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.
Fresh hickory wood burns daily to give this locally owned meatery's barbecue classics their signature smoky flavor. Ring dinner's bell with a first course of the soup of the day or a caesar salad topped with oven-baked croutons. Entrees make their entrée as platters of pulled chicken, North Carolina pulled pork, Texas brisket, or a combination of all three, or as half-slabs of baby-back, St. Louis, or Chicago-style ribs. Any burger or sandwich is also available for three-course eaters. Dinner finishers are rewarded with a fresh dessert that, like the slowest county-fair Ferris wheel ever, changes daily. Reservations are required, so call ahead or show up early to lick your table.
New artworks routinely appear on The Noodle Cafe's cherry-red walls, but that touch of unanchored whimsy isn't confined to the restaurant's décor. Rather than limit the scope of their cuisine, the chefs draw from cuisines across the world and incorporate those international flavors into the bistro-style comfort foods they forge so readily. This means that refined versions of traditional American foods—such as red wine- and rosemary-marinated pork tenderloin with apple barbecue sauce—appear alongside dishes such as chicken satay, pan-roasted tilapia with caramelized ginger, and sea scallops sautéed in maple syrup and soy sauce. Even the noodles leave room for experimentation, with create-your-own dishes that allow diners to choose from 15 pastas, 10 sauces, and 12 different forks.
Tatami Restaurant's chefs whorl fresh fish, colorful veggies, and chewy rice into more than 60 types of sushi for in-house dining adventures and elegant catered meals. Diners graze on a bounty of traditional and fusion-inspired sushi combinations, many of which bear names evoking the city on the lake and its flavorful denizens, including the signature Kansaku roll, which shares its name with Tatami Restaurant's sister restaurant and salutes the eatery with shrimp tempura, freshwater eel, and a ribbon of cream cheese. The 10-piece Lake Shore Drive roll employs outrageous flavor tactics to upstage Chicago’s beach vistas, pulling out all the stops with a combination of yellowtail, cilantro, and spicy mayo. Diners craving a hot, hearty meal can savor traditional Japanese entrees such as chicken yaki soba or tofu katsu with sweet chili.
It all started in 1946 when a Navy cook finished his tour of duty after World War II. He left his destroyer in the South Pacific and set sail for Chicago's South Side. There, he opened a carry-out fried-seafood joint and dubbed it Ship Shape Shrimp Shack, a name that was hard to say but easy to love, thanks to his signature fried-shrimp recipe. For 30 years, he continued delighting customers and living his dream, minus the part where he could fly, until 1976, when health issues forced him to close the restaurant. A few years later, a local truck driver and food-service veteran by the name of Frank took over, renaming the place Frank's Chicago Shrimp House. Under the Navy cook's tutelage, he learned everything there was to know about the shrimp and seafood business, and enjoyed the same success through the golden-fried shrimp and seafood of his predecessor. Today, his daughters are at the helm, keeping tradition alive and well at four locations throughout the Chicagoland area. At those restaurants, they fry up the classics and mix it up with frog legs and New Orleans–style fried shrimp, pairing the crispy morsels with classic sides such as hush puppies, cole slaw, and french fries.
Featured on one of Gayot’s Top 10 of 2012 lists, the seafood at Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House "could not be fresher or better cooked." In addition to steaks and chops from its sister restaurant, Gibson’s, Hugo’s menu showcases a spread of classically prepared familiars including oysters on the half shell, pan-seared scallops, and giant lobster tails joined by drawn butter. But the eatery’s signature dish is a different kind of aquatic creature: frog legs arrive at tables sautéed and soaked in garlic butter. Maritime decor complements the nautical morsels, from nostalgic photographs of lighthouses to miniature models of ships to barnacles on the eyebrows of every server.