We typically leave brand new restaurants off our lists, but tradition be damned! Pacific Standard Time crushed all doubts in our mind. It is clearly a restaurant run and designed by people who know exactly what they’re doing. The interior design is airy and modern, but the food (obviously) is the shining star. Everything feels light and fresh, whether it’s their daily crudos, their handmade pastas, or their unreal pita bread and dips. Our goal for 2019: eat every dish that comes out of this kitchen.
Oh, Fat Rice, we love you. From the playful and colorful decor to the ever-changing, always interesting menu, you are perfect. You won’t find food like this anywhere else in America: it focuses on Macanese cuisine (that’s Macau, you dingus), which fuses Chinese food with Portuguese, Indian, African, and more. If you can’t get enough (like us), you can stop by The Bakery at Fat Rice during the day for pastries, coffees, and other treats, or make a reservation for the intimate cocktail lounge, the Ladies Room. It doesn’t matter to us: just go.
This is a given, right? Alinea is not only the best restaurant in Chicago, it’s one of the best in the world. Grant Achatz’s iconic restaurant has the rare distinction of earning three Michelin stars for the past six years running, which is a feat no other Chicago spot has yet to match. The space was recently completely remodeled, so even if you’ve been here before, you’ve got a reason to visit again. The price matches the accolades, so be prepared to pay up—but it’s worth it.
The brainchild of Alinea’s Grant Achatz and restaurateur Nick Kokonas, Roister is a place for people to gather around a fire and indulge in heartier eats than most chef-driven menus offer. You’ve got options at Roister. You can simply order dishes like the whole chicken a la carte, or opt for the reasonably affordable chef’s tasting menu. Of course, there's also the added bonus of enjoying food created by the best chef in America. Just make sure you book a reservation. And get the chicken.
You’ve got two great options at Smyth & the Loyalist—the former, Smyth, is best saved for a special occasion when you’re ready to throw down some serious cash for an eight or 12-course fine dining experience. We’ve heard rumblings from the food world that many prefer what Smyth is doing to Alinea—so take that into consideration. Downstairs, you’ve got the Loyalist, whose rustic menu of bar bites and cocktails still gives you a taste of the finer things in a more low-key setting. If you go to The Loyalist, you must order their burger.
Monteverde might as well be code for "nouveau Italian of the highest quality." Here’s a place that’ll satisfy your mind, body, and soul by way of a spoonful of cheese-and-brown-buttered tortellini. This past summer, we had a corn and truffle pasta that was unreal. We’re still dreaming about. Chef/Owner Sarah Grueneberg has been on "Top Chef," won James Beard Awards, competed on "Iron Chef," and so on. She’s pretty talented, we guess.
If you’re somewhat knowledgeable about Chicago’s food scene, then it’s likely that you recognize Stephanie Izard’s name. The hotshot chef has pretty much hit it out of the park with every one of her restaurant projects, and her take on Chinese cuisine has garnered praise from the get-go. The restaurant perfectly balances the line between authentic dishes and playful modern chef takes, and honestly, we can’t get enough of it.
Executive Chef Lee Wolen has earned the title of “Chef of the Year” from numerous outlets for his creative talents at Boka, where New American cuisine meets a carefully curated atmosphere designed to delight and relax. The elegant dining space balances a chic edge with quirky charm—regal portraits of animals grace one moss-covered accent wall—which includes a main dining room, enclosed terrace, and patio. It’s a classic for a reason.