chicago feature

Local produce and contemporary American fare are big focuses for the Chicago dining scene, while the city’s thriving restaurant gardens show that local chefs know how to make the most of the short summers. Be sure to try the obligatory Chicago deep-dish pizza (get yours at the original Gino’s East), before booking into one of these six restaurants.

The Publican

With long, communal walnut-wood tables and a list of 100 ales, lagers, stouts and ciders, The Publican was designed to have the feel of a German beer hall. The menu is upscale (no bratwurst here) with dishes including: skate wing with tangerine butter, cherry and pistachio duke; trout with bacon dressing; and suckling lamb with polenta, summer squash and bread and butter pickle dressing.

Mindy's Hot Chocolate

This eatery just off the Bloomingdale Trail (Chicago’s answer to the High Line) is more than just a dessert bar. Brunch is best, with a seasonal menu offering dishes including duck confit omelette and a spring vegetable hash with quinoa, asparagus and ramp (wild leek) pesto. Swap your usual flat white for the epic, thick-as-treacle butterscotch hot chocolate with big, square, melty homemade marshmallows.

Maude's Liquor Bar

Book a table in the upstairs dining room – the black-painted walls, dark tables and leather couches are so softly lit, it feels like you’re the only table in there. Traditional French dishes (foie gras pâté, steak tartare) are served along with ‘almost French’ creations, such as garlic pork sausage with braised lentils, chicken jus and mustard. Come thirsty and order the Sazerac: rittenhouse rye, absinthe, demerara and peychaud’s bitters exemplify the restaurant’s American take on classic French fare.

Homestead

An incongruous rooftop farm-to-table restaurant, hidden up a set of stairs at the back of a sports bar. In summer, just-picked veggies from its organic rooftop garden are plated up alongside foraged mushrooms and meat from Illinois chefs’ favourite Slagel Family Farm. Homestead staff pickle surplus produce for winter dishes, serving them in jars alongside happiness-inducing bread baskets of cornbread, savoury pastries, brioche and baguettes.

Girl and the Goat

The small plates here are big on offal (braised-beef tongue, wood-oven roasted pig face) but not exclusively carnivorous (chickpea fritters and kohlrabi salad with fennel, toasted almonds and blueberries). There are goat dishes too, of course. Book a table close to the open kitchen.

Alinea

Alinea won its three Michelin stars with a constantly changing menu which blurs the boundaries between art and food. Desserts are constructed like modern-art paintings on the plain white tables – sauces are trailed and dotted on, then chocolate ‘piñatas’ and slabs of frozen chocolate mousse are smashed open in front of diners.

The Publican

Mindy's Hot Chocolate

Maude's Liquor Bar

Homestead

Girl and the Goat

Alinea

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