There’s an artfulness in the way culinary curator Jason Hammel and chef de cuisine Sarah Rinkavage pack flavor into their dishes at Marisol, fittingly housed inside the Museum of Contemporary Art. The farm-to-table philosophy aligns with that of Lula Cafe, Hammel’s long-established Logan Square eatery, with locally sourced ingredients found in finely prepared fare like sunflower hummus, spruce-glazed pork belly and fried quail with cashew butter. INSIDER TIP Here is a place where vermouth is king. Off-menu selections like Cocchi Dopo Teatro Vermouth Amaro are ideal picks to accompany dinner. 205 E. Pearson St.
With his first solo venture, chef Stephen Gillanders allows himself untethered freedom to craft loving dishes that seamlessly blend his Filipino roots with refined skills he honed at Intro as executive chef. From plump, delicate lobster dumplings to foie gras bibimbap, his dishes speak loudly to his vision of what an independent Chicago restaurant can achieve. INSIDER TIP There’s a secret tasting menu for diners who want to sample as much as possible, and general manager Charles Ford will curate a wine pairing customized to suit your preferences. 1239 W. 18th St.
3 Tied House
It's been a triumphant return to Chicago for James Beard Award-winner Debbie Gold, who earned her stripes in Charlie Trotter's kitchen before spending two decades making her mark on the Kansas City dining scene. At Tied House, she aims to amaze with an inventive menu that subverts expectations with dishes like cripsy Okinawa sweet potato and silky milk-braised pork belly, accented by cool cocktails and chic decor. INSIDER TIP Tied House adjoins Schubas, the celebrated music hall with a long history as a Schlitz tied house. Guests can keep the tradition alive and buy the kitchen crew a $5 pitcher. 3157 N. Southport Ave.
Husband-and-wife duo Thai and Danielle Dang impress with their charming Vietnamese-French venture in Pilsen. A cozy interior designed by Danielle is home to her husband’s refined, vibrant dishes like handshaved papaya salad and addictive chicken wings tossed in caramelized fish sauce, while next-door coffee shop Ca Phe Da features Arabica single-origin coffee beans sure to please. A tasting menu gives diners a quality way to enjoy many dishes all at once. INSIDER TIP Ask for the off-menu "spice try" sampling for a taste of an ample selection of housemade hot sauces, oils and chilis. 1800 S. Carpenter St.
5 Gibsons Italia
This long-anticipated sister to the iconic Gibsons steakhouse does what Gibsons does best (steaks) but with a convivial refinement and stunning river view that elevate the experience. It also benefits from a curated selection of pastas, including the bright, fresh caserecce with discs of asparagus and dollops of corso ricotta. An excellent spot for lunch or dinner, it manages to convey an air of casual elegance that’s welcoming to all. INSIDER TIP Off-menu, of-the-moment pastas recently included cacio e pepe with shaved truffles and black pasta made with burnt wheat flour. 233 N. Canal St.
6 Gideon Sweet
There’s an element of frivolity found at Gideon Sweet that makes a meal there particularly enjoyable. From the minds of Graham Elliot and Matthias Merges, bright dishes like the warm king crab served in its leg shell and the crispy potato spiral beckon diners to dive in, while the seasonal menu means there’s always something new and inventive to taste. The dessert menu ups the game with delicate delights, while the clever small pours of mini-cocktails add to the fun. INSIDER TIP If you do go with the king crab, ask for the extra pour of sherry—quite the industry favorite. 841 W. Randolph St.
With lunch newly added to this elegant West Loop spot, Bellemore expands its impressive selection of “artisan American” fare from chef-partner Jimmy Papadopoulos. His nuanced dishes like Kona Kampachi tartare and Green Circle chicken are matched by the charming flora- and fauna-accented interiors by the always-stunning Studio K. While you're there, be sure to enjoy a well-crafted cocktail too. INSIDER TIP If you end up seated in the uniquely red, tall chair, the staff might send something special your way, like a glass of Champagne or a complimentary dessert. 564 W. Randolph St.
Chef Joe Frillman churns out inspired dishes with admirable verve at this quaint Logan Square restaurant with a focus on local produce and fermented accents. Beet agnolotti with smoked trout roe is a go-to staple, but each lovingly handcrafted pasta dish is a delight. With the recent addition of brunch, there’s even more to love. INSIDER TIP Of late, head fermenter Ed Hicks has been crafting drinks featuring unripened grape juice, known as verjus, which helps keep the restaurant sustainable and as close to producing zero waste as possible. 2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Passersby who catch a glimpse inside this West Town stunner of a bohemian cocktail bar are certain to take note to visit soon, as its globally inspired decor is the last word in lavish looks. Once inside, they’re likely to be just as impressed with a cocktail list filled with curiosities and enticing menu items like green curry rutabaga gnocchi. INSIDER TIP The Mamu Vida cocktail, made with mezcal, chipotle and honey, is garnished with an edible Sichuan buzz button, a mouth-tingling flower bud used to treat toothaches and other ailments in Africa and parts of Asia. 1604 W. Chicago Ave.
Gold mirrors and crystal chandeliers evoke 1950s Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard at BLVD. And this glamorous lounge in the West Loop draws its own celebrities: Chance the Rapper and Giuliana Rancic have been spotted in the luxurious booths. Dine on delights like cavatelli with coffee-braised lamb shoulder, or head to the second-floor Champagne room to sip Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage by the glass. INSIDER TIP Order a seafood tower or caviar service for the chance to spin the Lazy Susan and hope the BLVD logo lands at your seat—the winner gets a glass of bubbles as a prize. 817 W. Lake St.