After many hours of grueling research and tasting, I've managed to compile an extensive list of my favorite dining spots in Chicago. My notoriously demanding standards have led me to numerous disappointing episodes. Fortunately, you have The Geoffrey to help you avoid those pitfalls. If you have 10 hours, if you can get from place to place instantaneously, and if you can eat 10 consecutive meals, then here are my 10 must-visit culinary experiences in Chicago.
1. Cherry Circle Room
Serving the distinctive "Surf n' Turf" Eggs Benedict in town, Cherry Circle Room isolates you from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Ave. Tucked away on the second-floor of the historic Chicago Athletic Association building, Cherry Circle room feels like the secret speakeasies of the Prohibition Era. With extensive wood paneling and an impressive menu to match, this restaurant serves my personal favorite brunch.
Photo Courtesy: North Pond
2. North Pond
Known for its Michelin-approved dinners, North Pond is no slouch in the brunch arena. For $35, you can get a 3-course meal replete with various sweet and savory dishes. With an inviting atmosphere and a serene location inside Lincoln Park, the local-favorite serves the most inventive dishes for brunch. If you're willing to shell out a few more bucks, try their renowned dinner menu as well.
Photo Courtesy: Marc Much - Eater Chicago
Few tapa-style restaurants have lived up to my expectations. Heavily influenced by Californian fare, Ēma serves Mediterranean dishes. Every dish offers a delightfully refreshing moment, and the sum of them all equates to a superb dining experience. Definitely order the grilled octopus and the pan-roasted Romanesque cauliflower. You will not be disappointed.
Photo Courtesy: Park Hyatt Chicago
A more corporate-style setting, NoMI is situated in the Park Hyatt Chicago. With views of the clamorous pedestrians below on Michigan Ave. and of Lake Michigan, you will find yourself surrounded by the panoramic glass windows that run throughout the restaurant. You will find the most comforting fine-dining foods on the menu. NoMI cleanly executes a flawless lunch and dinner. If you want more scintillating visuals, opt for dinner.
Photo Courtesy: Jeff Marini - Chicago Magazine
Though I've heard horror stories about the prep kitchen tasting menu, rest assured that the à la carte menu will awe your taste buds. Whether it's the tender whole chicken served six ways or the Rohan duck, Roister serves the best poultry in town. Do not pass up on the aged cheddar rillettes. If you're looking for a quiet meal here, you're out of luck—loud music and plenty of chatter will keep your meal noisier than ever.
Photo Courtesy: Swift & Sons
6. Swift & Sons
I rarely order steak at restaurants for a reason: I want my steak to taste a certain way and culinary establishments rarely meet those expectations. Steak & Sons is exempt from this rule. A member of the Boka Restaurant Group, this steak house will exceed your wildest carnivorous dreams. In fact, you may change your mind about foie gras—as I did.
Photo Courtesy: Sepia
My first meal fine-dining experience Chicago has remained one of my top go-to restaurants for any occasion. Situated in a old print shop from the 1890s, Sepia serves a restrained, yet elevated menu. Nothing bombards your taste, but everything activates your senses. Be ready to experience subtle variations in taste and texture without any extravagant trappings.
Photo Courtesy: Marc Much - Eater Chicago
Another brainchild of Sepia's Andrew Zimmerman and Emanuel Nony, Proxi serves a curated menu of small, global, tapa-like dishes. Here's another grilled octopus in town that vies for the title of the best. The beautiful architecture stimulates your vision while the diverse foods stimulate your taste. Make your reservations now.
Photo Courtesy: Eater Chicago
A well known locale in Pilsen, Dusek's inspires its cuisine with local craft beer. Even with a rotating menu, the iconic sourdough pretzel remains a delectable staple that you must try. Late-night cravings can be quenched here as the restaurant stays open till 2 AM, albeit with an abridged menu.
Photo Courtesy: High Five Ramen
10. High Five Ramen
If you're still hungry at 11:30 PM, High-Five Ramen will surely fill your stomach to the max with silky rich broth and perfectly tender noodles. There is no other competition in town when it comes to the best bowl of ramen. Beware of long wait times because there are only 16 seats in the underground space. Good luck!
This list does not constitute a complete list of my favorite culinary moments in Chicago. Please comment if you would like other suggestions.