Chicago Restaurant Week, the annual promotion designed to lure customers into dining rooms and combat the city’s usual winter lull, is back with more than 300 participating establishments. As with most things in the hospitality industry, last year’s proceedings were canceled due to the pandemic, but a number of major players are bringing big game to this year’s event, which will runs from Monday March 25 to Sunday April 10.
However, when it comes to sifting through the contenders for the best deals, it seems there may be too many major players – or, at least, heavyweight bands like Boka and One Off. Hospitality Group can apparently afford the margins better than the independents. restorers. This trend is perhaps most apparent on the west and south sides of the city, areas that are home to many great independent restaurants but have been largely ignored by restaurant groups.
These neighborhoods are represented among the attendees with entrants like Virtue, chef Erick Williams’ Southern spot named to Eater’s National Best New Restaurants of 2019 list, and Cocoa Chili, an Afro-Caribbean upstart. But a few taps on a calculator show that their Restaurant Week customers will only break even.
Although the event’s 2021 pandemic mitigations are gone (for now), there are still a few tweaks from last year, including a slight price hike of $25 for brunches and lunches and $39 or $55 for dinners. Delivery and takeout are also still available at some participating restaurants, but diners would be wise to check before making plans.
Here are some of the week’s best dining options. They are rated based on overall value and how the offerings compare to regular menus and to each other. The diversity of cuisine and offers for vegetarians are also taken into account.
The restaurants are listed in alphabetical order.
GOOD DEAL: With River North
A little sister to One Off Hospitality’s ornate Mediterranean restaurant in the West Loop, Avec River North opened in early 2021 replacing the closed California-style spot Pacific Standard Time. Despite the difficult circumstances of its birth, the spin-off restaurant seems to be thriving and has even better Restaurant Week deals this year than its popular sibling. The lunch menu ($25) includes three courses with options for vegetarians, but omnivores would be wise to opt for the butcher’s steak (beans, olives, charred escarole). Dinner ($55) includes four courses, including his much-loved paella (roasted chicken leg, garlic sausage, mussels), which is currently not available on the regular menu, as well as Basque cheesecake for dessert. Offers are exclusively available to customers of indoor restaurants.
GOOD DEAL: Big Jones
Perennial southern favorite Big Jones has a history of solid Restaurant Week offerings, and of course, lauded chef and owner Paul Fehribach is back with a $39 Crawfish Festival 2022 dinner menu featuring two mains, monkey bread with jalapeño cheese for the table, and three dessert options. Appetizer selections include crawfish gumbo and crawfish risotto; starters are crayfish pie (wine sauce, butter pastry), blackened chicken with Cajun spices, crayfish stew and pappardelle with morels. Offers are available for customers of indoor and outdoor restaurants.
GOOD DEAL: Duck Duck Goat
Another frequent contender for some of the best restaurant week deals in town, Duck Duck Goat – Boka Restaurant Group’s Chinese-American dining destination and Excellent chef champ Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat) at Fulton Market — is going all out this year with a $55 five-course menu and soft serve ice cream for dessert. Dishes include short rib jiaozi, shrimp and pork shumai, beef and broccoli, and pork eating pleasure. Offers are exclusively available to customers of indoor restaurants.
GOOD DEAL: La Josie
A rare family spot among the large restaurant clusters lining Randolph Restaurant Row, La Josie offers deal seekers particularly tempting $25 brunch and lunch menus this year. Each includes two courses plus dessert, and those looking for the best value should opt for Mama Josie’s tamales appetizer. The restaurant also offers two dinner menus, at $39 and $55. The latter is particularly interesting for those ordering the tamales, mariscada (Spanish octopus) and carne en su jugo.
GOOD DEAL: The Loyalist
Loyalist mainstay Eater Chicago 38, the laid-back hangout of celebrity chefs and spouses Karen and John Shields that sits downstairs from Michelin-starred Smyth, stands out from the restaurant this week with a remarkable discount for fans not to miss. of steak. The $39 dinner menu is true to form — decadent but precise — with a streamlined range of small beef tartare, steak frites, topped with an earl gray and lavender creme brulee. Offers are exclusively available to customers of indoor restaurants.
GOOD DEAL: Proxi
Chef and partner Andrew Zimmerman has attracted a loyal clientele to Proxi, his neighborhood establishment that draws on flavors from around the world. Restaurant Week offers a great opportunity for locals to join those hordes of worshipers with a $55 three-course dinner menu that also includes dessert — a $10 discount on its usual prix fixe menu. Choices are the name of the game here, with four options per course (some are served as a family). Highlights include shrimp toast (lemongrass, chili pepper), roasted carrots (Berber spice butter, whipped tahini), and — for $20 more — wood-grilled prime rib. Offers are exclusively available to customers of indoor restaurants.
GOOD DEAL: Split-Rail
Charming neighborhood restaurant Split-Rail, arguably best known for its fried chicken, is injecting some giddy fun into the Restaurant Week debates with rival menus inspired by Red Lobster versus Olive Garden, each for $55. Chef Zoe Schor and her team offer four courses per menu (each customer chooses a side) plus a dessert. Those who opt for the seafood chain can expect dishes like Maine lobster linguine and Ultimate Surf ‘n Turf (seared dive scallops, prime sirloin); customers mistaken on the Italian side will get This Soup is Limited (chicken, gnocchi, spinach), chicken marsala, and more.
GOOD DEAL: Sunda
Sunda, the splashy, celebrity-attracting Pan-Asian restaurant in River North, owned by nightclub owner Billy Dec, tends to be associated with special occasions, but its $55 restaurant weeknight dinner menu is reason enough to celebrate, especially for sushi lovers. This year, customers can expect three courses, including a round of sushi with a vegetarian option and coconut cheesecake for dessert. There are crispy Brussels sprouts and oxtail pot stickers to start, plus dishes like chicken inasal (lemongrass, achiote glaze) and Hainanese salmon.