Chicago hot spots

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

WHAT I love about Chicago is that you don’t need a lot of money to have a mem­o­rable meal: think hot dogs and deep-dish pizza, stand-out sand­wiches and cheap eth­nic fare. I’m also ex­cited by how this fast-food city’s din­ing has be­come in­cred­i­bly so­phis­ti­cated, with pro­gres­sive restau­rants and young chefs turn­ing out 21st-cen­tury food you won’t find on ei­ther coast.

The trendy scene: Want to dine with the beau­ti­ful peo­ple? Slip into Japon­ais, where lo­cal loft-dwellers sip sake cock­tails and nib­ble on ex­quis­ite bites of up­scale Ja­panese fare. Nine Steak­house is the flashiest red-meat joint in town, while a funky crowd in­dulges in deca­dent desserts at Buck­town favourite Hot Choco­late.

Culi­nary ad­ven­tures: Hot des­ti­na­tions such as Moto, where Ho­maro Cantu whips up ed­i­ble pa­per and bar­be­cued Sty­ro­foam; Alinea (pic­tured) , with a more ac­ces­si­ble menu, or Green Ze­bra, a fine-din­ing veg­e­tar­ian that makes even car­ni­vores drool.

Clas­sic Chicago: No visit to the meat-lov­ing Windy City would be com­plete with­out a juicy steak at Mor­ton’s, an over­stuffed sand­wich at Manny’s Cof­fee Shop, a Chicago-style hot dog with the works at The Wieners Cir­cle, or an Ital­ian beef sand­wich at River North’s Mr. Beef.

Melt­ing pot: Eth­nic en­claves brim with global flavours: samosas and cur­ries at Devon Av­enue’s classy In­dian Tif­fin, or gy­ros and mous­saka at Greek Is­lands in Greek­town. On the South Side, fill up on au­then­tic, amaz­ingly cheap Mex­i­can fare at Nuevo Leon.

Rise and dine: Here, break­fast is al­most as se­ri­ous as base­ball. For a retro diner ex­pe­ri­ence, Lou Mitchell’s is a well-loved sta­ple since 1923.

Ran­dolph Street hotspots: Ten years af­ter this in­dus­trial neigh­bour­hood be­came a big-time din­ing des­ti­na­tion it’s still a hot ticket. High­lights in­clude the min­i­mal­ist, mod­ern Black­bird, which of­fers whip-smart New Amer­i­can fare, and Avec, with a thrilling small plates menu. The crowded Sushi Wabi is still the town’s hippest raw-fish spot. SOME CLOSE-UPS In a re­cently con­verted in­dus­trial build­ing on the Chicago River, Japon­ais is one of the city’s most vis­ually stun­ning restau­rants. Inside, wa­ter flows se­duc­tively over a high­gloss red brick wall. The food, cre­ated by ex­ec­u­tive chefs Jun Ichikawa and Gene Kato, is just as stylish. Sushi is im­pec­ca­ble, but it’s the non-sushi fare that’s most im­pres­sive, from lovely, light bin cho salad of mar­i­nated sashimi baby tuna and shaved daikon spritzed with cit­rus sake vi­nai­grette, to Seven Sa­mu­rais (seven seafood tartares). www.japon­ais­chicago.com.

The brain­child of twen­tysome­thing chef Ho­maro Cantu, the avant-garde Moto, in de­vel­op­ing Ful­ton Mar­ket ware­house dis­trict, is con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant din­ing spots in the coun­try. The set­ting is clean and sparse, with un­adorned ivory walls, cin­na­mon-leather ban­quettes and choco­late-coloured wooden chairs. A re­cent tast­ing menu in­cluded lob­ster with freshly squeezed orange soda, grilled spring veg­eta­bles with bar­be­cued Sty­ro­foam, Colorado lamb with Ken­tucky fried ice cream, and freeze-dried pina co­lada. www.mo­torestau­rant.com.

Chicago’s steak­houses of­fer prime cuts of mid­west­ern beef and high­class at­mos­phere. Mor­ton’s is still the place to go for gi­ant steaks with de­li­cious sides of creamed spinach and gar­lic mashed pota­toes. www.mor­tons.com.

Tif­fin is the finest restau­rant in Chicago’s In­dian and Pak­istani neigh­bour­hood. In the open kitchen, chefs pre­pare lip-smack­ing clas­sics. www.tiffin­restau­rant.com.

Break­fast place Lou Mitchell’s diner has been around since 1923 and crack­les with old Chicago charm. Bouf­fant-haired wait­resses call cus­tomers ‘‘ hon’’ and work their ta­bles with light­ning ef­fi­ciency. 565 WJack­son Blvd; +1 312 939 3111.

Lo­cal chef Paul Ka­han serves top­notch mod­ern food in min­i­mal­ist Black­bird. Ex­pect to be wowed. www.black­bir­drestau­rant.com. ES­SEN­TIAL AD­DRESSES Nine Steak­house, www.n9ne.com. Hot Choco­late, www.hotchoco­lat­e­chicago.com. Alinea, www.alin­ear­estau­rant.com. Green Ze­bra, www.green­ze­brachicago.com. Manny’s Cof­fee Shop, www.man­nys­deli.com. The Wieners Cir­cle, 2622 N Clark St; +1 773 477 7444. Mr. Beef, 666 N Or­leans St; +1 312 337 8500. Greek Is­lands, www.greek­islands.net. Nuevo Leon, 1515W18th St; +1 312 421 1517. Bongo Room, www.bon­go­room.com. Orange, 3231 N Clark St; +1 773 549 4400. Avec, www.ave­crestau­rant.com. Sushi Wabi, www.sushi­wabi.com. Ad­di­tional re­search Jo­eff Davis, Ja­son Hei­de­mann, Cara Jepsen. This is an edited ex­tract from Chicago: RealCity Guide (Dor­ling Kindersley, $29.95).

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