Celebrity chef restaurants have taken us by storm in the last decade thanks to cable T.V. shows like Top Chef and Master Chef. It is a vastly different landscape than when I grew up in an age when there were only of 3 or 4 T.V. stations. Julia Child, Jacques Pépin and The Galloping Gourmet were the only culinary heroes we had to watch back then. While I am sure Julia Child would delight in our wide-spread food obsession and Instagram documentation of such, I wonder what she would think of the elevation of so many chefs to celebrity status. I guess we will never know but, in the meantime, below are some fabulous, celebrity chef restaurants in Chicago which you should try:
Leña Brava – Chef Rick Bayless
This is the latest venture from Chef Rick Bayless who made it big in Chicago with his Mexican stalwarts, Frontera, Topolobampo and Xoco.
Leña Brava, focuses on seafood, although there is
a great chicken dish and a short rib that couldn’t hurt a person. The tropical scallops are wonderful and I suggest you go with 2 or 3 people, so you can try several dishes. Don’t forget the great vegetarian options like the spicy eggplant, shiitake mushroom and goat cheese, as well as the tasty cocktails.
Leña Brava is also one of the 10 Fabulous Latin Eats You Should Have in Chicago. It’s located at 900 W. Randolph St., 1 block south and 2 blocks east of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the Green and Pink Lines.
Siena Tavern and Bar Siena – Chef Fabio Viviani
Chef Fabio Viviani emerged as, quite possibly, the most popular contestant on Top Chef. His colorful personality, good looks and Italian accent only made his Tuscan dishes more intriguing. While Chef Viviani did not win Top Chef, he did well. After the show, he opened Siena Tavern and Bar Siena in Chicago. Siena Tavern is one of the most popular spots in River North and Bar Siena is just as much a sought after reservation in the West Loop.
Siena Tavern is located at 51 W. Kinzie St., 3 blocks south and 1 block east of the Grand ‘L’ stop, along the Red Line.
Bar Siena is located at 832 W. Randolph, 1 block south and 3 blocks east of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the Green and Pink Lines.
Girl & the Goat/ Little Goat Diner/ Duck Duck Goat – Chef Stephanie Izard
I have been a fan of Chef Stephanie Izard, since 2005 when she still owned Scylla in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. She closed Scylla, in order to compete on Top Chef which she won spectacularly! After her victory, Chef Izard returned to Chicago and opened Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner and Duck Duck Goat. I call it her “goat empire.”
All 3 of Chef Izard’s restaurants are located in the bustling West Loop neighborhood and you cannot go wrong with either of them. All of the dishes are rich in flavor and presentation.
Girl & The Goat has a more elegant menu with interesting spice blends.
Little Goat Diner is another large space with a diner menu and vibe. You can choose a booth, table or counter seat. It opens early as diners should and the adjoining Little Goat Bakery opens at 6 am which is great for early risers. The coffee options are terrific.
Duck Duck Goat is the latest venture from Stephanie Izard and it specializes in traditional Chinese cuisine. Chef Izard traveled through China to gain inspiration for her menu. She opened a take-out window at the restaurant for people who cannot get a reservation or who simply want to sit at home and enjoy her food. Duck Duck Goat has some of the best Asian cuisine in Chicago.
Girl & the Goat is located at 809 W. Randolph St.
Little Goat Diner (and Little Goat Bakery) is located at 820 W. Randolph St.
These 2 restaurants are 1 block south and 3 blocks east of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the Green and Pink Lines.
Duck Duck Goat is located at 857 W. Fulton Market, 1 block north and 2 blocks east of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the Green and Pink Lines.
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio – Chef Sarah Grueneberg
One of the newest celebrity chef restaurants to hit Chicago is Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio. It is located in the West Loop and is helmed by former Top Chef contestant, Sarah Grueneberg. Monteverde is one of the 19 best Italian restaurants in Chicago. The menu is fantastic from the awesome bruschetta to the hand pulled pastas to the stand out proteins.
Monteverde is located at 1020 W. Madison St., 3 blocks south and 1 block west of the Morgan ‘L’ stop, along the Green and Pink Lines.
Avec, Publican Quality Meats, Nico Osteria – Chef Paul Kahan
It is one thing to have a successful restaurant but it is quite another to have an empire of restaurants in one city which are all hot and packing crowds. Chef/Owner Paul Kahan has been a titan in the celebrity chef restaurant scene in Chicago. He has a in finger the pots at several buzzworthy spots but Avec, Publican Quality Meats and Nico Osteria are 3 of my favorites.
Avec is a bare bones, galley-like space with dishes that always leave me delightfully surprised.
Publican Quality Meats (PQM) sits next to its big sister, The Publican. It is the perfect spot for a low-key soup, salad or sandwich. Brunch here is great because it is usually less overrun than many other places in this West Loop neighborhood. Get the open-faced smoked salmon sandwich and the steak and eggs!
Nico Osteria is a great place for a romantic evening, swanky celebration or business meal. It is located inside the Thompson Hotel in Chicago’s Gold Coast. If you love seafood with Italian influences, Nico Osteria is the place for you.
Avec is located at 615 W. Randolph St., 1 block south and 1 block west of the Clinton ‘L’ stop, along the Green and Pink Lines.
Publican Quality Meats is located at 825 W. Fulton Market, 1 block north of the Clinton and Morgan ‘L’ stops, along the Green and Pink Lines.. Walk 3 blocks west from the Clinton stop or 3 blocks east from the Morgan stop.
Nico Osteria is located at 1015 N. Rush St. , 4 blocks east and 2/5 blocks south of the Clark & Division ‘L’ stop, along the Red Line.
Parachute – Chef Beverly Kim
Once again, Top Chef gave us another firecracker in the form of Beverly Kim. You may remember her as the focused and sensitive chef who always seemed to come from behind to win the day. These days, Chef Kim is serving up some of my favorite Korean food in The Windy City. Her flavors are spicy, complex and filled with an array of super fresh greens we can all use more of. Read more about the recent meal I enjoyed at Parachute.
Parachute is located in Avondale at 3500 N. Elston Avenue, a short walk north and east of the Belmont ‘L’ stop, along the Blue Line.
The Purple Pig – Chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr.
Whether you are a Chicago resident or a visitor to this city, you absolutely must not miss an opportunity to dine at The Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue. This Mediterranean wine bar has an explosive menu with influences from Italy, Spain and Greece. Every dish is a winner so bring a few friends to help you through the menu.
Pro Tip: The Purple Pig does not take reservations so be prepared to wait. Lunch is a better option to avoid crowds.
The Purple Pig is located at 500 N. Michigan Avenue, 2 blocks east of the Grand ‘L’ stop, along the Red Line. The #3 King Dr. bus stops here as well.
Cafe Spiaggia/Spiaggia and River Roast – Chef Tony Mantuano
Chef Tony Mantuano has the distinction of owning the only 4-star Italian restaurant in Chicago, Spiaggia. It deserves all the accolades but if you cannot get a reservation or prefer some of the same dishes at a less expensive price, check out Cafe Spiaggia.
Chef Mantuano also has a hand in the kitchen at River Roast which has spectacular views of the skyline on the Chicago River. The menu is incredible and they have a funky blues brunch with live bands. Poultry, fish and meats are carved tableside but you can also order individual options such as the juicy lobster burger and the decadent turnips au gratin.
River Roast is located at 315 N. LaSalle St., 2 blocks north of the Clark/Lake ‘L’ stop along the Orange, Pink, Brown, Blue, Green and Purple Lines.
There you have them folks, my favorite celebrity chef restaurants in Chicago. I hope you get to check them out.
Do you have some favorite celebrity chef restaurants? I would love to hear all about them. Leave a comment and let’s chat!
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains and buses to these Fabulous Celebrity Chef Restaurants in Chicago. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!