Colorful, loud, and festive, this Nuevo Latino eatery serves up flavorful, spicy food with an extra emphasis on flair and presentation. Start with a tequila drink from their huge cocktail list, and one of their fresh ceviches. The menu is huge, with South American and Latin influences. A solid choice is the herb-crusted Bolivia Lamb Rack, or the Arrachera, a wood-grilled skirt steak, rice and beans, bacon sofrito, sweet red onion, and chimichurri sauce. For dessert, customers rave about the chocolate dome, made with white and dark chocolate mousse, topped with strawberry sorbet and fresh strawberries. The restaurant's open late, so it's fine for groups to linger after their meal.
Going to see a play in Chicago? This Italian restaurant is a good pre-show pick for dinner. The best thing on the menu are their homemade pastas, but you'll also find a nice selection of salads and a few fish entrees. Customers rave about the Branzino, a Mediterranean skin-on sea bass with yellow pepper puree, crab meat, green onions, radishes, fresno peppers, lime juice, olive oil and micro cilantro. Since the food here is a bit pricey, the best value is to order their prix fixe menus for lunch or dinner, which include a nice choice of appetizers, entrees and desserts.
The northwest may not be known as a trendy neighborhood according to some Chicagoan's standards but those who live in Norwood Park don't mind. They benefit from being able to get in some of the best places to dine and imbibe without the hassle of long wait times and parking woes. Iron Horse Ale House is the latest to open on the busy Northwest Highway strip in a two-story brick building what was once a post office. While it boasts an impressive drink menu and 20 craft beers on tap, it also offers a separate gluten-free menu with appetizers and entrees. Even more impressive is that all of its pizzas and pastas can be made using gluten-free ingredients and can be enjoyed with a gluten-free beer. Towards the back is the exposed brick pizza oven which entertains the kids sitting on bar stools watching their pizzas being made to order.
Like many city downtown areas, finding an indie restaurant that's good, relatively inexpensive and accessible isn't easy. Nestled on bustling Ohio Street, Emilio's (as everyone here calls it) has a colorful interior (murals line the walls) and plenty of tables large enough for families and groups or small enough for an intimate dinner date. An outdoor patio is especially attractive during warmer days and since the sidewalk is wide enough, you won't feel as if you might get run over by drivers. Enjoy traditional tapas including baked goat cheese served with crispy garlic bread, cannelloni stuffed with tuna, asparagus, and olives, and the tomato bread topped with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese.
When people move who have moved away from Chicago come home, a stop at Portillo's is one of the first thing they do. The hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches here are among Chicago's best, plus the service is fast and the prices are low. Order at the counter (or consider pre-ordering if you're with a large group), and then grab seats at the long tables in the dining room. This is one of Chicago's most popular chain restaurants, and they serve thousands of people a day, so they know how to get you your food fast. While it's not healthy food, it's delicious.
Greek Islands separates itself from the pack with festive atmosphere and a professional waitstaff. Start with Avgolemono soup and saganaki, also known as cheese on fire, and then dig in to some traditional dishes like dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice), moussaka (baked eggplant, ground meat and potato casserole topped with b�chamel sauce which can also be prepared vegetarian) and lamb kokkinisto (Lamb braised in their special tomato sauce), which are among local favorites. If seafood is more your style, fresh lavraki is flown in daily and broiled octopus is ideal for adventurous palates. The d�cor is cheery, in the traditional white and blue colors of many Greek restaurants. Greek Islands is conveniently located in Greektown and offers free valet parking.
Caf� Ba Ba Reeba! may be Chicago's first tapas bar but that alone isn't what keeps people coming back. It's one of the best places to find authentic tapas and sangria (it's a bit on the sweeter side). Patatas bravas come with generous sized potato chunks and the bacon-wrapped dates arrive with apple chunks and vinegar to cut the sweetness. The dates literally melt in your mouth. If you're game to learn how to make paella at home, the executive chef invites you to his Paella Cooking Demo class once a month where you'll not only perfect your paella but enjoy a tapas lunch complete with wine. Expect to wait for a table, reservations are encouraged although not accepted for outdoor patio seating. Gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly, too.
This restaurant only knows one size: large! Even the menu is large, with 15 pages of dishes that come heaped high and full of tasty, spicy Szechuan flavors. When it comes to Chinese food in Chicago, this place is known for being "the real deal." Try the "chef's special," a dry chili chicken, or the Chengdu dumplings, crispy Chinese eggplant with ground pork. Other popular dishes are the twice-cooked pork, mapo tofu, sesame chicken and Szechuan prawns. Lao Sze Chuan has two other locations, in suburban Downers Grove, and in Chicago's north side Uptown neighborhood, at 4832 N. Broadway Ave.
Don't come here for health food! Come for Southern-style soul food, full of flavor and served in a casual, relaxed environment. The quirky, funky warehouse-style space (abstract paintings of chickens and eggs adorn the walls) offers breakfast on weekdays and a popular weekend brunch. Try fluffy biscuits, French toast, salmon cakes with hollandaise, or a house specialty called Red Eggs, which consists of two eggs on corn tortillas with black beans, cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, and salsa. Something for everyone, including vegetarians. Buy a cool t-shirt on your way out. Don't be surprised if you happen to be dining next to former Chicago Bulls players like Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen. Both have been spotted at this popular restaurant not far from the United Center.
Since the neighborhood around the United Center can be a little dicey, this sports bar and restaurant is a diamond in the rough. WestEnd Bar & Grille is the place for pre-game partying for United Center sporting events, particularly Chicago Blackhawks hockey games. Thirty-three plasma TVs broadcast the games throughout the cozy but large, two-level bar. The best seats are the leather, TV-equipped booths. It gets crowded quickly on game days, but that's because fans love the upscale bar food, including fish tacos and bison burgers. Wash it down with something from their expansive beer menu, filled with craft and locally brewed ales. If you have a few too many, you can take the bar's free and regularly-running shuttle back and forth to the United Center.