The mantle of Chicago’s best restaurant is no mean feat nowadays, as Chicago, long a capital of lavish steakhouses and dining halls, is undergoing a sort of culinary renaissance. Chefs have rediscovered the joys of going back to the roots of various ethnic and regional cuisine. Whereas twenty years ago it was all the rage to go small in fine dining, these days kitchens are bringing back big flavors and traditional techniques that may have been more common in family recipes than fine dining establishments.
One example of this rustic approach to seriously good food is Au Cheval. The West Loop eatery is proud to serve up its signature burger against any dish that the city’s elite list of restaurants can produce. That kind of confidence is a big hit in Chicago, but luckily for Au Cheval the flavors are just as big. This is one burger that raises the bar.
Piccolo Sogno is another good example of a restaurant picking out one thing and doing it to the best of its ability. For this restaurant near the Grand stop on the Blue Line, the rustic style Italian fare makes you quickly forget you’re sitting on a patio near the heart of a big city and more like you’re transported to a family dining table in Tuscany.
One of the best new restaurants to arrive on the Chicago dining scene in 2016 was undoubtedly 1901 Restaurant. This restaurant tucked inside the lively atmosphere of AceBounce, Chicago’s home of ping pong, takes its namesake from the year that the game of ping pong was patented. 1901 Restaurant serves serious food in a relaxed setting. The menu was designed by celebrated Chicago Chef Rick Gresh, formerly of David Burke’s Primehouse, so a no-nonsense steak dinner is just steps away from all the nonsense that a group of friends care to have around a ping pong table. But for food that comes out directly to the ping pong floor, 1901 doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of flavor either. Many of the inventive pizzas and shareable bites from 1901’s kitchen can be ordered while patrons play on one of the 16 ping pong tables in AceBounce.