We're just weeks away from the start of our 2017 Taste America national tour, a ten-city run of spectacular dining events and exciting culinary programming celebrating the best of American cuisine from coast to coast. With such a wide breadth of fantastic food available across the country, we asked this year's James Beard Award winners from each region of our Best Chefs in America to give some guidance on their favorite local haunts. Below, we tapped Best Chef: Great Lakes winner Sarah Grueneberg of Chicago's Monteverde for her top Windy City recs.
Date Night: Shaw's Oyster Bar
I go here with my fiancé Jaime for any type of date: either a date lunch or a date night on a day off. Our favorite place to sit is at the bar with an ice-cold dirty gin martini with freshly shucked oysters. The vibe of the room is just old–school Chicago and super laidback and fun. The service staff is very welcoming and that keeps us coming back again and again.
Cheap Eats: Cruz Blanca
I'm currently obsessed with their tlayuda, an Oaxacan masa tostada that is more like a pizza. The super-thin crunchy tlayudas are smeared with black beans, local cheddar, and drizzled with Guajillo salsa. It's the perfect quick, affordable bite. Depending on how much time I have, I’ll enjoy it with a mezcal margarita.
Breakfast/Brunch: Café Marie-Jeanne
This is a cute local neighborhood spot that is just doing everything right. It has a wonderful European café vibe with daily specials that are truly unique. We love the European-inspired brunch à la carte menu with dishes like fried chicken livers, a smoked and cured fish menu, and other craveable dishes. I always add an order of hash browns, too—that's a must!
This is one of my favorite newer spots near Monteverde. It's a good mix of cocktail lovers and industry. We all share the same sentiment of wanting really good crafted cocktails. The bar also has a cool Midwest/Wisconsin feel too. I suggest ordering the pink squirrel for the table. They make a perfect sazerac, too.
Bakery/Desserts: The Bakery at Fat Rice
They are doing something no one else is really offering in Chicago, which are chef-driven Asian (Macanese) baked goods. Must-order items are chef Abe Conlon’s pastel de nata, an egg custard filled with love and secrets; and the Hotdog Bun, a Chicago-style dog tricked out with some classic fixins.