Better late than never, right? Thanks to a Herculean effort by Choose Chicago , Chicago Restaurant Week is a go, but the dates have shifted from the traditional late February (post-Valentine’s Day winter has always been a slow time for the hospitality industry, thus the marketing effort from the restaurant consortium) to March 19-April 4, 2021. This date change from Chicago winter to early spring increases the possibility of outdoor dining as well.
Other changes are afoot, and they are definitely a reflection of the times in which we find ourselves. You’ll notice that the prices are a little higher for these special prix fixe menus ($25 for lunch/brunch, $39 and $55 for dinner), but this has been a tough year for our restaurant friends, and I certainly don’t begrudge it. And for the very first time, many participants are including takeout and delivery orders in the special pricing, as well as the usual on-site dining option.
Here are some of our top picks for Restaurant Week meals that are sure to please. The site is now live, so make sure to reserve early and often!
This new Logan Square modern Greek resto comes from husband-and-wife team Doug Psaltis and Hsing Chen. Choose the collection of Meze or the Andros Salad to start, then pick the Crispy Kataifi Cheese Pie or the Grilled Calamari. Main course options are Eggplant Moussaka, Wood-Oven Toasted Sea Bream, or Pork Kontosouvli with spicy tomato sauce and tzatziki; Baklava Frozen Yogurt provides the sweet ending. Dinner is $39, dine-in only.
Here’s your chance to check out the new River North outpost of this perennial favorite or stop by the tried-and-true at the original West Loop location. Included are starters of house-marinated olives, ciabatta, and the famed Chorizo-Stuffed Dates, followed by a Shaved Brussels Sprouts salad, and the main event: Paella with Confit Chicken, Escargot, Sausage and Mussels made in the wood-fired oven and topped with tangerine aioli. End on the sweetest note with a Coffee-Hazelnut-Dark Chocolate Tiramisu. Dinner is $55 per person for dine-in at River North location; $110 for meal kit for two, takeout or delivery only from the West Loop.
Chef Paul Fehribach makes it oh-so-easy to fall for this love letter to Southern cuisine in Andersonville. This year’s CRW menu gives you a choice of Rutabaga Bisque or Tampa-Style Devil Crabs for a starter, and every diner gets a chunk of delectable Jalapeno-Cheese Cornbread. For your entrée, opt for Oxtail with Sweet Potato Dumplings, Jerked Catfish with Coconut Rice, or Porcini Mushroom Tempura with Blue Corn-Chestnut Spaghetti. Hope you’ve saved some room for dessert: Brandy Bread Pudding or Dark Chocolate-Chili Cake with Dulce de Leche. Dinner is $39 per person, available for dine-in, takeout or delivery.
Possibly the most glamorous restaurant in town, sate your red meat cravings with this special package. Choose a starter from Classic Caesar, Wedge Salad, Onion Soup Fondue or Lobster Bisque; your main dish could be Steak Frites with Bone Marrow Butter, King Salmon, Vegetable Risotto, or Organic Half Chicken with Truffle Jus. Dessert is your choice of Strawberry Cheesecake or Sticky Toffee Pudding. Dinner is $55, available for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
One of my favorite openings of the last few years, this Japanese street food resto in the West Loop from Chef Paul Virant re-opens March 2, just in time for CRW! I love that they’re offering both a three-course lunch (choice of spicy miso soup or a Sesame-Yuzu-dressed salad, traditional or vegetarian Hiroshima-Stle Okonomiyaki, and a Mochi Donut) AND a four-course dinner (Kombu-Marinated Veggies, Short Ribs with Furikake Rice, Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki, and Mochi Donut). Lunch is $25, Dinner is $39, available for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
If Israeli food is your thing, you can do no better than this Lincoln Park knockout. Chef Zachary Engel and his team have assembled quite the spread for Restaurant Week. Each meal includes Hummus, Salatim (labneh, pickles, spiced pumpkin, and Turkish tomatoes and peppers) with fresh pita, choice of two mezze (beets with black garlic, falafel, carrots with cumin-orange glaze and feta, and kale tabouli), and Balkan-Stuffed Cabbage, Chicken Thighs, and Basmati Pilaf to share. Dessert is Lemon Cream Tart. Dinner is $55, available for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
Family-style service is my preferred way to eat these days. Sharing is caring, right? Head down to Pilsen and dig into Chef Thai Dang’s Green Papaya Salad with Vietnamese Jerky and a Dried Squid Salad with Lotus Root to start. Your main course brings Lemongrass-Braised Chicken, Stewed Shrimp, and Grilled Eggplant with Steamed Jasmine Rice, and you’ll end up with the best Vietnamese Rice Pudding in town. There’s a more deluxe option that offers Vietnamese Egg Roll Lettuce Wraps and Green Papaya Salad, main course of Shole Roasted Bass, Grilled Marinated Ribeye, and Grilled Eggplant, too. Dinner is $39 or $55, available for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
This new River North Korean is coming in hot with an inspired brunch menu for CWR, which includes a brunch cocktail (Korean Bloody Mary, Soju Mimosa, or Watermelon Fresca) and your choice of main course between Bulgogi hash, Loco Miki Moko, Korean Fried Chicken & Waffles, Breakfast Beignets with Strawberries and Bananas, and the Mik Muffin (with Korean Spiced Beef patty, cheese, and a fried egg on an English muffin). The dinner menu is a stroll through Korean favorites like Kimchi Stew, Vegetarian Mandoo Dumplings, Watermelon Radish Salad, Seoul Slider, and Miki’s Bap (their take on Bibimbap), followed by Nutella-Stuffed Beignets. Seoul food! Brunch is $25, Dinner is $39, available for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
Chef Marc Groscz has been turning out French-inspired, world-class cuisine at this Evanston restaurant for over 30 years. His three-course meal for Restaurant Week offers a choice of starter, including Chicken Liver Pâté with Madeira Gelée, Beets with Warm Goat Cheese and White Asparagus, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Fennel, Prosciutto and Walnuts, and Corn-Leek Soup with Shrimp. Entrees include Wild Delaware Black Sea Bass with Cremini Mushrooms and Bacon, Organic Scottish Salmon with Spinach and lemongrass, Bouillabaisse Oceanique with Saffron Aioli, and Duck Confit with Spaëtzle. Choose from Chocolate Pôt de Crème or Vanilla Panna Cotta for dessert, and be very, very pleased with yourself. Dinner is $55, available for dine-in, takeout, or delivery.
The West Loop’s Restaurant Row is back, baby. It will be Proxi’s first time participating in Restaurant Week, so they’re going all out. First course options are Muhammara Paratha, Grilled Eggplant with Thai Basil, Soba Noodle Salad with Gochujang and Crispy Vegetables, or their iconic Tempura Elotes (the highest form corn can attain, in my opinion). Your second course might be Grilled Squid, Knanom Krok with Coconut Milk Pancakes, Burrata, or Black Pepper Pork, while entrée choices are a Fried Half Chicken, Braised pork Belly, Grilled King Trumpet Mushroom and Tofu Hotpot, or Corvina in Coconut Moilee. You’ll have a hard time picking between the Black Sesame Chocolate Brownie Dish or the Coconut Panna Cotta with Blood Orange and Spiced Dukkah. My advice? Bring a friend. Dinner is $55, dine-in only.
Another new(ish) spot, this time in North Center, and focusing on craveable French bistro favorites. The “Ultimate 3-Course French Meal” comes with a house-made Demi Baguette with Cultured Butter, Watercress Soup, and Pepper Steak with Mashed Potatoes. Your sweet ending is Vacherin Agrumes, a meringue with preserved citrus and whipped cream. Dinner is $55, takeout only.
I’ve been craving the Green Papaya Salad from this wonderful Vietnamese spot in the Loop, and it’s like owner Mary Aregoni heard my silent plea! Their deal includes a choice of starter (the aforementioned Papaya Salad or two Banh Baos stuffed with Fried Chicken and Beef Tenderloin, respectively), choice of four entrees (Grilled Baby Octopus with Black Squid Ink Rice, Mahi Mahi with Turmeric and Dill over Vermicelli, Bun Cha Hanoi, or Veggies with Yellow Curry), and your pick of coconut-forward dessert: Coffee Caramel Flan, Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Apples and Coffee Caramel, or Kabocha Squash Coconut Rice Pudding. Dinner is $39; available for dine-in, takeout or delivery.
Downtown Wilmette got some urban cred with the opening of Sophia Steak last year. Diners can opt for their special Restaurant Week menu and start with Prosciutto and Burrata Crostini, Lobster Bisque, or a Baby Iceberg Wedge. Main course options are Steak Sophia, Soy-Glazed Jumbo Shrimp, or Short Rib Tagliatelle. Dessert choices are Lemon Cheesecake or Butterscotch Crème Brûlée. Dinner is $55, dine-in only.
Chef Erick Williams has made quite a splash with this wonderful Hyde Park restaurant, scooping up awards and accolades all around for his beautifully rendered Southern Soul cuisine. His Restaurant Week menu gives you a choice between Kale Salad with Midnight Moon Cheese, Almonds and Tangerines, or Broccoli Salad with Candied Pecans and Cheddar to start, followed by either Shrimp & Grits or Cajun Jambalaya with Chicken and Pork. It’s an impossible choice between Pecan Pie and the city’s best Carrot Cake, but I believe in you. This meal comes with your choice of the house cocktail (Patience is a Virtue, with Virtue Vodka, Crème Yvette and rhubarb bitters) or a glass of Rioja Blanca or Dolcetto d’Alba. Dinner is $55, available for dine-in only.
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Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.