Scoring a seat at a buzzy restaurant in Chicago is hard enough these days. Couple that quest with a mission to land the best seat in the house — i.e. at the chef’s counter — and the challenge becomes that much more real. Still, between crazy close aromas, pristine kitchen vantage points, and the occasional chef-diner small talk, the experiential payoff of getting those choice chairs are big. From hearth-style cooking in Hyde Park, to a special Argentinean menu for two in the West Loop, here are eight counters worth saddling up to soon, listed from north to south.Read More
Eight of Chicago’s Most Delightful Chef’s Tables
Eat from the best seats in the house
Six seats make up the chef’s counter at this popular Lincoln Square restaurant, and it’s rare to see any of them empty. After all, regulars and first timers alike often want an up-close perspective on chef Ken Carter’s cooking, which showcases seasonal American fare that regularly rotates (a citrus salad packs in charred cara cara and chili; sunchoke soup is gussied up with chamomile and thyme). Come early to snag a spot — but not first without a round of signature drinks from the bar.
A slew of seats — 22 of them — are on offer at this Gold Coast Italian restaurant from One Off Hospitality Group, and each one of them provides a glimpse into the culinary goings-ons that keep this space packed. That means chef de cuisine Bill Montagne’s takes on coastal Italian cuisine, such as crowd-pleasers (think Brussels sprouts bruschetta and lobster spaghetti). Diners also get a closer look at Montagne’s crudo program, which showcases fresh catches like Madai snapper and big eye tuna.
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Guests who want a guaranteed seat at this Alinea Group restaurant’s chef’s counter are in luck — they can book them specifically up to three months out. It might just take that long to get in front of chef Andrew Brochu and the hearth he and his team operate for plates like smoked oysters, grilled ribeye, and baked lasagne. Don’t miss the whole chicken — Brochu’s braised, poached, and fried bird has been making waves ever since the restaurant’s debut.
The dining experience at the Virgin Hotel Chicago’s Loop-situated restaurant includes both a chef’s counter and a chef’s table, offering 14 seats in total (four at the former, 10 at the latter). Snag any of them for a closer look at the reinvented American fare chef Moosah Reaume is crafting, from coconut shrimp toast with sweet chili sauce, to stuffed quail with caramel and egg yolk.
Eden | Chicago
Eight seats provide a front row view to the handiwork of chef Devon Quinn and team, who serve up fresh, seasonal fare nightly here (thanks, in part, to a 500-square-foot greenhouse located onsite). Do spring for the chef’s tasting menu, a five-course meal featuring favorites like fennel brandade tortelli and confit duck leg with asparagus and pickled ramps.
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Girl & The Goat
Just four chef’s counter seats are available at Iron Chef Stephanie Izard’s original restaurant in the West Loop — and they come with perks. In addition to getting much closer to the kitchen action, guests often get to sample snacks that are passed to them directly from the culinary team. It’s a good way to kick off the meal that ensues, which is likely to include any of the Izard’s iconic (and adventurous) plates, such as oven roasted pig face, escargot ravioli, and goat empanadas.
El Che Bar
At El Che Bar, Mesa Cincuenta y Quatro (Table 54) is dubbed the best seat in the house. Credit that to its location (it’s as close to the restaurant’s 12-foot hearth as diners can get) or to the fact that it has its very own menu, cooked especially for the table’s residents that night. Available for parties of two, consider it the perfect reservation for impressing that special someone — or for celebrating that epic promotion.
Things heat up fast at the chef’s counter inside this Hyde Park eatery and music venue, where a fleet of seats (12, to be exact) mirror the hearth-focused cooking of chef Bernard Bennet and crew. It’s the perfect setting for sampling Bennet’s clever riffs on classics, from chickpea fries with chermoula ketchup, to mushroom stroganoff with horseradish cream and parsley.