Cherry Circle Room A quiet alternative to the Chicago Athletic Association hotel’s relentlessly crowded rooftop bar, Cherry Circle Room is also one of the most handsome dining spaces in the city, with leather, wood and clubby good looks. Executive chef Peter Coenen’s menu recalls steakhouse classics in his refined takes on Caesar salad and tuna tartare, even though there’s just one steak on the menu.
Open: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Prices: Entrees $16-$38. 12 S. Michigan Ave., 312-792-3515. — P.V.
Free Rein Free Rein is the Where’s Waldo of Chicago restaurants, hiding behind a wall of shaded glass on Michigan Avenue. The menu features a few nods to chef Aaron Lirette’s former GreenRiver, including the fried chicken oysters and the spaghetti in sea-urchin sauce. Among the raw dishes, the madai carpaccio is a standout. There are seafood towers sized for two, four or six — pricey, naturally, but in line with what steakhouses charge. The roasted sturgeon is a star in the making; the fillet is poached in duck fat, then seared on one side, and it’s a gorgeous piece of fish. Breakfast includes grab-andgo pastry options by ex-Sixteen’s Evan Sheridan, who also helms the dessert menu.
Open: Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. Prices: Entrees $35-$38. 224 N. Michigan Ave., 312-334-6700. — P.V.
Steadfast The most ambitious restaurant to hit the Loop in a long time is a small-plates American spot. There’s a lot to love: the complex cooking of chef Chris Davies, the superb bread and dessert from pastry chef Chris Teixeira, and impressive charcuterie.
Open: Dinner Monday-Saturday, lunch Monday-Friday. Entrees $24$39. 120 W. Monroe St., 312-801-8899. — P.V.