Each year, the city of Chicago loosens a few notches on its belt and schedules Restaurant Week, a time when popular restaurants across the city feature special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for lunch, and $33/44 for dinner. The annual celebration helps to get Chicagoans to explore local cuisine at (allegedly) lower prices. Between you and me, I don’t know if that’s true but it works like a charm.
This year, I made it to not one, but three Restaurant Week dinners. My scale and wallet may be slightly angry with me, but I have no regrets. I will warn you now: this post is going to be full of food pictures. Your stomach may growl.
I kicked it off at Merlo on Maple, an Italian restaurant in a renovated building from 1884. The restaurant was divided up by room and offered a quaint atmosphere. We dined on artichoke tart, an endive and fennel based salad, walnut and parsley ravioli, veal taglioline (him, not me – can’t do it), and angel bread cake dipped in espresso and chocolate.
The second spot I hit was Siena Tavern. It wasn’t my first time there so it took away some of the excitement, but this spot had a story. Last year, my sister and I had reservations for this spot on Superbowl Sunday. That same day, Chicago got dumped on by nearly 20 inches of snow, making it impossible to move a few blocks downtown, let alone a few miles. We sadly canceled and resorted to ordering anything fried from the bar kitty corner from my apartment. So, when the 2016 Restaurant Week menus came out, our decision was pretty easy. We needed to finish what we started. We shared a bottle of wine, caught up on life (even though we see each other every day but that’s beside the point) and enjoyed coccoli, scallops, and a caramel cookie dessert. If ever offered coccoli, you must take it. Fried dough + stracchino cheese + prosciutto di parma + truffle honey = heaven on a plate.
To finish off the two week event, I tried out Sepia. This west loop spot is housed in an 1890 print shop, which, for a word nerd like myself, is very exciting. It seemed to be a combination of France and an old print shop – two things I’m a big fan of! Aside from getting judged for bringing our own bottle of wine (no cares given), it was a great experience. We ate cured mackerel, fennel salad, spice crusted whitefish, butternut squash risotto, chocolate hazelnut tart, and ginger-lime parfait.
I’ll likely be eating celery sticks for all of February to make up for it, but that’s something I’m willing to do.