Unusual ingredients and preparations are nothing new for diners at Avenues. Even so, “nine out of ten tables ask to see a finger lime,” says chef Curtis Duffy. “We give a lot of them away.” Currently, Duffy’s using the fruit in a composed Japanese pumpkin soup that also includes a base of bitter chocolate custard, fried pumpkin seeds, crispy duck skin, a brioche crouton, red and green purslane, and a piece of duck confit. Because the limes are $35 a pound, Duffy makes the most of them, drying the rind and adding it to a savory waffle dish. 108 E Superior St (312-573-6754).
Epic’s Stephen Wambach has eaten all over the world, yet when a vendor of his, Midwest Foods, turned him onto finger limes, the chef was blown away. Wambach liked the digit-shaped fruit’s range of citrus flavor as well as the crunchy texture of the caviar-like beads inside the pods. After tasting it, Wambach thought the lime would be a perfect partner for his hamachi crudo appetizer. Turns out he was right: The dish, which also includes charred blood-orange segments, fried artichoke, Meyer lemon puree and shaved breakfast radishes, is the River North restaurant’s best-selling dish. 112 W Hubbard St (312-222-4940).
It was no mistake that Prairie Grass Cafe’s In-Law Cocktail debuted on Thanksgiving. With so many large families celebrating the holiday at the restaurant that night, mixologist Daniel Sviland says he “thought a shot of tequila would be good idea.” The drink—a shot of Corzo Reposado tequila with a teaspoon of lime caviar in a Hawaiian red salt-rimmed glass—was created after Sviland tried a finger lime and fell in love with the fruit’s flavor. (We assume it was also inspired by his mother-in-law, but on that Sviland had no comment.) 601 Skokie Blvd, Northbrook (847-205-4433).