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CHICAGO

Chicago will always have a special place in my heart, since it's where I spent the majority of my twenties.  In my 8 years living here, I made it my mission to experience as many restaurants as possible.  Here are a few favorites:

THE PURPLE PIG
Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with a focus on swine and wine.  Although it's located in the midst of the commercialized Michigan Avenue, its tucked away location will make you forget that.  Mostly communal tables. Also, no reservations- so expect a wait. 
LE COLONIAL
Featuring French-Vietnamese cuisine, Le Colonial serves consistently delicious and creative food. The restaurant recreates the mood and experience of French colonial Southeast Asia, and provides a serene oasis in the midst of the Rush Street restaurants and shopping. Try the Ca Hap (steamed seabass with cellophane noodles, oyster mushrooms, and tomatoes), the Sup Do Bien (seafood boullabaise in coconut saffron lemongrass broth), or Suon Nong (charcoal grilled baby-back ribs with lemongrass).  
RUXBIN
Cozy 32-seat eatery in Noble Square/West Town.  Chef Edward Kim’s “straightforward, yet progressive” menu draws from fresh, local sources. Intriguing atmosphere-- everything is “refurbished, repurposed, and reclaimed.” Highlights include: mushroom toast, clam bucatini, sable fish.  Not your typical bathroom - check it out.  
GIRL AND THE GOAT
Top Chef Winner Stephanie Izard’s small plate restaurant. Hot spot in the West Loop-- need to make reservation in advance. Highlights: Goat empanadas, roasted cauliflower, and grilled octopus.  The vegetable options are just as good as any of the meat and seafood options.   
MOMOTARO
Trendy sushi restaurant in the Fulton Market District.  Momotaro touts its "traditional technique, contemporary elegance."  Fun and lively atmosphere.  
LA SIRENA CLANDESTINA
Translated as “Hidden Mermaid,” this Fulton Market gem is on-point. The menu features influences from Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The moqueca (fish, mussel, & shrimp stew) is outstanding, and the lobster tail is tender and flavorful.  For dessert, even as a non-cheesecake lover, I couldn’t get enough of the cheesecake with its light, airy texture and coconut graham cracker crust drizzled with guava sauce.  
BIG STAR
Casual taco and whiskey spot in Wicker Park with outdoor patio.  Definitely a summer spot-- and hard to beat the $3 tacos and whiskey drinks.   
ALINEA
Extravagant.  Inventive.  Unforgettable.  More than a meal, Alinea is a once in a lifetime experience.  Grant Achatz's restaurant is decorated with 3 Michelin stars-- and lives up to its rave reviews.  Expect a 4-hour long adventure with each course bringing a unique surprise, either in flavor or presentation.  From voice-altering edible balloons to the dessert artistically "painted" on the tapestry that was our table, there isn't a dull moment.  The service was impeccable, with the wait staff clearly passionate and eager to share the details of each dish.  Be sure to plan in advance-- as it is extremely difficult to get a reservation, not to mention pricey.  

NEXT
Next is Grant Achatz's second restaurant located in Fulton Market.  It is less formal than Alinea, yet still an incredible experience.  The chefs are extremely versatile, evidenced by their themed menus which change every 4 months-- all perfectly executed.  Past themes range from The Hunt to The Alps to Hollywood to Ancient Rome.   
COCKTAIL BARS:
THE VIOLET HOUR
With its discreet location in Bucktown, you’d barely know that behind a nondescript door lies a chic, sexy lounge. The atmosphere is almost dreamlike, with its pale turquoise curtains draped from the dramatic high ceilings, and plush intimate booths. The cocktails are carefully created by talented mixologists, and there are several food items as well. No reservations -- so expect a wait-- it’s well worth it.  
THE AVIARY
A truly unparalleled cocktail experience. Chef/Owner Grant Achatz (of Alinea & Next) offers innovative, carefully crafted cocktails with a focus on presentation and overall experience.  Many drinks are scientific experiments, ranging from bourbon infused inside a frozen egg to truffles permeated with gin to cocktails featuring liquid nitrogen.  For a full experience, there is a 10-course cocktail menu accompanied by molecular small bites for $165. Reservations are hard to come by-- only 100 or so guests are accepted nightly via an email lottery.  
DRUMBAR
Located in the Gold Coast on the roof of Hotel Raffaello, this rooftop bar serves delicious cocktails.  If the weather is nice, spend time on the outdoor patio.  

NOMI
While NoMi is a delicious restaurant at the Park Hyatt in the Gold Coast, my favorite NoMi experience entails cocktails and sushi on the roof.  The views are great year round, but tough to beat the rooftop patio on a nice day.  


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