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Eating Through Chicago: What’s Worth the Splurge (…and What’s Not)

Chicago is officially one of my FAVORITE food cities in the US.  I last visited when I was a young girl so I don’t remember much.  Don’t ask me why I waited so long to go back because I have no idea.

July’s my mom’s birthday month, so I decided to treat the BEST hand model of all time to some delicious eats in the windy city.  Here’s a recap of what was worth the splurge…and what wasn’t! And I apologize for not including any original pics for this guide.  My memory card got damaged during transit.  [insert sad face here].

must try eats chicago

An Amazing Dinner @ Roister

What a meal!  Alinea’s on my bucket list, but my mom’s not big into lavish tasting menus so I figured I’d check out one of their sister restaurants instead.  Man, Roister did NOT disappoint.  They get a 10/10 easy in my book.  Literally everything we got was amazing and service was on point, but standouts were as follows:

  • Pull-Apart Brioche Bread:  hearth smoked sweet butter, warm mixed olives
  • Rigatoni Pasta:  corn and lemon butter sauce + add on of poached blue crab
  • Seared Hokkaido Scallops:  thai green curry, blistered cucumber, coconut
  • Caramelized Wild Mushrooms: blue oyster, trumpet royal, maitake

Everything was prepared and presented so beautifully.  Flavors were exquisite, and we literally mmm-ed and ahhh-ed over each plate.  If you’re looking for a bougie but on-the-more-affordable-side-for-fine-dining, make a res at Roister.  You can thank me later.

Fantastic Brunch Prix Fixe @ S.K.Y

It’s high key wild how affordable this 3-course meal is.  For $34, you get 3 generous plates of truly fantastic food.  Here’s everything we ordered:

  • Marinated Cucumber Salad:  garlic-soy, chili oil, sesame salt
  • Warm Maiitake Mushrooms:  lemon vinaigrette, goat cheese
  • Garlic Beef Noodles:  crispy chili oil, scallions
  • Smoked Salmon Tartine:  everything crisps, romaine
  • Organic Fried Chicken: habanero butter, creamed corn
  • Short Rib & Potato Hash:  kalbi jus, crunchy onions
  • Maine Lobster Dumplings (add on):  jade butter, soft herbs

The star of the show was definitely the fried chicken (OMG so good)…and the lobster dumpling add on (OMFG so good), but the smoked salmon tartine was a close second.  Also, did I mention that they give you complimentary pastries to start?  Their cornbread madeleines were stupid yum, and the freshly fried donuts?  Unreal.

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Although they give you a ton of food, the dumplings are worth ordering.   It’s 4 for $18, but they’re packed with lobster and the accompanying sauce is addicting.  I definitely want to hit them up for dinner the next time I’m in Chi-town.  I still regret passing on the BBQ Belly Bao.

Afternoon Tea @ The Drake

afternoon tea the drake

Although I enjoyed being here with my mom, I wouldn’t come back, and I wouldn’t recommend it TBH.  After seeing it listed on the umpteenth article on “cool things to do in Chicago,” I decided to book a table for us, but it ended up just being expensive…when the tea + food wasn’t very good?

Just an underwhelming experience overall, but it’s a gorgeous space though, and I did appreciate the complimentary dessert they brought out for my mom’s birthday.  Said chocolate cake ended up being the tastiest thing we had there.

Great Pizza @ Avec

Avec was yet another fantastic restaurant we loved during our trip!  The food was great, and our only regret is that we were too full to enjoy more of their menu.  Our meal started off with a cheese plate.  We got their cypress grove humboldt fog goat’s milk, and it came with bread, seasonal jam, honeycomb and spiced nuts.

For entrees, we got their baked rigatoni ‘cacio e pepe’ (with leeks and salted pepper berries) along with their spring onion pizza (with oyster mushrooms, chili crisp and crescenza cheese) to share.  I definitely want to get their focaccia the next time I go!  This came highly recommended, but my mom’s not big on carbs (gasp) so we passed.  We also heard amazing things about their pork shoulder so there’s much to try!

…Not-So-Great Pizza @ Giordano’s

Ugh, I feel so bad saying this, but Giordano’s was such a let down.  I know they’re famous for their deep dish, but man, it was just… not for us.  We asked for their Chicago Classic, but they messed up and gave us classic with no toppings… which was fine, but the pie itself was disappointing.

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Yes, it was super cheesy, but there was little to no flavor in the cheese, the dough or the sauce.  Definitely overhyped in my opinion so I say pass on this and go to ANY of the thousands of amazing restaurants in the city because damn, the CHI food scene is no joke.

Dinner with a View @ Bazaar Meat

I low key almost changed my res because I found out Bazaar’s coming to DC soonish, lol.  When I travel, I only really want to go to local spots I can only experience there, but this restaurant came highly recommended by a foodie I respect so I decided to go.

The interior was so stunning, and we had a fabulous table with a gorgeous view of the city.  I thought their cocktails were tasty and fun, and their food was solid as well.  So, here’s everything we ordered:

  • Jose’s Taco:  jamon iberico de bellota, osetra vaciar, gold leaf, nori
  • Onion Soup:  apple, brioche, foie gras “cappuccino”
  • Mushrooms & Cream:  mushrooms, fried egg, pan de cristal
  • Gambas a la Zahara:  garlic, parsley, chile de arbol, pan de cristal
  • Spanish Octopus:  caramelized onions, chicken escabeche, cherry tomatoes
  • Oysters & Yuzu:  citrus, black pepper, yuzu air
  • Amish Chicken Thighs:  miso, mustard caviar, dates

My faves?  The oysters, octopus, mushrooms, and onion soup.  My mom’s particular so I wanted to make sure I got dishes she would enjoy, but I’d definitely like to go back to experience more of their menu aka I’m counting down the days until Bazaar DC opens, ha.

Fantastic Italian Fare @ Acanto

I absolutely LOVED this spot!  My mom and I dined here for lunch on our last day and left very impressed.  Definitely make sure you get a res though because it was PACKED on a Monday for lunch.  It’s not hard to see why though once you try the food.  We started our meal with their burrata di puglia – made with heirloom tomato marmettata, basil gremolata and butter focaccia crisps – and it was perfection.

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Then for entrees we got their chicken piccata + rigatoni bolognese.  The chicken was MAGICAL!  Easily the best chicken piccata I’ve ever had.  SO juicy and seasoned SO perfectly.  The pasta wasn’t as good but still tasty.  The noodles were cooked well but the sauce wasn’t doing it for me!  It was a little bland, but paired with their piccata?  Great.

We couldn’t leave without getting dessert so we shared an order of their classic tiramisu.  It was yum, but I kind of wish I got the dark chocolate torte instead.  All in all, wonderful experience.  If you’re looking to enjoy classic Italian fare in CHI, I highly suggest stopping by!

Chinese Food @ Lao Sze Chuan Chicago

peking duck

This was our LAST meal in Chicago!  We actually had a reservation to dine at the Loyalist, but my mom wasn’t feeling well so she asked if we could just walk someplace nearby.  I know that Lao Sze Chuan’s first location was in CHI, and she was in the mood for Asian food, so we decided to grab food there.  We got their mapo tofu and peking duck!  It was fine, but I low key wish I got to try the Loyalist burger.  That’s a restaurant bucket list item for me.

CONCLUSION:  I can’t WAIT to go back!  The food scene was truly next level, and I didn’t even get to hit any of their big bars this time ’round.  Next time, I’m going with some of my foodie friends so we can hit Alinea, Kumiko, and so much more.  My list is so freaking long, and I already can’t wait!

What do you guys think of their restaurant scene?  Let me know what some of your go-to spots are by leaving a comment below, and make sure you keep an eye out for more content coming your way.  For more on travel, head to this tab!

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