Chicago’s dining scene is known around the country for its diverse restaurant landscape, innovative chefs, and Midwestern hospitality — which makes it the perfect place to host the James Beard Awards.
The city will be home to the awards, called the Oscars of the food world, through 2027. This year’s awards gala will take place at Chicago’s Civic Opera House on Monday, May 6. And as the best and brightest culinary stars descend on Chicago for the ceremony, the city gears up for an 11-day food fest known as James Beard Eats Week.
During Eats Week, more than 120 of Chicago’s best restaurants will offer exclusive menus and dishes inspired by culinary icon James Beard. It’s the perfect excuse to check some places off your dining bucket list and sample limited-time items created specifically for Eats Week.
Here’s a just a few stand-out James Beard Eats Week menus and dishes from around Chicago. Make sure to check out all the participating restaurants and their unique Eats Week offerings.
Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen
Haisous is still a tough table to book — especially after the James Beard Foundation named chefs and owners Thai Dang and Danielle Dang semi-finalists for this year’s Best Chef Great Lakes Region award.
The pair have designed a three-course menu ($55) for this year’s Eats Week. The six dishes combine vibrant Vietnamese flavors into a truly one-of-a-kind meal.
Gỏi So Đép: seared scallop salad, young coconut, hearts of palm, perilla
Bò Tái Chanh: Vietnamese-style beef carpaccio, rice paddy herb, fire roasted rice cracker
Gà Kho Măng: braised chicken and young bamboo, dried chili
Cà Tím Nướng: grilled eggplant, fried garlic, pickled shallots
Cơm: steamed Jasmine rice
Chè Dừa Non: Sticky rice “pudding” with whipped coconut mousse
Coda di Volpe
James Beard was a prolific cookbook author, publishing more than 20 over the course of his career. But James Beard’s American Cookery is widely considered to be his masterpiece. Coda di Volpe, a beloved neighborhood Italian spot, is offering their own spin on some of Beard’s most beloved recipes from this iconic tome.
Wilted dandelion salad: house-cured bacon, garlic, mint, parsley, red wine vinaigrette, $13
Braised lamb shoulder: local spring lamb, knob onions, king trumpet mushrooms, natural lamb reduction, herb salad, $34
Coconut cake with cannoli filling: sweet ricotta, orange zest, chocolate chips, pistachio, $12
Cherry Circle Room
Along with his writing, Beard was known for his wit. His quips and quotes have become immortalized in kitchens and dining rooms throughout the country. And Cherry Circle Room, a fine dining spot and James Beard award winner for Outstanding Restaurant Design, draws inspiration from Beard’s words to create their Eats Week menu ($75).
“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it.”
Gratin of asparagus with jamón Ibérico
“I believe that if I ever had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”
Butter poached Maine lobster, melted leeks, and tarragon
“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.”
Chocolate soufflé, cherry blossom, cherry compote
This refined downtown spot will be offering a special dish for James Beard Eats Week. Diners can order the soft shell crab amandine, topped with Marcona almonds, parsley, Meyer lemon, and brown butter (market price). The dish is inspired by a recipe in James Beard’s New Fish Cookery cookbook. The fresh flavors will fit right in on The Gage‘s inventive American menu.
Eli’s Cheesecake Bakery & Café
Eli’s Cheesecake is a classic Chicago tradition — but their bakery and café location offers more than just the sweet stuff. For James Beard Eats Week, they’ll expand their options even more with three original dishes. Their Mexican entrées are inspired by Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen, a 2018 James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award Winner, and their dessert is Beard’s favorite cake flavor.
Tostadas de piccadillo: ground beef, pickled red onion, watercress, crema, and salsa verde
Homemade chicken tamales with romesco sauce
Coconut cake: five layers of coconut cake, frosted with coconut buttercream, covered in toasted coconut
For reservations, call (773) 305-3800.
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
Beard could usually be seen sporting a bowtie, even in the kitchen. The Eats Week offering at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, a semifinalist for this year’s Outstanding Service award, is a nod to Beard’s signature look. Their dish takes an already luxurious item and brings it to the next level: black tie oysters Rockefeller with truffled hollandaise & Osetra caviar in a bow tie shape.
Dos Urban Cantina
Expect a party at Dos Urban Cantina during James Beard Eats Week. The contemporary Mexican restaurant has crafted a dish that’s an homage to Beard’s Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapés cookbook, his definitive guide to cocktail party food and drink. The result is “Mexican cheese and crackers”: queso de cincho, chihuahua and ricotta cheese finished with membrillo, pasilla, mezcal and candied peanuts accompanied with house made piloncillo crackers.
One of James Beard’s classic dishes is his onion sandwich. The hors d’oeuvre recipe has been endlessly recreated and riffed since it was first published in 1965. Bar Ramone, a new wine and tapas bar, offers their own take on the classic. Their version includes smoked trout, onion crepe, egg yolk, pickled dilly beans, and roe ($13.95). Their Eats Week dishes also include oven-roasted oysters with garlic and chorizo butter ($13.95) and Meyer lemon sorbet with Espelette cream and seasonal fruit ($7.50).
One of Chicagoland’s premiere kosher restaurants, Shallots Bistro, is preparing a decadent feast for James Beard Eats Week. Their prix-fixe menu ($75) include a salad, entree, and dessert, each exclusively crafted for Eats Week.
Duck chicharron salad: baby kale, sweet onion, duck confit, toasted walnuts, sweet potato threads, roasted shallot vinaigrette, wine syrup drizzle, duck chicharron garnish
Horseradish encrusted steak: grilled prime rib, scalloped herbed potatoes, garlic broccolini, au jus, horseradish sauce, frizzle leeks
Peanut butter silk pie: light velvety peanut butter mousse, chocolate ganache, graham cracker crust, shaved chocolate, whipped cream
James Beard Awards
The James Beard Eats Week celebration is all leading up to the biggest night of the year for foodies: the James Beard Awards. Known as the Oscars of the food world, these awards celebrate the best and brightest in the culinary community. This year’s awards gala will be held at Chicago’s Civic Opera House on Monday, May 6. Chicago chefs are in the running for 14 awards, including Best Chef: Great Lakes and Rising Star Chef of the Year. Get your tickets today.