From culinary wunderkinds to delicious downtown eateries you can't go wrong with these restaurants.



Named one of Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants for 2013,” Embeya quickly became one of Chicago’s “restaurants-of-the-moment” celebrated for its refined Asian cuisine and its dashing atmosphere. Now helmed by nationally-acclaimed chef Mike Sheerin, the menu has been creatively re-tooled, and showcases dishes based on a range of Asian ingredients, flavors, and textures integrated with French technique. Must-try dishes include Sheerin’s Smoked scallops with pickled turmeric and smoked walnut and the delectable Peking duck, slowroasted with blood-orange hoisin glaze, on sweet pea purée.

Embeya's scallops with frisee and black walnut puree

Embeya’s scallops with frisee and black walnut puree

If you’re in town on Thursday, Jan. 14, make sure to snag a reservation for the second Spice Route Dinner Series with guest chef Paul Virant of Perennial Virant, Vie, and Vistro. Joining forces in the kitchen, the five-course family-style tasting menu, which will showcase 15 – 18 dishes all together, curated by Chefs Sheerin and Virant will incorporate flavors from their respective restaurants’ cuisines.

Part dive bar and part taqueria, Big Star is a honky-tonk serving up inexpensive, approachable, and excellent food and drink in the center of Wicker Park. Led by James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahan, Big Star offers gussied-up Mexican street food—walking taco, anyone?—with the motto “aqui vendemos sabor” or “here we sell deliciousness”. And, folks, they do. While wildly popular during the warmer months for its spacious patio, Big Star is just as delightful when experienced indoors and is the perfect, low key respite to stave off winter’s chill.

Nico Osteria mussels. Photos by Derek Richmond.

Nico Osteria mussels. Photos by Derek Richmond.

Also from the talents behind Big Star, Paul Kahan’s Nico Osteria takes coastal Italian fare to a whole new level. Located in the Gold Coast’s Thompson Hotel, this hot spot brings authentically Italian seafood and housemade pastas together with inventive pasties and desserts in a rustic, chic environment. While the menu changes daily to best showcase the pristine product, standout items range from lobster lasagnette with Swiss chard, tomato, and crème fraiche to the extensive crudo offerings that would be the envy of any sushi restaurant in town.


A tapas-style restaurant, The Purple Pig’s tagline is “cheese, swine, and wine” and delivers on all counts. The small-plate, Mediterranean cuisine from Jimmy Bannos Jr. ranges from their house-made charcuterie and antipasto options like pork fried almonds with rosemary and garlic (they’re addicting!) to smears such as their house-cured lardo iberico.

While communal seating and a no-reservations policy may deter some, don’t let it. This spot delivers every time and is the perfect place to unwind after a day spent shopping along the Magnificent Mile.

Bottlefork Bar and Kitchen

Bottlefork Bar and Kitchen

Serious cocktails and loads of craft beers pair perfectly with Bottlefork Bar and Kitchen’s menu of upscale bar bites. The cozy River North restaurant’s interior is dark, woody, and inviting, and its 40-foot-long kitchen/bar counter enables patrons to enjoy the action of watching their food and drink being prepared, like a dinner party congregating in the kitchen of a friend’s house. They also offer a set business lunch every Monday through Friday featuring your choice of a starter and main dish with your choice of soft drink for just $18.

Written By Amber Holst

Amber Holst is Vice President & Editorial Director at Concierge Preferred. A native Chicagoan, she’ll happily bend your ear about why Top Notch burgers are a must (as is an Original Rainbow Cone) and can often be found procuring milk candy in Chinatown after dim sum with her partner in crime or rooting on her beloved Green Bay Packers (yes, that’s right) at Will’s Northwoods Inn. Lover of cured meats, prosecco, and good old fashioned “slashies” she considers herself fortunate to be able to promote her hometown for a living. Fun fact? She can play the accordion.

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