The shared plates trend can be annoying, like when you have to share a single bite among the table. But appetizers and small plates really give Chicago restaurants a chance to shine, as chefs can take risks and try new things on a smaller scale. With creative dishes like Next Steak's salmon coubliac and heftier dishes like Authentaco's earthy huitlacoche quesadilla, it's no surprise this is our largest category this year.
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Best small plates
The single piece of sous vide eggplant, which practically melts as you cut into it, is so perfect that the rest of the dish—eggplant broth with fried mustard seeds and cacao nibs, banana three ways, chilies and cilantro—is almost unnecessary. Almost. Part of a tasting menu until December 31.
Evanston native Brian Huston is serving up the kind of food the town didn’t realize it was missing. That includes bar snacks like the sweet and salty grilled brun-uusto, a Wisconsin take on a Scandinavian cheese served with La Quercia ham, arugula and a rotating variety of fruit. $14.
Sesame fries at the Fat Shallot
The food truck makes excellent fries, with a crisp exterior and pillowy filling. You can get them as-is, or you can get them doused with spicy sesame aioli and black sesame seeds. For us, it’s a no-brainer. $4.
On the 23-deep slider menu, the standout is this oyster—freshly fried with crisp coating, and sweetness and heat coming from ginger and sriracha. $3.
We’ve been to a few area Jamaican restaurants this year, and this spicy, richly flavored pocket of ground beef is the best beef patty around. Even better news: You can find it at either the 3 JJJ's Better Taste Jamaican Jerk food truck, which roams downtown, or the Roseland restaurant. $2.50.
We don’t know the science behind this orb of coconut milk, and we don’t care—break into it, then scoop it up with bits of sweet crab and garnishes like lime, avocado, cashew and pickled ginger. Part of a tasting menu available until December 31.
We always equate Shaw’s with classic seafood dishes, but the restaurant is constantly adding new items to the menu, like these tender pieces of yellowtail, wrapped around Granny Smith apple matchsticks and dressed with basil, mint, basil oil, and a piquant shallot and black pepper vinaigrette. $12.