The 7 Most Bizarre (and Must Try) Picks for Chicago Restaurant Week 2015

It’s that time of the year again! Chicago Restaurant Week is almost here, and it’s time to make your reservations for the best food Chicago has to offer. Restaurant week spans from January 30-Feb 12 this year, and with over 250 participating restaurants with lunch for $22 and dinner for $33-$44, I hope that you’ll be starting the week hungry. 


Because there were so many restaurants and because all the menus were making me drool, I decided to focus this year’s picks on items that were truly bizarre. From the last dinners of people executed in Chicago (!!!) to raw squash and alligator, I present the Uncorkd list of Chicago Restaurant Week 2015 picks.

La Sardine (West Loop)

$33 dinner menu

Le Sardine is a French restaurant known for their large portions and rustic touches, so for starters, I’ll be trying their Courge appetizer, a blend of raw acorn squash, yellow squash, basil, hazelnuts, and shaved foie gras. I’ll follow that with an entree of Corned Duck and Black Truffles, which features popcorn grits, some maple pork belly, and a duck egg. For dessert, I can’t wait for the Pecan Tart, served with house-made vanilla ice cream. I’m a sucker for homemade vanilla. 111 North Carpenter, Chicago 312.421.2800

Big Jones (Andersonville)

$33 dinner menu

Known for their decadent and exciting takes on Cajun food, Big Jones will be offering a Mardi-Gras-inspired menu for restaurant week. I’ll try their Cajun Boudin Balls made with crispy pork liver and a rice sausage fritter, cayenne mayonnaise, gratins (cheeses), and piccalilli (chopped pickle and spice relish), followed by their delicious-sounding Southern Skillet Cheddar Cornbread with scallions, cheddar, and pickled jalapeños. For an entree, I’ll be ordering the Alligator and Andouille Sauce Piquant, which is Louisiana gator tail and house-made andouille sausage, simmered in a piquant red sauce and served with popcorn rice. For dessert, I am all over Calas, an old-fashioned sourdough rice doughnut, served with lemon pudding and a caramel dipping sauce. Last time I went, Big Jones also featured a fascinating drink menu, so come prepared to indulge. 5347 North Clark Street, Chicago 773.275.5725

Knife & Tine (Lincoln Park)

$22 brunch menu

This newly-hatched restaurant was recently featured as part of WGN Radio’s holiday recipe series, in which Nikki Allen showed the WGN crew how to infuse bourbon. That’s pretty cool… and it makes me want to check the place out. The thing that makes Knife & Tine’s restaurant week truly unique is that they offer a brunch menu. I’ll be there eating the Breakfast Sandwich made with coffee-cured bacon, a fried egg, and house cheddar. In addition to fries, I can also order two sides, so I’ll be munching on the pumpkin bread and the homemade chicken sausage as well. Though a coffee will be included with my brunch, perhaps I’ll pay extra to spike it with that house-made infused bourbon. 1417 West Fullerton Avenue, Chicago 773.697.8311

720 South Bar & Grill (South Loop)

$22 lunch menu

Located in the Hilton Chicago, you wouldn’t expect 720 South Bar & Grill to have a truly bizarre offering for restaurant week—but you’d be surprised. I’ll be there in early February, sipping Chestnut Soup with beet chips and porcini dust, and following that with the titillating Smoking Goose Banh Mi, topped with hot meat slaw, a meat trio, and asian mayo. It’s hard for me to resist banh mi in the first place, but when it has smoked goose? Wow. At the end of my meal, I’ll enjoy a S’mores Cup with graham cracker dust, milk chocolate ganache, and a marshmallow macaroon. Yum! 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago 312.922.4400

Nellcôte (West Loop)

$33 dinner menu

Nellcôte is known for their indulgent, decedent, jaw-dropping atmosphere, and it’s only natural that their restaurant week menu would be as unique as their interior. I’ll be there admiring the marble while ordering the Cobia Crudo appetizer, with pickled trumpet mushrooms, smoked trout roe, Espelette (a French pepper), and a black truffle vinaigrette. For an entree, I’ll get the Skuna Bay Salmon (unique because it’s not from the Faroe Islands), served with roasted eggplant yogurt, cucumber, heirloom peppers, and dill. As a dessert, I won’t say no to the Gelato Trio, featuring a selection of their house-made gelato. 833 West Randolph Street, Chicago 312.432.0500

Ada Street (West Town)

$44 dinner menu

Though they usually feature an American nouvelle menu, Ada Street decided to take a strange turn for their restaurant week menu: the last dinners of Death Row criminals. The menu is as varied as you would expect. One convict ate a single olive, with the pit, in hopes that an olive tree would grow from his grave. Another convict managed to wrangle some contraband Jack Daniels. I’ll be there ordering a meal worthy of my $44—it’ll be something inspired by the last meal of Ronnie Lee Gardner, a multiple murderer executed on June 18, 2010. He had lobster tail, steak, apple pie, and vanilla ice cream, but perhaps I’ll follow it up with Aileen “The Monster” Wuornos’ last meal: a cup of black coffee. Check out their chilling menu1664 North Ada Street, Chicago 773.697.7069

Zed 451 (River North)

$33 dinner menu

Are you really, really hungry for restaurant week? Go to Zed 451, which offers you the opportunity to build your meal your way—and apparently to your size specifications, too. Their menu boasts unlimited sampling from a wide variety of foods. I’ll probably try a little bit of everything (why not?), but I’m especially excited about their duck pastrami, goat gouda, whole grain country pretzel bread with black truffle butter, candied red beets, and their Persian Chana Dal Salad. The salad has Persian cucumbers, chana dal, red cabbage, lime juice, mint, red pepper flakes, champagne vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon, turmeric, and honey vinaigrette. Whew! Oh yeah, I’ll also be trying unlimited samples of their Char-Grilled Buttermilk Sirloin, served with a buttermilk ranch dressing and parsley butter, and I’ll have the gluten-free cheesecake panna cotta with berries too. Then I’ll waddle out of there and sigh with satiation. 739 North Clark Street, Chicago 312.266.6691

What else was there?

Popular offerings on this year’s menus included Faroe Islands Salmon, homemade pastas, and baby octopus prepared in a variety of ways. Whether you want Italian comfort food, Latin fusion food, or Pan-Asian food, Chicago Restaurant Week 2015 has got you covered.

This year, I looked through all 250+ menus for restaurant week so that you wouldn’t have to. In short: Nearly any food you want is available—plus, the restaurant week website organizes menus by dietary need. Whether you’re vegan, gluten free, kosher, or vegetarian, there’s sure to be something to tempt your tastebuds. Dig in!

Photo licensed by Ralph Daily