If the 2023 Chicago Restaurant Week (CRW), which runs from January 20 to February 5, is anything to go by (the First Bites Bash, the event that kicks off the main event, sold out in minutes on January 19 at the Field Museum), it might be a very busy “week” (in this instance, 17 days). In CRW, the numbers matter: This year, more than 356 eateries in the Chicago region are taking part, including 63 that are brand new to the scene and 61 that are run by women or people of colour. In 2023, 38 eateries from the suburbs will participate, and roughly 30 from Chicago’s various communities will be there as well.
For those who are unfamiliar, please define CRW. Choose Our city’s biggest cheerleader, Chicago, started this tradition 16 years ago to encourage locals and visitors alike to enjoy January restaurant dining by providing multi-course, prix fixe menus at affordable prices — now $25 for lunch and brunch and $42 or $59 for dinner, excluding beverages, tax, and gratuity. In addition to raising money, Restaurant Week (CRW) helps to revive the eating out industry during the dead of winter. The local branch of the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program and Kitchen Possible, a Chicago-based charity that gives kids a voice via the kitchen, both receive donations from the First Bites Bash.
Since there are so many dining options, how do you decide which one to visit? Start your engines with this list of highlighted eateries; at these rates, you’ll want to try more than one!
Chicago’s Avli on the Park is located at 180 N. Field Blvd.
When the lights are still on, the views from Avli on the Park are particularly enchanted. For $42, diners can enjoy a three-course Greek dinner featuring appetisers like Saganaki, Kataifi shrimp, or Revithada (baked chickpeas), salads like the Greek or Himoniatiki (pear and goat cheese), and entrees like the vegetarian Briam, the fish-friendly Lavraki Filetto (branzino with eggplant and tomato sauce), or the chicken-friendly Kotopoulo Hylopites (braised chicken with Greek pasta). If you have space for dessert, it will be from the a la carte menu.
Chicago’s Bar Esmé is located at 2200 N. Clark St.
It has been trending on Instagram, and you know you need to get it. So why not have it as the first dish of this three-course meal that costs just $59 and comes from the extremely popular Bar Esmé, the less formal sibling of the ultra-luxe Esmé next door, where Chef Jenner Tomaska also serves as Executive Chef? Start with a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, then go on to either Butternut Squash Soup or vegetarian Mushroom Conserva, and finally, either New Zealand Trout with Sauce Normandy or Texas Wagyu Pithivier with Beet and Balsamic for your main course. The beautiful drinks here are not to be overlooked, though.
Chicago, Illinois: CheSa’s Bistro & Bar, 3235 West Addison Street
CheSa’s Bistro and Bar in Avondale serves gluten-free, scratch-made fare. This high-end Cajun-Creole restaurant is participating in Restaurant Week by providing a three-course meal for $59. The first dish may be chosen from Lobster Louie Salad, Fried Green Tomatoes, or CheSa’s Devil Egg with Fried Shrimp Bites. Your entree selections are Lobster Etoufée, Crispy Skin Salmon with Orange-Braised Sweet Potato, Roasted Half Chicken with Black-Eyed Peas, and Creamy Truffle and Mushroom Risotto. Dessert options include a banana pudding soufflé, a triple chocolate cake, or a chocolate mousse.
Northbrook Address: Di Pescara, 2124 Northbrook Court
Do you want to go out to Northbrook Court? Seafood-focused In addition to their $25 three-course lunch, Di Pescara now serves a $42 three-course evening. Chicken Milanese, Almond-Crusted Whitefish, and Tuna and Salmon Poke Bowl are just some of the lunch options available to you. Starters include Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, Caesar Salad, Di Pescara Chop Salad, and Orchard Salad. Guests may choose between Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Mousse Cake for dessert. Yellowfin Tuna Poke, Di Pescara Chop Salad, or Crispy Shrimp Pescara are excellent first courses for supper. After that, dig into some Almond-Crusted Lake Superior Whitefish, Braised Beef Short Rib, or Broiled Mediterranean Sea Bass. Key lime pie, chocolate mousse cake, or — alert, foodies — Homer’s Peppermint Ice Cream with Hot Fudge are on the menu once again for dessert.
Chicago, Illinois; François Frankie; 222 W. Randolph
This Loop brasserie is ideal for pre-theatre dining, with its spinning carousel bar and reasonable prices ($25 for lunch and $59 for dinner). At lunch, you may start with French onion soup or crispy Brussels sprouts chips, and then go on to a main course like steak frites, scottish salmon, or chicken caesar salad. You may choose between a Chocolate Mousse Cake or a Banana Éclair for dessert. Everyone at the table will begin with the Brussels Sprout Chips, then go on to the soup and appetiser (Market Greens, Classic Caesar, or Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Whipped Ricotta), and finally the Steak Frîtes, Scottish Salmon, or vegetarian Black Truffle Gnocchi. Same dessert options as lunch.
HaiSous, 1800 S. Carpenter St., Chicago
Pilsen is home to a hidden gem of a Vietnamese restaurant in Chicago. The CRW dinner menu, prepared by Chef Thai Deng, costs $59 for two people to share. Jicama salad with papaya and dried squid, fragrant chopped chicken with Thai basil and toasted rice cracker, braised chicken with lemongrass and curry, rice noodle salad with chopped clams and Vietnamese herbs, roasted wild mushrooms in sweet chilli soy and smothered onions, and steamed jasmine rice will all be on the table. Banana crackers with toasted banana cream will be used to wash down the whipped banana cream. Indulge your senses with this visual and auditory extravaganza! We’re here to serve you from Wednesday through Sunday.
KMO, Chicago: 738 W. Randolph
You may choose between a three-course meal for $42 or a five-course supper for $59 at this Japanese restaurant in Chicago’s trendy West Loop neighbourhood, located on the city’s renowned Restaurant Row. If you’re hungry, I recommend the Asparagus Crab Soup or the Lobster Salad with Ginger Dressing to start, then the Tuna Tartare to follow. Duck breast, salmon, or beef tenderloin cooked in sweet soy sauce and served with seasonal vegetables and rice makes up the third dish. Salmon Maki or Nigiri will replace the appetiser on the new menu, while Green Tea Crème Brûlée will replace the traditional dessert. A pudding made of asparagus? No, you did not read that wrong. We’re fascinated by this alternative, and it’s a good one.
Fishing in Chicago, located at 616 N. Rush St.
Lure Fishbar is an option for lunch or supper in River North. In addition to New York City and Miami, they also have a branch in Chicago that debuted last year to much fanfare. An appetiser of Shrimp Tempura, New England Clam Chowder, or Salmon Tartare may be yours for $25 during the three-course meal. You may choose the Bash Burger with bacon and onion jam and American cheese, or you can choose from the Sesame-Crusted Tuna Salad, Miso-Glazed Salmon, Pan-Roasted Organic Chicken, or any of the other entrées. You may finish off your meal with the Matcha Panna Cotta or the Warm Chocolate Cake served with Caramel Popcorn and Salted Caramel Ice Cream. For $59, diners can choose from appetisers like Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Pancetta, Spicy Salmon Roll, or Tuna Tartare, and main courses like Nori-Crusted Tuna, Vegetable Bucatini, Miso-Glazed Salmon, or Pan-Roasted Organic Chicken (for an extra $12, diners can add Filet Mignon or the Lure Sushi Combo to their meal). You may finish off your meal with a slice of that delicious chocolate cake or Carrot Cake.
The Mercat a la Planxa, 638 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
In the Loop, the Blackstone Hotel is home to the excellent restaurant Mercat a la Planxa, where you can enjoy traditional Spanish tapas and more. What makes their menu unique is that it is always the same. Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Romesco Sauce kick off the weekend-only $25 CRW Brunch, followed by Mercat Marinated Chicken Thigh with Piquillo Aioli and French Fries. Whitefish a la Planxa with Olive Escabeche and Artichokes is the second meal of the $59 three-course supper, which follows Steamed Mussels in White Wine Butter Sauce with Chorizo. Pears poached in red wine and served with ricotta ice cream make a perfect dessert.
Monteverde is located at 1020 West Madison Street, Chicago.
This West Loop restaurant, winner of a James Beard Award, is notoriously difficult to reserve a table at, but it is possible to do so if you are flexible with your dining time. For $59, you can enjoy Chef Sara Grueneberg’s four-course family-style dinner featuring your choice of appetiser (Stuzzi), salad (Oma’s Green Mountain Salad, Roasted Mushroom and Beet Salad, or Lillian’s Stuffed Cabbage with porcini Bolognese and crispy polenta), pasta (Gnocchetti with Pesto, Creste di Gallo, or Chicken Parm), and entrée (Chicken Parm, Gnocch Dolci, or dessert, includes chocolate-dipped coconut forgotten cookies and your choice of house-made ice cream or sorbet. Make sure to pick up a copy of Chef Sarah’s latest book, Listen to Your Vegetables, while you’re there.
Chicago’s NoMi Park Hyatt, located at 800 N. Michigan Avenue
Although the view hasn’t changed, the dining room itself has been updated and improved greatly over the last year. Lunch is $25, weekend brunch is $25, and dinner is $59; all are discounted in support of CRW. Start your lunch with a Blue Crab Artichoke Fritter or a Duck Prosciutto Flatbread, then go on to the Amish Chicken with Hasselback Potatoes or the Grilled Garlic Sausage Sandwich, and finish with a Thai Tea Cremeaux-Filled Choux Pastry. Roast duck, wagyu NY strip, or vegan sweet potato stew with chickpeas, sweet peppers, wild mushrooms, and quinoa will be served after an appetiser of crispy maitake mushrooms or a salad of frisee with a poached duck egg. After dinner, dig into a slice of Calamansi Tart or some Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake.
ROOH, Chicago: 736 W. Randolph
At this unique Indian restaurant in the West Loop, you can have a four-course meal for only $59, starting with Cheese Kulcha for the table and followed by your pick of one of five distinct main courses. Sabudana cutlet, avocado bhel, tandoori pork belly, grilled prawns, and Kerala fried chicken. Bagara Baingan (baby eggplant), Butter Chicken, Tandoori Cauliflower, Paneer Pasanda, and Scottish Salmon Meen Pulusu are the major courses available to you, and they come with either rice or garlic naan. Choose from saffron cheesecake, molten chocolate cake with jaggery ice cream, or mango sorbet for dessert. There are also plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices.
Sunda, a New Asian Restaurant, 110 W. Illinois St., Chicago
The sushi at this River North mainstay is excellent, but that’s not all they serve; the menu also has dishes with Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indonesian influences. That’s reflected in the fact that you’ll have to purchase the $59 three-course supper for the whole table. You may start with either the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Minced Shrimp and Nuoc Cham Vinaigrette or the Oxtail Pot Stickers with White Wasabi Cream, and then go on to either the Yellowtail Jalapeo Sushi or the Sweet Potato Poke Maki for the sushi course. Vegan Chop Chae, Chicken Inasal, and Hainanese Salmon are available as main courses. Guests are on their own for dessert, but I highly suggest the Sunda Sundae, which is a riff on the Filipino treat Halo Halo and has a medley of shaved ice, ube ice cream, pandan coconut gel, flan, lychee, and red mung bean, among other things.
Inferno on Patriot Boulevard at 1300 in Glenview
Free parking is another another perk of living in the suburbs. Wildfire, with locations also in Chicago, Lincolnshire, Oakbrook, and Schaumburg, is a great place to find it. It’s possible to choose between the $25 lunch and the $59 supper. Salad options for lunch include Caesar and Field Greens, and then entrées such a Grilled Chicken Club, Prime Angus Cheeseburger, Mediterranean Salmon Sandwich, Lemon-Pepper Chicken Breast, or Mushroom-Crusted Fancy Pork Chop with your choice of a side. The perfect dessert is a flourless chocolate cake. Dinner has the same salad options or a cup of Shrimp and Crab Bisque to start, then your choice of Beer-Braised Short Ribs, Fresh Fish of the Day, Parmesan-Crusted NY Strip, Filet Mignon, or Prime Rib, served with a side dish of your choosing. Door County cherry pie, Key lime pie, or a seasonal pie is served as dessert.
Chicago, Illinois, Wood 3335 N. Halsted
At this Boystown restaurant, which has won six Michelin Bib Gourmands, the focus is on dishes that make use of the current season’s ingredients. Sit in one of those cosy booths. Their $59 three-course dinner menu has a tonne of options. Try the Curried Pumpkin Soup, the Brassica Caesar Salad, the Smoke Beet Tartare, or the Duck Liver Toast to start, and then move on to the Farro Verde Risotto, the Skate Wing à la Muenière, the Slagel Farms Chicken Breast with Pomme Purée, the Mushroom and Onion Flatbread, or the Raddiatore al Formaggio, which is essentially Italian Mac & Cheese with Bacon and Ham. Wood’s sundae, mille feuille, or chou à la crème with passion fruit curd are the dessert options.