Chicago Restaurant Week 2013, your chance to eat at many of Chicago's top restaurants for a fraction of the price, returns again next month. From February 1st to 10th, you can enjoy $22 three-course prix fixe lunches and $33 or $44 dinners at more than 200 locations throughout Chicagoland. Though still a few weeks out, you better make your reservations now if you want to grab some of the most coveted tables.
Even though Choose Chicago's website has an excellent search function that allows you to search by location and type of cuisine, the choices can be overwhelming. To help out, here are my picks for lunch deals you'd be sorry to miss. My choices are based on how much the menu made me salivate, the regular price of a three-course lunch at the restaurant compared to the deal, and the generosity of the menu based on estimated ingredient costs.
To get the best deal of all, book a reservation for lunch. Many of the restaurants keep the same menu for lunch and dinner, so you'll save $11 just by dining earlier in the day. Before booking, note that some restaurants opt to run a deal for just lunch or dinner, while others participate for both meals. Some will not run their prix fixe deal during the weekend, so be sure to check the fine print for each restaurant before you make your reservation. Also, many restaurants (like Naha) do not yet have their menus up, so I couldn't include them. I would happily pay $22 for any three courses Naha would choose to serve me though.
Here is another instance where you're paying less than half what this meal would normally cost. Portions may be smaller, but you'll get a great taste and a spectacular view. Plus, if you haven't tried pastry chef Meg Galus' desserts, it's about time.
NoMI Kitchen, Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); 312-239-4030; hyatt.com
The Lobby at the Peninsula
Dining at this incredible restaurant in the opulence of the Peninsula is what I'm most excited for this year. The restaurant week dishes are mostly all on its regular lunch menu, and expect to save 57% on the price if you order the heirloom carrot salad and whole roasted trout.
$22 for three courses at a Michelin-starred restaurant should be a no-brainer. Especially when Iron Chef Andrew Zimmerman is serving up dishes like veal agnolotti, grilled pork belly pastrami, and coconut pecan cake with caramel rum.
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab
You can either go the stone crab route or the filet mignon route, and your meal will be planned accordingly. It's great to see the restaurant offering its main specialties, instead of burgers or fish and chips.
Here, you can choose an entree, like the moqueca mista (a seafood stew with shrimp, squid, sea bass and crayfish), that normally costs more than what you're paying for the entire meal. If you haven't been before, Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese fusion cuisine and fun party vibe is worth checking out.
You'll have six entree choices here, including signature ravioli and Roman-style braised oxtail. There are more choices here than your standard prix fixe menu, so although Piccolo Sogno isn't as pricey as some of my other picks, I think it still belongs on the list.
This is my wild card. The menu looks really intriguing, with several options, including chili-glazed blackened tamarind ribs with fried avocado, not on the regular menu. I've never dined here before though, so I can't vouch for the quality of the food.