By Elizabeth SanFilippo
At award-winning restaurants throughout the city, one course is simply not enough. That’s why many establishments offer tasting menus highlighting an array of flavors as well as the chef’s skills. While tasting menus offer different kinds of cuisine, they all have one thing in common: a variety of amazing plates sure to delight all of your senses, especially your taste buds.
Best Molecular Gastronomy:
1723 N Halsted Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
Price: $210 for 18-course tasting menu
As the only three-star Michelin restaurant in Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz’s Alinea is true foodie heaven with its expansive tasting menu that promises to delight all of your senses in perfect bites. Yet, not all bites are small on this tasting menu. Each menu item is paired with a bubble graphic that illustrates the size of that particular dish, from the small mussel with saffron and chorizo to the large serving of scallops. And if there’s a food item that you’d rather not eat, just let your server know and the kitchen will make a substitution. But really, keep your mind open. Achatz knows what he’s doing in the kitchen and he’s offering an experience unlike any other. Check out the online menu to see the changing selections.
Best New American:
619 W Randolph Ave
Chicago, IL 60661
Price: $65 for six-course tasting menu; $130 for 12-course tasting menu; $22 for prix-fixe lunch
Executive Chef Paul Kahan’s Blackbird offers two revolutionary tasting menus with six and twelve courses. With help from the restaurant’s wine director, wine can also be paired with your dishes, which are often seasonal in nature. With dishes like a roasted leg of lamb as an entree to a bittersweet chocolate soup for dessert, splurge a bit and indulge in an array of plates calling to your senses. Prix-fixe lunches are also available and still offer customization. Choose three courses of either an appetizer, salad, soup, entree or dessert. Entrees like a roasted chicken and sausage or a wood-grilled sturgeon may be available.
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2610 N Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Price: $85 for five-course tasting menu; $130 for five-course tasting menu and wine pairings
North Pond’s Lincoln Park location speaks to what this restaurant is all about: local cuisine from the local market. In a gorgeous park setting, delight your senses with seasonal, organic food from Chef Bruce Sherman by ordering what North Pond calls A Seasonal Tasting. The five-course menu can only be ordered if everyone at the table chooses. An example menu includes a lineup of charred tuna escabeche, salt-seared foie, sautéed halibut cheek, herbed boneless lamb loin and fresh berries in arugula ice cream. Is your mouth watering yet?
980 N Michigan Ave, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Price: $235 for seven-course tasting menu; $430 for seven-course tasting menu and wine pairing; $150 for five-course tasting menu; $235 for five-course tasting menu and wine pairing
Chef Tony Mantuano is the Italian chef that others try to emulate, and that’s why Spiaggia’s tasting menus are unlike any other Italian menus you’ll find in Chicago. Drawing inspiration from wines as well as dishes that Spiaggia chefs adore, try such amazing delectable dishes as testina con pancia di tonno, which is black focaccia crusted testa with Otoro tuna belly as well as Trentino pine cone syrup, Tuscan pine nuts and dill. Another tantalizing plate might be pancetta-wrapped hen with a spring vegetable soup. If you choose the accompanied wine options, you will be able to sample a new, complementary wine with every dish.
Related: Best Italian Food in Chicago
445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
Price: Varies but stays within the range of $85 to $95 for each five-course tasting menu
Chef Rick Bayless has built an empire of Mexican restaurants in Chicago, but Topolobampo remains the go-to place for divine gourmet treats. As with most tasting menus, Topolobampo’s three tasting menus change basically every month by featuring seasonal dishes, some ingredients of which come from Bayless’ rooftop garden. Each of the menus also focus on a different region of Mexico. From Baja, discover pescados y mariscos en mojo verde (seafood in a green garlic mojo de ajo). From the Yucatan menu, experience polenta-style tamal infused with banana leaf flavors. No matter your choice, each menu will surely please.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.