To keep tabs on every Chicago restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Bon appétit.
Au Cheval, Small Cheval. There’s no getting around a comparison of the two. Yes, the burger here is slightly smaller. Yes, the wait times are shorter. It might not be as memorable as Au Cheval’s patty stack — but hey — been there, done that, right? Straightforward menu. Exceptional burger. Crispiest fries in the game, natch. Throw in a chocolate milkshake with a shot of Bailey’s and a call it a day.
At this Old Town corner throwback concept, offerings include a butter-poached king crab seafood risotto, fried green tomato BLT and a mouthwatering roasted pork belly dish topped with fried okra. A welcome addition to the neighborhood. Upstairs: a lounge bar where they’re mixing up proper renditions of the classics. The Side Car’s your pick. Don’t sleep on weekend brunch (menu here), either.
Every man should have a go-to dive bar — a low-key retreat for unpretentious imbibing. Best Intentions, the new watering hole in the old Marble space in Logan Square, is here to fill that role. New elevated cocktail program is enough to make the trip, and enjoying them on the back patio stands as reason to make the journey sooner rather than later. And from the kitchen, po’ boys courtesy of New Orleans native Kevin Cowens, who also chefs our current favorite underground supper club The Underground Social.
Foie gras is a staple of French cooking. Synonymous with luxury; pleasurable as it is decadent. And perhaps the best place to sample some right now is at the sophisticated new Lincoln Park eatery the Blanchard. Chef Jason Paskewitz, formerly of Gemini Bistro — which was a standard-bearer of delectable French cuisine during his reign — has dedicated a whole section of the menu to the fattened duck or goose liver. You should probably take a look at that section. Point is the guy knows French food, and where there’s good French food, there’s a good date.
Add Bernie’s Lunch & Supper to your list of solid after-work spots. Helmed by Detroit chef Zack Sklar, Bernie’s offers some hearty Midwestern cuisine with a slight Mediterranean lean. The lamb hashwi will be a suprise favorite — a perfect starter for sharing. The vibe: rustic and comfortable, with a touch of River North loot.