It’s a difficult task to pull off—taking a hodgepodge of recycled odds and ends and creating something entirely new. Simone’s Bar, however, has proven up to the challenge. An architectural potpourri of artifacts salvaged from around the city, the Pilsen bar is best known for the retired pinball machines that line its walls. These ancient tables lend a retro vibe to the bar area, where microbrews and cocktails take the place of pins on a recycled bowling lane. Other idiosyncratic elements include chemistry tables from nearby Westinghouse High School, conveyer belts from Chicago’s Fanny May Candies factory, and a chandelier molded from bicycle chains and rocking chairs. Combined with the solar panels on the rooftop, these repurposed knickknacks have earned Simone’s status as a three-star certified green restaurant. Simone’s décor may come from all corners of the city, but its food is influenced more by the bar’s immediate surroundings. Empanadas and a grilled cheese sandwich with Chihuahua cheese nod to Pilsen’s proud Mexican heritage, as do burgers topped with jalapenos and guacamole. The drink menu also has a local slant, highlighting Chicago brews and craft cocktails that would feel right at home in one of the galleries on nearby Halsted Street.
Behind Beviamo's counter lies a wonderland of drinks ranging from aged vintages and craft beers to liquors both familiar and exotic. Wine by the glass and bottle hail from the vineyards of Spain and Italy, the rolling fields of France, and the geodesic dome covering what used to be California. The hangout's dim lighting sets the scene for cool cocktails such as The Connery?a mixture of 12-year-old scotch, biscotti liquor, ginger, orange bitters, and a splash of soda. Taps populated by craft beers compliment bottled offerings, which bear floral hops or roasted malts as diverse as the music played by live bands that musicians that often play on into the night.
Sleek wooden panels and minimalistic tables serve as the base layer of Michelin recommended Lure Izakaya Pub, amplified by monsoons of colorful florescent light and nonstop wafts of innovative Japanese tapas. For brunch and dinner, chefs arrange fresh ingredients to form healthful specialties ideal for sharing. Dinner treats range from meatless items such as spicy fried tofu to meat-centric plates of braised pork belly with pickled bok choy. Lure Izakaya Pub also features a rotating menu of new creations crafted from seasonally available ingredients, as well as wood-grilled tapas flavored with a hint of cherry, apple, or mint toothpick.
Merging the concept of small plates with the regionalized ingredients and cuisine of Chinese culture, celebrated chef Tony Hu's Lao You Ju creates a family-style dining experience with an expansive menu of Pan-Asian dishes. Lightly fried Jin-Sha shrimp lounge atop a tasty trail of corn and peppers spread artfully across white china ($10), pleasing the eye while betraying shellfish whereabouts to taste-bud trackers. A spiced red broth submerges the boiled beef tenderloin Chengdu-style in steamy flavor ($9), and a piping metal pan sings a fiery song under the cumin lamb on hot sizzling plate ($9). Chew over plant matters with the chinese eggplant Peking-style, flavored with rumors of onion and broccoli ($8). Chef Hu also coddles singular appetites with house specials such as the spicy pan-fried salmon Szechuan-style, a large plate of sweet and fragrant fillets ($25).
Viaggio takes its name from the Italian word for "journey." It’s an appropriate reference, given the restaurant’s penchant for exploring the cuisines of various regions in Italy. The menu helpfully acts as a road map for uninitiated guests, acquainting them with dishes such as hand-rolled cavatelli pasta in marinara sauce and tender veal marsala served on a Roman shield. To their credit, chef Victor Perdue and his teams approach these dishes as respectfully as possible, preparing each with an almost tangible reverence for its Mediterranean roots. Time Out Chicago applauds this commitment, claiming that the restaurant’s West Loop location “takes care with dishes that so many other people simply slap together." Viaggio has also earned praise from the Chicago Reader, which cites Perdue’s impressive restraint in creating appetizers that demonstrate "a bold, but deft touch where things could so easily go off the rails."
Though he relies primarily on local ingredients when crafting his Vietnamese cuisine, executive chef Kay Bui structures his menu around a principle that may seem foreign to American diners. He serves small plates in the context of a communal meal, as is common practice in Vietnam. Together, guests can explore the exotic tastes of charbroiled pork wrapped in rice paper, sautéed asparagus doused in a spicy brown sauce, or shrimp and crabmeat stir-fried with vermicelli noodles and mixed vegetables. Bartenders complement the kitchen’s output with house-infused spirits and an extensive wine list that highlights organic and biodynamic reds and whites. At Sawtooth Restaurant, meals unfold in one of three places: a spacious dining room notable for its earthy tones and clean lines, a lounge with custom booths and modular box tables, or a garden patio surrounded by exposed brick and patrolled by Indochinese tigers.