Spring is officially here and things are coming up roses on menus across Chicago. And by roses, I mean asparagus, ramps, and rhubarb. It must be springtime on Chicago menus.
Paramount Events (1932 W. Lake St.)
From chilled spring pea soup to asparagus salad and rhubarb-adorned black grouper, spring ingredients are front-and-center at Paramount Events. Chef Devon Quinn is currently going all out with seasonal provisions, accenting pan-roasted scallops with stinging nettle pistou, outfitting grilled lobster with pickled ramps and pea shoots, and serving up a sweet, fruity take on soup with strawberries and rhubarb. There's pretty much no spring vegetable or fruit left unturned on the current menu, which includes cocktails such as a fennel-infused gin-based rhubarb cocktail, a strawberry-basil mojito, and a cucumber cocktail spiced with jalapeño.
Lockwood Restaurant and Bar (17 E. Monroe St.)
The Palmer House Hilton is much more than brownies, pomp, and circumstance. Thanks to chef Joseph Rose, the hotel's resident restaurant draws crowds with Lockwood's rigorously seasonal menus. Current standouts include halibut with peas and carrot puree; spring lamb with fava beans, white asparagus, and morel mushrooms; rib-eye with grilled ramps; and a spring vegetable tasting featuring peas, Swiss chard, bulgar wheat, baby carrots, knob onions, asparagus, and red pepper.
Acadia (1639 S. Wabash Ave.)
Ramps and spring onions take the stage in truly invigorating fashion at Acadia. Chef Ryan McCaskey never fails to astound with his unique approach to seasonal cookery, exemplified by the likes of a 63-degree farm egg dish accented with ramp jus, pistachio bread, braised broccoli raab-scallion dashi, and petit lettuce. Another spotlight-worthy item is the Stonington lobster "pie," a menu favorite making its return with the aid of roasted spring onions, fava beans, potato-pea dauphine, black trumpet mushrooms, and sour cream pastry.
Eduardo's Enoteca (1212 N. Dearborn St.)
Coming off gourd and pumpkin spice latte season, spring is all about eating as green as possible. It doesn't get any greener than the spring pea and spinach ravioli at Educardo's Enoteca. Green inside and out, this seasonal pasta sensation is made with spinach-infused pasta stuffed with spring peas, whipped ricotta, and a light crema tomato sauce.
Floriole Cafe & Bakery (1220 W. Webster Ave.)
One of the best ways to sample the locally and seasonally driven wares at Floriole Cafe & Bakery is via pizza. The cafe hosts pizza nights every Friday evening, featuring a rotating roster of crafty pizzas strewn with seasonal, vibrant ingredients. The handiwork of pizza maven Rachel Post, April's offerings include a spring pea pizza made with a pistachio béchamel, sweet pea hummus, snap pea salad, pickled fennel and shallots, and Parmesan. The pizza is on deck through May, with plans to implement new seasonal additions such as pickled ramps and shaved asparagus as said ingredients become available.
TWO (1132 W. Grand Ave.)
With ramps being some of the most cultishly adored and eagerly awaited harbingers of spring, there's no better way to celebrate the season than with a ramp tasting menu at TWO. The West Town restaurant takes seasonality to a whole new level with its ramp-tastic degustation, featuring ramp soup with quick-pickled mussels; ramp bruschetta; grilled ramps with roasted morel mushrooms and a 64-degree farm egg; ramp risotto; and a ramp and cheese plate with ramp butter, sweet ramp jam, ramp relish, and lavosh.
Jellyfish (1009 N. Rush St.)
Probably the last place you'd expect to find ramps is in a sushi roll, but Jellyfish provides the perfect intersection of Japanese techniques with seasonal Midwestern sentiments. The new Spring Melody maki contains ramps, rhubarb, peas, mushrooms, avocado, crab, salmon, spicy mayo, and yuzu dressing, culminating in one of the most unique renditions of spring dining in Chicago.
Sophie's (700 N. Michigan Ave.)
No better way to raise a glass to spring than with the elegant new cocktails at Sophie's. Rhubarb lays the framework for seasonal potable supremacy, featured in the Rhubarb Basil Gimlet and Sophie's Sonnet, a Crème de Poete creation made with Imbue Petal & Thorn, lemon juice, rhubarb bitters, and Prosecco.
Photos: Paramount Events, Lockwood Restaurant and Bar, Eduardo's Enoteca, Jason Little Photography (Floriole), Jellyfish