You can’t be a true Chicagoan without knowing the majesty of Chicago Restaurant Week. It’s a week full of excuses to eat at some of Chicago’s finest dining establishments with multiple-course prix-fixe menus that will set you back $22 for lunch, and $33 or $44 for dinner.
First off… what the heck is Chicago Chef Week?
I asked their social media team.
— Chicago Chef Week (@ChicagoChefWeek) April 13, 2015
I had actually not heard of it prior to a one-off email from Opentable. But it seems to take a very similar approach, though is run by a different organization, than Chicago Restaurant Week. There are not quite as many restaurant participants, but that’s part of the strategy. They proactively reach out to chef-driven restaurants and allow submissions as well. Pricing is just slightly different – $22 for lunch at select restaurants, $44 for a four course dinner at all participating restaurants. There tends to be one choice with the prix-fixe menus – not as many substitutions or choices within the courses (as in Chicago Restaurant Week). For 2015, Chicago Chef Week runs April 19-24.
Some deals are more worth it than others. So what should you do – Save or Splurge? A general rule of thumb is that if you can find the items on their Chicago Chef Week menu on their regular menu, it’s a great deal. I’m not even going to try to persuade or dissuade you from any of the 70+ participating restaurants, but I will give you a game plan. The common theme among my picks is this – you should check out all of these restaurants, but plan it around other current events and specials, not just Chicago Chef Week.
Best bets for Chicago Chef Week
I’ll definitely be checking out Piccolo Sogno Due for lunch. Three courses for $22 and just a few blocks from the office? Sold. They had a special Chicago Restaurant Week menu as well so this kind of thing is right up their alley. Plus, they offer a lot of different choices so I know my dining mate and I will both get what we want without compromise.
I also want to go to RPM steak for dinner, since they would usually be way outside of my price range. They both offer wine pairings with dinner so you can get an idea of how much the dinner will set you back. RPM Steak’s menu would set you back $47 without the garlic bread if you ordered the least expensive items. I initially wanted to go to RPM Italian, but don’t see a lot of crossover between the items on their Chicago Chef Week menu and their normal menu. If I’m going to RPM Italian, I want to have the best possible experience, so I’ll wait on this one.
I used to work at Groupon, and Japonais was on the first floor of the building. It’s usually on the pricier side. If you’re a sushi lover, here’s your chance to experience a four course dinner by Iron Chef Marimoto for just $44. Without dessert and ordering the lowest-priced options on this prix-fixe would set you back $45.
Blackbird is only offering lunch, but it’s the same as their regular prix-fixe menu which is usually $25… a $3 savings. No BS here, it’s worth a spend.
Ceres Table is an Italian restaurant in Lakeview that I waited to check out until my parents owed me a birthday dinner so I could try out their full menu without reservation. They have a $22 3 course dinner deal running most days. There’s also a $40 prix-fixe menu special that’s on going in honor of their Bib Gourmand. Without seeing their exact menu, I’d say your Chicago Chef Week time is better spent checking out a place that rarely has any specials.
A10 is another Bib Gourmand restaurant that’s privy to running deals. In fact, they currently have a Groupon deal live for $69 for two people, drinks included. Save your Chicago Chef Week experience for another restaurant and enjoy this one with the Groupon.
Bread & Wine seems like a good bet for dinner, but a better deal is their current Gilt City promotion – dinner for 2 for $55. Word on the street is that Gilt City is offering 25% off right now with code APRIL25.
I just went to an event at Mariano’s featuring chef John Coletta of Quartino. This dude can make cauliflower exciting – you won’t believe what he can do to pasta. Quartino specializes in Italian tapa-sized plates meant to be shared. So one of the best chef week specials may be their dinner menu, which gives you options off of the regular menu and is meant to be shared. That’s right – $44 for two people. You can buy $44 worth of wine to make up for it if you’d like.
I can’t end this article without mentioning Publican Quality Meats, because Chicago is obsessed with it. I just watched The Layover (an Anthony Bourdain production), which drew special attention to Publican in it’s Chicago episode. Price wise – this place is affordable on a regular day depending on what you’re buying. If their menu includes a charcuterie board, an entree, and dessert… it’s probably worth it for the full experience.
Not all of the menus are live yet, so I’ll update this post with more information as I receive it, if it’s especially pertinent.
Which restaurants will you be checking out during Chicago Chef Week?