Torali is on the lobby level, 12 floors up, in the Ritz Carlton. It's white and mirrored, not dim and stuffy as one might imagine an Italian and steak place might be in a venerable hotel like the Ritz. Sous Chef Soo Ahn's new take on crudo, a yellowfin tartare with olives, or simple, cold oysters are a great light start. Torali sous vides its octopus and then chars it resulting in a tender, tasty mouthful. Executive Chef, Baasim Zafar, hits all the steakhouse notes with hand cut, Prime and dry aged steaks finished with house salt and extra virgin olive oil, and a choice of Lardo Pesto, Torali Steak Sauce or Black Truffle-Garlic Butter. Pasta is made in house and a sure bet is the Seafood Paccheri featuring nubs of lobster and shrimp in seafood broth flecked with soffritto and bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) all atop fresh rigatoni.
NoMI Kitchen is the kitchen one might imagine you hang out in while in heaven. The contemporary Midwest cuisine has classic French influences, plus a deep wine list and stunning views. Dine at NoMi Kitchen, the NoMi Lounge or the NoMi Garden, an outdoor rooftop terrace open roughly May through October. A new sushi bar, which overlooks Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan from within NoMI Lounge, offers an omakase experience and sommelier Jillian Riley can provide accompanying pairings. Stop in for wine and cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere in the lounge and a date on the outdoor terrace dining by candlelight can't be beat. Sweeping views place you in the heart of the Gold Coast along Michigan Avenue and Water Tower Square.
Owned by fashion's Ralph Lauren, and adjacent to the world's largest Polo store, this contemporary American restaurant has a cosmopolitan atmosphere, rich leather furniture and mahogany paneling defining the country club decor. You're likely to dine next to the likes of Bunny, Bitsy, Chip and Digby nibbling escargot, roasted beet salad, a USDA Prime steak or RL classics like organic farmhouse roast chicken, Dover sole or calve's liver sautéed with bacon and onions. Sip seasonal cocktails like Ralph's Spring Punch and Mint Julep Smash while deciding where you'll summer and if it'll be RL's famed Avocado Crab Salad and asparagus soup crossing your lips. If there's room, toss the ever=present diet to the wind and have the RL brownie, served with vanilla ice cream. Celebrities occasionally make an appearance and when the weather is nice, opt for a spot on the outdoor patio.
This popular and compact restaurant is the work of Jimmy Bannos Jr., Jimmy Bannos Jr., a fourth-generation restaurant guy who was raised in Chicago's Heaven on Seven. First timers rave about housemade charcuterie, roasted bone marrow with herb salad, fried pig's ear with crispy kale and fried egg and an extensive wine list. Locals return for the milk braised pork shoulder with mashed potatoes While the smears, fried items, cured meats and cheeses and entrees are the big draws, it's worth saving room for desserts, like peanut butter and marshmallow fluff cake. The global wine list offers 50 wines under $50 and you can get many in 5oz and 8oz pours, or by the half bottle.
At street level set in the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, Michael Jordan's Steak House does about as alright as number 23 did on the court (insert superlatives here). Executive Chef Craig Couper adds just enough flourish to steakhouse favorites to make them distinctly delicious. For starters, treat yourself to the Nueske's Double Smoked Bacon with Burton's Maple Syrup or incredible garlic bread featuring Wisconsin Roth Kase blue cheese fondue. Seafood and chops rock but this is a steakhouse after all so go for M. J's Delmonico, USDA Prime, Dry-Aged 45 Days, served with ginger-balsamic jus. Join the legions who have Instagrammed the 23-Layer Chocolate Cake and then you might consider booking a room to rest the digestive system.
Step away from the frenetic shopping, mouth agog window gazing, crabby cabbies and general urban cacophony on the Mag Mile and tuck into a cushy booth at Beacon Tavern. Just off Michigan Ave. on the Wrigley Building walkway, it's a casually-upscale refuge with modern interpretations of tavern classics reminding us that civilization can still be comforting. Launch lunch or dinner with briny oysters or a wonderful rendition of shrimp toast consisting of red shrimp atop brioche that lolls in truffle butter with the crunchy fried heads on the side. Cheddar Bay biscuits are baked to order but save belly space for excellent entrees like rabbit stew, fish 'n' chips, a half-pound green chile cheeseburger, Scottish salmon, roast chicken or bouillabaisse for two.
When you realize that The Albert is part of EMC2 Hotel, expect an "aha" mental flash about whom its name refers. The restaurant feels spacious, the decor is dare we say "smart," and waitstaff is genuinely helpful and cheery. Executive Chef Brandon Brumback offers a compact contemporary American menu of seasonal, globally inspired dishes good for lunch or dinner and anytime on the outdoor patio perfect for people watching and a lightweight or full bodied cocktail. It's certainly spendy but everything is perfectly executed from a starter like Spanish octopus, Shishito peppers, harissa and pistachio (that includes every trendy ingredient) to Fjord Sea Trout with golden beets and créme fraîche. The bar menu includes snacks and a great Slagel Farms cheeseburger and fries. Check in just for coffee and choices from Pastry Chef, Vanarin Kuch, who outdoes himself with floating s'mores, citrus ricotta mousse and pistachio cake.
Sometimes you neither want nor need a plate of everything au courant - Brussels sprouts topped with pork belly, a fried egg, uni and cauliflower dust. When you envision a juicy, charred burger, steamy, creamy mac 'n' cheese, meaty wings, a hefty garbage salad or smoky barbecue and you're on the Mag Mile, stroll over to Jake Melnick's Corner Tap. The Today Show dubbed Jake's "the best chicken wing spot in the US" but we don't need any New Yorkers to tell us these are outstanding: jumbo flyers with any of 10 sauces. There's a burger, wing, beer and mac of the month plus brunch all day every day if the mitochondria ache for eggs or hair of the dog. Jake's serves plant-based "Impossible" sliders, too, and he's always having holiday based specials (Lent, National PB & J Day, Oktoberfest, etc.) Beer taps change daily.
Chicago claims some of the top steak houses in the country, but honestly, Wisconsin beats us in prime rib, something its supper clubs traditionally serve every Saturday night. There's one place that measures up and outdoes our neighbors to the north - Lawry's The Prime Rib, open in 1974 and housed in the 1890's McCormick Mansion. Family-owned for four generations, Lawry's was the first single entrée restaurant in the country when it opened in Beverly Hills in 1939. Salad served before the main course started at Lawry's and you should have the Original Spinning Bowl Salad spun tableside on a bed of ice, then served on a chilled plate with a chilled salad fork. Ditto the Roasted Prime Ribs of Beef slow roasted on a bed of rock salt.and hand-carved and served tableside from carts by Master Carvers who train for six months before entering the Royal Order of Carvers.
How does Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano continue to crank out the most ethereal pasta, sophisticated antipasti and jaw dropping second courses after all these years? He cooks from the head and the heart and is smart to hire simpatico creative chefs like Season 15 winner of Top Chef, Joe Flamm, a south sider making Chicago proud. Ideal for date night, Spiaggia offers Mag Mile and Lake Michigan views coupled with simple but expertly created dishes featuring seasonal produce and delicate, handmade pastas. Service is impeccable and desserts irresistible. Cafe Spiaggia, on the same floor, is a sweet European cafe with calming colors and an equally inviting menu. Wonderful shared plates include Emilia Romagna on a Plate (puffed fried gnocco, Prosciutto, fonduta and balsamico); or try fried peppers, fennel and smelt. Outstanding hand made pasta like lumache with lamb Bolognese and Parmigiano Reggiano make you a pasta amnesiac for all other noodles.