The diners pass banquettes, which range in color from the aquamarine of a shallow sea to the darker purples of deep water, and opt for a private booth. Behind the bar, standing glass partitions painted in intricate designs reminiscent of Eastern calligraphy divide ranks of bottles. Plates of fresh-cut sashimi descend onto a neighboring table, and maki rolls flaunt loads of king crab, lobster, and kanpyo, shavings of a dried gourd. A waitress strides across the dark hardwood floor and slides menus across the diners' black lacquered table, carefully pointing out her favorite appetizers, which range from duck and wrapped scallops to fresh oysters by the half dozen. In the kitchen, chefs simmer red wine, yielding a thicker sauce that drapes across filet mignon or helps prove to an aunt that the bib she knit hasn’t been going unused.
At Orange 13, swaths of burnt-orange organza and crystal chandeliers transform tables into secluded enclaves. At two granite-topped bars, bartenders pour 50 handpicked wines and mix martinis with top-shelf liquors. The chefs strive to match the sleek, sultry environs with a menu of creative fusion fare: they adorn a trio of buffalo, elk, and Kobe burgers with brie and bleu cheese and add zest to tender lamb chops with lemon-thyme glaze. To encourage an experience as fun as the cuisine is exquisite, live entertainment and DJs spin beats until 3 a.m., and high ceilings make it plausible that dancing giraffes appear, too. Live bands hit the stage at 8 p.m. on Fridays and DJs begin to spin sets at 11 p.m. on Saturdays.
Grotto Oak Brook offers a meat-centric approach to fine dining. The dinner menu features prime steaks and chops, seafood, and pastas trimmed from the willow-like foliage of Tuscan semolina trees. Commence consumption with an appetizer of baked clams ($8 for a half-dozen, $15 for a dozen) or bruschetta, heaped with juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil ($9). Oxymoron-lovers can sink teeth into a nine-ounce petite filet mignon ($32), while Manhattanite meatheads can slice into their hometown with the generous 1-ounce New York strip-steak ($38). Specialties such as the half-chicken Vesuvio ($21 for boneless, $20 for bone-in), as well as seafood dishes, including the jumbo-shrimp scampi ($26), cater to animal-haters, while vegetarians can find plant-based sustenance in eggplant parmigiana ($17) and customizable pasta dishes ($16+). Pair your meal with a selection from the list of more than 60 wines imported from Italy, France, California, and the recently discovered lunar grape arbor.
Hailed by Chicago magazine as one of 2009's best new restaurants, Glen Prairie has solidified its commitment to Midwestern flavor during the ensuing years, with a kitchen that transmutes organic, gluten-free or family-farmed ingredients into platefuls of contemporary American cuisine. Buns cradling certified Black Angus burgers or Dietzler Farms all-natural patties materialize atop sleek tables in puffs of purple smoke as diners lounge beneath the incandescent light of the sage-toned dining room. The hip setting belies the restaurant’s homey flavors, as elements of comfort food infuse dishes such as the mac ‘n‘ locally farmed cheese, which accompanies chervil-crusted pike or arrives solo as part of the vegetarian selection.
Eco-friendly wines share the fruits of sustainable vineyards. And a choice of regular or mini desserts punctuates meals with perfectly portioned chocolate-chip-cookie sundaes, smothered in gelato and smoked sea-salted caramel. A brunch menu greets the morning with more healthy spreads, featuring frittatas, benedicts, and omelets made from cage-free eggs, trans-fat-free oils, and vegetables that got perfect scores on their ACTs.
Casa De Montecristo stocks its ample humidors and regal environs with row after row of tasty smoking tobacco. A La Sirena Trident summons piquancy from the depths of the broadleaf ($9.95), while an E.P. Carrillo Elite hits only the most select flavor notes ($11.95). Casa De Montecristo also boasts a free VIP membership lounge, which can be accessed by calling ahead. The spacious smoking cavern teems with plush amenities such as leather chairs and private humidified lockers. Kick back in the bar and tune in to a flat-screen television, or recline in the theater room for a movie, game, or cigar-smoking tutorial led by Groucho Marx.