Stories / Awards, Guides and Tips

How to Eat Like a Rising Star Chef in Chicago

2018 Nominee Sarah Rinkavage's Can't-Miss Spots

Hilary Deutsch

April 10, 2018


Photo: Jeff Marini

You know that cool friend who's always brimming with great restaurant recs and insider tips? We've got 'em beat: enter the 2018 James Beard Award nominees for Rising Star Chef of the Year, the best of the country's up-and-coming toques. These young innovators are changing the national dining landscape, and also happen to have a lot to say about the best places to chow down. Read on to hear from Sarah Rinkavage, of Chicago hot spot Marisol, for her favorite local haunts for the best hot pot, fried smelts, baked goods, and beyond.

Date Night

My boyfriend and I frequent Rootstock for our date nights. It’s super cozy and intimate. We love their wine selection and always look forward to trying a bottle of something new. And we both share a love for boquerones and shareable plates to enjoy with wine. It also helps that they serve food until 1 A.M. so we can pop in for a date that fits in with my late schedule! Then we always end up going to California Clipper for fun cocktails and great music. 

Another favorite spot of ours for dates is MFK; it's also super cozy and intimate. We love seafood, so we know that we can always get simple, Spanish-influenced seafood dishes here. And then we end the night at Delilah’s, known for their expansive whiskey selection. 

Cheap Eats

Joy Yee Noodle is my favorite place to go for a filling meal. Their hot pot is never ending. It’s a great way to spend hours eating and talking with friends on a budget, and is especially great on a windy and cold winter night. 

Calumet Fisheries (a JBF America's Classics Award winner) is definitely a trip away, but it's so worthwhile. I love getting smoked sable fish and smoked shrimp, as well as some fried smelts, and packing them to go to have a picnic by Lake Michigan. 


Spinning J is a cute spot right near my apartment. I rarely eat breakfast, but if I do I crave their smoked trout bialy with giardinera. And since my breakfast usually consists of coffee, tea, or fresh juice, my favorite spot for that is Caffe Streets. I love the Metric Coffee that they serve (which we also have at Marisol), and they have great bottles of fresh juice, as well. In the summer there's a nice front patio to sit on.


Whirlaway is, by far, my favorite dive bar with the sweetest woman running it. Maria, the owner, is an amazing woman who runs the bar, and has become my Chicago mother. It’s got that basement feel that every dive bar should have, plus cheap drinks. 

Matchbox is also great and serves classic cocktails in a small, fun, unpretentious atmosphere. 

The Charleston is one of those places where you always run into an old friend (or five) and they’re always playing great music. They keep a really good selection of local alcohol and the new trends on the rise. 


Cellar Door Provisions is a beautiful spot that serves as both a bakery and restaurant. The breads are well crafted and the baked goods are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. They offer great seasonal breakfast and lunch fare, as well.

Learn more about the 2018 James Beard Awards or subscribe to our Awards newsletter for breaking news. 


Hilary Deutsch is digital media coordinator at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.