Upon a marbled wall, a Japanese triptych mural tells the story of a gargantuan fish licked by cerulean waves and a tiny boat tossed about in its wake. Even though this vibrant piece reflects a chaotic scene, the sushi bar where the owner and head chef crafts creative rolls and maki is anything but—he’s a seasoned artist with more than 15 years' experience slicing, dicing, and coiling. He carefully furls Alaskan king crab, shrimp tempura, and sweet chili sauce and creates tantalizing nigiri and sashimi with freshly carved squid and freshwater eel. Bartenders, meanwhile, pour wines and sakes to complement the chef's mouthwatering Japanese cuisine.
Sunlight pours through ground-to-ceiling windows, streaming across hardwood floors and dark wooden tables that friendly servers speckle with dishes of aromatic steak teriyaki and tempura udon soup. Diners can enjoy these exotic feasts amid the contemporary yet casual dining room’s traditional folding screens and bamboo accents or, when the extraterrestrial overlords who control the weather permit it, outside on the patio.
Lincolnshire Gourmet offers proper pairings of healthy, fresh fare and lively musical entertainment within a cozy, welcoming storefront. Lunch and dinner options include gluten-free chorizo meatballs dunked in a jalapeño-lime sauce ($7), po' boy sandwiches gripping shrimp, veggies, and spicy mayo ($18), and entrees starring the restaurant's worst-kept secret, the NoOodle. With zero net carbs, zero gluten, zero soy, zero fat, and zero calories, the all-natural NoOodle boasts oodles of benefits and makes a fitting bed for entangled edibles such as grilled salmon with sautéed spinach, garlic, avocado relish, and olive oil ($20), and ultralite primavera mingling with spinach, red peps, yellow squash, and carrots in a creamy garlic sauce ($11). To accommodate youthful appetites, the chefs also offer finger-friendly items such as grilled cheese paired with fresh fruit ($5), paper-thin, whole-wheat cheese pizzas for two ($6), and napkins. Reservations are not required, but they are recommended.
The concept of comfort food typically conjures up images of a family sitting at a kitchen table, passing around steaming casserole dishes filled with something cheesy, creamy, or meaty. But that's not the case at City Park Grill. Though chefs sling feel-good edibles such as meatloaf, roast chicken, and warm apple crisp, the food is plated on modern, rectangular wares and served in a dining room where black-and-white photographs stud an exposed brick wall. An old-fashioned ethos wins out in the kitchen, however, as chefs insist on preparing all soups, sauces, and desserts from scratch daily. Drinks from the full-service bar make the perfect complement to a day of game-watching on one of five big-screen TVs.
Seekers of authentic Italian foodstuffs will find their fixes at Stashs, a 43-year-old Highland Park mainstay known for its varied menu filled with tasty fries, gourmet sandwiches ($9.99–14.99), baby-back ribs, and more. Guido’s, a pizza and pasta bar inside Stashs’s protective biosphere, pairs freshly cut, customizable pasta dishes soaked in homemade sauces with flavor-packed dough disks cooked in a traditional brick oven. Intercept a mozzarella-strewn margherita pie ($9.99) right as it leaves its peel, or juggle a plate of beef ribs ($14.99–18.99) while balancing Guido’s own mozzarella, spinach, and red-pepper aoli sandwich ($9.99) on your favorite nostril. A bright, open space accented with lustrous wood floors and colorful chairs, Stashs sets the mood for romantic comedy reenactments or spaghetti western after parties.
For Mark Greenbaum and his father, Lewis, sharing a pizza meant spending quality time as a family. When his father passed away, Mark decided that the best way to honor his memory was to give Chicagoans a taste of the New York–style pie he had loved so much.
Mark’s venture proved wildly successful—Time Out Chicago columnist and Brooklyn transplant Judy Sutton Taylor swears the eatery “could hold its own alongside any Brooklyn pizzeria.” Aside from the traditional thin-crust pies, the menu at New York Slices also features a specialty Grandma’s pizza with a thicker crust and hand-embroidered pepperonis.
Benjamin Brasserie’s sleek, elegant dining room is staggering, hosting dark tables basking in the warm glow of chandeliers, which reflect off opulent mirrors. Beneath high ceilings, guests slide onto plush seats in the main dining room, or snuggle into private animal-print booths on the mezzanine, serenaded by a combination of blues, jazz, and alternative music, which compliments the restaurant's urban stylized decor. Professional servers adorn tabletops with seasonal plates piled with fresh, local produce and meats from Midwest farms. Local whitefish, bacon from Jones Farm, and greenhouse tomatoes comprise executive chef Benjamin Brittsan’s innovative meals, which are artfully plated to stun both eyes and taste buds.
For more than 25 years, Once Upon a Bagel’s staff has cultivated a cozy vibe at the deliciously bread-perfumed bagel shop where customers can linger over breakfast, lunch, or dinner without feeling rushed or ignored. Atop the eatery’s main counter, bagels pile into baskets labeled with flavors such as asiago cheese, chocolate chip, pumpernickel, and honey blueberry, and trays of bagels, fish, and meat are prepared for catering. Beneath the bagel spread, an ample selection of breads puffs up in leavened excitement, hoping diners choose them to build a base for salmon-salad sandwiches, turkey pastrami, and the customer-favorite reuben boat, a loaf of bialy bread into which sandwich makers fold pastrami or turkey along with melted cheese and all the classic reuben trimmings.