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Alinea’s beet dish
Allen Hemberger

8 Destination-Worthy Tasting Menus in Chicago

From 5 courses to 25, these tasting menus can but don’t have to last all night

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Alinea’s beet dish
| Allen Hemberger

Between surprise courses, generous wine pours, and Instagram-worthy moments aplenty, there’s much to love about tasting menus. And with more than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago now, there’s no shortage of them, at that.

The only problem with the prix fixe? When they go on — and on. Then on some more.

To help ensure diners know exactly what kind of menu experience they’re signing up for, timing is of the essence. Whether it’s a last minute, mid-week meal, or an all-out, Saturday night splurge, here are eight of the best tasting menus around town to try now — listed by shortest to longest.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Spiaggia (5 Courses, 1.5 Hours)

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2nd Floor, Suite 1, 980 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-2750
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Chef and partner Tony Mantuano opened this Michigan Avenue institution more than 30 years ago, and ever since then it’s gained a loyal following (including fans like the Obamas) for its modern takes on upscale Italian. Couple that with a recent “Top Chef” win for executive chef Joe Flamm, and there’s more reason now than ever to sample through the seasonal and regional fare it does best. For spring, that means plates like the aglio e olio (a ramp pasta dough filled with parmesan and spicy olive oil) or the wild boar chop (with vin santo glaze, morels, and charred spring onions). Try them in the five-course or eight-course offering, which can be paired alongside two kinds of wine menus from beverage director Rachael Lowe — the global, featuring wines from around the world, or the reserve Italian, a medley of regional showstoppers. 

Spiaggia chef Joe Flamm
Matt Haas

2. George Trois (6 Courses, 2 Hours)

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64 Green Bay Rd
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 562-6105
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There are just 14 seats at this suburban destination, where diners can sample chef Michael Lachowicz‘s elevated French cuisine via a six-course or nine-course tasting menu. With the decadence of these dishes, it’s best to pace oneself — a fennel pollen-dusted filet of dover sole is served over toasted barley pilaf and fennel coulis, followed by a poussin leg and thigh lollipop filled with truffle puree, for example. And then, there’s dessert — possibly the banana and pistachios with gingerbread crumble, white chocolate ganache, bruleed banana slices, and Caribbean rum syrup. Three wine flights of various calibers — the George Trois, the premium, and the platinum — are available to accompany it all.

George Trois’ Galantine & Lollipop of quail and poussin
Michael Navarro

3. Topolobampo (7 Courses, 2.5 Hours)    

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4682, 445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 661-1434
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Just a few years after Frontera Grill came Topolobampo, the fine dining Mexican restaurant from Rick Bayless and team that specializes in contemporary Mexican fare rooted in regional flavors. A seven-course tasting menu changes seasonally and has been influenced by themes like “Pre-Columbian” and “Winter Beach Vacation,” complete with seaside go-tos like Oaxaca seared scallops and Veracruz lobster chilpachole. This spring brings with the “Art Menu,” a series of plates inspired by the emotions that art can provoke. A serving of spring vegetables, Tabasco-style verde peas, garlic chives, and Baja abalone, for example, is dubbed “Exuberance,” while a melding of lamb loin, lamb belly, chayote gratin, and shaved foie gras is reminiscent of “Lust.” A wine pairing provides a pour with every course and highlights a range of regions, from Rioja, to the Rhône. 

The “Exuberance” dish on Topolobampo’s “Art Menu”
Topolobampo [Official Photo]

4. Acadia (8 Courses, 2.5 Hours)

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1639 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 360-9500
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Depending on the starting point, it can be a trek to this South Loop restaurant — but once diners are there, chances are they’ll want to stay a while. Credit that to hyper attentive service, cozy confines, and upbeat indie rock-new wave tunes (not to mention creature comforts — an iPad is given to solo diners for some recommended reading between courses). It’s those details that have earned chef Ryan McCaskey and team an array of accolades (e.g. two Michelin stars, four JBF semifinalist spots and a Jean Banchet best new restaurant nod) — and then, of course, there’s the eight-course menu, a journey through plates like Elysian Fields lamb with nasturtium puree and pickled yellow foot mushroom and Spanish octopus with piri piri and olive gel. 

Acadia’s Spanish octopus
©www.neiljohnburger.com

5. Boka (9 Courses, 2.5-3 Hours)

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1729 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337-6070
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It’s been 15 years since this Lincoln Park mainstay opened doors — and in that time it’s had plenty of reasons to celebrate, from seven years of Michelin star standing, to a best restaurant of the year win at the Jean Banchet Awards. Hats off to the chefs who have helped earn that praise — currently Lee Wolen and pastry powerhouse Meg Galus. A nine-course menu showcases their kitchen prowess, from grilled bass with maitake mushrooms and mandarin, to a pineapple finale of brown sugar pineapple puree, Tonka bean sablé, and black lime. Alisandro Serna handles the wine picks, a collection sourced from around the world (think New York Riesling, South African pinotage). The menu changes daily, giving diners even more reason to revisit soon (as if the starting snack alone — a crispy nori chip with a kick of smoked carrot tartare and cilantro — wasn’t enough).

White asparagus and potatoes cooked in aged beef fat, sorrel cream and smoked scallop powder
Lee Wolen

6. Blackbird (10 Courses, 2.5-3 Hours)

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619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 715-0708
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There may be no better way to experience One Off Hospitality’s very first restaurant than with its tasting menu, a 10-course sampling of the modern American fare that helped put Restaurant Row on the map. Chef Ryan Pfeiffer kicks things off with eight savory courses, such as pickled and roasted sunchokes with cider and miso mousse and misoyaki-marintated wagyu beef with kombu mayonnaise. Two sweet dishes from pastry chef Nicole Guini follow and are as clever as they are flavorful — a Glacier Blue cheesecake is met with green olive and rye-juniper crumble, serving as a fun, edible riff on a dirty martini. 

Blackbird’s Wagyu beef misoyaki
Blackbird [Official Photo]

7. Smyth (12 Courses, 3-3.5 Hours)

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177 N Ada St #101
Chicago, IL 60607
(773) 913-3773
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A five-course and eight-course menu are available at this West Loop dining destination, but for the full experience, it’s all about the 12-course offering from chefs John Shields and Karen Urie Shields. It’s by that route that diners can taste nearly 10 savory dishes from John (dungeness crab and foie gras with scrambled kani miso; brioche doughnut with aged beef au jus), leaving plenty of room for dessert. It’s great news for the sugar-inclined, who await much buzzed about plates from Karen (namely the egg yolk, soaked in salted licorice and suspended in a cloud of frozen yogurt meringue). Sommelier Richie Ribando oversees the wine pairings, which come in traditional and reserve options. 

Smyth’s dried apples, dried flowers, and dried herbs dessert
Galdones Photography

8. Alinea (19 and 25 Courses, 3-4 Hours)

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1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
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Food lovers travel far and wide for a coveted reservation at Alinea, where Grant Achatz has been delivering groundbreaking tasting menus since 2005. These days, the Lincoln Park mainstay offers two menu lengths: The Salon Menu, with 19 courses; and the 25-course Gallery and Kitchen Table menus. Those numbers might suggest diners come hungry (dare we say famished?) — but there’s also this: Several courses are but bite-sized accompaniments to main event compilations; supporting acts to primary plates. It’s evidenced by a bite of brown spice encapsulated mandarin juice and sage, a course created to deliver a burst of acidity when paired with poached Australian spanner crab (with Madras curry-pumpkin emulsion, coconut pudding, and ginger gel). Then there’s the banana split, a liquid ganache of banana, pineapple, chocolate, and roasted peanuts that is served with a distillation of Luxardo cherries (meant to evoke the “cherry on top” finale). Three wine pairing options — the Alinea (the rarest and most limited in availability), the Reserve, and the Standard - stand up to all of it.

Alinea’s squab dish
Briseis Guthrie

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1. Spiaggia (5 Courses, 1.5 Hours)

2nd Floor, Suite 1, 980 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Spiaggia chef Joe Flamm
Matt Haas

Chef and partner Tony Mantuano opened this Michigan Avenue institution more than 30 years ago, and ever since then it’s gained a loyal following (including fans like the Obamas) for its modern takes on upscale Italian. Couple that with a recent “Top Chef” win for executive chef Joe Flamm, and there’s more reason now than ever to sample through the seasonal and regional fare it does best. For spring, that means plates like the aglio e olio (a ramp pasta dough filled with parmesan and spicy olive oil) or the wild boar chop (with vin santo glaze, morels, and charred spring onions). Try them in the five-course or eight-course offering, which can be paired alongside two kinds of wine menus from beverage director Rachael Lowe — the global, featuring wines from around the world, or the reserve Italian, a medley of regional showstoppers. 

2nd Floor, Suite 1, 980 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

2. George Trois (6 Courses, 2 Hours)

64 Green Bay Rd, Winnetka, IL 60093
George Trois’ Galantine & Lollipop of quail and poussin
Michael Navarro

There are just 14 seats at this suburban destination, where diners can sample chef Michael Lachowicz‘s elevated French cuisine via a six-course or nine-course tasting menu. With the decadence of these dishes, it’s best to pace oneself — a fennel pollen-dusted filet of dover sole is served over toasted barley pilaf and fennel coulis, followed by a poussin leg and thigh lollipop filled with truffle puree, for example. And then, there’s dessert — possibly the banana and pistachios with gingerbread crumble, white chocolate ganache, bruleed banana slices, and Caribbean rum syrup. Three wine flights of various calibers — the George Trois, the premium, and the platinum — are available to accompany it all.

64 Green Bay Rd
Winnetka, IL 60093

3. Topolobampo (7 Courses, 2.5 Hours)    

4682, 445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60610
The “Exuberance” dish on Topolobampo’s “Art Menu”
Topolobampo [Official Photo]

Just a few years after Frontera Grill came Topolobampo, the fine dining Mexican restaurant from Rick Bayless and team that specializes in contemporary Mexican fare rooted in regional flavors. A seven-course tasting menu changes seasonally and has been influenced by themes like “Pre-Columbian” and “Winter Beach Vacation,” complete with seaside go-tos like Oaxaca seared scallops and Veracruz lobster chilpachole. This spring brings with the “Art Menu,” a series of plates inspired by the emotions that art can provoke. A serving of spring vegetables, Tabasco-style verde peas, garlic chives, and Baja abalone, for example, is dubbed “Exuberance,” while a melding of lamb loin, lamb belly, chayote gratin, and shaved foie gras is reminiscent of “Lust.” A wine pairing provides a pour with every course and highlights a range of regions, from Rioja, to the Rhône. 

4682, 445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60610

4. Acadia (8 Courses, 2.5 Hours)

1639 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Acadia’s Spanish octopus
©www.neiljohnburger.com

Depending on the starting point, it can be a trek to this South Loop restaurant — but once diners are there, chances are they’ll want to stay a while. Credit that to hyper attentive service, cozy confines, and upbeat indie rock-new wave tunes (not to mention creature comforts — an iPad is given to solo diners for some recommended reading between courses). It’s those details that have earned chef Ryan McCaskey and team an array of accolades (e.g. two Michelin stars, four JBF semifinalist spots and a Jean Banchet best new restaurant nod) — and then, of course, there’s the eight-course menu, a journey through plates like Elysian Fields lamb with nasturtium puree and pickled yellow foot mushroom and Spanish octopus with piri piri and olive gel. 

1639 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

5. Boka (9 Courses, 2.5-3 Hours)

1729 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
White asparagus and potatoes cooked in aged beef fat, sorrel cream and smoked scallop powder
Lee Wolen

It’s been 15 years since this Lincoln Park mainstay opened doors — and in that time it’s had plenty of reasons to celebrate, from seven years of Michelin star standing, to a best restaurant of the year win at the Jean Banchet Awards. Hats off to the chefs who have helped earn that praise — currently Lee Wolen and pastry powerhouse Meg Galus. A nine-course menu showcases their kitchen prowess, from grilled bass with maitake mushrooms and mandarin, to a pineapple finale of brown sugar pineapple puree, Tonka bean sablé, and black lime. Alisandro Serna handles the wine picks, a collection sourced from around the world (think New York Riesling, South African pinotage). The menu changes daily, giving diners even more reason to revisit soon (as if the starting snack alone — a crispy nori chip with a kick of smoked carrot tartare and cilantro — wasn’t enough).

1729 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614

6. Blackbird (10 Courses, 2.5-3 Hours)

619 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661
Blackbird’s Wagyu beef misoyaki
Blackbird [Official Photo]

There may be no better way to experience One Off Hospitality’s very first restaurant than with its tasting menu, a 10-course sampling of the modern American fare that helped put Restaurant Row on the map. Chef Ryan Pfeiffer kicks things off with eight savory courses, such as pickled and roasted sunchokes with cider and miso mousse and misoyaki-marintated wagyu beef with kombu mayonnaise. Two sweet dishes from pastry chef Nicole Guini follow and are as clever as they are flavorful — a Glacier Blue cheesecake is met with green olive and rye-juniper crumble, serving as a fun, edible riff on a dirty martini. 

619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

7. Smyth (12 Courses, 3-3.5 Hours)

177 N Ada St #101, Chicago, IL 60607
Smyth’s dried apples, dried flowers, and dried herbs dessert
Galdones Photography

A five-course and eight-course menu are available at this West Loop dining destination, but for the full experience, it’s all about the 12-course offering from chefs John Shields and Karen Urie Shields. It’s by that route that diners can taste nearly 10 savory dishes from John (dungeness crab and foie gras with scrambled kani miso; brioche doughnut with aged beef au jus), leaving plenty of room for dessert. It’s great news for the sugar-inclined, who await much buzzed about plates from Karen (namely the egg yolk, soaked in salted licorice and suspended in a cloud of frozen yogurt meringue). Sommelier Richie Ribando oversees the wine pairings, which come in traditional and reserve options. 

177 N Ada St #101
Chicago, IL 60607

8. Alinea (19 and 25 Courses, 3-4 Hours)

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Alinea’s squab dish
Briseis Guthrie

Food lovers travel far and wide for a coveted reservation at Alinea, where Grant Achatz has been delivering groundbreaking tasting menus since 2005. These days, the Lincoln Park mainstay offers two menu lengths: The Salon Menu, with 19 courses; and the 25-course Gallery and Kitchen Table menus. Those numbers might suggest diners come hungry (dare we say famished?) — but there’s also this: Several courses are but bite-sized accompaniments to main event compilations; supporting acts to primary plates. It’s evidenced by a bite of brown spice encapsulated mandarin juice and sage, a course created to deliver a burst of acidity when paired with poached Australian spanner crab (with Madras curry-pumpkin emulsion, coconut pudding, and ginger gel). Then there’s the banana split, a liquid ganache of banana, pineapple, chocolate, and roasted peanuts that is served with a distillation of Luxardo cherries (meant to evoke the “cherry on top” finale). Three wine pairing options — the Alinea (the rarest and most limited in availability), the Reserve, and the Standard - stand up to all of it.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614

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