Ultimate Guide to the Best Restaurants of 2017

This year I sipped, slurped and chewed my way through some outstanding meals in New York and Chicago.  It wasn’t too tricky narrowing down the standout dishes.  I just closed my eyes, clicked my heels three times and conjured up visions of sauces dancing in my head.  I give to you my Ultimate Guide to the Best Restaurants of 2017.  I hope you all have an opportunity to check them out.  Happy New Year!


New York – Best Restaurants of 2017



Red Rooster in Harlem is the brainchild of Chef Marc Samuelsson and it sits at the pinnacle of my guide to the best restaurants of 2017.  The menu incorporates his Ethiopian and Swedish roots and every dish is fantastic.  In particular, the

Swedish meatballs, and mac ‘n cheese are must-do dishes.  The cornbread will cause you to drool.



New York Eats Red Rooster in Harlem, New York Best Restaurants of 2017

Red Rooster in Harlem, NYC serves Southern comfort foods with Swedish and Ethiopian influences.

(310 Lenox Ave. – Take the MTA A, B, C, and D trains to 125th St.)



Hanoi House


Another one of the best restaurants of 2017 is Hanoi House in New York City’s East Village.  The Vietnamese fare is very authentic and fresh.  The spring rolls and vegetable curry are light and well-balanced.



New York's food scene Hanoi House best restaurants of 2017

Crab and pork rolls at Hanoi House in NYC

(119 St. Marks Place – Take the L train to 1st Ave.)



Russ & Daughters Cafe


One of the quintessential New York City food experiences can be found at Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  No place does appetizing like bagels, smoked fish, knishes or other Jewish soul food better!  If you don’t have time to sit for a meal, walk around the corner to the original Russ & Daughters deli.  It’s a New York institution!



Outstanding New York Eats Russ & Daughters Cafe Essential Bagels Brunch Bakeries best restaurants of 2017

Russ & Daughters finally has a dine-in cafe around the corner from the historic deli.

(127 Orchard St. – Take the J, M and Z trains to Essex St.)



Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar


The thing I miss most about my New York City home is the abundance of fresh shellfish.  Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar is located instead Chelsea Market on the west side and they are catching fresh fish and crustaceans daily for your pleasure.  Don’t miss the lobster roll because it’s stunning. 



NYC pizza burgers Cull & Pistol best restaurants of 2017

The lobster roll at Cull & Pistol at Chelsea Market

(75 9th Ave. at Chelsea Market – Take the A, C, E, and L trains to 14th St./8th Ave.)





As a native New Yorker, I am constantly educating people who are not from my fair city that New York City is more than Manhattan.  There are five boroughs and they all have fabulous food.  In February, I stopped by Leuca inside the William Vale hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  This swanky spot is one of the best restaurants of 2017 due to its creative Southern Italian dishes.  Their brunch really made an impression on me, especially the Sicilian baked eggs and the rum-soaked raisin and guanciale French toast.  Molto Buono!



NYC pizza burgers Leuca in Williamsburg, Essential New York Bagels Brunch Bakeries best restaurants of 2017

Sicilian baked eggs are a must-do at Leuca!

(111 12th St. – Take the L train to Bedford Ave.)



J.G. Melon


Whenever I come home to NYC for a visit, I try to make my way to the Upper East Side for a cheeseburger at J.G. Melon.  The burgers here are, hands down, the best in the city and they are always dependably perfect.  In an unstable world, it is comforting to know that some things stay the same.  Consistency and perfection are what makes J.G. Melon one of the best restaurants of 2017.



NYC pizza burgers J.G. Melon best restaurants of 2017

J.G. Melon has the best NYC burger!

(1291 3rd Ave. – Take the Q train to 2nd Ave.)



Joe’s Pizza


If J.G. Melon serves the perfect burger, then Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village serves the perfect Neapolitan pizza.  Joe’s Pizza, like J.G. Melon, has been around since the 1970s so I grew up with both of these New York institutions.  Thank goodness Joe’s is still going strong in its tiny walk-in counter space on Carmine St..  Real New Yorkers still take their slices to go while all the delightful extra virgin olive oil drips down their elbows.



NYC pizza burgers Joe's Pizza in Greenwich Village best restaurants of 2017

Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village has the best NYC pizza!

(7 Carmine St. – Take the A, B, C, D, E, F, M trains to W. 4th St.)


Read more about the Outstanding New York City Eats and Essential New York Bagels, Brunch and Brunches.



Chicago – Best Restaurants of 2017




Back home in Chicago, I checked out the newly opened HaiSous in the Pilsen neighborhood.  I am not at all hesitant to proclaim this elegant Vietnamese spot one of the best restaurants of 2017.  The dishes here are not only beautiful but they display the well-balanced, layered flavorful flavors I expect from Vietnamese cooking.  Don’t miss the spicy papaya salad or the thoughtfully curated wine list.



Pilsen brewpubs Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen menu best restaurants of 2017

Papaya salad at Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen in Pilsen, Chicago

(1800 S. Carpenter St. – Take the #8 Halsted bus to 18th St.)





After Vietnamese food, Thai is my favorite Asian cuisine.  Chicago has many good Thai restaurants by Herb, located on the border of Andersonville and Edgewater is the best Thai food I’ve eaten in Chicago.  Chef Patty is also the owner of this fantastic place and she is focussed on creating healthy dishes by incorporating traditional Thai ingredients, many of which she imports from overseas and around the U.S.  I highly recommend the betel leaf with its calcium-rich benefit and the beautiful mango and sticky rice dessert.  The entrees are always changing so visit Herb often.



Romantic Chicago Restaurants Herb restaurant best restaurants of 2017



Romantic Chicago Restaurants Herb restaurant in Chicago best restaurants of 2017

(5424 N. Broadway – Take the Red Line to the Berwyn ‘L’ stop)





Chicago’s Logan Square welcomed Daisies, an Italian restaurant with Midwestern influence.  The hand pulled plates of pasta are some of the best things I put in my mouth all year.  I especially loved the whole wheat tagliatelle with pistachio, carrot and basil.  The wine list features a great mix of local vineyards, including some standouts from Michigan.



Chicago restaurant options best restaurants of 2017

Whole wheat tagliatelle with carrot, pistachio, and basil

(2523 N. Milwaukee Ave. – Take the Blue Line to the Logan Square ‘L’ stop.



Cafe Marie-Jeanne


I love a good French brasserie that is open all day, where you can sit and linger from one meal to the next if that suits your mood.  Cafe Marie-Jeanne in Humboldt Park is just the place to transport yourself to a Parisian arrondissement for a day.  It’s located on a sunny corner with windows adorned with lace curtains.  the smoked fish options and fresh fish dishes are lovely.  and the bartenders pour potent cocktails.



Romantic Chicago Restaurants Cafe Marie Jeanne menu Humboldt Park best restaurants of 2017

Smoked meats and fish are king at Cafe Marie-Jeanne in Humboldt Park

(1001 N. California Ave. – Take the #52 Kedzie/California bus to Augusta, transfer from the California ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line)



5 Rabanitos


Chicago has some of the very best Mexican food in the U.S.  After eating my share of tacos and other dishes around town, I can proclaim that 5 Rabanitos in Pilsen is one of the best restaurants of 2017.  The chicken pozole soup will make you cry and the tacos will make you think you’re at a stand in Mexico City.



5 Rabanitos in Pilsen best restaurants of 2017

Chicken pozole soup with avocado, radishes, and chicharrones

1758 W. 18th St. (Take the Pink Line to 18th St.)



Pearl’s Place


The south side of Chicago has some great Southern/soul food restaurants including Pearl’s Place with it’s perfect fried green tomatoes, sweet potato pie and more.  They are open for lunch and dinner.  If your appetite is big, check out the buffet.  Otherwise order off the menu.  For the love of the food gods, do not miss the warm biscuits!



Southern food in Chicago Chicago comfort foods Pearl's Place Restaurant fried green tomatoes best restaurants of 2017

The crunchy and juicy fried green tomatoes at Pearl’s Place Restaurant in Chicago

(3901 S. Michigan Ave. (Take the Green Line to the Indiana ‘L’ stop.)



Leña Brava


Chef Rick Bayless is dazzling foodies again with his latest establishment, Leña Brava in Chicago’s bustling West Loop.  The side dishes are fantastic and the seafood, especially the scallops are lovely.



Latin eats in Chicago menu at Lena Brava best restaurants of 2017

Beautiful and tropical scallops at Lena Brava

(900 W. Randolph St. – Take the Green or Pink Lines to the Morgan ‘L’ stop.)



Pozoleria San Juan


Some of the best restaurants of 2017 are off the beaten path such as Pozoleria San Juan.  This Puerto Rican beauty is located off of a busy street in Humboldt Park.  As its name suggests, their specialty is their hearty bowls of pozole.  You choose your protein and garnish with chicharrones, avocado, radish, and onions.  this is the perfect place to warm up on a cold, winter day.  One more thing, the salsa served here is the best I’ve ever had anywhere.  



Latin eats in Chicago Pozoleria San Juan Humboldt Park best restaurants of 2017

Don’t forget to get your pozole with “the works” – radishes, cabbage, avocado, chicharrones, tacos and lime

(1523 N. Pulaski Rd.  – Take the #72 North Ave. bus to Pulaski Rd.)



The Spanish Square


I love Spanish cuisine from tapas to more hearty entrees.  My trip to Barcelona in 2015 was a feeding frenzy so I am thankful that Chicago has many great Spanish restaurants including the newly opened The Spanish Square.  The empanadas, salad, and steak are all delicious.  When you’re finished eating, buy some imported groceries from Spain to take home.



Chicago food scene Awesome Spanish restaurants The Spanish Square best restaurants of 2017

Sangria and empanadas

(1358 W. Belmont Ave. – Take the Brown Line to the Southport ‘L’ stop).



The Vig


This comfortable place in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood is definitely one of the best restaurants of 2017.  Check out their specials like the amazing pork chop with chimichurri sauce and sweet potato hash which I had over the summer.



Old Town The Vig Chicago best restaurants of 2017

Juicy pork chop over spicy chimichurri sauce with sweet potato hash at The Vig.

(1527 N. Wells St. – Take the Brown Line to the Sedgwick ‘L’ stop).



El Che Bar


The flavors of Argentina are well represented at El Che in the West Loop.  The atmosphere at this sexy restaurant is inviting and I really enjoyed the Japanese sweet potatoes with chimichurri sauce.  The seafood dishes here are excellent.



Chicago restaurants El Che Bar best restaurants of 2017

Japanese sweet potatoes with chimichurri sauce

(845 W. Washington St.  – Take the Green or Pink Line to the Morgan ‘L’ stop)





The hearty, stick-to-your-ribs Ukranian food at Shokolad makes it one of the best restaurants of 2017.  Shokolad has more of a casual cafe/bakery vibe where locals come to dine for lunch and dinner.  The borscht and veal chop are big draws here.



Chicago Food Shokolad Ukrainian Village best restaurants of 2017


(2524 W. Chicago Ave. – Take the #66 Chicago Ave. bus to Campbell Ave., transfer at the Chicago ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line).



Forbidden Root


Chicago has some great brewpubs and Forbidden Root should be at the top of your to-do list.  As good as the brews are, you need to check out the menu at this West Town restaurant.  I had the most delicious pureed black lentil soup and this wonderful arctic char served with cranberry bean hummus.



Chicago food Forbidden Root menu best restaurants of 2017

Arctic Char over cranberry bean hummus at Forbidden Root

1746 W, Chicago Ave. – Take the #66 Chicago bus to Wood.  Transfer from the Chicago ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line.



Moody Tongue Brewing  Company


One of the biggest surprises of 2017 was Moody Tongue Brewing Company in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.  This sprawling warehouse is home to the most extraordinary brewery and tasting room.  You can take a tour of the brewery but do not miss an opportunity to sit near the cozy fireplace and bookshelves while you share the obscenely decadent 12-layer chocolate cake and one of Moody Tongue’s unique brews.  The Caramelized Chocolate Churro brew and Blueberry Pilsner were really impressive.  The brewmasters here incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables into their brews.  If you are a fan of oysters and charcuterie, Moody Tongue Brewery has you covered.



Pilsen brewpubs Moody Tongue chocolate cake best restaurants of 2017

12-layer chocolate cake, Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter, and Blueberry Pilsner at Moody Tongue

(2136 S. Peoria St. – Take the #8 Halsted bus to Peoria.  Transfer from the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line.)



The Purple Pig


Chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr. is still making the grade among the best restaurants of 2017 with all of his creative dishes at The Purple Pig on Michigan Avenue.  It never gets old.  Try the succulent, milk-braised, pork shoulder.  You’ll thank me.



Chicago restaurant options best restaurants of 2017

Milk-braised pork shoulder at The Purple Pig

(500 N. Michigan Ave. – Take the #3 King Dr. bus or the Red Line to the Grand ‘L’ stop.)



Cochon Volant


I’ve been to this French brasserie in The Loop many times because it always delivers the flavor and charm.  Recently, I was blown away by the perfectly cooked salmon served with slightly briny lentils.  The charcuterie platters and cheeseburger are also fantastic.  I am not at all shocked that Cochon Volant made my list of the best restaurants of 2017.



Chicago restaurant options best restaurants of 2017

Salmon over black lentils at Cochon Volant

(100 W. Monroe St. – Take the Blue or Red Lines to the Monroe ‘L’ stop).


Wow!  I’m stuffed all over again just thinking about these great dishes.  I hope I made you excited to hop the rails (and buses) and check out my picks for the best restaurants of 2017 in New York and Chicago.  Mangia!  


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 my picks for the best restaurants of 2017. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage.  Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!