Food critic Phil Vettel of The Chicago Tribune recommends trying the oysters and calls the riverside patio “one of the most sought-after destinations in town.” Michigan Avenue Magazine savors the sleek eatery’s prime bacon cheeseburger, blanketed by Wisconsin white cheddar, crispy onions, and a Boursin aioli sauce. Whether customers are in it for the surf, the turf, or the view, Fulton’s on the River caputures the attention of all with upscale seafood and steak enjoyed amid a downtown view. At lunch chefs plate grilled tenderloin sandwiches, buried beneath caramelized onions and horseradish cream, alongside jumbo lump crab cakes. But, as the sun sets over the river, they bring out the dinner menu, which exchanges the sandwiches for wild cold-water lobster tails, seared scallops, and 16-ounce New York strip steaks. Yet, the meal doesn’t end until after a dessert of house-made banana cream pie or fresh-fired crème brulee.
With popular restaurants sprinkled across the country, renowned chef David Burke certainly knows the secret to success. Primehouse, Burke's Rush Street hot spot, proves that the formula also works in the Windy City. Inside The James Hotel, Primehouse’s executive chef Rich Gresh culls seasonal and organic ingredients to create decadent steakhouse fare, some of it with a slight twist. He starts by dry-aging USDA rib-eye inside a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room—located in-house—for anywhere between 28 and 75 days. Not surprisingly, the 75-day-aged cut has received much approval from critics including Rahm Fama of the Food Network, who dubbed the steak as the best ever. Yet, Gresh doesn’t stop at steaks. He redefines gourmet go-tos, layering foie gras over bourbon-glazed apples and drizzling scallops with a hazelnut vinaigrette. He serves bacon, kobe corn dogs, and octopus on sticks, and lets bites of steak and ahi tuna cook tableside over a hot Himalayan-salt stone. During lunch, Gresh offers creamy lobster bisque, tempura-fried green beans, and one of Chicago Magazine’s favorites: the 40-day-aged prime steak burger.
Chef Edward Kim is a restless soul. Born and raised in the north suburbs of Chicago, he left home to become a lawyer in New York but somehow found his way to the opposite coast, where he enrolled at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Los Angeles. After spending several years honing his craft in locales as far-flung as Seoul, Korea, Kim returned to his native city to open a restaurant that would draw on his Asian heritage and penchant for gastronomical globetrotting.
Just like its chef, Ruxbin is the product of a hodgepodge of competing influences. To its credit, the BYOB bistro doesn?t try to hide this fact?its 32-seat dining room is built entirely from salvaged and repurposed materials. Chef Kim?s seasonal menu reflects his own restless nature, and dishes are liable to change as soon as they reach the height of their popularity. This willingness to take risks has attracted a host of devotees, including GQ , which named Ruxbin one of the 10 best new restaurants in America in 2012.
From the minds behind Chicago restaurants Las Tablas and Tango Sur, Folklore serves the meat-centered cuisine definitive of Argentina in a cozy, dimly lit space. Wrapped in a flaky shell, ground beef empanadas shine beneath house-made chimichurri sauce, while super-authentic ’lengua a la vinagreta’ consists of poached tongue marinated with vinegar, garlic, and peppers. Grill selections include both imported, lean, grass-fed cuts and fatty domestic steaks, though the restaurant doesn’t only deal in carnivorous helpings?the Chicago Reader called their baked eggplant layered with spinach and cheese "one of the highlights of the meal."
The house specialty carne asada dominates Mexico Steakhouse's selection of recipes honed over 40 years of service. The kitchen concedes to morning cravings with a battery of egg breakfasts and frantic signals with a white napkin, and traditional dishes, such as pork tamales, travel to tables later in the day. A bright-blue awning and a row of arched windows distinguish the brick restaurant, where a jukebox recites an encyclopedic compilation of tunes for diners inside.
Polo Café and Catering owner and chef Dave Samber has been cooking American-style brunch and eclectic dinner fare for more than 20 years. Since opening in 1990, his restaurant has been a regular at the annual Taste of Chicago, where Samber carts out evidence of his broad palate in dishes such as shark veracruz and baked crab-cake nuggets. He also shares his adventurous tastes amid the green and white diner's tin ceiling, tufted booths, and antique sconces, the vintage glamour of which is only interrupted by a row of dolls who refuse to wear gloves to dinner. The adjacent Old Eagle Room, a repurposed theater built in 1914, accommodates up to 100 banqueters on its main and mezzanine levels. These guests enjoy entertainment from a Rodgers 360 theater organ or a 20-channel audio system.