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.
The Southside Polish Fest is said to be the largest of its kind in the country, an honor it has earned by attracting not just the local Polish community, but by welcoming Chicagoans of all ethnicities. Whether familiar with the culture or not, revelers can immerse themselves in it by sampling traditional foods and beers and by taking in the live performances scheduled to fill all three days of the festival. This entertainment includes polka bands, Polish musicians, traditional dancers, the unceasing movement of the sun, and even a pierogi-eating contest. Kids will be drawn to the 25 carnival rides, which riders can enjoy by purchasing wristbands good for either 4-hour blocks or all three days of the festival.
There's more than one way to appreciate a bouquet. That's the idea behind Avenue Flower Shop & Wine Bar, a successful floral shop that has recently opened a tasting room where visitors can sample wines from Europe, South America, South Africa, and the Columbia Valley. Perhaps unsurprisingly, flowers decorate almost every corner of the space, from the hardwood bar that rests atop small neoclassical columns to the tables that stand draped in black tablecloths. On some nights, wine flavors and floral aromas mingle with live harmonies from local blues and jazz ensembles, which creates a casual atmosphere and teaches lilies music theory. Avenue Flower Shop & Wine Bar also recently branched out into gaming with the addition of five video poker machines.
At Mega Beer Fest, an unsuspecting arena becomes the epicenter of a flood of craft beers and saucy barbecue. The fest assembles craft beers from 75 breweries from across the nation and combines them with Porky's Rib Fest, which features barbecue slow-roasted in styles ranging from luscious Texan brisket to Australian barbecue basted in a fruit-based sauce. As guests savor each bubbly beverage, they can also enjoy live entertainment including fireworks, a carnival, and live music, some of which may be played on xylophones created after mass consumption of ribs.
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.