Chicago Cravings

  • The bar at Au Cheval.

    The bar at Au Cheval.

  • The industrial-style dining room at Trencherman, one of Chicago’s most anticipated openings.

    The industrial-style dining room at Trencherman, one of Chicago’s most anticipated openings.

  • Design details at Trencherman.

    Design details at Trencherman.

  • Banquette seating at Telegraph.

    Banquette seating at Telegraph.

  • Chef Chris Nugent at Goosefoot preparing Angus beef with heirloom carrots and goosefoot.

    Chef Chris Nugent at Goosefoot preparing Angus beef with heirloom carrots and goosefoot.

  • Inside the revitalized pump room.

    Inside the revitalized pump room.

  • Telegraph’s roast chicken.

    Telegraph’s roast chicken.

  • Fried bologna sandwich.

    Fried bologna sandwich.

Click image to view full size

Forget steakhouses and deep-dish pizzas; the Windy City’s latest wave of standout restaurants is taking Chicagoans’ fondness for eating well—and generously—to tantalizing new heights

By Amalie Drury

Au Cheval Young restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff has only been in Chicago for five years, but he knows exactly what his adopted city wants: sexy, dimly lit places that serve strong cocktails and sinful food (just look at the lines outside his Gilt Bar, Doughnut Vault, and Maude’s Liquor Bar). Sodikoff’s formula is especially effective at his new diner in the West Loop, Au Cheval, which elevates the greasy-spoon concept with tufted leather banquettes and a gleaming stainless bar counter behind which all the action is on view. There’s chopped chicken liver on pillowy challah bread, eye-widening frites, and cheeseburgers that tower thanks to the prodigious layering of their pancake-thin patties. Au cheval is kitchen slang for topping a dish with an egg, and practically everything here—including the fried bologna sandwich—is thusly adorned. It’s a glutton’s dream come true (800 W. Randolph St.; 1-312/ 929-4580).

Balena Situated across the street from the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre, this venture from the restaurateurs behind some of the city’s buzziest spots is heaven for carb-lovers. Pizza and pasta are sublimely rendered with dough made by full-time baker Peter Becker, while chef Chris Pandel’s hearty menu places a loving spotlight on meats and vegetables. Try thin, bubbly pizza with rhubarb, wild mint, ricotta, and pancetta; dark and dreamy sea-urchin pasta; and crisp salt-and-pepper chicken thighs. The cocktail list is entirely bitters-based, and the double-height dining room is warm, dramatic, and pleasingly illuminated by twiggy globe chandeliers (1633 N. Halsted St.; 1-312/867-3888).

Goosefoot Neighborhood charm meets fine dining at this off-the-beaten path BYO restaurant, where chef Chris Nugent’s contemporary-American-food-with-French-technique concept has made Goosefoot a critics’ darling since its December 2011 debut. The tiny, 34-seat space is located on an incongruous block that’s miles from the downtown scene yet exudes the polish and refinement of a more seasoned restaurant. Nugent’s wife Nina greets diners at the door, and the chef himself visits every table. As far as the splendid food goes, Nugent’s passion for his ingredients is evident in each bite of the eight- and twelve-course tasting menus. Sunchoke soup, duck breast with spiced beluga lentils, and Angus beef with heirloom carrots and—yes —goosefoot are on the current one (2656 W. Lawrence Ave.; 1-773/942-7547).

Share this Article

Related Posts

Dover Street Market Opens in New York

Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo brings her concept department store stateside in Manhattan.

8 Reasons to Visit New York City

There is no better time to visit the Big Apple than during these eight autumn activities.

Napa Valley, California Wine Country

A fresh look at the most celebrated wine region in the United States, California's Napa Valley.

James Turrell Revisits Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum welcomes artist James Turrell back to New York City after a 33-year absence.

Road Trip Through Maine

With lush natural beauty and seafood aplenty, Maine is the ideal summer setting for a U.S. road trip...

Marcus Samuelsson’s Guide to Harlem

The exuberant chef shares his favorite spots to dine, drink, dress, and hang out in uptown Manhattan...