Chicago Restaurant Week gets better and bigger every year. One of Chicago's preeminent dining draws, the two-week promotion (taking place January 22-February 4) boasts over 300 restaurants this year, along with more than 50 restaurant newcomers, not to mention several of Chicago's hottest, buzziest restaurants.
In preparation for Chicago Restaurant Week's kickoff, let's take a look at some of the city's new restaurants joining the CRW roster this year.
Combine a celebrity chef (Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani) with a powerhouse hospitality group (DineAmic Group), a hip and happening atmosphere, and one of the hottest dining neighborhoods in the country and you've got a bonafide hit on your hands. Bar Siena opened last year to much deserved fanfare on Randolph Street, spread over two stories of prime real estate on Chicago's Restaurant Row. A casual spin-off of Viviani's Siena Tavern in River North, Bar Siena is an upbeat counterpart filled with playful, contemporary Italian fare.
CRW affords the perfect opportunity to get a taste of this West Loop hot spot, and with both lunch and dinner prix fixe menus available, you've got plenty of opportunity indeed. CRW menu items include white tuna crudo, stracchino cheese fritters with spicy apricot mostarda, meatball sandwich, sweet corn ravioli, and gelato. Oh and Nutella calzones. Don't forget about those.
When the historic Chicago Athletic Association hotel re-emerged last year, it became one of the hippest destinations in the city, drawing hordes of visitors to Michigan Avenue for something other than high-end shopping. While travelers and staycationers reveled in the chic hotel rooms, others flocked to the property's esteemed dining and drinking options. Chief among them: Cherry Circle Room. The crown jewel of the property, Cherry Circle Room is a reimagined homage to the original Cherry Circle Room that stood inside the original space. Now with adept chef Peter Coenen at the helm, that bygone classic has entered a bold new era, simultaneously harkening to olden dishes and cooking techniques (expect lots of table side service and old-timey items like Chateaubriand) while modernizing and elevating the downtown dining experience in an impossibly gorgeous dining room befitting a Mad Men-esque business dinner.
The restaurant is offering lunch prix fixe menus for CRW, featuring optional items like chicory salad with lacquered bacon and mustard vinaigrette; braised cabbage soup with smoked pork sausage and confit tomato; farro risotto with roasted pumpkin and Parmesan; house-crafted lamb sausage sandwich with beer mustard and giardiniera; roasted walleye pike with smoked saffron broth; and a chocolate-pumpkin dessert with peanut butter, gingerbread, and spiced meringue.
Further proof that Chicago's diverse dining scene has it all, Lincoln Park's Dutch newcomer De Quay has joined the CRW lineup this year. Everyone spent last year fawning over the homey Euro-inspired eatery, and now is an apt time to get a taste for yourself. The dinner menu De Quay is serving up for CRW is one of the most unique options this year, with items like Dutch pea soup with smoked rookworst sausage and Maasdam cheese savory bread pudding; spiced beef and sesame lumpias; chicken and vegetable nasi goreng; lamb rendang curry; and housemade warm stroopwafels with vanilla ice cream.
Late last summer, one of the most famous restaurateurs in the world made his Chicago debut with one of the most offbeat and unexpected openings of 2015. The restaurant? GreenRiver. The talent? New York City-based Danny Meyer, who partnered with the beverage masterminds behind New York City's The Dead Rabbit cocktail bar for a contemporary American restaurant on the 18th floor of a Streeterville high-rise on Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus. Like I said, unexpected. Ascend the elevators and prepare for your jaw to hit the floor, because this sprawling, glistening space is quite entrancing. Similar can be said about the food and cocktails, the former of which is executed by chef Aaron Lirette, while the latter is displayed via a legit cocktail book filled with Chicago lore and novel mixology techniques.
For CRW, GreenRiver is providing a taste with lunch options like Werp Farms field greens, seasonal vegetable soup, Parisian gnocchi with trumpet mushroom and shishito pepper, ocean trout with beets and yogurt, and mignardises.
For something a little more casual but no less splashy, head to Miss Ricky's in the Virgin Hotel. When the slick hotel opened in the Loop last year, it came with a handful of dining outlets courtesy of chef Rick Gresh, a man with a penchant for fusing serious cooking with playful quirks. This is on full display at Miss Ricky's, his modern diner with an elevated approach to Americana comfort food.
The restaurant is participating in CRW for both lunch and dinner, and options abound. Get hungry for options like winter squash soup; stuffed mushrooms with truffle honey; fried shrimp po' boys with harissa aioli; beef short rib "stroganoff";chicken fried steak and waffle; sweet potato pie with bourbon whipped cream; and Nutella bread pudding with coffee ice cream.
New Italian restaurants were a dime-a-dozen last year in Chicago, but few reached the level that Monteverde did. The West Loop newbie is the masterwork of chef Sarah Grueneberg, another Top Chef alum and former chef at Spiaggia, one of the most acclaimed Italian fine dining destinations in the country.
The chef has put together an impressive dinner menu for CRW, offering a nice foray into her culinary stylings at Monteverde. First course options are Oma's green mountain salad with lettuces, avocado, and shaved vegetables; and charred carrots with horseradish, yogurt, and crispy country ham. Pasta entrees are corzetti with pecan and herb pesto, and Brussels sprouts; and lasagna bolognese with three-meat ragu, pasta verde, and bechamel. For dessert, there's a caramel apple upside-down tart or chocolate sorbet with "forgotten" cookies.
2015 was definitely the year of steak in Chicago. The year brought the city a slew of trendy new steakhouses, like Swift & Sons, Maple & Ash, STK, and Prime & Provisions. That last one is participating in CRW with both lunch and dinner menus, affording ample opportunity to eat your way through one of the hottest, meatiest new haunts downtown.
The lunch menu features dishes like New England clam chowder, the Prime chopped salad, tomato and sweet onion salad, fried chicken with maple drizzle, a lobster club sandwich, prime rib dip, and a dry-aged prime burger. The dinner menu, meanwhile, contains house-flared thick-cut bacon, wedge salad, broiled wild salmon, chicken Vesuvio, banana cream pie, and chocolate caramel cake.
For the list of all 300+ Chicago Restaurant Week participants and their menus, visit EatItUpChicago.com.
Photos: Monteverde header photo (Huge Galdones Photography), Jorge Gera Photography (Bar Siena), Cherry Circle Room, De Quay, GreenRiver, Miss Ricky's, Huge Galdones Photography (Monteverde), Prime & Provisions