Chicago restaurants enjoyed another big year in 2017. Some, though, are more about just the food and service. The following spots awe with stunning designs and beautiful décor. From the grandeur of BLVD to the lush scenery at Beatnik, these breathtaking spaces leave guests feeling like a million bucks. Because after all, it’s hard to beat dinner with a view. Listed from north to south.Read More
The Most-Beautiful Chicago Restaurants of 2017
These belles of the ball are head-turners
One of the year’s sexiest openings found its home in a surprising location — Southport Corridor. In contrast to bustling Wrigleyville only a few blocks away, Ella Elli is an elegant spot that beckons diners to get comfortable and stay a while. The restaurant’s modern-yet-retro lounge is decked with globe lamps, glass tables, velvet seats, and a fireplace to warm up at. The globally-inspired menu is equally delightful; cheeses and charcuterie, pizzas, pastas, and an au poivre burger are all perfect bites to pair with the wine list.
Don’t mess with what works. That’s the approach Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises took when it re-introduced the iconic Pump Room inside the Ambassador Chicago. Now dubbed Booth One, the restaurant retains much of space’s classic feel while also modernizing it for a new generation. The signature hanging globe lights are still in place and the room features soothing gold and cream accents alongside a revamped lounge. On the food side, guests are regaled with old-school dishes like dover sole, beef wellington, and a lemon meringue Napoleon.
Chicagoans won’t be sailing out on Lake Michigan anytime soon but they can get all their yacht club vibes at Boka Restaurant Group’s opulent Gold Coast restaurant. The two-story design is stunning — tall columns, 40-foot ceilings, and a beautiful dining room that just oozes class. That’s not all: There’s also a lovely patio suited for people watching and a rooftop bar on the 18th floor, Devereaux. Chef Lee Wolen’s approachable All-American menu includes everything from smoked beet tartare to his popular roasted chicken served with polenta, garlic sausage, and delicata squash.
It took Michael Mina some time to arrive in Chicago but his French brasserie has been every bit the refined experience that diners expected from the celebrated chef. The vintage décor channels the spirit of 1920s Paris with dark woods, leather seats, and a zinc-topped bar. That air of sophistication is matched by a menu offering pristine seafood and traditional dishes such as escargots, dry-aged duck breast, and steak frites.
Beat back the winter blues and escape the cold with globe-trotting cuisine served in a posh setting. This West Town hotspot is a lush oasis year-round thanks to a dining room full of verdant plants, glittering chandeliers, fine rugs, and comfy couches. An enclosed courtyard with a glass rooftop also lets guests bathe in sunlight as they brunch on frozen cocktails and dishes like pork cheek fried rice and potatoes prepared three ways.
Innovative Dining Group has brought its sleek Japanese restaurant over from Los Angeles and given Chicagoans another spot for quality sushi and robata-grilled meats. The sprawling 13,000-square-foot space is decorated with Asian artifacts and chic furnishings, and diners are treated to full views of the sushi bar and open kitchen. Local vet Jason Chan runs the show, which leaves guests feeling like celebrities after consuming items like premium A5 Wagyu beef and otoro nigiri.
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There’s no shortage of great watering holes in Chicago so the rich only got richer when renowned mixologist Jim Meehan set up shop here for his latest project. Meehan, who opened New York’s influential bar PDT, teamed up with Heisler Hospitality and used Frank Lloyd Wright as inspiration to create Prairie School. The design strikes balance between modern aesthetics and 20th century architecture while the drinks are centered on hyperseasonal ingredients. Not convinced? Peek inside the big windows facing Morgan Street to preview the action.
It turns out an old dog can be dressed up and taught new tricks. Gibsons Restaurant Group’s first original concept in more than a decade is definitely not the type of steakhouse that guests’s parents grew up with. The lavish three-level space boasts touches of modernity as well as Italian influences, complete with sweeping views of the skyline and a retractable rooftop on the top floor. The beef, though, is classic Gibsons and complemented with pastas made from a gold extruder.
Chicagoans were taken back to Hollywood’s golden age over the summer at this glamorous West Loop restaurant that won Eater Chicago’s 2017 award for Design of the Year. The swanky bi-level space — which feels like something right out of The Great Gatsby — sports sparkling chandeliers, a twisting staircase, a Champagne room, and even one of the city’s prettiest bathrooms. Guests can pretend they’re Marilyn Monroe and James Dean by cozying up in a booth and ordering a caviar or seafood tower.
For a follow-up to their acclaimed fine dining spot Sepia, Andrew Zimmerman and his team went in a more casual direction. But even though the food is decidedly less formal, the dining room is still a place that befits special occasions. The mid-century American brasserie is dressed to the nines with soaring ceilings, hanging lights, tiled columns, rustic wood flooring, and a snazzy bar and lounge area. The accompanying menu focuses on international street fare and includes interesting flavors such as tempura elotes and housemade Indonesian pork jerky.
Chicago Firehouse Restaurant
Two years after a fire shut it down, Chicago Firehouse Restaurant rose from the ashes. The remodeled space restores the original Tiffany-glazed brick and custom millwork, making diners feel right at home. There are several private rooms for events as well, each elegant, beautiful, and reflective of the building’s historic past. The menu backs up the ambiance with traditional American favorites such as oysters Rockefeller, jumbo shrimp cocktails, and chateaubriand.
Thai and Danielle Dang made a triumphant return in 2017 and received rave reviews for their Vietnamese passion project. Divided into two areas, the interior showcases exposed bricks, woven bamboo, wooden banquettes, and trinkets from Vietnam as part of its styling. The open kitchen allows guests to watch Thai as he cooks up impressive home-style dishes that include papaya salad, pho, curry, and fried whole fish.