Dominique Leach is one of the biggest names in barbecue. A classically trained chef turned pitmaster, Chef Dominique worked in some of Chicago’s most prestigious kitchens before opening Lexington Betty Smokehouse in Pullman. Her Chicago-style barbecue has brought her national acclaim, including earning her a spot on The Food Network’s show Chopped and recognition as the “Best Barbecue in Chicago” by Good Morning America.

This year, Chef Dominique is serving as the Host Chef of First Bites Bash, an annual culinary celebration at the Field Museum that kicks off Chicago Restaurant Week. In honor of the occasion, Chef Dominique is sharing some of her top picks on where to dine for Chicago Restaurant Week 2024.

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

Meal at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant in Uptown is my must-try this year! They’re offering tasting platters of meat and veggie options from their menu, plus traditional accompaniments like fried dumplings, timatim soup, and African honey wine. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the food, and I’m looking forward to it.

The Publican

Friends dine on the Publican patio
Photo by Lucy Hewett

The Publican is a long-running establishment in the West Loop. One of my favorite dishes on their regular menu is the porchetta with grits — it’s out-of-this-world delicious! This Chicago Restaurant Week, they’re serving beef carpaccio with bone marrow aioli, baked stone clams, and glazed pork belly with charred cabbage.

Luella’s Southern Kitchen

The salmon croquettes at Luella’s Southern Kitchen are the best you will find in the city. The shrimp and andouille sausage macaroni and cheese will literally rock you to sleep and tuck you in like a baby. I don’t go near Lincoln Square without stopping in for food. Come during Chicago Restaurant Week for hush puppies, Mississippi pot roast, and apple cobbler with cinnamon roll ice cream.

Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

Photo courtesy Galdones Photography

Monteverde is one of the best woman-owned restaurants in Chicago. I love it for several reasons, but my top two reasons are the lamb meatballs and the burrata with prosciutto. The little rosemary pancakes served with the burrata are life-changing, I’d recommend adding it on to your Chicago Restaurant Week dinner.

CheSa’s Bistro & Bar

CheSa’s Bistro & Bar is a 100% gluten-free establishment in Avondale. On the regular menu, the fried chicken and beignet waffle is sweet, savory, and delicious! During Chicago Restaurant Week, I’m looking forward to trying the slow-cooked oxtail and risotto entree on the dinner menu.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen in Pilsen has phenomenal food! This Chicago Restaurant Week, I’m looking forward to ordering the Vietnamese chicken curry with coconut milk, sweet potato, and crispy chicken skin. Hopefully I can request extra crispy chicken skin!

Virtue Restaurant & Bar


Virtue Restaurant & Bar is the only fine-dining soul food restaurant in the city. Not only is Chef Erick Williams a huge influence on me, but he’s clearly a master at what he does. Their Chicago Restaurant Week menu includes comforting dishes like shrimp and crawfish, jambalaya with andouille sausage, and red velvet cake.


Frontier is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago for a great vibe. The food is creative and unique. They also have an unbelievable dessert menu. This year, I’m excited to try the lamb empanadas, smoked Wagyu ribs, and peach pie jar on their Chicago Restaurant Week dinner menu.

Rose Mary

Rose Mary specializes in Italian and Croatian-inspired cuisine. I can eat the tuna crudo with crispy capers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! It’s ridiculously delicious — and you can try it on their Chicago Restaurant Week menu this year.

Daisy’s Po’Boy & Tavern

Daisy’s Po’Boy & Tavern in Hyde Park makes me feel like I just teleported to New Orleans. My favorite items on the regular menu include red beans and rice, fried green tomatoes, and fried alligator. Be sure to order these with a hurricane or the rum punch for the full NOLA experience.

If you’re still looking for places to eat during Chicago Restaurant Week, come sample award-winning barbecue for lunch or dinner at Lexington Berry Smokehouse. And make sure to get your tickets to First Bites Bash to celebrate Chicago’s astounding culinary scene with some of the city’s best restaurants!