A year after revamping Italian stalwart Spiaggia, Tony Mantuano turned his attention to the laid-back café, refreshing the space and revamping the menu. The bright, airy room is a lovely spot for pasta, like thick strands of bucatini in a spicy ‘nduja sauce. The lunch menu veers casual, while dinner is for dates, as entrees are meant for two—share a whole roasted branzino while taking in views of Michigan Avenue.
Tucked behind the Game Room in the Chicago Athletic Association, Cherry Circle Room used to be where club members refueled. Now that the space is open to everyone, chef Peter Coenen turns out gorgeous dishes like shrimp cocktail with a delightful Bloody Mary–spiced cocktail sauce and a generous pâté board. A roving cocktail cart serves drinks tableside. Ice cream drinks, like a grasshopper served in a milk jar, cap off the meal.
Pizza-lovers (and aren’t we all?) have been eagerly awaiting the second, larger outpost of the thin-crust pizza spot. The Southport menu features many of the same pies as the West Town original, like an Instagram-worthy pepperoni pizza with huge dollops of whipped ricotta. New pies include feisty ‘nduja balanced with sweet shrimp, but all the pizzas come on the same blistered crust, which means they’re all worth ordering.
Intro, which brings in a new chef every few months for a brand new theme, continues to draw top talent. The first two chefs, C.J. Jacobson and Erik Anderson, set a very high bar, and now Aaron Martinez (Quince and Commis in the Bay Area) is at the helm through October 17. His menu is a stunner—pink slices of salmon pop against dill sauce and a scoop of frozen Dijon mustard while a beautiful chamomile soda, chilled with lemon-thyme glace, clears the palate for dessert. Up next: Stephen Gillanders will be in the kitchen October 22–January 16, then Jessica Largey (formerly of Manresa, and the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2015) takes over.
Eating at Long Room used to mean buying tamales from the Tamale Guy or ordering pizza. This summer, the team added a kitchen and launched Sidecar at LR, with two concepts. By day, it’s Biscuit Man, chef Zeeshan Shah, who serves fluffy biscuits with goat cheese and tomato jam for breakfast and housemade naan sandwiches for lunch. By night, it’s Beard & Belly, chefs Kyle Schrage and Jim Torres, who offer chili, poutine and diner-style burgers with butterkase cheese. With Counter Culture coffee and an ever-changing lineup of great beers, there’s pretty much no reason to ever leave.