Thank the culinary gods that it's not all about cauliflower steaks and caviar service. Courtesy of Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo (Piccolo Sogno, Nonnina) Maillard Tavern satisfies the very necessary craving for comfort food. Among the eight custom burgers, all constructed of two 4 oz. local beef patties griddled and served on a toasted potato bun with a side of duck fat potato fries, is the Maillard burger with crispy onions, bacon and onion jam, cheddar, pickles, and dijon mayo. That should be the antidote for a bad boss, breakup or too much drink. The menu also includes specialty sandwiches (Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast and an Impossible Burger among the choices) soups and a fab roster of desserts from milk shakes (also served spiked!), ice cream sundaes, banana splits and donuts. Chili gets a ton of flavor from stewed pork and beef, beans, peppers, sour cream, onions an cheddar.
If going back to school in fall is behind you - you can still go "old school" in terms of a night out. Take the train or an autumn drive to Evanston's leafy streets and soak up the season at the rustic Barn Steakhouse housed in a former stable, circa 1883. Tucked away down an alley, the Barn offers a menu listing 100% Midwestern Heritage Angus Beef. Start with an old-timey martini, Daiquiri or a "Barn Julep; consider the starters (crab cake? caviar sandwich?); and choose your steak or entree. Non steak choice include roasted Branzino and crab spaghetti plus nightly specials tempt from lasagna or roast duck to smoked bbq ribs or a Heritage sirloin burger - all at easier price points. Riffs on steakhouse sides include creamed Swiss chard. Because of Coravin service, enjoy a glass of nearly any wine on the deep list.
For some people, autumn doesn't mean fireplaces, soft jazz and mohair sweaters but rather football, beer and camaraderie. Check out the brand new Broken Barrel Bar featuring a massive 2000 square-foot outdoor beer garden housing a full bar, giant Jenga, communal tables and bleacher seating. Executive Chef Bryant Anderson, who has won awards at Chicago's Best Wing Fest, Bacon Fest and Mac & Cheese Fest, leads the tailgate-focused restaurant and bar in Lincoln Park. Chef tends meats in a custom smoker using hickory and oak logs that results in Sticky Curry Pork Tacos and Broken Brisket Dip with Muenster, brisket, pickled Asian peppers, sautéed mushrooms and onions on a buttered roll. Non meat eaters may go for Roasted Brussels Sprout Nachos with crispy sprouts, Fresno peppers, pickled red onions, radish, smoked cheddar sauce, cilantro and queso fresco. Drinks, like large format cocktails with multiple straws, add to the party atmosphere.
Yes, Hofbrauhaus is faux Munich, but people flock here because it may be the nearest they'll ever get to Germany. The massive beer hall - which can easily hold 1,000 people - is designed like its sister beer hall in Munich where people drink beer out of large steins, and order Teutonic edibles like Bavarian sausages or Apfelstrudel, a homemade apple streudel with ice cream. Live performers, often wearing lederhosen, get the crowd singing and dancing with a wide range of music. The live music and gaeity attracts hordes of people and if you linger you'll likely hear the same tuneage and toasts more than a few times. Every few minutes the performers toast their steins with the whole restaurant and say "Prost!". Seating is on long communal tables which adds to the festive atmosphere in the the 20,000-square-foot German microbrewery, restaurant and beer hall.
Supposedly, legendary lover Casanova ate 50 raw oysters every morning as an aphrodisiac. Shaw's Crab House has been the authority on the briny bivalves with the sexy rep for years with its annual Oyster Festival - the best shucking time of the year. Shaw's celebrates it's 30th "Pearl" Annual Oyster Fest from from Oct. 4-12 at both the Chicago and Schaumburg locations. Expect an oyster centric menu as well as all day Oyster Happy Hours in the Oyster Bar. In addition, Shaw's Chicago will host nightly blues and jazz bands, slurp off competitions, and pop up 50-cent oyster hours. Shaw's offers plenty of other choices when you open the menu: lobster, sushi, King crab, and a boatload of seasonal swimmers from Atlantic Yellowfin tuna to Ecuadorian Mahi Mahi. Enjoy bubbles by the glass, a sturdy Manhattan and desserts big enough to share. The ambience is warm, woody and retro.
A Bridgeport supper club, Kevin Hickey's The Duck Inn racked up awards from Michelin Bib Gourmand to Esquire Best New Restaurants and if you haven't been, it's a perfect choice for fall. Especially because the signature dish is a simple yet very hearty whole rotisserie duck that's carved and served over greens with seasonal fruits and duck fat dripping potatoes. The Duck Fat Dog is nearing legendary status and the entire menu reads like an autumn sonata: caraway gnocchi; crispy pig head; and a hamburger sandwich among the lot. In keeping with the residential Bridgeport neighborhood, the outdoor area is called the backyard garden and it stays open until the weather gets obnoxious.
There are bites and boards, greens and oysters but what really makes River Roast a fabulous fall foray are the roasts (carved tableside) like slow roasted Prime Rib; Crystal Farms Applewood smoked whole chicken; a boatload of market fresh veggies; cider brined rack of pork; and crispy or fire roasted whole fish. "Roots, shoots and veggies" are equally alluring from charred curry cauliflower to luscious creamed spinach. The location on the river can't be better with architectural and water views from every seat - inside and out on the patio. There's an after work set of live blues on Thursdays and more tunes during weekend brunch. Check out the monthly cooking classes like Cooking with Cider (Oct.) or Thanksgiving Leftovers in November.
Owen and Engine's fireplace, leather and wood, dim lighting, casual ambience plus hearty British fare begs for a corduroy blazer with elbow patches. perhaps a Corgi and certainly a gin and tonic. Locals and visitors rave about the Slagel Farms burger, Scotch egg, pickled veg, and the house shot is sure to warm you on a chilly autumn day. Expect traditional English options such as Cornish pasties, Bangers and Mash and Fish 'n' Chips all done exceptionally well.But also CBJ, cashew butter, bone marrow, and jelly! The kitchen gets to work with ingredients from a long roster of Midwestern artisans and farmers. Bread is baked in house, sausages, cured meats and some of the cheeses are prepared in house, too. Dessert is a swoon worthy short list of endings like Chocolate-Créme Fraîche Panna Cotta and Curry Peach Pie - so go ahead - the swimsuit is going into storage anyway.
The 2018 Jean Banchet Award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant in Chicago, Daisies is a vegetable-driven and pasta focused restaurant featuring fresh ingredients from Tim Frillman's Frillman Farms. Tim is the brother of Daisies executive chef/owner Joe Frillman, so you know the veg is the best. Between the rustic, seasonal menu and heated al fresco dining on the plant-filled patio, the Logan Square eatery embodies the comfort of a crisp fall night. Your Polish granny never made galumpkis like this: fermented cabbage stuffed with a barley and beef tongue mixture. Chicken fried rutabaga surprises the palate and the polenta waffle made with Iroquois corn meal and studded with pork lardo and a smear of pumpkin jam is all about autumn. Pastas go deliciously vegetarian (papardelle with mushroom ragu) and rich and meaty - gnocchi with pheasant sugo, sauerkraut, bacon and apples. Another plus: Daisies boasts an extensive no-waste fermentation program.
Hey Nonny will present live music six nights a week in the 150-seat listening room beginning in mid October. Consider arriving early to sample the fresh farm-to-table menu in the intimate Gastropub. Count on autumn items like charcuterie boards; duck confit jar; smoked trout toast; wild boar tomahawk chop; and lamb shank. The kitchen riffs on hummus by whirring edamame and adding a dollop of salty goat cheese. The full menu is available in the pub and at 16 premium seats in the listening room. Signature cocktails, locally sourced beers and spirits from Midwest breweries and distilleries round out the menu. Lots of folks are digging the wine menu, too. And who would love to sup while listening to acts such as Louisiana zydeco performer, C.J. Chenier, Chicago blues performer, Smiley Tillmon Band and the Waco Brothers bringing an alt-country rock circus to the room.