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.
"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.
A top-5 rating from TripAdvisor.com doesn't happen overnight. Just ask Dave Samber, whose Polo Caf? and Catering Bridgeport U.S.A., a mile west of U.S. Cellular Field, currently ranks among Chicago's most popular restaurants. Since opening in 1990, the restaurant has earned a reputation as an adventurous spot where guests can feast on lamb chops and sandwiches served on warm French baguettes. On weekends, the restaurant also opens its doors early for two signature brunches: Saturday's Bloody Mary Brunch pairs horseradish-dosed bloodies with tasty takes on classics like Polo Caf? favorite Eggs Benedicto XVI and french toast, while Sunday's Gospel Brunch treats diners to a soulful serenade from singers backed by a live organ.
Samber and his dedicated staff share their delicious food served with Chicago hospitality amid the green and white diner's tin ceiling, tufted booths, polo-green tablecloths. The vintage glamour is only interrupted by framed accolades and a colorful 12-foot chalkboard created in 1986 to welcome guests to the historic Bridgeport neighborhood, home to five of Chicago's mayors. 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 after storing cars in free lighted parking lots.
A former NFL player and—at 347 wins—the winningest coach for the Colts and Dolphins, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Don Shula coaches an entirely different kind of team now. Together with his son, Dave, also a former NFL player and coach, Shula wrangles a team of chefs, servers, and adventurous foodies at his eponymous steak house.
On a menu rife with protein-rich seafood including twin lobster tails and lump crab cakes, the Shula Cut steaks reign supreme. The center-cut, aged, Black Angus steaks come in sizes all the way up to the mack daddy of them all: the 48-ounce porterhouse. This monstrous meal has its own exclusive club, whose invite-only membership is extended to brave souls who can finish the entire steak in one sitting or moo their full name with perfect pronunciation.
These sumptuous steaks come unadorned or with signature sauces such as a red-wine-herb demi, a peppercorn sauce, a red-pepper chimichurri, or a béarnaise sauce. Side dishes include crab mac 'n' cheese, truffle fries, or a twice-baked potato—the baked potato’s over-achieving brother.
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.
Carmichael's Chicago Steak House pushes and pulls at its Chicago identity. The restaurant’s menu and décor pay homage to the classic Chicago steak house, an institution as iconic and as dear to the city as the skyscraper, the lakefront, or the rivalry between the North and South Side baseball teams’ mustaches. Twenty-four-ounce porterhouses and marbled and aged tenderloin hark back to the city's past as the country’s foremost meat producer.
Outside on the patio is another story. Mature trees, potted plants, and the occasional strain of live music push against the urban bustle of the West Loop. Carved out of reclaimed warehouses, this outdoor oasis transports diners from the traffic and road construction that descend on the city in summer. Under a red canopy or against the glow of lamplights, these alfresco meals add an air of tranquility and romance rarely experienced without having to stretch on a yoga mat scribbled with sonnets.