Best Picks for Chicago Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is almost here for Chicagoans!  Chicago Restaurant Week runs from January 27 through February 9, and although it seems early to be posting 'top picks' for it, the list of participants and menus has been out since 2016 and I wouldn't want you to miss out on reservations.  Tons of cities have restaurant weeks now, so I'm sure you know what it is, but just in case: it's when over 350 restaurants offer lunch and dinner prix fixe menus, starting at $33 and $44, respectively, though I've seen some coming in cheaper this year.  And new this year, some are even offering brunch starting at $22.  The prices don't include tax or tip but for most of the places, like the high end steakhouses and places owned by celebrities, it's still a good deal.  You have to make reservations, it's extremely popular.  There's restaurants participating all over the city and suburbs, so you'll want to make a priority list and get your reservations in.  You can see all the participating restaurants here.

Of course, there's some very popular chains on the list.  If you're not a local to Chicago but you'll be around for Restaurant Week (or heck, even if you are local) and it's a place you've been wanting to try anyway, absolutely do it.  I think the food at places like Wildfire, McCormick and Schmick's, Texas de Brazil, etc., is excellent, you won't be sorry - in fact, the deal at Texas de Brazil is $15 per person cheaper than usual, for the same amount of unlimited meat, so if it's one of your favorites, enjoy it!  Chicago does food well, period.  Even at a 'chain.'  But for this particular list, I'm steering you in the direction of places that are unique to Chicago.

Well I'm not so much steering you - to be perfectly honest, my girl Eleni came up with most of this for you, because she is, in my opinion, queen Chicago foodie.  So I asked her for help right away and she basically just wrote this post for you based on, as she said, value, quantity and quality.  I'm not even going to change her wording.  Thanks, Eleni!  On to her picks:

"Capital Grille is always a good deal because you get a starter, entrée, SIDE and dessert. This is especially an awesome deal if you do the most expensive choice for each section (clam chowder, 14 oz NY strip, mashed potatoes and dessert), regularly it would be $76.  $40 savings?! Insanity.

Compare that to Joe's (which had an awesome Restaurant Week menu up until 3 years ago), where you only get an entrée and dessert for $44! That just makes me mad.

Two is an awesome restaurant and you get a lot of food with their Restaurant Week deal.  If you pick the most expensive options (arugula salad, scratch-made spaghetti, tri-tip and dessert), you save about $25. And it's delicious.

Similarly, you get a lot of bang for your buck at Formento's, which also is known for its generous portions. They do $44 dinner but if you pick the most expensive options (whipped ricotta appetizer $10, bucatini $15, fish ~$30, and dessert $10), you're looking at $20 of savings.

Honorable mention goes to Nico Osteria because 1. it's delicious and 2. again, a decent amount of bang for your buck. While it's seafood focused, there are a lot of other options, like incredible pasta, and even steak. You hit the $33 value mark before you get to the main dish, which is kinda a big deal. I would also suggest Cite, not because you get an incredible deal (savings comes out to be something like $12), but because its on my Chicago restaurant bucket list for its incredible views of the city."

The amount of work she put into that list is seriously impressive.  She did math for you!  Essentially, you want to (a) prioritize the places you've really been wanting to try, making sure the menu appeals to you, and then (b) check the prices on their regular menus.  Places like Blue Agave, which has delicious food don't get me wrong, are offering their prix fixe menus as a 2 for deal.  It's actually 2 dinners for $44.  It's a good deal, but honestly their prices are relatively cheap year round, so it might not be a priority, particularly if what's on the prix fixe isn't what you prefer as far as Mexican food.  Blackbird offers a prix fixe menu year round, so it might not be wise to spend your limited Restaurant Week time there, unless it's favorite.  It's a balancing act but if you want to make the most of your two weeks, it's worth it!

Two picks that I would add?  III Forks and Sunda.  Not necessarily for the best deal, but for the fact that I personally really enjoy the food and any sort of discount is appreciated when it's some place I would want to go anyway.

I hope that helps!  Let me know if you're trying anything new this time.  If you aren't from Chicago, does your city have a restaurant week?

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