These four new restaurants have top chefs, seasonal menus, and signature craft beers, but they all have one thing in common, you can only find them in Chicago's East Lakeview neighborhood within walking distance of Blue Man Group at Briar Street Theatre, Laugh Factory, and the Belmont Theatre District.
My first trip to DryHop was two weeks after their sell-out opening this past June. There were lines down the block to try craft beers by "ninja-genius" brewer Brant Dubovick and the exquisite menu by Charlie Trotter alumni Pete Repak. Illinois is the eleventh capital of microbreweries in the country, so kick your conventional beers to the curb and rock your world with beer with names like Bomb de Cerise (Belgian Cherry Wheat Ale) and Shark Meets Hipster (Wheat IPA). Their hop-centric beers perfectly balance the Cajun-inspired menu. For the adventurous, try the pork cheek fritter deep-fried in a crunchy batter. Also, the one-bite ham and Gruyere croquettes topped with quail egg are excellent. Expert wait staff can pair beer with your meal or you may order a beer sampler with 8oz glass of each.
Taverna 750 is an Italian small plates restaurant that has become a modern classic in Boystown with servers who pamper you like a regular. Chef Ryan Bovinet brings his French cooking skills to owner Paul Cannella's Italian family cookbook. The menu is inspired by some of the family recipes served at Cannella's grandfather's restaurant, which operated in Chicago during 1930s and 40s. The mixed sautéed greens with purple cauliflower and hearty grain in a balsamic-type reduction was the unexpected highlight, next to the crispy pan-seared rainbow trout garnished with asparagus. Save room for the house-made lemoncello, orangcello, and dessert martinis complete with a sidecar - essentially two martinis. The menu is updated seasonally and there are many weekday specials such as $2 wine night on Tuesdays.
Wood specializes in seasonal, locally sourced shared plates cooked in their hearth wood-fired oven. Last season, the stand out dishes were fried squash blossoms and a generous beet salad with an remarkable aioli dressing. They also feature larger American standards like roasted Amish chicken and rich Gnocchi pasta with flavors crafted by Ashlee Aubin, former chef de partie at Alinea restaurant. Wood deserves praise for having top-notch food in a chic and dimly lit atmosphere that encourages lively conversation. Finally, for a late night snack, stop by Backwoods, A.K.A. the back door to the restaurant, where after 10pm, you can order Belgian fries with truffle cream fresh from the kitchen window.
Milt's has been serving the Jewish population of East Lakeview who come to the neighborhood synagogue, Temple Shalom, for over six months now. It's no wonder the certified kosher BBQ restaurant is packed day in and day out. Before your drink order is taken, you are served a not-so-small plate of Kosher bread pickles to wet your appetite. I suggest starting with a smoke flavored vodka martini to compliment the pulled chicken sandwich paired with three house-made signature BBQ dipping sauces. You'll also find friendly conversation among the Jewish diners sitting next to you who make a point to say hello and ask how you like the kosher food.
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