Best Restaurants: The West Loop's Randolph Street is something of a restaurant row, anchored by Blackbird from local hero Paul Kahan. His food is modern and upscale but deeply committed to local sources and truly seasonal in its changes. The place has the feel of an art gallery: a little stark and a little hushed when empty. But that state doesn't last long into the evening. Blackbird has an upscale, celebratory feel. To understand Kahan's idea of everyday food, in this case Mediterranean small plates and some of the city's best house-made charcuterie, angle for a seat at one of the communal tables next door at tiny Avec, where off-duty chefs are known to gather after hours.
New American: Blackbird created quite a stir in its first year and has maintained its appeal ever since. Reservations can be difficult to obtain, but once you secure them, you'll revel in creative, simply-prepared food with complex flavors. Starters may include smoked trout with caviar and crème frâiche or scallops dressed with cornmeal, fennel, and orange wedges. Main courses feature rack of lamb, venison loin, Alaskan halibut, and breast of squab. With room to seat only 58, the intimate place can feel crowded at times, but such coziness is a small concession to make for such a superb meal.