Let’s be honest, weather in February and even March in the Midwest can be brutal however it really has not been that bad in Chicago compared with past years (let’s not soon forget the blizzard of 2011). With spring right around the corner its time to brush off the snow and once again enjoy the Chicago culinary scene.
The Purple Pig. (500 N Michigan Ave) This Magnificent Mile favorite has been around for quite a while and has several awards under its belt including a Michelin Guide Chicago Bib Gourmand Award in 2011. While crowds can be heavy even in the tourist off season, I find it’s still a great place if you are in the area (great shopping all around). A late lunch is my favorite time to visit, otherwise I suggest a reservation. The staff is well versed on the wine menu as well as the food so if you are unsure what to pick let them guide you through it. My favorites: a selection of cheese and charcuteries, milk braised pork shoulder.
The Gage. (24 S Michigan Ave) Located across from Millennium Park (the big silver jellybean) this gastro pub has been a long standing favorite among locals as well as tourists. Grab a seat at the bar (or plan ahead with reservations) and enjoy some of the best takes on classics like fish and chips. They offer an excellent selection beer and cocktails as well as an extensive wine menu. My favorites: Along with the fish and chips try the Gage N-17 “Fondue”, mussels Vindaloo, smoked salmon sandwich, and the house braised brisket.
RECOMMENDED DAY IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO: Start off with lunch at the Gage then check out the newly opened exhibit “Picasso and Chicago” across the way at the Art Institute of Chicago. Finish off with the eight course tasting dinner at Sixteen with its gorgeous views of the city.
New Kids On The Block
The Boarding House. (720 N Wells St) With a few months under its belt, this new restaurant from Master Sommelier and formally the host of Check, Please! Alpana Singh, has really been a hit with the locals. The three level restaurant includes a massive light “fixture” of wine glasses over the main level bar, as well as a dining level and “cellar” area for guests to enjoy. The wine list is obviously extensive and includes old and new world wines for any taste and price point. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Santa Barbara County wines (there has been a resurgence of quality wines from this area it seems). I want to head back for another visit before I can fully appreciate the menu, however I will say that “The Alpine” pizza was delicious. Reservations are highly recommended well in advance otherwise grab a seat in the bar area.