There’s a time and place for extravagant tasting menus that come with hefty price tags and servers who sweep every crumb off the table between courses.
But what if you’re in search of an elevated dining experience that won’t break the bank?
Luckily, Chicago has a penchant for mixing haute cuisine with comparatively casual vibes, as evidenced by five chef’s tables that buck the typical chef’s-table trappings. Whether you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion without spending an entire paycheck or want a VIP view into one of Chicago’s top kitchens, these experiences wed omakase-style menus with laid-back service, communal seating and a generally jovial atmosphere.
Wear your favorite jeans and bring an appetite.
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One of the newest chef’s tables to hit Chicago is at Pilsen’s S.K.Y. The setup is simple: four seats and one counter overlooking the busy kitchen. You’ll get an up-close glimpse at pastry chef Tatum Sinclair working her dessert magic, plus Chef Stephen Gillanders putting the finishing touches on plates like Mediterranean sea bass or his signature fried chicken. Guests can enjoy the regular menu, but the chef-driven tasting menu is the way to. You’ll get a few extra courses thrown in, with the option to do a customized wine pairing based on personal preference. Reservations can be made by calling or emailing the restaurant.
1239 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
El Che Bar (2 images)
El Che Bar
El Che’s chef's table is a three-course, $95 feast highlighting the traditions of Argentina's Asado. Sure, $95 is not cheap, but Executive Chef John Manion prepares a family-style meal using seasonal ingredients from local farmers and markets, including heaping platters of meats and veggies prepared over a live fire (or parilla — pronounced pa-ree-ja in the motherland). To save on the total bill, you can order drinks a la carte, but beverage pairings are also available. Seatings are limited to one per evening for up to 12 guests, so make those reservations in advance.
845 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607
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Eden provides a unique and personalized chef’s counter dining experience featuring seasonal ingredients from its onsite greenhouse. Seating up to 12, the meal allows diners to choose from a specially curated five-course tasting menu for $95, with the option for beverage pairings. Not up for five courses? You can also order whatever you’d like off Eden’s main menu, helping keep costs down. Reservations can be made directly on Eden’s website.
1748 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60612
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Gather’s kitchen counter experience puts you face-to-face with the chefs preparing your meal. You’ll look into the open kitchen as the line whips up menu staples like rye gnocchi and whipped ricotta, or the burger with house smoked bacon and white cheddar. Reservations are limited and can be made via Gather’s website.
4539 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
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Hyde Park’s The Promontory features a dining counter that overlooks the kitchen’s open hearth. Diners can make a reservation to get an intimate view of Executive Chef Carlos Cruz and his team as they prepare signature dishes from the main menu like Smoked Feta with marinated olives, or a New York Strip Steak with roasted onion jus.
5311 S Lake Park Ave W, Chicago, IL 60615