Because every Chicagoan needs to eat, and occasionally that includes more than just hot dogs, we present Table Stakes: a recurring series that answers a man's eternally recurring question (“Uh, what’s new?”) and happens every lunar cycle or so. Get it.
Formento’s is the stuff of mob films: the kind of red-sauce joint you’d find on Taylor Street back in the day. This being 2015, the concept almost seems unfashionable. But to think this would be foolish. Chef Tony Quartaro is braising and saucing like a champ, throwing down classics like Shrimp Scampi and orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage. The meatballs are a must. The wine list, curated by Alinea somm Steve Morgan, may be heavier than a Gideons Bible, but the waitstaff is more than ready to offer recs. Come hungry.
925 W. Randolph St.
b/w Sangamon St. & Peoria St.
Tiki master Paul McGee just dropped his first concept with the Longman & Eagle crew, and yes — it’s a bamboo-lovin’, nostalgia-laden homage to the tiki bars of yesteryear. Lost Lake is the perfect winter escape. But this cabana’s no stranger to lines, so come early. And don’t miss ordering bites from neighboring take-out joint Thank You, where former Mott St. chef Gabriel Freeman’s Chinese grub is reason alone to come visit.
3154 W. Diversey Ave.
b/w Kedzie Ave. & Troy St.
Following the success of Bottlefork, chef Kevin Hickey and the team at Rockit Ranch have come together again for the Duck Inn, a spiffy new tavern in Bridgeport. Not gonna lie, it’s out there. But wanderers are rewarded with bourbon-heavy cocktails and bar bites like duck foie tamales and duck-fat Chicago-style dogs. The more refined stuff is in the back dining room, where — pro tip — reservations are a must, and if you're after chef's signature roast duck, make sure you reserve that, too. Those little duckies fly outta’ the kitchen fast.
2701 S. Eleanor St.
Off of Loomis St.
Stepping into The Betty is like walking into a modern gentleman’s study: one with high ceilings and plenty of leather, brass and wood. Inside, you’ll find Sepia and Nomi vet Paul Vestinos pouring sophisticated takes on classic tipples. This is where you go while waiting for your table on Randolph. Better yet: have some bites here. There's a well-edited menu of small and shared plates like chicken confit and ham croquettes and kampachi crudo. Both equally delicious.
839 W. Fulton Market
b/w Green St. & Peoria St.
Bascule Wine Bar
Hot date? Take her to Bascule, the new Little Italy wine bar that’s pouring vintages from all over the world. No-frills neighborhood vibe here, and the wine list is vetted by Jean Banchet-recognized somms Jason Prah (Acadia) and Scott Harney (Eno Wine Bar). So, bring a pen and a pad. And where there’s good wine, expect good food: share the flatbread and get the table a charcuterie and cheese plate. Finish 'er off with some Maine mussels.
1421 W. Taylor St.
b/w Laflin St. & Loomis St.
Like what you see here? Sign up for InsideHook to get daily recommendations on travel, style, tech and everything else a man needs to make his life less boring.