Behind the waterfront restaurant’s brushed-metal façade, a tempting bill of fare enraptures taste buds with gourmet burgers and wraps, fresh seafood, and shareable appetizers. During warm months, diners lounge upon the open-air patio, gazing across the stone-clad banks of the Chicago River while canvassing passing seagulls for fish recommendations. Inside, a warmly lit spread of sleek polished woods, slate walls, and cityscape vistas frames meals with an elegant, cosmopolitan touch. An impressive beer and cocktail list accompanies mouthwatering finger foods or main plates of pasta, while burgers satisfy appetites and consciences with sustainable and hormone-free beef from Niman Ranch.
Rittergut Wine Bar Restaurant & Social Club crafts the perfect wine, seafood, and steak experience, with seating that overlooks the Chicago River. Wine by the glass and bottle from the vineyards of Spain, Austria, France, and Italy complements charcuterie and imported cheese plates stocked with wild boar salami or herb-laden garrotxa goat cheese, much like the contents of an enophile’s personal bomb shelter. The tasting bar and private wine rooms set the stage for uninterrupted swilling, while dining rooms bathed in amber light host feasts of lamb burgers seasoned with Moroccan spices. Arched ceilings draw the eye downward to exposed brick walls and hardwood floors indoors, and a riverside patio with dark wicker booths and wooden tables perch patrons over ebbing crests and bottled messages that implore you to try the salmon.
Amid exposed bricks and flickering candlelight, hundreds of wines, craft beers, aged spirits, and seasonal cocktails delight palates, earning The Tasting Room accolades such as Best Wine Bar, Best Lounge, and Best Romantic Bar in Best of Citysearch 2009. Like giddy produce matchmakers, educated sommeliers and consultants pair wines by the glass, bottle, or flight with a seasonal menu of crisp, house-made flat breads, artisan cheeses, and craft charcuterie. Simmering pots of fondue slowly bubble atop tables, heating thick cheeses and sweet dipping chocolate. In the upstairs lounge, plush couches flank low tables, and windows host skyline views and the jealous glares of mouthless stars.
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.
With a star-studded resume that includes stints in such media-acclaimed restaurants as Yoshi’s, Ambria, and Tribute—a Detroit-based eatery of his own that earned him a James Beard Award—it shouldn’t be surprising that Takashi Yagihashi’s latest culinary venture was a success. At his eponymous establishment, the chef crafts gourmet dishes inspired by his French culinary training and accented with the traditional flavors of his native Japan, creating a menu that has earned the restaurant a Michelin star and that Chicago Magazine called "the finest Asian fusion cuisine in the city." In a spartan dining room adorned with subtle art and slate-colored brick, diners savor entrees such as chicken in a clay pot simmering with shimeji mushrooms, eggplant, and yuzu juice, or soy-ginger caramel pork belly served with steamed buns. Yagihashi also highlights his versatility in a number of prix-fixe menus, such as the weekly 7 or 11-course Kaiseki dinner and a tasting menu that pairs each morsel with a complementary wine. While mulling over the menu, savvy wait staff offer their recommendations for the best wine, beer, or sake from the restaurant’s lengthy drink lists, along with sweet post-meal choices such as Yagihashi’s signature brown-egg dessert, which Chicago Magazine says "elevates crème brulee to Zen-like perfection."
Named one of the 100 Best Bars of 2010 by Chicago Magazine, 404 Wine Bar is a far cry from a traditional tavern. Exposed brick walls and dark, reclaimed wood envelopes diners sidled up to velvet-covered booths as they toss back glasses of worldly wines and champagnes. During the winter months, the back fireplace roars to life as servers present tables with platters of gourmet cheeses, grilled seafood, and crispy flatbreads, and offer suggestions on ideal pairings. Warmer weather has guests flocking to the outdoor patio, which is illuminated by stringed lights and dotted with wrought iron tables and chairs.
At Parrot Cage, voted a top brunch spot by OpenTable users, servers whisk seared seafood, succulent meats, and contemporary American cuisine to white-draped tables amid an elegant atmosphere, where lush décor pays homage to the historic building’s past life as the grandiose South Shore Country Club. The restaurant was created by the Washburne Culinary Institute, as a place where seasoned chefs tutor pupils in every aspect of running a restaurant. Beyond the restaurant’s teaching element, press features agree that Parrot Cage Restaurant is top notch. Centerstage called the dishes "precise and deliberate," and a Chicago Reader reviewer praised the "superb view of the lake" and confessed that with "friendly and prompt" service, he "couldn’t tell which staffers were students." The restaurant’s name, tropical green hue, and 100-year-old Victorian parrot cage honor the vibrant feathered creatures of Hyde Park and South Shore. Servers speculate that Chicago’s first such birds escaped from an owner’s cage, an exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Expedition, or an unsatisfying romance with a street pigeon.