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Amy Cavanaugh

Amy Cavanaugh

Amy Cavanaugh is Time Out's former Chicago Restaurant & Bars Editor.

Articles (139)

The best restaurants in Evanston

The best restaurants in Evanston

Situated just 12 miles north of Chicago, Evanston is home to Northwestern University, plentiful lakefront paths and parks, and an impressive dining scene—and that lineup is only getting stronger. Thoughtful fast-casual concepts are thriving on Northwestern’s campus, while dinner spots are showcasing enough elegance and flair to rival any downtown destination. Best of all, you don’t even need a car to access many of Evanston’s best restaurants and bars, thanks to the CTA’s Purple Line. From an acclaimed bakery to a big-name steakhouse, here are the best places to eat in Evanston right now.RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Chicago

The 14 best French restaurants in Chicago

The 14 best French restaurants in Chicago

From opulent seafood towers to savory eggplant crĂȘpes, the city’s French restaurant scene is thriving and experiencing a renaissance. Similar to the recent uptick in Italian restaurants throughout the city, French cuisine in Chicago has become more affordable, vegetarian-friendly and innovative than ever. You have cozy, traditional Parisian bistros, swanky wine bars and casual brasseries to choose from as you sip tea, absinthe or a full-bodied and refined Cabernet Sauvignon. While French food is known for its buttery palate, heavy meats and pungent cheeses, the pastries at these bakeries and restaurants will be the perfect sweet night cap to your meal as you ponder de Beauvoir’s existentialism. Check out our list of Chicago’s best French restaurants so you can dive into gooey French onion soup or tap your spoon on some crispy crĂšme brulĂ©e. RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

The 12 best bagels in Chicago

The 12 best bagels in Chicago

Jump-start your day with a carby delight from the city’s finest bagel makers. Sure, an indulgent donut is never a bad decision but a bread roll just hits differently. New York Bagel & Bialy and Taste of New York Bagels offer great versions that even East Coast transplants will be happy with, while Reno is the move if you prefer a Montreal-style bagel. You’ll find a variety of flavors and toppings, as well as gluten-free options and complements like lox and spreads. And these places are among the best bakeries in town so you can also pick up pastries, cookies, cakes and more. The next time the craving hits, head over to one of the following spots for the best bagels in Chicago.

The 17 best restaurants and bars to visit before a United Center event

The 17 best restaurants and bars to visit before a United Center event

Home to the Bulls, Blackhawks and a wide range of concerts, the United Center is a popular destination year round. And thanks to its close proximity to the best restaurants and bars in the West Loop, there are plenty of places to fuel up before going to an event. The following spots are either convenient, quick or simply just excellent—all qualities we can appreciate when there are post-meal festivities to attend. If you want a burger, the Loyalist or Billy Goat Tavern are sure to hit the spot. Have some time to spare? Grill your own meat-filled feast at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ. Heck, there’s even a Wisconsin-inspired supper club inside the stadium for those who don’t want to stray far. Regardless of what you’re craving, check out our guide to the best spots around the United Center so you don’t have to settle for average concession foods the next time you’re headed there. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to the best restaurants in Chicago

The 18 best sports bars in Chicago

The 18 best sports bars in Chicago

Chicagoans are very passionate about their teams. Whether it’s the Bears, Cubs, Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks or an alma mater, there are numerous games to watch every night. It’s a good thing, then, that Chicago has plenty of good sports bars. They offer everything from spacious patios and retractable roofs to dozens of beers on tap. Want award-winning wings to go with your football? Jake Melnick’s and the Fifty/50 should be at the top of your list. Prefer to sit outside and catch some rays instead? Park & Field and the Moonlighter won’t disappoint. Big Ten alums can also root on their schools at the best Big Ten bars in town. So dust off your favorite jersey and read on to find the best sports bars in Chicago. RECOMMENDED: Best bars in Chicago

The 17 best Wrigleyville bars

The 17 best Wrigleyville bars

Wrigleyville bars don't exactly have the best reputation. They're known for being loud, smelly and sometimes rowdy (especially if the Cubs are on). But if you're trying to get in on the action, there's no denying that these North Side watering holes will put you in the epicenter of excitement. Whether you're looking for a fan-packed beer bar that's plastered with TVs or a quiet cocktail lounge with sophisticated sips, there's a place for you to sit back and watch the game in this non-stop neighborhood. Put on your favorite Cubs T-shirt and grab a seat at our favorite Wrigleyville bars.

The 13 best restaurants in River North and Streeterville

The 13 best restaurants in River North and Streeterville

River North and its neighbor Streeterville are among the most popular tourist destinations in the city due to their historic architecture, entertainment venues and views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. A huge variety of restaurants ranging from classic Chicago steakhouses to celebrity chef-driven experiences cater to visitors and locals looking for a great night out. If you’ve got something to celebrate, even if it’s just the start of the weekend, get dressed up and head to one of these restaurants, then keep the night going at one of the best bars in River North and Streeterville. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to River North and Streeterville

The best bars in River North and Streeterville

The best bars in River North and Streeterville

River North and Streeterville are among the most popular nightlife destinations in Chicago, home to chic nightclubs where you can order bottle service while watching top DJs spin and cocktail bars where mixologists serve up excellent spins on classic drinks plus novel concoctions to suit any taste. You can spend the evening sharing elaborate tiki drinks at one of the best bars in Chicago, or day drink at a bar offering bottomless brunch. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll want to drink in this list of the best bars in River North and Streeterville. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to River North and Streeterville

The 14 best bars in Pilsen

The 14 best bars in Pilsen

While Pilsen is home to some of the best Chicago restaurants, it’s also a great place to grab a cocktail or sip a local beer. Once you’ve finished your meal at a Pilsen restaurant, continue your night out or day drink at some of the best bars in Pilsen. Cocktail enthusiasts can enjoy lively libations from virtuoso mixologists while craft beer lovers can find something brewed in the neighborhood. Some of the best bars in Pilsen also feature local DJs spinning house music and New Wave tunes in dimly-lit settings—the ideal accompaniment to a good drink. RECOMMENDED: Discover more things to do in Pilsen, Chicago

The 22 best restaurants in Pilsen

The 22 best restaurants in Pilsen

Chicago neighborhoods continue to shift and pivot as a consequence of changing demographics and opportunities inspired by these populations. Pilsen is the quintessential Chicago neighborhood enduring shifts and transformations brought on by gentrification, while still holding on to its multifaceted immigrant roots. Venture south of the Loop and you will find yourself in an incredibly rich culinary community, where diners can find authentic fare at the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago, old-school Italian restaurants and British pub grub. There are dishes at every price point in Pilsen, ranging from pricey fine dining to some of the best cheap eats in Chicago. Make your way through the neighborhood’s offerings with our guide to the best restaurants in Pilsen. RECOMMENDED: Discover more of Pilsen, Chicago

Best dive bars in Chicago

Best dive bars in Chicago

Fancy nights out are fun and all, but sometimes you just want to pull up a barstool to a bar that doesn't require a dress code. We love these dives because the bartenders won't give you the side eye for ordering the cheapest beer on the menu and many offer karaoke—and even craft beer. And lucky for Chicago drinkers, hole-in-the-wall dive bars exist on just about every other corner of the city. Visit one of these no-frills beer bars and neighborhood taverns, but don't forget to stop by the ATM before ordering your drink—many of these bars are cash-only. RECOMMENDED: Check out more of the best bars in Chicago

Cocktail trends you’ll be drinking this year

Cocktail trends you’ll be drinking this year

Held annually in New Orleans each summer, Tales of the Cocktail is the biggest liquor industry event of the year. It’s a five-day blur of tastings, parties, classes and more, all of which focus on new spirits, trends and education. The number of spirits and cocktails to try is seriously overwhelming, but while I was there, a few trends, including coffee cocktails, emerged from all the chaos. From tropical flavors to yes, even non-alcoholic drinks, here’s what you’ll be drinking at cocktail bars around the country soon.

Listings and reviews (44)

Band of Bohemia

Band of Bohemia

Occasionally I’ll drink wine at a cocktail bar or a cocktail at a beer bar, but for the most part, I stick with what each bar does best. That’s hard to do at Band of Bohemia, an innovative new brewpub from Alinea vets Craig Sindelar and Michael Carroll, because the cocktail and wine lists are incredibly thoughtful as well. The beers, made with ingredients like beets and thyme, are Carroll’s purview (you can spy the tanks through a window behind the bar), while Sindelar pours well-selected wines and Carlos Matias III (Dusek’s) serves exceptional cocktails. It’s hard to decide where to start, though any of the warm and capable bar staff and servers can point you in the right direction. Since you’ll likely be sampling a couple different things, here’s more good news—the food, from Matt DuBois (EL Ideas, Inovasi) and Kevin McMullen (The Brixton), features ingenious combinations of ingredients and is well-executed across the board. The menu is divided based on beer pairings, and $3-$4 samples of beers are available. So that means you can, and should, pair spicy, tender prawns and carrot kimchi with orange chicory rye ale, or the tender potato cake accented by romesco and piparras with savory grilled apple tarragon beer. Even desserts, like spongy almond cake with caramel, have suggested beer pairings; here it’s a nutty basmati and maitake brew. Band of Bohemia sells tickets through Tock (unsurprising, given the Alinea connection), but while you can book the chef’s table or prix fi

Sawada Coffee

Sawada Coffee

Brendan Sodikoff already proved that he can serve great coffee and pastries (see: Doughnut Vault, C.C. Ferns); now, he's teamed up with Japanese latte artist Hiroshi Sawada to open this new cafe within Green Street Smoked Meats. Enter off Green Street and you'll find yourself in the front of the barbecue restaurant—that gives it an odd vibe, though the space is clearly delineated and really, you're there for the coffee anyway. The main attraction is the military latte, Sawada's signature drink that's visually stunning and quite strong. It's roasty from espresso, slightly bitter from the green tea and warmed with gentle notes of white chocolate. Pair it with a camouflage doughnut from Doughnut Vault, which matches the latte with drizzles of chocolate and matcha. The rest of the offerings include straightforward espresso drinks, plus spiked options like shochu and iced coffee or Benedictine and chai. The cafe is open till 4pm, so consider it your evening starting point.

Quality Crab & Oyster Bah

Quality Crab & Oyster Bah

4 out of 5 stars

Oyster Bah, the new seafood spot from Lettuce Entertain You, is a bit of a misnomer. Besides being ridiculously silly (shouldn’t it be “Oystah Bah,” if you’re truly trying to embrace a Boston accent?), the name doesn’t fully get across how wide-ranging the menu is. Oysters from both the East and West coasts share menu space with New Orleans barbecue shrimp, fish tacos and tuna poke. Classic New England dishes are here, but this restaurant is more of a paean to American seafood, in all styles, rather than a New England seafood shack. And that’s a fine thing, given how expertly chef Peter Balodimas prepares dishes. Starting with raw or chilled seafood is necessary, and cleanly shucked oysters, teeming with liquor, pop with a drop of tangy stout granita, while plump chilled shrimp come with or without a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. On the cooked side, a pair of hearty New England stuffies pack chopped clams and chorizo into quahog shells—it’s a classic dish I love but never see around Chicago. Entrees are fairly simple, like steamed crab legs with lemon and butter for dunking, though the most buzzed-about dish, the crispy one-sided snapper, is a scene-stealer. Spicy Thai chili glaze adds heat to the flaky fish, which is served on the bone. It’s not surprising that Oyster Bah is so strong so soon after opening—it’s the little sister to Shaw’s Crab House, which has long been my favorite Chicago seafood restaurant. Though between the casual space and thoughtful drink offerings he

Monteverde

Monteverde

4 out of 5 stars

Italian food is meant to be shared, and at Monteverde, that's never an issue. Fill your table with a smogasboard of small plates, handmade pastas and shareable mains (read: they're freakin' huge). You absolutely mustn't skip the burrata e ham starter—which comes with warm English muffin-like rounds called tigelle—nor the spaghetti al pomodoro, a simple but soul-affirming dish that stars Grueneberg's spot-on roasted tomato sauce. The following review was published in 2016. A top chef serves her own take on Italian classics Sarah Grueneberg left Spiaggia to open her own restaurant, Monteverde, in late 2015, but while she brought along the masterful Italian techniques she honed there, she left the fine dining trappings on Michigan Avenue. At Monteverde, the Top Chef alum's wonderfully relaxed West Loop restaurant, assistant servers wear Blackhawks hats, a TV flips on when the hockey game starts and a gluten-free menu is featured prominently on the website—a nice touch for a pasta-focused restaurant.  That menu is important, since the pastas are the main draw. Made in house, they’re all perfectly cooked and accompanied by sauces and ingredients that look surprising on the menu, but make sense once you’ve taken a bite. The cacio whey pepe ratchets up the classic with four peppercorns and whey, so it’s creamy and intensely peppery. To make the wintery tortelloni di zucca, Grueneberg stuffs squash into delicate pasta, then serves it with apples and bacon. If you sit at the bar, you’

Cold Storage

Cold Storage

4 out of 5 stars

Restaurants within restaurants and bars within bars have been taking off lately—it helps owners maximize space and try out smaller concepts. Recently, Heavy Feather opened inside Slippery Slope and DAS Doner inside the Radler, and now Swift & Sons joins them with Cold Storage. The oyster bar only takes up a fraction of Boka and B. Hospitality’s sprawling steakhouse, but it makes a big impact, with fresh and cooked seafood dishes.  Start with oysters, which are available by the half or whole dozen or as part of a seafood tower. The perfectly shucked offerings change regularly, and on my visit included bivalves from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, teeming with liquor. Chilled crab legs aren’t on the menu, but ask nicely and you’ll receive fat chunks of crab to dip in horseradish-heavy cocktail sauce or creamy mustard. It’s hard to fill up on raw seafood, so order a refreshing Louie wedge salad with a generous amount of crab, or grilled octopus tentacles atop a bell pepper-nduja spread. The best, though, are the sardines, large, meaty fillets, accented with salsa verde. To eat: Spritz the fish with lemon, then place atop a saltine. End with a sundae or shake from Meg Galus, whose fresh mint ice cream is marvelous.  Employees of the future West Loop Google office will be able to pop over to Cold Storage for lunch, and the menu includes sandwiches like shrimp banh mi. They’re extra lucky, because they can also head right next door to the steakhouse for dinner. Vitals Atmosphere: T

Queen Mary Tavern

Queen Mary Tavern

4 out of 5 stars

Heisler Hospitality is on a roll this year—the group’s British-Indian beer bar, Pub Royale, opened in May, then in November, they opened Queen Mary Tavern, a bar that focuses on maritime drinking. Either theme could easily have been gimmicky, but Heisler knows how to put the right people in charge. At Queen Mary Tavern, Dan Smith and Mony Bunni have assembled a list of cocktails that’s true to the theme—rum, gin and Scotch abound—while using unexpected ingredients and offering sophisticated flavor profiles.  Take the Stone’s Throw, which uses tahini to add sesame notes to the smoky base of Scotch and cream, while a shower of nutmeg over the top ties it all together. Albatross combines gin and madeira with Angostura and coriander for an herbal sip, and St. Erasmus is a tall, icy swizzle with funky rum and some heat from chili. My favorite is Mood Indigo, which I can imagine an epicurean pirate assembling from the spoils of his travels; with port, St. Lucian rum, Batavia Arrack, cardamom and jaggery (cane sugar from Asia and Africa), it’s richly flavored, and a whole egg adds a smooth mouthfeel. The bar had been empty for four decades before Heisler took it over. The space previously held a neighborhood tavern run by Mary Kafka, the namesake for Queen Mary, who still lives upstairs. Many of the original pieces, like the bar, remain in place, which makes Queen Mary feel like it’s been there forever. Luckily the drink list doesn’t—it’s a fresh look at three familiar spirits and a

Maple & Ash

Maple & Ash

4 out of 5 stars

Chicago is home to some of the best steakhouses in the world but few can match the vibe and aesthetic of Maple & Ash. Upstairs on the posh second floor dining room, you’ll spot groups of 20-somethings celebrating birthdays, couples on date nights or power brokers doing business. Chef Danny Grant’s menu aims to please with delicacies like caviar, fire-roasted seafood towers, dry-aged beef and truffle agnolotti. Oh, and save room to build your own sundae for dessert. The following review was published in 2015. The Gold Coast steakhouse marries irreverence with spot-on takes on classic dishes. I didn’t expect to find myself in the middle of a clubby lounge in a steakhouse at midnight, but Maple & Ash inverts expectations. You enter the Gold Coast restaurant through a crowded bar, then take the elevator upstairs to a lively lounge before being whisked into the calm, elegant dining room. I also didn’t expect the chef's choice option to be called "I Don't Give a Fuck” or the “Baller” seafood tower, but I did expect classic steaks and sides from chef Danny Grant and exceptional wines from sommelier Belinda Chang.  The dichotomy places Maple & Ash in line with other new steakhouses, like RPM Steak, Swift & Sons, STK and Boeufhaus, which update classic dishes while offering a cooler ambience than old-school spots. The meal begins with a round of freebies—a mini gin cocktail, citrus-cured olives, nubs of Hook’s cheddar and radishes with butter—to snack on while you peruse the menu. Sea

Bar Marta

Bar Marta

3 out of 5 stars

I can’t recall the last time a salad was the most memorable thing from a night at a bar, but Bar Marta isn’t your standard bar. Piled high with anchovy dressing–slicked lettuce, shaved Parmesan and a shower of bonito flakes, it’s one of the best Caesars I’ve had, an umami-laden dish that was on every table in the restaurant. And it shouldn’t be a surprise, given the pedigree at Bar Marta. Owner Austin Baker, an alum of Brendan Sodikoff’s Hogsalt empire, assembled a crack team of former Hogsalt employees—chefs Jeff Pikus (Hogsalt), Ben Ruiz (High Five Ramen) and Scottie Harrel (Maude's Liquor Bar), plus Christina Carrera (Au Cheval) running the bar program. Echoes of Sodikoff restaurants appear in the dark, cozy space and small plates, but Bar Marta is more relaxed, a good thing in restaurants these days, and has its own point of view. The drink list is accomplished, but Carrera makes it approachable for a bar in a neighborhood—the menu of $10 cocktails includes the bright, Scotch-fortified Absinthe Minded, while the Japanese cocktail, an elegant cognac-orgeat concoction, is a classic too rarely seen. The list features hard-to-find orange wines (basically white wines made like reds), but also two wines for $5 a glass. The food menu is mostly small plates and a few entrees, like a dish of spicy pickles and olives to nibble alongside a drink; a beautifully roasted chicken with slices of fried bread; pillowy cheese gnocchi and a tropical caramel-topped banana-rum cake. Some misst

The Guesthouse Hotel

The Guesthouse Hotel

When family comes to town (or you just want a low-key staycation), the Guesthouse Hotel is a charming base for exploring Andersonville or the north side. Each room is a two- or three-bedroom suite with a kitchen (stocked with cookware and glasses), a balcony with a grill and a washer and dryer. While the hotel is located within a few blocks of excellent restaurants and bars (and each room comes with a helpful guide to the neighborhood offerings), you can also have ingredients delivered to cook yourself in the kitchen or order meals from local spots, including Baker & Nosh, River Valley Farmer's Table and Southport Grocery. The hotel also has free Wi-Fi as well as a small gift shop with locally made products and a pantry stocked with local food and drink for late-night cravings. The lobby space is decked out during the holiday season, with cozy couches and fireplaces that encourage lingering.

Appellation

Appellation

Pastoral, the local cheese shop, now has a wine bar. A short list of wines is available by the bottle, glass and half glass, which makes it easy to try a variety. The wine list regularly changes, but the Jochen Beurer riesling was wonderfully dry and stony, while the Barboursville chardonnay was a crisp and clean way to start the evening. Appellation serves composed cheese plates that focus on themes, like New Classics, with a funky camembert from Minnesota and salty Jasper Hill Clothbound Cheddar. Cheese is present in most of the bar snacks and larger plates, including toast piled with tomato-leek relish, an anchovy and hard podda cheese. Housemade charcuterie includes country pate with extra depth from bacon and a showstopping rabbit rillette, capped with whipped mustard butter.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

4 out of 5 stars

Just when it seemed that the fried chicken bubble was dangerously close to bursting, here is Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, a storied Memphis import that serves tender chicken cocooned in a light, thin exterior that shatters when you cut into it. It’s spicy, with heat that gently sneaks up on you, though not remotely close to the incendiary Nashville-hot style at the Roost and not so hot that it doesn’t benefit from a squirt of Crystal hot sauce out of a plastic packet. I usually prefer dark meat, but Gus’s breasts are surprisingly juicy and flavorful.  The chicken, which is fried in peanut oil, is available in single pieces, combinations of up to 20 pieces or a half bird. It comes with white bread, very sweet baked beans and crisp cole slaw. Adding on the cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes is a good call, though the too-soft mac and cheese is not. The dessert menu is comprised of pies and a root beer float, and the chess pie is sweet without being cloying.  Gus’s has outposts across the South, though the Chicago location is the first phase of an ambitious expansion that includes openings in Detroit, Kansas City and Los Angeles. I can’t speak to the fried chicken scenes in those cities, but in Chicago, even though the past two years have brought us exceptional fried birds at The Roost, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Analogue and other spots, the dining landscape still has room for a place like Gus’s.  Vitals Atmosphere:  With checkered tablecloths, neon signs and lots of w

Swift & Sons

Swift & Sons

4 out of 5 stars

A major player in Chicago’s 19th-century meatpacking industry, Gustavus Swift lends his name to Swift & Sons, a sprawling steakhouse that honors tradition while skillfully updating the genre. The restaurant is the second collaboration between Boka Group (Momotaro, etc.) and B. Hospitality (Formento’s, etc.)—the first, Balena, showcases chef Chris Pandel’s Italian fare. Pandel also mans the kitchen at Swift & Sons, where his dishes display similar finesse while rethinking the staples of steakhouse cuisine. Take the hot platter, a spin on the traditional icy seafood tower (you can get one of those, too) with a langoustine stuffed with fluffy shrimp mousse, a pair of oysters basking in bonito butter, and, since the kitchen was out of the usual scallop on my visit, a marvelous clam packed with bacon, breadcrumbs and melted cheese. Surf and turf features an eight-ounce cap steak, beautifully tender with gentle ribbons of fat and served alongside citrus-poached lobster perched atop ribbons of fennel. Tartiflette, a potato gratin, comes layered with caramelized onions and slices of country ham—as expected with country ham, it’s a salt bomb, but it’s hard not to enjoy the cheesy dish. Not everything is reinvented, or needs to be—bone-in ribeye comes with a flawless char and a savory, zesty steak sauce; white wine brightens creamed spinach, and steak tartare is chopped up with cornichons and mustard seeds. The textures are spot-on, though it needs another shake of salt. Meg Galus exce

News (134)

7 cocktails for $7 or less at Chicago bars & restaurants

7 cocktails for $7 or less at Chicago bars & restaurants

We're patiently waiting for happy hour to become legal in Chicago, but in the meantime, even though most cocktails seem to run $10 to $14 these days, you can still find some affordable cocktails. These aren't watery well drinks either—these are craft cocktails, served at some of the best bars and restaurants in the city, all $7 or less. Henry's Swing Club: Henry's offers five $6 draft cocktails, including Swingin' Doors with bourbon, raspberry, grapefruit and ginger. Osteria Langhe: While the Italian restaurant's cocktails are normally $9, they're half price every Monday, which means $4.50 negronis, daiquiris and other cocktails. Parson's Chicken & Fish: The Bitter/Sour, made with Very Old Barton Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar and Angostura bitters, is $7 and a nice patio sipper. Southport & Irving: The Lakeview spot holds Speakeasy Fridays, with jazz and $6 cocktail specials, including an Old Overholt old fashioned, a Champagne cocktail and a sloe gin fizz. Tippling Hall: Get a double buzz from the Ronzio, made with Stumptown coffee, espresso liqueur, grappa, cream, fennel and anise, for just $7. The Whistler: The Logan Square bar always has a $6 cocktail on offer. Right now, it's the Whiskey & Wine, made with Evan Williams Bourbon, malbec-syrah, sage, blackberry, lime, orange and black walnut bitters.  

Sushi burritos are in Chicago and they're ridiculous

Sushi burritos are in Chicago and they're ridiculous

The world of food mash-ups ranges from total smash hits (like the actually super-delicious cronut) to Frankenfoods that shouldn't exist whatsoever (thankfully the doughnut burger didn't stick around). The latest mash-up is the sushi burrito, basically a burrito-sized sushi roll. It's been available on the coasts, at San Francisco's Sushirrito, New York's Uma Temakeria and LA's Jogasaki Sushi Burrito food truck, and now it's in Chicago. You'll find sushi burritos at Sumo Restaurant in Lincoln Park, How Do You Roll? in the Palmer House, and at Freshii locations around the city. And because I live by the rule "Don't knock it till you try it," I ate them all. The takeaway? While not quite as bad as I was envisioning, none are a substitute for eating the best sushi in Chicago. I started at How Do You Roll?, a chain that sells build-your-own sushi rolls, salads and bowls, as well as composed dishes and "Asian burritos," ($9.45) filled with sushi rice and other ingredients, such as beef teriyaki. Two offerings more closely resemble sushi rolls, at least on paper—the hamachi roll stuffs jalapenos, cilantro, avocado, lettuce, sprouts and white rice into a warm toasted flour tortilla and comes with a side of ponzu dipping sauce. I opted for the spicy tuna, which includes rice, spicy mayo, avocado, edamame, pico de gallo and a wasabi mayo dip. With peppery cooked tuna, creamy mayo and a warm tortilla, it's more reminiscent of a tuna melt than a sushi roll—not bad, exactly, but it didn't

Agave spirits bar opening soon next to Johnny's Grill

Agave spirits bar opening soon next to Johnny's Grill

Chicago has tons of great cocktail bars, but we don't have many super-specialized bars. Yes, we have tiki, and Scofflaw is a gin bar (though a good chunk of each cocktail list includes drinks with other spirits). So it's exciting when a notable bartender opens a place devoted to one particular type of spirit, even more so when it's agave—easily the most misunderstood category. Jay Schroeder left his post at Frontera Grill to open a bar next to Johnny's Grill, which is currently the Flower Shop bar. In the new bar, he plans to offer straight pours of spirits, including tequila and mezcal, at a low price point, as well as cocktails. He also has an interest in bacanora, raicilla, sotol and other Mexican spirits that are just beginning to be available in the U.S. Schroeder is aiming for a February opening for the bar.

LA bartender Julian Cox is coming to Chicago

LA bartender Julian Cox is coming to Chicago

Our friends at Time Out LA frantically emailed this morning to say that bartender Julian Cox was moving to Chicago. Cox was responsible for some of the city's best bar programs, including Redbird, Petty Cash, Barrel & Ashes, Las Perlas and Bestia, as well as his newest bar, The Fiscal Agent, which opened last year. In Chicago, he'll be teaming up with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and will work with partners R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman and chef/partner Doug Psaltis. His first task is to oversee the beverage program at il Porcellino, the Italian restaurant replacing the shuttered Paris Club. Considering how sad our friends at Time Out LA are, we're super excited to see what he brings to Chicago.

M Burger's new Chicago Double is awesome

M Burger's new Chicago Double is awesome

Sometimes I swear restaurants are eavesdropping on my conversations, because M Burger's new Chicago Double is pretty much my dream burger. I love thin patties, American cheese (it melts the best) and a ton of onions and pickles (if they're pickled onions, that works, too). The Chicago Double is a double cheeseburger that has perfectly melted American cheese, a mess of grilled onions, zippy pickles and bright mustard, all of which combine for a burger that's perfectly balanced on a squishy bun. It tastes like a diner-style burger, but it's available at all six locations, which means you can get one on your lunch break. M Burger clocks in at number two on our new list of burger restaurants.

Hot Doug's is taking over Publican Quality Meats on January 18

Hot Doug's is taking over Publican Quality Meats on January 18

Doug Sohn always seems to have something new up his sleeve, whether it's making pizza for Piece or serving sausages during Cubs games. The latest chance to try Hot Doug's sausages is on January 18 from 10am–6pm at Publican Quality Meats (825 W Fulton Mkt). Sohn will serve six to eight sausages along with duck fat fries. Marz Community Brewing will offer beers and Lumpen Radio will play music and broadcast live from the restaurant. The same day, the Publican will open early at noon with a menu of oysters, pork rinds and more, in case the line for a sausage is too long. It will be long, of course, but worth it.

Which new steakhouse is right for you?

Which new steakhouse is right for you?

The end of 2015 has been all about the steakhouse, with STK, Swift & Sons and Maple & Ash opening within a few weeks of each other. I went to all three within a five-week period and my date and I ordered the same thing at each: cocktails to start and wine with the meal, a seafood starter, bone-in rib eye, surf and turf (or filet with crab Oscar if it wasn't available), creamed spinach and an ice cream dessert. I added a couple dishes at each place but aimed to keep each meal as similar as possible, for comparison's sake. The verdict? I would recommend all three, each for different reasons. Here's a breakdown. STK: If you want a lively atmosphere (and are under 40), head to STK. The food is solid, servers are nice and the perfectly cooked bone-in rib eye was the best of the three. The champagne room for dessert is great. Maple & Ash: If you want a lively atmosphere (and are over 40), try Maple & Ash. It's the best choice for drinkers, too—Cristiana DeLucca's cocktails are wonderful and the wine list is impressive. I'm looking forward to a visit to the downstairs bar to try more of her drinks, alongside a burger. Though at some point I'll also be back for those roasted crab legs.  Swift & Sons: If you prefer a calmer atmosphere, you'll find it at Swift & Sons. With citrus-poached lobster and a cap steak, S&S's surf and turf was the best of the three (I am now obsessed with cap steak). Meg Galus's grapefruit sorbet was the best ice cream dish (and maybe the best ice cream I had

A night at Milk Room, the 8-seat rare spirits bar in the Chicago Athletic Association

A night at Milk Room, the 8-seat rare spirits bar in the Chicago Athletic Association

The Chicago Athletic Association has such a rich cluster of bars that one could easily spend a whole night bar-crawling through the hotel. Rooftop bar Cindy's is where you go for views, the elegant Cherry Circle Room for throwback cocktails, the boisterous Game Room for classics and frozen drinks, and the relaxed Drawing Room for an old-fashioned by the fire. The final piece is Milk Room, the smallest (and most expensive) bar, which opened in mid-November with just eight seats and an inventory of rare and vintage spirits.  Milk Room is located in the hallway between the Drawing Room and Game Room in what was once a speakeasy, and the space feels like drinking in an old monastery—flickering candles line the walls, the doors feature stained glass castles and ships, and electric candles in iron light fixtures hang from the beamed ceiling. A ham sits at one end of the copper bar, and most people were ordering plates of sliced ham with a baguette, butter and radishes (you're going to want something in your stomach before you start drinking). It may be tiny, but getting in is straightforward—eight seats are available in two-hour blocks throughout the night. Though tickets are sold online via Tock, two seats are left for walk-ins, if you'd prefer to make a spur of the moment visit. The online tickets are $50 per person, and that cost is applied to your bill at the end of the night. Paul McGee is the beverage director for all the CAA bars minus Cindy's, so he's involved in Milk Room,

If your name is Luke, get a free lobster roll at Luke's Lobster Friday

If your name is Luke, get a free lobster roll at Luke's Lobster Friday

If your name is Luke, you're likely going to have to deal with lots of Star Wars jokes this week, so here's some relief—the first 25 people named Luke or Lucas will get a free lobster roll at Luke's Lobster (134 N LaSalle St) on Friday to celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The deal starts at 11am and runs until the lobster rolls last, so bring your ID and get one of the city's best lobster rolls, lightly dressed with butter and mayonnaise, sprinkled with spices, and served in a buttery bun.

The 15 best things to eat, drink and buy at Christkindlmarket

The 15 best things to eat, drink and buy at Christkindlmarket

Christkindlmarket is here! One of the top holiday markets in Chicago, the market is open today through December 24 at Daley Plaza. We hit the market first thing this morning to scope out the 50-plus booths to find the best things to eat, drink and buy. Our picks: The Gluhwein-filled boot ($7 with mug, $6 refill) is back! The warming wine, found at booths #1 and #28, is a must for those freezing market days. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Christmas pyramid with choir singers ($106) from KĂ€the Wohlfahrt, booth #8: The Christmas pyramids spin when their candles are lit, mesmerizing us all. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas German Leberkaese with sauerkraut ($7) from Traditional German Food (booth #17) is a beef and pork loaf that comes nestled in a bun with piquant sauerkraut. It’s hearty and satisfying. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Alpaca gloves ($45) from Winterbourne Alpaca, booth #50: Soft and sassy, just like our furry friend. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas The wiener schnitzel sandwich ($7) at the Schnitzelhaus (booth #29) features tender meat and a bit of sauerkraut. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Hand-painted candleholder ($25) from Glaszauber Lauscha, booth #14: Light up your loved one’s home. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas A trio of potato pancakes ($7) at Traditional German Food (booth #17) come with apple sauce or sour cream. Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Make a tea set with this creamer ($37), teapot ($50) and plate ($48) from Polish Handcrafts–Eva’s Collection, booth #49: Spot of tea, any

Restaurant crawl through the California & Augusta corner

Restaurant crawl through the California & Augusta corner

Over the past year, California and Augusta in Humboldt Park has become Chicago's best food corner. With great pies at Spinning J Bakery & Soda Fountain, burgers at Haywood Tavern, retro cocktails at California Clipper, coffee at C.C. Ferns and wine and beer at Rootstock, you have one delicious evening ahead of you. Join us as we explore the offerings at each spot. Read our full feature here. Correction: The Doughnut Vault doughnuts at C.C. Ferns are $2.25 and the Grape Soda from Spinning J Bakery & Soda Fountain is $4.50.

Next Restaurant announces 2016 menu themes

Next Restaurant announces 2016 menu themes

The Alps. South America. October 28, 1996. The Next themes for 2016 were announced yesterday afternoon on Facebook, and they cover a wide range of cuisines. First up is the Alps, which will focus on cuisine from "the mountain regions of Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and France." We've already spotted Next chefs working on strudels and tableside raclette via Instagram, to give you an idea of what will be served. The tickets will be $95–$125. The summer menu is Tour of South America, which will feature "fresh seafood, exotic fruits and spices, and some standby favorites that have traveled the world." The walk-up patio will return as well, with a la carte options available. Tickets are $85–$115. The year closes with October 28, 1996, the day Grant Achatz began working at Thomas Keller's French Laundry in Napa. The menu recreates the French Laundry menu from that date, when Achatz and his father dined at the restaurant. Tickets are $255–$285.  Season tickets go on sale to 2015 season ticket holders on December 9 and to everyone else for season tickets on December 11. Get them here.

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