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How to Make the Most of Restaurant Week

Attention, hungry Chicagoans: Restaurant Week has an affordable eating opportunity just right for you.
Thursday Feb 11, 2010.     By Dan Morgridge
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

<A HREF=/restaurants/nacional27.html>Nacional 27</a>'s bonito and plantain croquetas
photo: Nacional 27 (via Flickr)
Nacional 27's croquetas

A very good meal - especially in Chicago - often leaves you returning home with a whole other meal. Chicago Restaurant Week (actually 10 days, February 19-28) should offer even more opportunities to indulge.

But with prix-fixe menus ($22 for lunch and $32 for dinner) offered from 150-plus restaurants, and several options for each course offered at many locations, where do you begin? With our guide, of course.



Get Classy

Atwood Cafe
Reserve online
Plenty of people take a long gander inside this Hotel Burnham restaurant as they pass on State Street. Make yourself a lunch reservation and finally step inside during Restaurant Week. Starters include a roasted butternut squash-apple soup or graham cracker-fried calamari, and main courses include sesame-crusted ahi tuna or a grilled turkey burger with sweet potato fries. Don't forget to save room for the brown sugar cheesecake with creamy butterscotch sauce, or the dark chocolate soufflé cake with rum zabaione and chocolate sauce).

Japonais
Reserve online
If your idea of classy involves celebrity-spotting, give this pricey Asian eatery a try. The Restaurant Week dinner menu at this always-bustling spot includes a choice of maki to start, followed by nori-encrusted salmon or soy-braised short rib with poached pear, and chocolate chawan mushi for dessert.

Naha
Reserve online
James Beard Award-winner Carrie Nahabedian's River North restaurant offers many delicious-sounding dinner options, so expect to hem and haw a bit. We'd probably go with the cauliflower soup with wild boar bacon to start, follow with the tagine of braised lamb shank with polenta, Turkish apricots, blood orange and spiced pine nuts, and finish with a New York Style cheesecake scented with pineapple and rum. But that's just us.

Get Exotic

Nacional 27
Reserve online
Want to use this opportunity to get outside your comfort zone? Dinner at this Latin-themed spot includes striking options like boniato and plantain croquetas, perhaps followed by a plate of suckling pig cubano. Finish it off with a Grand Marnier chocolate torte and then dance off some of the calories as a live band plays most nights.

Perennial
Reserve online
Locavores have plenty of exciting options during Restaurant Week, too. At this rapidly rising Old Town eatery, chef Ryan Poli offers an array of Chicago-sourced ingredients, including a first course featuring Green City Market red kuri squash risotto with Laughing Bird shrimp and toasted curried pumpkin seeds. With a starter like that, who knows where the night will lead.

Indian Garden (Streeterville)
Reserve online
If you're really not a good decision-maker, you might want to stay away from this Northern Indian spot, which offers 14 appetizer choices and 25 main-course options, with rice, naan, dessert and mango lassi added in just to totally knock you out (if you're going for lunch, don't plan on being productive the rest of the workday).

Blackbird
Reserve online
Expect the unexpected at this always-adventurous West Loop favorite; act accordingly with the bold choice of the torchon of foie gras (with black grape, spicy vegetables) to start. Add on a roasted squab and smoked sausage plate and a majari chocolate pave (flourless chocolate cake) with pomegranates, crispy chocolate, lime salt and beet ice cream, and your palate may never be the same.

Get Decadent

Trattoria No. 10
If you want to get the most calories for your buck, this Italian favorite (especially for the pre-theater crowd) in the Loop could be a good place to go, thanks to a menu featuring house-made Italian sausage with rapini and caramelized onions over soft polenta, butternut squash ravioli with oregano butter sauce and toasted walnuts, and cinnamon cake with chocolate-mascarpone frosting.

Smith & Wollensky
Reserve online
Carnivores, your dreams have become reality. Tackle your cholesterol cravings with beef carpaccio, a 10-ounce filet mignon and a (meatless) chocolate layer cake. No word on whether there will be a defibrillator on site.

Geja's Cafe
Reserve online
Valentine's Day will already be over, but if you’re still in the mood for romance, this fondue restaurant has a tried-and-true solution: hot oil and melted cheese. Get your mind out of the gutter and order up some plates of meats, seafood or fresh veggies for dipping, then cap things off with flaming chocolate dessert fondue and the house-brewed coffee.

 

Explore More

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Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

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Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.


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