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Great Eats: Chicago
By Connie Walsh

Considered to be the quintessential American city, Chicago is a world-class destination touted for its architecture, magnificent museums — and its Magnificent Mile of luxury shops. It once even boasted the world’s largest meatpacking district.

That being said, there is no shortage of high-end steak houses or ethnic eateries, including a Greektown neighborhood full of restaurants and flaming saganaki. When you add in a mother load of celebrity chefs like Grant Achatz, champion of molecular gastronomy and owner of Alinea, one of America’s most acclaimed restaurants, and Tony Mantuano chef at the four-star Italian restaurant Spiaggia — foodies are giddy with choices.

Frontera Grill & topolobampo
The Chicago Sun-Times has declared the Frontera Grill a study in the art of Mexican cookery and it has remained one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants for over 20 years. Chef extraordinaire and proprietor Rick Bayless has garnered just about every award possible and his fans include Oprah. The menu includes a street food section, rich molés and a selection of dishes prepared with organic seasonal ingredients. Th e craft ed cocktails are amazing; and the Margaritas? Mamacita! The ambiance is casual, energetic and fun. If you are looking to step it up a bit, visit its sister restaurant Topolobampo just next door. “The most elegant and serious Mexican
restaurant in the country,” says The New York Times. Dine at both, they are that good.

445 North Clark Street

Avec & blackbird.
Another “sister act” and a stylish one at that,
is Avec and Blackbird.

At Avec, with its cool wine bar vibe, diners settle in at sleek communal tables to share small plates that include one of the most talked-about dishes in the city, bacon wrapped chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates. Large plates include a nod to Chicago’s beef with a 55-day-dry-aged rib eye from Illinois’ Slagel Farm served with radish-celery salsa verde, castello di ama and aged balsamic.

615 West Randolph

Blackbird quietly lays claim to a James Beard Award-winning design for its soothingly minimalist decor and an amazing menu that honors local ingredients. This is modern fine dining at its best. Think roasted lobster with red curry biscuit, carrot and Tennessee ham. Pastry chef Dana Cree keeps it fun and makes things pop with a yummy desert selection that features strawberry bubble-gum ice cream.

619 West Randolph

North Pond
Once a pond-side ice skaters’ warming house in iconic Lincoln Park, North Pond was redesigned in the Arts and Crafts tradition and boasts one of the loveliest settings in the city with a view of its spectacular skyline. The menu and wine list are in keeping with the traditions of the restaurant’s site. This 2012 James Beard Foundation Award winner uses locally sourced seasonal products and delivers a unique take on American cuisine. This is a great spot for Sunday brunch; try the Warm Apple White Cheddar Soup.

2610 North Cannon Drive

And if you “gots to have” that pizza or a hot dog…

Coalfire Pizza
The word on the street is it’s the best in town. Thin crust and baked in a 800°F coal-fired oven. Try one topped with hot Calabrese salami and red peppers.

1321 West Grand Ave

Hot Doug’s
Fast and cheap — and delish. Get a taste of the city’s hot dog history with the classic Chicago dog or go haute with the rabbit sausage slathered with mustard-garlic
goats-milk butter.

3324 North California

About Connie Walsh:
Connie is Vice President of Business Development at Tour de Forks — a boutique culinary travel company — offering uncommon epicurean adventures, tours, packages and bespoke travel. To learn more please contact your travel agent.

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