Update: Rose Mary has switched Restaurant Week offerings. A rep says there was miscommunication between the restaurant and Choose Chicago and the wrong menu was posted on the tourism board’s menu. Upon further review, the new offerings don’t reflect a bad deal compared to the Restaurant Week menu originally provided. This story has been updated with the new information.
January’s frigid temperatures combined with overindulgence and big expenses during the holiday season keep many Chicagoans at home during the winter. The city’s tourism board, Choose Chicago, combats this post-New Year’s slump with Chicago Restaurant Week which for 2024 features a roster of 381 restaurants across 31 neighborhoods all offering special menus for the 17th annual event, which now lasts more than seven days, running January 19 through February 4.
The festivities kick off Thursday, January 18 with the First Bites Bash, a fundraiser for Pilot Light and the James Beard Foundation at the Field Museum where more than 50 restaurants will be offering a taste of their menus. Reservations are open now for $25 brunches and lunches and $42 or $59 dinners, with 56 restaurants participating in the promotion for the first time.
It’s not always easy to tell the value a Restaurant Week menu provides; some restaurants will even deploy a tasting menu to experiment with new dishes. While the price of the menus has been kept stable from last year despite the continued pressure of inflation, some restaurants are finding other ways to cut corners.
Appetizers and desserts meant to be shared understandably shrink for individual plating but entree sizes can be reduced as well. For instance, Michael Jordan’s Steak House’s standard menu offers a 10-ounce filet mignon and 14-ounce New York strip. The steaks are 6- and 8-ounces, respectively, for Restaurant Week. That’s still a great deal for a $59 meal that includes Caesar’s salad, garlic bread, vanilla bean panna cotta given that the large steaks normally cost $68 to $69 alone, but not as outrageously good as it might first seem browsing the Restaurant Week menu where the sizes aren’t listed.
When the dishes are off the regular menu, crunching the numbers reveals there are some disappointing offers. Some restaurants aren’t offering any savings, but are still participating hoping to draw customers. Still, thrifty diners may be better off waiting until February 5 to visit some restaurants. Add up the regular prices of a small seafood gumbo, half chicken, and red beans and rice at Daisy’s Po’ Boy & Tavern and they cost almost exactly the same as the $42 Restaurant Week dinner. Restaurant Week may not offer all diners a discount, but there is value in finding a reason to visit places customers haven’t had a chance to visit, especially in neighborhoods not named River North or West Loop.
Menus that offer multiple options can have traps, especially when it comes to vegetarian selections. Some are bad no matter how they’re sliced, like Oda Mediterranean Cuisine where diners would be overspending on the $49 four-course meal.
There are some great deals to be found with a bit of legwork. Here are a few of the best ways to spend your time and money this Chicago Restaurant Week.
Restaurants are ordered alphabetically.
GOOD DEAL: Eden
Avondale farm-to-table restaurant Eden offers savings of about 25 percent for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. Come for lunch for butternut squash curry soup, the signature salad and either a turkey or vegetable sandwich on toasted sourdough bread or visit during dinner for a $42 meal with shaved brussels sprout salad followed by wood-grilled flat iron steak or grilled salmon and pear & bergamot cheesecake. Vegans won’t be missing out with the “chicken fried” lion’s mane and roasted banana turtle brownie.
GOOD DEAL: Farm Bar Lakeview
Diners save between $10 and $19 depending on their choices from a three-course $42 dinner including Wisconsin cheese curds or beet salad, a roasted half chicken or rigatoni bolognese, and chocolate bread pudding or two scoops of sorbet or gelato. Vegetarians make out well too thanks to a mushroom stroganoff normally offered at the restaurant’s Ravenswood location for $24. The serving sizes are a bit smaller than usual, but the cheese curds are full size.
GOOD DEAL: HOLU
The Pilsen steakhouse inside the 88 Marketplace building usually charges $88 for its classic steak flight but for its first Chicago Restaurant Week it’s offering a tasting for $59. Diners can watch the aged ribeye, short rib, and American and Australian wagyu grilled to their liking right at their table while snacking on the included pickles. Finish the meal on a sweet note with ice cream.
GOOD DEAL: Jaleo
Tapas are rarely a good deal during Chicago Restaurant Week but José Andrés delivers some real bargains with a four-course lunch in River North featuring an Iberian sobrasada sandwich, which normally costs $23 by itself, offered alongside gazpacho, fried eggplant and flan. Save more than 50 percent on the $42 dinner by ordering the jamon serrano and gambas al ajillo.
GOOD DEAL: La Josie
Part of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list, La Josie offers great deals year round but doesn’t disappoint during Chicago Restaurant Week in West Loop. The sopes and avocado toast offered as the first course on their lunch and brunch menus aren’t typical offerings so it’s hard to nail down the exact savings, but diners would be getting a discount even if they just received the tacos and two desserts. The three-course $42 dinner is a clear deal considering it includes the skirt steak which normally costs that much alone.
GOOD DEAL: Segnatore
The quiche and Italian sausage serving as the center of the Humboldt Park restaurant’s Restaurant Week brunch menu aren’t normally on offer, but Segnatore is offering a nearly 20-percent discount on its $59 four-course dinner, which includes cacio e pepe arancini, fennel salad, short rib and carrot risotto. Use the savings to indulge a bit with $25 wine pairings.
GOOD DEAL: Sunda
Billy Dec’s Filipino- and Japanese-inspired restaurant Sunda offered one of the best deals during 2023’s Chicago Restaurant Week and doesn’t disappoint this year in River North. The three-course $59 menu shaves more than $20 off the normal price of oxtail pot stickers, yellowtail jalapeno sushi and chicken inasal. The prices are just as good for vegans who can dine on crispy brussels sprouts, sweet potato poke maki and chap chase with sweet potato noodles.
GOOD DEAL: Geja’s Cafe
Diners curious to try fondue and ones that have been spending date night at Geja’s Cafe for 50 years can take advantage of discounts to the Lincoln Park restaurant’s per-person-packages. . These three-course “premiere fondue dinners” start with cheese fondue served with fruit and vegetables with roasted marshmallows plus churros and strawberries to dip in Belgian chocolate for dessert. Vegetarian options are priced at $42 while the meats are $59, so the value will depend on the choice of protein, which is served alongside vegetables and eight dipping sauces. The best deals are the beef tenderloin and shrimp, which normally costs $69, and the Tindle plant-based chicken which is typically $55.
GOOD DEAL: Venteux Cafe, Brasserie & Oyster Bar
For a luxurious Restaurant Week experience head to the restaurant within the Carbide & Carbon on Michigan Avenue. The $59 dinner includes seared foie gras, which normally costs $31, and a 6-ounce version of Venteux’s filet mignon au poivre, which is typically priced at $54. Finish with the creme brulee, normally $13, and enjoy the sweet taste of savings.