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.
Menus at Allgauer's may vary slightly by location, but each Hilton-anchored outpost of American dining serves high-end steaks and seafood. Mid-day appetites can be quelled with lunch offerings such as a starter of baked artichoke bruschetta ($8) and a hearty grilled rib-eye steak sandwich ($13). To dine during dinner, arrive in sundown-style and begin with an appetizing opener such as the mushroom pot pie with sherry wine and walnut blue cheese ($7). Sample the meatiest of meals, the grilled beef tenderloin medallions ($22–$33), or take a bathypelagic trip to fullness with sautéed shrimp and sea scallops ($17–$27). Entrees are served with a choice of the soup du jour or a house salad.
Flavio Renzulli may have just taken the helm at Captain's Quarters Fish and Steak House in 2013, but the restaurant has been close to his heart for nearly his entire life. He began eating there when he was 15, and visited so often over the next 20 years that he became the first person the owner thought of when deciding to sell the restaurant. Flavio considers Captain's "a North Shore institution," and in that spirit kept on the chef, Jose Haro, who started there as a busser more than 30 years ago.
Flavio and Jose have continued the dining traditions that made Captain's so popular: they serve classic surf-and-turf dishes, host private parties, and let patrons sit in chairs. Some of the menu's classics include lobster tail poached in brown butter?which can be paired with a filet mignon?and fried chicken coated with the restaurant's secret recipe batter. The duo has introduced a diverse range of new plates as well, from baby-back ribs to a full dessert menu.
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.