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Eat and Drink

Chicago culinary tour: Where to eat in the windy city

We're not sure what Frank "the Chairman" Sinatra meant when he called Chicago "that toddlin' town," but Chi-town sure is a great food town -- perhaps second only to New York City.

"From the most casual hot dog place to the best cocktail spot, there is such a range of restaurants and bars. And food from every ethnicity is at our fingertips," says Chef Heather Terhune, a "Top Chef" finalist and executive chef at the new Sable Kitchen & Bar. "Chicago is on the cutting edge of trends without even trying."

It's impossible to sample all of the good eats the Windy City has to offer in one trip, but here's a short list of new and noteworthy restaurants by neighborhood to get you started.

GOLD COAST

To dig in to Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza,
Photo Credit: Lou Malnati

To dig in to Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza, head to hometown favorite Lou Malnati's. There are several locations throughout the city but opt for a table or booth at the upscale Gold Coast outpost (1120 N. State St., 312-725-7777, loumalnatis.com) with its handsome industrial design décor. But be forewarned: One "slice" of this hearty pie is enough to knock the average New York-style pizza connoisseur out for the rest of the day. So share a small lean sausage and extra-cheese-laden Malnati Chicago Classic or the spinach, mushroom and Roma tomato-topped Lou with a friend.

LOGAN SQUARE

For breakfast or brunch, breaking bread at Jam
Photo Credit: Ken Carl

For breakfast or brunch, breaking bread at Jam (3057 W. Logan Blvd., 773-292-6011, jamrestaurant.com) is a must. Located in Chicago's hipster-filled Logan Square nabe, this sparse spot helmed by celebrated chef Jeffrey Mauro, formerly of Charlie Trotter's, is only open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed Wednesdays) and doesn't take reservations. Menu standouts include the malted custard French toast with thick slices of brioche, macerated cherries, lime leaf cream and pink peppercorns and a new take on a Nicoise salad with grilled octopus, poached egg and red grapes.

HYDE PARK

Reminiscent of a diverse area in Brooklyn, Hyde
Photo Credit: A10

Reminiscent of a diverse area in Brooklyn, Hyde Park is about 20 minutes from the Loop on a stretch of Chicago's south side where the Obamas lived (there's a sidewalk plaque commemorating their first kiss) and near the University of Chicago. There you'll find newcomer A10 (1462 E. 53rd St., 773-288-1010, a10hydepark.com). Named after a road that runs through France and Italy, the cuisine reflects the regional influences. The menus change often, inspired by seasonal ingredients, but there's always a yummy pasta, burger or seafood dish.

THE LOOP

Steak and seafood lovers won't want to miss
Photo Credit: David Burke's Primehouse

Steak and seafood lovers won't want to miss David Burke's Primehouse (55 E. Ontario, 312-337-1000, jameshotels.com), Chicago's top-rated steakhouse. Located in The James Hotel Chicago steps from the tony Michigan Avenue shopping district dubbed the Magnificent Mile, the restaurant serves hand-selected beef that is dry-aged in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room on the property. For lunch, mouthwatering menu options include the chef's acclaimed 40-day dry-aged steak burger.

WICKER PARK

Ramen is the latest foodie craze, and Oiistar
Photo Credit: Flickr / opacity

Ramen is the latest foodie craze, and Oiistar (1385 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-360- 8791, oiistar.com) in Wicker Park -- home to indie boutiques, bookstores and galleries -- is where to get the city's most coveted bowl of the wiry house-made noodles. Order the Oiimen, a traditional Japanese-style ramen with pork broth, pork belly, egg, scallion and tree-ear mushroom or a fusion variety like Musclemen with mussels, chili pepper, scallion and bonito miso or Tikkamen, with chicken, masala, bean sprout, nori and roasted sesame.

RIVER NORTH

Located in downtown's River North section near the
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sable Kitchen & Bar

Located in downtown's River North section near the Chicago River and the fast fashion shops on State Street adjacent to Kimpton's Hotel Palomar Chicago is Sable Kitchen & Bar (505 N. State St., 312-755-9704, sablechicago.com) -- a culinary destination for hotel guests and locals alike thanks to Chef Terhune's creative, shareable comfort food. Try pairings like mini lobster rolls and baked mac-n-cheese, and pan-seared scallops and sweet corn crème brûlée.

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