An annual tradition, Chicago Restaurant Week returns on Friday, January 20 with a large swath of talent from the city and its suburbs. Restaurant Week is designed to combat diners’ apprehension of wandering into dark and blustery winter evenings in Chicago. This year’s festivities mark a full return to usual programming including Restaurant Week’s customary kickoff event, First Bites Bash on Thursday, January 19.
With so many different types of restaurants to choose from, yet only days to make the most of the discounts, it’s hard to determine where the best deals are. Further compounding these difficult choices is knowing who’s taking part. Larger restaurant groups have looser purse strings when it comes to the biggest discounts and the heaviest ad campaigns. Smaller and just-as-delicious standalone joints don’t have the same reach.
This year, more than 350 restaurants have joined in the annual tradition across 35 neighborhoods. Excitingly, almost a fifth of this year’s restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week for the first time. 61 of this year’s restaurants are women, Black, and/or minority-owned businesses, which Choose Chicago, the organization that puts on Restaurant Week, reports is a record number.
The annual festivities are not without outside influence, however, and diners will notice an inflation of prices in the prix fixe menus compared to last year’s Restaurant Week. This year, brunch and lunch menus will remain at last year’s $25 pricetag. Dinner menus, however, have been bumped from either $39 or $55 to $42 and $59 respectively. At a little more than a 7 percent increase, that matches the current rate of inflation. That said, seeking out the best bargains became even more of a challenge this year. According to some of the numbers Eater Chicago crunched, a few establishments stand to leave guests breaking even or worse.
In some cases, diners actually stand to not get a deal at all during Restaurant Week compared to regular menu pricing. Shrewd eaters may wish to take the time to compare regular menu prices to Restaurant Week pricing on a calculator. It’s difficult to predict portion size, but the amount of food is integral in predicting if a meal is a true deal.
Here’s a list of the best deals Chicagoans should be aware of for Restaurant Week 2023, assuming the portion sizes offered are identical to what’s available on each restaurant’s standard menu. When deciding which restaurants to include in this list, the value of the deal relative to the restaurant’s typical pricing was of utmost importance. Also considered was each restaurant’s approachability of the menu for diners with food restrictions and the type of cuisine served. This is by no means an exhaustive list; it is meant to inform and guide readers of Chicago’s spectacularly diverse dining scene while nabbing some of the best deals Eater Chicago identified.
Restaurants are ordered alphabetically.
GOOD DEAL: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reba!
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’s Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! has maintained a dedicated following since it opened in 1985. One of Chicago’s oldest tapas bars shows old dogs can learn new tricks with free glasses of red or white sangria with its $25 brunch and $42 dinner. Brunch is only available on weekends, and if you choose to partake, ordering the avocado toast is sure to get you the best deal. As for dinner, ordering the skirt steak or Ibérico pork will guarantee you get the best deal possible. In both cases, guests appear to get a deal a majority of the time only when factoring the menu price of the red or white sangria, which usually goes for $10. Nothing is ever truly free, is it?
GOOD DEAL: Big Jones
As was the case last year and years before, Big Jones’s chef and co-owner Paul Fehribach has returned to Restaurant Week determined to give guests great deals for excellent Southern cuisine. The Restaurant Week menu includes chicken fried in gumbo drippings. As far as pricing this year, Big Jones is serving up $25 lunches which are an especially good deal if guests order the fried chicken. The $42 dinner is where the real savings are, though. In a year of inflation, it’s almost hard to believe chef Fehribach has kept prices this low for his outstanding food. By the time the main course plate has been cleared, you’ll have hit the savings benchmark, making dessert even sweeter.
GOOD DEAL: Coda di Volpe
The product of Billy Lawless (The Gage) and Ryan O’Donnell’s (Gemini) collaboration, Coda di Volpe opened in 2016 and has cemented its reputation as an excellent spot for southern Italian cuisine. For this year’s Restaurant Week, Coda di Volpe is offering both a $25 lunch on the weekends and $59 dinners. The restaurant’s promotional prix fixe menu is a bargain at lunch, with the $19 spaghetti pomodoro and $5 scoop of gelato covering all but $1 of the $25 pricing, meaning the meal’s primi is guaranteed to secure a bargain. The promotional $59 dinner pricing has even more deals at stake with four courses to optimize savings. The promotional dinner menu’s branzino — which is slightly different on the normal dinner menu where it costs $34 — is likely to get you the best deal when dining during the evening rush.
GOOD DEAL: Duck Duck Goat
Stephanie Izard’s lauded Fulton Market Chinese restaurant Duck Duck Goat might just be the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) for Chicago’s Restaurant Week. The restaurant, which the Top Chef champion opened in 2016 with Boka Restaurant Group, boasts heaps of delicious food at did-I-read-that-right prices year after year during Restaurant Week. With a decidedly delicious savory five-course menu and a sixth, sweet course of soft-serve ice cream for dessert, Duck Duck Goat’s generosity for guests remains unquestionable. Duck Duck Goat’s $59 dinner ensures Restaurant Week guests come out far ahead of regular pricing by the meal’s end.
GOOD DEAL: La Josie
La Josie is another Chicago mainstay (from the same family behind Solazo) continues to offer serious deals for Restaurant Week. Any meal you choose — the $25 weekend brunch, $25 lunch, or $42 dinner — will pay for itself in spades. The brunch and lunch menu feature La Josie’s Baja California burrito, which normally goes for $19. The Restaurant Week dinner menu has even steeper deals, including Filete Zarandeado, which normally sells for $38. And, as a special bonus, the Restaurant Week menu features huitlacoche, a corn fungus with a nutty and savory flavor that’s considered a delicacy in Mexican cuisine, which isn’t offered on the regular menu. La Josie once again offers a truly exceptional deal diners will not want to miss.
GOOD DEAL: The Publican
Another restaurant that did not come to play for this year’s Restaurant Week is The Publican, the Fulton Market icon. The Publican’s Restaurant Week promotion is one of the best deals out there: a $59 dinner that includes their bouchot mussels and butcher’s steak, which are respectively $31 and $45 on the regular menu. No matter what combination of items guests order, they are sure to get quite a deal.
GOOD DEAL: ROOH
Rooh has proven itself to be a needed source of smart, delicious Indian food not just on Randolph Row, but for the entire city. Rooh’s $59 Restaurant Week dinner menu is studded with great dishes, but you’re sure to get a good deal if you stick with pork belly, fried chicken, or grilled prawns to start; the butter chicken or Scottish salmon pulusu to follow; and finish your evening with the saffron cheesecake.
GOOD DEAL: Sunda
For Restaurant Week goers looking for one of the best Pan-Asian deals, with Filipino and Japanese influences, Sunda New Asian in River North delivers on that expectation. No matter what combination of items guests order, the $59 dinner’s outcome remains predetermined: you are guaranteed to get a deal. Also, thankfully, there are a few vegan items throughout.
GOOD DEAL: Untitled Supper Club
The Prohibition Era-styled restaurant in River North boasts live entertainment, craft cocktails, and an awesome Restaurant Week dinner deal. For $59, guests get three courses and dessert. Options include burrata, oysters, grilled lamb rack, and pot de crème. If you’re looking for the best deal possible, choosing the roasted chicken or the roasted salmon as an entrée will help.