Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Jonas Falk's Gold Coast/River North
Jonas Falk, the CEO of OrganicLife, has lived in the Gold Coast for the past 10 years, but just moved to River North. "We have our offices spread out all over the city and suburbs, so River North/Gold Coast is the perfect epicenter," Falk says. At OrganicLife, Falk aims to provide healthy school lunches at affordable prices for kids throughout Illinois. Soon, he plans to expand to Michigan and Wisconsin.
He was just named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 for food and wine, and the entrepreneur loves the food options in his neighborhood, too. "I think it's a great neighborhood in Chicago for restaurants, markets, and shopping," he says. "You can walk everywhere and you have the best of the city. You get a great mix of a lot of unique people. Tourists and tourism drive innovation and great restaurant groups come to create. I think it's helped bolster productivity and investment in food service."
Mexican: XOCO. I like quick food. I'm usually in a rush and don't have a whole lot of patience. His spot is fantastic and everything Rick Bayless does is great. Any of his tortas are delicious. I'm a sucker for great bread so I try to incorporate it into my meals any chance I get.
Sandwich: It's very old-school, but the egg salad panini at L'Appetito is the best egg salad sandwich you'll have anywhere. It's kind of overlooked because it's in a market. It's really classic and they've got this great sesame-crusted hoagie bread and when they turn it into a panini, it's just like magic.
Coffee: I love getting coffee in the Drake Hotel at Lavazza. It's a great spot to go have a cup of coffee and it's inside the Drake which is phenomenal.
Breakfast: I have not found a great morning belly spot. I'm salivating over the opening of Dillman's by [Brendan] Sodikoff. It's opening up in a couple weeks. I'm ready to camp out front and get in there.
Pizza: Pizza is my favorite food in the world. It's almost like picking which child is your favorite. I think picking your favorite pizza is even harder. I still think the best pizza is at Three Aces, but in River North La Madia's got a great pizza. They have a pepperoni and truffle pizza that's delicious and the new Davanti in River North has great pizza too, with Taleggio and mushroom. I prefer thin-crust but I don't discriminate. I like pizzas of all kinds.
Burger: Bavette's has the best burger in the city. They've got classically trained chefs. It looks like what a four-star restaurant should be. I try to get there once a month. His classic cheeseburger is amazing.
Bar: Sable. I just think it's fantastic. The setting and ambiance is just incredible. The wait staff is great at taking care of everyone and they are far beyond what you would expect from a hotel bar. War of the Roses is a great drink. You can sit at the bar or grab a drink and go to the restaurant in back. Sumi Robata Bar has an amazing basement bar too. It only seats 8-10 people and they have the best Old Fashioned in the city. The bartender chisels your ice by hand. It's probably the best bar experience you can get in River North.
Chinese: Tony Hu's new Lao 18 is awesome. The general manager is one of the best hosts you could ever meet in the city. Takes care of every guest there, helps them understand the menu. The layout and design is absolutely gorgeous. Even for people who don't love Chinese food, you will find something you like at Lao 18. The best, most delicious potstickers you will find in the city.
Dessert: My favorite dessert and the only one I ever eat is a dipped cone at M Burger. Just vanilla dipped in chocolate. That's the extent of dessert I get into. I'd rather have a second dinner.
Pasta: I love Italian food. If I'm eating pasta anywhere in the city, it'll be the truffle pasta at Gilt Bar. Black truffle shaved into a homemade tagliatalle with amazing aged parmesan shaved over the top. Best pasta dish in the city. I assure everybody that it is the best pasta dish they will ever eat.
Japanese: Sumi Robata Bar. Everything is impeccably good. Gene [Kato]'s food is fantastic. Any offal based dishes that he's doing, his chicken gizzards or the far-reaching stuff is what I go for. He does them to perfection. His chicken gizzards are definitely a must if they're on the menu.
French: If you have to eat French, you have to go to Les Nomades. [Chef] Roland [Liccioni] is the hidden gem of the culinary world. He's gotten four stars at every restaurant he's ever opened. He's not a media/PR specialist. He loves being in the kitchen and he's been turning out four-star food for 30 plus years. He's won every award in the book. I eat everywhere in the country and food is my passion, and for me, there's no better chef than Roland. [Chef Liccioni helps create recipes for OrganicLife as their executive chef. Falk worked with Liccioni for two-and-a-half years at Le Francais.] Roland. He's probably the world's foremost authority on foie gras. He always incorporates a couple different versions in his tasting menu for me.
Date Night: I love Gilt Bar. It's really hard to beat Gilt Bar for anything. They have the best grilled chicken dish in the entire city. His foie gras pâté is impeccable. Great drinks, great staff. The newly redesigned basement is unbelievable. Just a great all-around restaurant.
Take out: The Asian-style chicken wings from 25 Degrees. I know people don't think of it because it's a burger joint, but their chicken wings are fantastic.