Go Ahead, Order Off the Secret Menu at These Chicago Restaurants
When is a Big Mac not a Big Mac? When it’s sushi.
The next time you go out to eat, you could certainly order from the regular menu. Nothing wrong with that. But imagine how much better it’d be to request dishes from top-secret menus at some of the trendiest spots in Chicago. These are the plates the chefs only cook for those in the know, so you’ll be getting the most delicious, creative meals, the sort that the chef simply can’t provide to everyone who strolls through the doors.
From burgers to sushi, you’ll be dipping into the chef’s imagination, trying dishes that they may eventually put on the menu — or tasting meals that they don’t dare offer to regular folk because of everything from the rarity of the ingredients used to the technical difficulties they encounter making them. One thing is for sure: you’re in for a one-of-a-kind treat.
We scoured the top restaurants, bars and hotels in Chicago, using every bit of clout we have to convince the chefs to reveal their secret menu items. Here you go. Please don’t share. You didn’t see this here.
Sushi By Bou
Order this: The Big Mac
At this traditional omakase spot with three locations around the city (our favorite is tucked behind a random door in Suite 202 at Hotel Lincoln), you can snag an entire omakase meal for just $50. Add on the Yuzu Honey Bee cocktail (Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey syrup, yuzu, simple syrup and pink peppercorn), and you’ll be feeling like you own Chicago. But take it one step further and request the Big Mac, and you’ll have the power Mayor Lori Lightfoot yields sans the bad press. It’s even better than its fast-food namesake: Sushi By Bou’s Big Mac ($18) is an à la carte piece loaded with wagyu, scallop, otoro and uni. Close your eyes before taking a bite, and request silence from your table mates. It’s that good.
Pigtail by José Andrés
Order this: Smashburger
The speakeasy-style bar on the lower level of Jaleo Chicago is known for its Iberico pork and its bespoke cocktails. The tapas are so authentic, your tongue will be transported to Spain. Don’t sleep on the bao frito con lechón (fried homemade steam bun with glazed pork belly, pickled apple and piquillo mayo). That’ll whet your appetite for the secret menu item: the Iberico Smashburger ($60). The succulent burger is served on a brioche bun with caramelized onions and piparra mayo, but the meat is the main show. It comes with a glass of cava.
Order this: Chicken karaage sliders and fish liver tacos
This Michelin-recognized spot in Bucktown offers two dining experiences. The first floor is an izakaya-style lounge serving modernized Japanese comfort foods, while the dining room upstairs is all about the 15-piece omakase (starts at $150). And since there are two dining experiences, there are also two secret menu items here. Start downstairs, and request the chicken karaage slider with soy-marinated crispy chicken and cabbage ($5), which is a hit with Hinoki regulars. Then, move upstairs and order the fish liver taco with crispy nori, fish liver and kampachi ($8). It’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted, and you’ll wish it was on every secret menu.
Order this: Bouillabaisse a l’Aboyer
Chef Michael Lachowicz has two incredible (read: very fancy) restaurants in Winnetka, and they’re where you go when you want your French food fix. His secret item is one of his favorite recipes that he’s created, and he occasionally pops it onto the specials menu when he’s feeling generous. But if you’re craving it, you can also request it, and he’ll make it any time. “After over 35 years, I have a lot of these hidden gem dishes that I will prepare on request for guests in the know,” he says. “Dishes like these are what amount to my greatest hits collection.” The Bouillabaisse a l’Aboyer is a melange of lobster-filled loup de mer roulade, Prince Edward Island mussels, littleneck clams, shrimp and chanterelle mushrooms in a classic bouillabaisse broth topped with a saffron rouille crouton ($48).
Michael Jordan’s Steak House
Order this: Killer B Burger
This iconic Chicago restaurant is known for its steaks, and rightly so. But next time, order the Killer B Burger, which is made with wagyu beef sandwiched between the steak house’s fan-favorite garlic bread, topped with Nueske’s bacon and accompanied by a bourbon vanilla milkshake. You’ll need a nap after this burger.
Grill on 21
Order this: $100 Old Fashioned
Are you drinking to impress? Then you’ve come to the right place. Chicago’s newest modern American grill offers a new and expensive take on a classic Old Fashioned, featuring Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bourbon, gold leaf and Chinato Vermouth.
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