A's List: Audarshia’s Heavy Hitters for Dining & Drinking in Chicago (March)
It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing or sunny in the Windy City. Chicago’s eating and drinking establishments are always in season. And yes, it can get overwhelming with all the new places jockeying for your attention.
Still, we have favorites. Lots of them. Some have been around awhile, yet manage to always keep it fresh, while others get the thumbs up even though they’re brand new on the scene. Here’s where you ought to be this month.
Why It's A Hit: From the family who brought us Acanto, The Dawson and The Gage, Beacon Tavern is their Magnificent Mile sensation. Though it only opened in 2016, Beacon feels like it’s been around for ages as much of the original interior has been left intact. Get ready for contemporary American fare with a lot of emphasis on seafood.
What To Order: Head here for happy hour (3-6pm Monday through Friday) for deals on especially creamy Peekytoe crab dip and fried chicken. There’s also an Old Fashioned special using house-made sherry syrup and bitters.
Where To Find It: 405 N. Wabash Ave., 312-955-4226
When To Visit: Brunch, After work
Why It's A Hit: The Bucktown/Wicker Park area long needed a place like this and it’s happening at the brand-new The Robey Hotel. Café Robey offers French-American fare in an upscale casual atmosphere. The restaurant is also located on the street level of the property, making it a destination for hotel guests and area residents alike.
What To Order: You’ll want to dig into hearty portions of the pork belly cassoulet that’s chock-full of tarbias beans, bacon and roasted vegetables. It comes with a heaping of garlic bread that’s perfect for sopping up the stew.
Where To Find It: 2018 W. North Ave., 872-315-3083
When To Visit: Brunch, Dinner
Why It's A Hit: Happy hour occurs every Wednesday through Friday at this Mexican-focused eatery in Logan Square. That's an ideal way to sample the seasonal menu at this highly praised destination that's been dubbed “the most important Mexican restaurant since Topolobampo” by Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel.
What To Order: Stay for dinner and order the crispy Mediterranean sea bass that’s served whole with mojo de ajo, beluga lentils, rice and hand-pressed corn tortillas.
Where To Find It: 2829 W. Armitage Ave., 773-661-6452
When To Visit: After work, dinner
Why It's A Hit: Located on the lobby level of the Hyatt Place River North, Ema is rooted in Mediterranean cuisine with Southern California accents. It’s from "Top Chef" alum Chris "CJ" Jacobson, who teamed up with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) for an instant sensation that’s popular with the trendy crowd as well as families.
What To Order: Vegetarians and pescaterians should have a field day with the countless spreads and seafood choices, but CJ hasn’t forgotten about hardcore carnivores. Hummus with braised lamb ragu is the best of both worlds and is amped up with spicy harissa.
Where To Find It: 74 W. Illinois St., 312-527-5586
When To Visit: After work, brunch
Why It's A Hit: Michelin-starred chef Shin Thompson is behind the runaway success of this hip noodle shop in Logan Square and Wicker Park. The late-night joint, which cranks out old-school and contemporary hip-hop cuts at a blistering volume, also features beer and Japanese-inspired sides. There are also cocktails on draft.
What To Order: Noodle menu highlights range from the signature Furious Ramen with chashu pork belly, spicy miso, white pepper chicken, "fury" sauce and a poached egg to Holy Cow Ramen (chili-infused noodles, spicy beef bone soup, fresno chilies, ground beef and string bean stir fry).
Where To Find It: 1571 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-687-8445
When To Visit: Dinner and try to sign up for one of the noodle-making classes
Why It's A Hit: The clubby little sister to Tanta, Arbella is two doors down from the celebrated Peruvian-inspired restaurant. Nightly, it features popular local deejays, who spin deep house and Latin beats as guests sip on exotic craft cocktails.
What To Order: The well-curated cocktail menu spans the globe, and this month Argentina is where we’d love to be right now. Stolen Booty is for the adventurous, with Fernet, an aged rum, amaro and a twist of lemon. It goes down nice and slow, getting you ready for The Hawk.
Where To Find It: 112 W. Grand Ave., 312-846-6654
When To Visit: Tuesdays for deep disco, and weekends when deejays spin global beats and everything else
Why It's A Hit: Renaissance Bronzeville is something that Bronzeville and its surrounding South Side neighborhoods desperately needed for young professionals in the area. Deejays perform almost nightly, spinning everything from hip-hop and deep house to reggae and old-school soul.
What To Order: There’s no food, but the drinks are strong.
Where To Find It: 4641 S. King Dr., 773-690-5416
When To Visit: After work, after hours
Why It's A Hit: While Scofflaw always appears to be boisterous with lively young professionals who either live in Logan Square or frequent the neighborhood, it's also a popular date-night destination. Try to snag sofa seats in front of the fireplace.
What To Order: You cannot go wrong with gin as the spirit is Scofflaw’s specialty.
Where To Find It: 3201 W. Armitage Ave., 773-252-9700
When To Visit: Brunch, weekends
Why It's A Hit: The Sixth’s drinks menu provides everything from low-end to high-end, but the bulk of the beverage program is reserved for the craft cocktail program, which features whimsical creations by master mixologist Benjamin Schiller. Special accents like colorful ice cubes and unique glassware add pizzazz to the liquid delights.
What To Order: The cocktails-only menu is seasonal, but there are a few drinks that you may always order, such as the Silly Rabbit in which guests are encouraged to tweak it to their liking using flavor-infused ice cubes.
Where To Find It: 2200 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-433-5959
When To Visit: Weeknights
Why It's A Hit: The Financial District’s Vol. 39 positions itself as an upscale cocktail lounge to wind down in after a hectic day at the office. Its vibe is meant to resemble a traditional law library, with plenty of leather-bound books throughout the space and low-slung leather chairs and banquettes on which to settle down.
What To Order: One of the bar's biggest attractions is its unique Old Fashioned program, where imbibers may swap out the usual whiskey spirit in favor of brandy, cognac, mezcal or tequila. And for those who prefer martinis, Vol. 39 offers a nice selection as a flight for $25.
Where To Find It: 39 S. LaSalle St., 312-750-9007
When To Visit: After work