Chicago's culinary scene continues to lead the pack in innovations and creativity. These current trends are definite "must tries" for any foodie.
Fresh ingredients are always in high demand, and these restaurants are getting as close to the source as possible by starting their own gardens packed full of veggies and herbs to bring the freshest ingredients to their kitchens and your plate.
- Lockwood Restaurant & Bar's executive chef Joseph Rose offers a unique farm-to-table, seasonally influenced menu inspired by the restaurant's rooftop garden and apiary. Try the Chef's Daily Garden eggs breakfast (a mix of the freshest seasonal vegetables from the garden sautéed with eggs) or the farm-raised pork entrée complimented with celery root puree, sweet potato and cabbage.
- Homestead is literally a farm-to-table restaurant that sits above the restaurant Root (same owners). The outdoor dining and patio area allows guests to be surrounded by the growing veggies and herbs, twinkling lights and the great views of Chicago Ave. Artisanal cocktails (the No. 6 showcases fresh blackberries, mint and lemon juice with cognac) and light appetizers like braised candy-striped beets with mint and house-made yogurt cheese warm the palate for their heartier dishes like the beer-braised beef with fennel and kale. Be sure to plan accordingly — Homestead is only open from early summer through October.
- Markethouse Restaurant's executive chef Scott Walton is a Chicagoland native who incorporates seasonal root vegetables and lettuces from the rooftop garden into the menu including items like heirloom squash risotto with mushrooms, potpie with asparagus, potato, celery root and artichoke, and side dishes of Yukon Gold potatoes and charred Brussels sprouts.
Restaurants around Chicago are eliminating some beverage-related dilemmas by mixing their favorite beers with some hard liquor to get the ultimate beer cocktails.
- Fontera Grill's signature After the Gold Rush cocktail is a strong mix of Riverboat rye whiskey, Rocky's Revenge Beer (from Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, WI) and a hint of maple syrup.
- Longman & Eagle prides themselves on their researched and personally tested approach to cocktails and unusual spirits. Indulge in the Bitter Bourbon Buck, a mix of Buffalo Trace whiskey and Fernet Branca (a bitter, aromatic spirit) with citrus and ginger beer.
- The Fifty/50 has one of the larger beer cocktail menus in the city. Sweeten up the night with the Georgia Peach (Peche Lambic beer, peach-mango rum, citrus and more), head to warmer climates with the Lager-Rita (tequila, blood-orange liqueur and homemade margarita mix), or try the Hoe-Moba (Hoegaarden Belgian white beer with orange juice).
Gluten-free living has moved beyond the fad stage, and these sensational restaurants haven't skimped on flavor. These delicious dishes have gone beyond satisfying dietary needs to top-of-the-menu worthiness — even for gluten tolerators.
- Senza, located in the Lakeview neighborhood, focuses an entire menu on gluten-free items made with local ingredients. Dishes are prepared with modern and classic techniques, and the homemade baked goods are prepared with love by the owner Susan McMillan. Be sure one of your four courses includes the scallops and foie gras or the white-chocolate dessert.
- Italian and gluten-free are possible in a meal with VINCI's rice ziti pasta adorned with a hearty veal ragu. Enjoy the steamed mussels appetizer, roasted duck entrée with mushrooms and truffle oil, or marinated hen with roasted potatoes.
- Wildfire Chicago is a steakhouse specializing in 1940s supper club fare with hearty steaks, wood-roasted seafood and a complete gluten-free menu that boasts pizzas made with Domata Living gluten-free flour, grilled steak and blue cheese salads, shrimp penne brown rice pasta with fire-roasted tomatoes drizzled with garlic broth, and of course, steaks.
photo credit 1 - Markethouse dish
photo credit 2 - Embeya cocktails
photo credit 3 - VINCI dish