The art of pastry baking is a careful ordeal. Each morning, long before the sun starts to shine on Lake Michigan, the team at Libanais Sweets is up making sure their specialties are crisp and flaky on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. They specialize in baked goods from around the world, including Eastern pastries such as baklava and European pastries ranging from éclairs to mille-feuille and tiramisu. In addition, the Libanais staff crafts specialties like chocolate lollipops, which are ideal for special events but can’t be used to bribe the rare bird that would prefer a broccoli pop.
The chefs at Jilly’s Cafe meld French and American cooking traditions to create a menu of elegant fusion fare peppered with culinary surprises from around the world. A large specials menu rotates its options frequently, treating diners to plates piled with nourishment that might include duck, rack of lamb, and fresh seafood, and every Sunday, a selection of breakfast items scramble for the right to occupy the brunch menu. To celebrate specific holidays, Jilly's rolls out set menus designed with a theme in mind—guests can ensure a romantic night out by reserving a table on Valentine’s Day or visit on Easter to honor America's mascot, the Easter egg. The eatery’s long-winded wine list allows aficionados to sample new varietals while giving grapes a chance to see what their old friends are up to.
?Pascal, these are all the good times I had in my life.? According to Chicago magazine, these were the words spoken to Bistro Bordeaux owner Pascal Berthoumieux by his grandfather as he inherited his grandfather?s collection of decades-old wine labels. A native of the bistro's namesake region, Berthoumieux has gone out of his way to create a dining experience similar to one you'd have in the south of France?with a wine list that lets guests rack up their own good times. He's decorated the yellow walls with vintage posters and family antiques, and his team of attentive waiters wears black vests, bow ties, and long white aprons designed to protect them from flying escargot shells. Executive Chef Michael Gottli uses seasonal ingredients from local farmers and merchants to craft classic French dishes, which made the bistro a Time Out Chicago critics' pick. They lauded the ?ideal? french-onion soup and "the juicy seared flatiron Sirloin steak served with truly addictive frites."
Aside from drawing from his wealth of family traditions, Berthoumieux built his restaurant on a foundation of hard work. He's hung his hat at such eateries as Man Ray, a Parisian eatery formerly owned by celebrities including Johnny Depp and Sean Penn, and Chicago's own Tip Top Tap lounge and Kiki's Bistro. His years of experience served him well when creating Bistro Bordeaux; among other awards, the establishment was named one of Chicago magazine's Best New Restaurants in 2010.
"I love wine," says owner Peter Mills during Chef's Station's feature on Check, Please!. "Eating without wine is eating. Eating with wine is dining." To ensure that every guest in his restaurant gets the full dining experience, Peter maintains an extensive wine list and also allows people to BYO bottles of their favorite vintages. These grown-up grape juices complement Chef José Romero's menu of French-inspired bistro fare that includes dishes such as foie gras, pan-seared fish, and a sophisticated meatloaf with roasted beef bordelaise sauce that earned mention in Chicago Magazine's review of the spot. Chef's Station is located under the Davis Street Metra station, giving it a unique bustling ambiance and making it convenient to both commuters and engineers playing hooky.
Oceanique's culinary history sparkles with the brilliance of a reef. The restaurant, after all, celebrated 25 years of fine dining history in February 2014 after gifting itself an interior renovation in July 2013. Now the space boasts cream walls, rectangular tables, and modern light fixtures to juxtapose the classic French cuisine that gave the restaurant its swagger. While the ambiance may have changed, Chef Mark Grosz still peppers his menu with the evidence of a culinary education acquired in France and under Jean Banchet at Le Francais. The eclectic dishes, which change daily, might pair butternut squash with salmon or drizzle rhubarb-mango chutney on foie gras. Beyond the signature seasonal fish dishes, they can devote full plate space to organic, ultrafresh produce, such as butternut squash and fiddleheads.
Even with its complex array of ingredients and tastes, the menu strives to remain approachable. Time Out Chicago writes that "while the multi-ingredient preparations border on overwhelming, Grosz somehow manages to balance flavors while completely flipping off subtlety." What results is a laid-back dining atmosphere lubricated by a choice of more than 800 wines and several vintage seawaters.
Creperie Saint Germain's menu offers nearly a dozen types of crepes, each made with organic wheat flour. Their decadent fillings run the gamut from savory duck confit and house-made sausage to dark chocolate mousse and mixed berries. The chefs can tweak each dessert crepe to accommodate gluten-intolerant diners. Other well-known French entrees on hand include the escargot, which comes drenched in a garlic butter sauce, or the chicken liver---enhanced with a whole grain mustard. Diners can wash down their meals with a drink from the Creperie's lengthy selection of imported wines and organic ciders.