Using all-natural meats, Amish free-range chicken, and produce from Midwestern farmers’ markets, Hemmingway's Bistro serves fresh, flavorful French fare in an attractive, white-tablecloth-laden dining room. Executive Chef Ala's fondness for melt-on-your-tongue seafood makes its mark on the menu—the restaurant imports fish from the East Coast daily. Satiate seafood cravings with the herb-crusted whitefish paired with caper butter ($18.95), or guzzle away at the Dijon salmon with a side of cream lentils ($21.95). The Classic ($36.95) stuffs grumbling stomachs with half a lobster, nine oysters, three shrimp, three clams, six mussels, and two crabs. Before the main course, showcase your magic skills by cutting the baked brie topped with apricot preserves ($11.95) in half with your saw-teeth. Vegetarians can fork in warm goat-cheese petite salad ($7.95) while carnivores sink their teeth into the roasted lamb rack paired with ratatouille ($26.95). Cleanse your esophagus with a glass of '99 Saint Clement syrah ($9 for a glass) or an '06 Campanile pinot grigio ($7 for a glass) from Hemmingway's stockpile of red and white wines.
Taste of Brasil regales visitors with the country’s best flavors in the form of rich stews, steaks, sandwiches, and sweets. Though full of Portuguese terms, the menu caters to English speakers by clearly describing each traditional entrée, such as feijoada, Brazil’s national dish comprised of a black-bean stew swimming with smoked pork and sausage, and picanha sandwiches filled with the country’s most popular cut of steak. Diners can complement their hearty main dishes with colorful salpicao salads, slow-cooked lentil soups, and light, fluffy mango mousse. After guests quell exotic cravings, they cheer on their favorite team during World Cup viewing parties, or don masks and dance during lively masquerade balls.
"Did I like it? Do you want to get slapped? I loved it."
That was one diner's response to Ted Brunson, the host of America's Best Bites, when asked about whether or not he enjoyed Las Tablas Colombian Steakhouse's signature dish, the Entrana. This South American take on skirt steak is downright beloved by some Chicagoans. One such guest admitted to living above one of the city's most iconic steakhouses, only to find himself trekking over to Las Tablas whenever he gets a craving for steak. The thinnish strip is scored along its generous length, allowing it to absorb the super-secret eight-spice blend that's rubbed into it—only two people know the recipe. It is then served on a warmed metal plate that rests upon a wooden slab (a "tablas"), as are many of the restaurant's other dishes.
Considering how much they've been through to get to this point—including an uprooting from Colombia in the 1980s and a fire—it's probably a relief for the Suarez family that their recipes are so revered. It also helps that their menu is refreshingly simple, yet flexible. There are a few beef dishes, a few chicken dishes, a few pork dishes, and so on, but guests can also order a combinaciones, which allows them to pair two proteins of their choice. The Entrana and shrimp make a classic match, though options such as baby octopus and pork loin lend themselves to more creative pairings. Vegetarians need not feel left out, either, as there's a veggie platter, 100% meatless napkins, and a paella that blends spiced rice, beans, yuca, plaintains, and potatoes. Those starches reappear throughout the menu, and are served with most entrees.
If you're inspired by the Suarez family's cooking, you can try to recreate the recipes at home with their new product line of sauces and seasonings.
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How do you stand out as the youngest of 15 siblings? For Cesar Reyes, the answer is to open a high-end Mexican steakhouse. His road to Polanco—named for his favorite Mexico City neighborhood—has been a long one: Reyes initially came to the U.S. intending to be an engineer. His true calling soon roared too loudly to ignore, so in 1989 he began to work his way up through the kitchens of Chicago's top restaurants. Finally, after pulling the fabled spatula out of its magic stone, Reyes knew it was time to open Polanco. He tasked one of his brothers with running the kitchen, and began to curate an upscale menu.
Food matters to Reyes. He sources all his steak from within a 250-mile radius of Chicago, and many of the menu's beers hail from craft breweries. Ladles exclusively spoon "yesterday soup," so called because it cooks for 12–24 hours and only bubbles to the beat of yesterday's pop hits. Taste buds leave satisfied, but if the ceviche, plantain-infused gnocchi, and four signature steak sauces (chimichurri, bordelaise, chile morita, herb citrus) leave epicureans wanting more, they're in luck: Reyes hosts monthly cooking classes, inviting guests to visit the market with him and select ingredients themselves.
Executive Chef Matthew Lyon and his crew of culinary wizards craft artful plates of contemporary American fare that's chock-full of local, sustainable, and hormone-free ingredients. While employed with Wolfgang Puck Catering and local French restaurant Ambria, Chef Lyon honed his spatula-twirling skills and embraced farm-to-table-fare practices. He now applies eco-conscientious techniques to Eclipse, where all meals—including artfully plated portions of free-range chicken breast and truffled lobster—dressings, and marinades are made in-house with fresh ingredients plucked from nearby fruit hats.