanks and American and French oak barrels. Here, staffers lead winemaking classes, letting visitors join the crushing and fermenting process, and showing them how make private barrels and fill custom juice boxes or bottles pasted with labels of their own design.
These monolithic tanks and barrels can be seen through floor-to-ceiling windows from most of the restaurant's rooms, where servers ferry Executive Chef Andres Barrera's dishes, each a blend of Italian, French, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern flavors. The culinary team crafts small and large plates of artisanal cheeses, seafood, and flatbreads—which they make using the winery's own wine lees as yeast. In the restaurant and Barrel Room tasting bar, staffers pour housemade wines piped fresh from the cellar through 14 taps, while visitors bask in the glow from hard wood and floor to ceiling windows. Patrons dine on a ground floor lit by soft blue lights and hanging lamps fashioned from old wine bottles, as well as a mezzanine level looking out on the city skyline. Private dining rooms gather guests around long communal tables, stretched between exposed brick walls. In the show venue, comedians, live musicians, and slapstick-prone stage crew members entertain audiences under the glow of tabletop candles.
Enophile John Davis founded Wine Insiders 25 years ago, using his octopus-like industry connections to assemble a panel of wine experts who would seek out the best and most affordable wines. On average, his league of critics approves 5 out of every 100 bottles sampled, ensuring that only the most delicious wines get recommended to his customers. The team even offers a satisfaction guarantee: if customers aren't 100% delighted by the vinos they've selected, Wine Insiders will refund the full cost of the order, no questions asked?not even "So, you doing anything fun this weekend?" Despite its staff's legendary pickiness, Wine Insiders stocks a variety of red and white wines, including pinot noirs, pinot grigios, rieslings, and cabernet sauvignons, each joined by an informative description.
Owner Tom Kampschroeder, a wine professional with more than 29 years of experience, shares his grapey know-how with most any guest who walks through Salt Creek Wine Bar's doors. Sample wines-of-a-feather with the wine flight menu, or check out the beers and spirits menu. Wash down washes of tingly wash with Italian delights including artisan cheese flights, pizza, and seafood.
Bella Bacinos owner Linda Bacin has served on the Taste of Chicago committee, but her culinary force isn't just local; she's been a National Restaurant Association board member for decades and made television appearances with Oprah Winfrey, Rachael Ray, and Guy Fieri. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of her most lasting impressions has been creating the first-ever "heart healthy" pizza to be featured in the Chicago Heart Association's Eat Well Guide.
These pizzas, deep-dish or thin-crust creations topped with anything from broccoli to italian sausage and peppers, can be enjoyed at Bella Bacinos. Like the other dishes on the menu, they are made from organic ingredients that are free of trans fats and preservatives whenever possible. Though known for its pizza, Bella Bacinos also serves breakfast, including three-egg omelets and french toast, as well as classic Italian entrees such as shrimp linguini and veal saltimbocca.
Hillgrove Wine Cellars and Bistro combines tastings of fine, international wines and craft brews with equally well-crafted appetizers. Danny Parrott curates the medley of food and drinks, relying on his sensitive palate developed over years in the restaurant industry to lead him to the finest flavors. His stock of wine bottles and beers blend with the seasons and are chosen based on his particular leanings. His menu, however, remains anchored in specific flavors meant to offset the dryness of a fine white or the rich tannins of a red.