Chicago Restaurant Week (January 24 – February 9) has a way of whipping Chicagoans into a reservations frenzy. Sifting through the more than 430 participating Chicagoland restaurants is a tricky endeavor, and distinguishing great deals from just okay — or even bad — takes time. In an effort to cut down on the guesswork, here are some of the best and worst Restaurant Week options, evaluated based on value overall and on specific items — as compared to regular menus and one another — as well as diversity of cuisine and location, offerings for vegetarians, and availability during various times of day.
Restaurants are ordered alphabetically.
GOOD DEAL: Big Jones
This haven for regional Southern cuisine is a former Eater 38 member and continues to serve some of the most sought-after fried chicken in Chicago. Its Restaurant Week dinner menu ($36 for three courses plus jalapeño cheese cornbread service) includes its famous juicy, crispy birds, fried in gumbo skimmings as a special Restaurant Week touch. Alligator and andouille sauce piquant; crawfish etouffee; and cochon de lait are also featured.
BAD DEAL: Boqueria
Tapas are often best when shared and ordered en masse, which sets up New York-based Boqueria for a rough time during Restaurant Week. The lunch menu ($24, two courses plus dessert) draws on the restaurant’s regular offerings, as do the dinner offerings ($48, two courses plus an appetizer and dessert), with significant crossover in dishes. All told, this new Fulton Market spot is a better choice outside of Restaurant Week.
GOOD DEAL: Cabra
Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard’s Peruvian rooftop restaurant in the West Loop made a huge splash when it opened in April, drawing tons of diners to dig into something new from one of Chicago’s most famous chefs. Cabra is offering Restaurant Week menus for brunch ($24 per person, two dishes), lunch ($24 per person, five dishes), and dinner ($48 per person, seven dishes) designed for two people with plenty of on-menu hits such as goat empanadas and duck ceviche. It’s a pretty meat-heavy affair, but some vegetarian options are available.
BAD DEAL: Dick’s Last Resort
If one isn’t otherwise interested in Dick’s, the Marina City Towers restaurant where servers delight in goading customers, Restaurant Week likely isn’t going to bring them in the door. The dinner menu ($36, one course plus salad) doesn’t add up — the “Chky Fried Chky” is $17.99 as a regular dinner option, and “Mammas Mac and Cheese” is typically $14.99. When juxtaposed beside a dinner at Big Jones for the same price, Dick’s really is a last resort.
GOOD DEAL: HaiSous
Restaurant Week offers diners a great opportunity to dig into chef Thai Dang’s Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning and Eater 38-included Vietnamese dishes in Pilsen. Brunch options ($24, two courses plus a beverage pairing) are slightly limited, especially for vegetarians, but Dang features both meat-friendly and vegetarian family-style menus for dinner ($48, three courses plus a featured cocktail). And patrons can add optional drink pairings at lunch for $15, or at dinner for $30.
BAD DEAL: Mercat a la Planxa
This Catalan mainstay is one of Chicago’s essential Spanish restaurants, but as a tapas spot, it faces similar challenges to Fulton Market’s Boqueria during Restaurant Week. The brunch menu ($24, one course plus an appetizer and dessert) isn’t a bad option, but the dinner selection ($48, two courses plus an appetizer and dessert) is problematized by the restaurant’s regular dinner tasting menu, which offers eight courses for just $7 more.
GOOD DEAL: Piccolo Sogno
One of Chicago’s best and most beloved Italian restaurants is offering both lunch ($24, three courses) and dinner menus ($36, three courses) loaded with pasta, oxtail, and more in River West. Each course contains a plethora of choices, so those who are focused on value will need order wisely to get the best deal — for example, skip the soup of the day in favor of the cozze diavola (PEI mussels, spicy tomato sauce, garlic crostini).
BAD DEAL: Port and Park
This fairly recent new American entry in Lakeview is joining in Restaurant Week with a lengthy brunch menu ($24, two courses plus a mimosa, sparkling wine, or orange juice) that emphasizes quantity, a move that may be pleasing to brunchers. The dinner menu ($36, three courses), however, is relatively limited and the check doesn’t differ all that much from the total of a regular meal.
GOOD DEAL: Pacific Standard Time
Acclaimed California-cool River North restaurant Pacific Standard Time isn’t always an easy reservation, but some spots are available for the taking during Restaurant Week. Lunch ($24, two courses plus a scoop of seasonal ice cream) is an okay deal, but the real bang comes at dinner ($48, four courses plus a shared appetizer), particularly from the rockfish (bacon, leek, spaghetti squash, cherry bomb pepper, napa cabbage) and half heritage chicken (marsala, fideo, mushroom, pickled Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers, niçoise olive).
BAD DEAL: Siena Tavern
Perhaps best known for its connection to repeat Top Chef competitor Fabio Viviani, this ever-popular River North Italian spot proffers Restaurant Week menus for brunch ($24, two courses plus coffee, juice, or a soft drink), lunch ($24, two courses), and dinner ($48, three courses including dessert). While the prices may stand up when compared to the restaurant’s regular menu, they don’t add up to savings for the diner — a bowl of minestrone soup on the lunch menu typically costs $12, and a number of the dinner entree options nullify the value. This is another spot that may be better suited to a trip outside of Restaurant Week.
Source: Thanks https://chicago.eater.com/2020/1/24/21080227/chicago-restaurant-week-best-deals-worst-deals-2020