Our List of 2018 James Beard Award-Nominated Restaurants to Try in Chicago

 In Food, Guide

The James Beard Awards are often called the Oscars of the restaurant industry, singling out talented top chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs for creativity and excellence in the culinary arts. Notably, Chicago nearly always tops the list with extraordinary talent, ranging from authentic ethnic cuisine to a fusion of influences. Keep reading to learn more about this handful of James Beard Award-nominated restaurants and chefs in Chicago.

This Streeterville locale is just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, helmed by James Beard Award-nominee Sarah Rinkavage in the Best Rising Star Chef category. Stop by this elegant eatery for a refined lunch or delicious dinner, with entrees like the seared scallops, served with white yam, salsify, buttermilk and sorrel. Meat-lovers will enjoy Marisol‘s hanger steak, served with sunchokes, red onion and black currant.

As a semifinalist for best new restaurant, it’s no surprise that a wayward diner could likely find some of the best Vietnamese food in the city at HaiSous, located in the historic, vibrant Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s Lower West Side. Try the Xương Bò Kho, a braised short-rib dish served with oyster mushrooms, daikon and hoisin. Vegetarians will love the Cà Ri Chay, a Vietnamese-style curry served with carrots, sweet potato and daikon radish.

Mi Tocaya Antojería
Helmed by best chef semifinalist Diana Dávila, this laid-back Logan Square restaurant is a casual spot serving delicious, authentic Mexican cuisine—and also a James Beard Award semifinalist for best new restaurant. Try a few tacos, like the Milpa with charred butternut squash, chile, beans and corn crema or the Chucho’s Pollo, with smoked beer-can chicken and xoconostle.

best chicago restaurants james beard awards roister chicago alive magazine st louis

Photo courtesy of Roister.

Both elegant and casual, Roister in Chicago has developed into a destination point in the West Loop, with delicacies crafted by best chef nominee Andrew Brochu. All it takes is a quick look at the menu to see why: try the fried-chicken sandwich on the brunch menu, served with sunchoke hot sauce and chamomile mayo or smoked oysters, served with chipotle butter, epazote vinegar and French curry.

Fat Rice
Fat Rice in Chicago is an excellent example of the fusion trend done well, developed by best chef nominee Abraham Conlon. The menu showcases “a celebration of the unique cuisines of Portuguese-speaking Luso-Asian provinces, with an emphasis on Macau, China,” according to the locale’s “About” page. The soya chicken is a must-try for meat-lovers, served with ginger-soy, daikon, tea egg, mushrooms and leeks, or the sweet-and-sour tamarind tofu for vegetarians, served with fermented black beans, enoki mushrooms and ginger.

Parachute in the city’s Avondale neighborhood is another example of the possibilities opened up by the fusion trend, with a menu of Korean-American-themed dishes. Try the oysters with soju granita or vegetable tempura to start, then delve into the entrees with the yellowfin tuna served with leeks and kale or the bibim bop, served with confit chicken leg, chorizo and mussels. Chefs Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark are also best chef nominees this year.

Elske’s American fare tinged with Danish influences has already earned them legions of devoted diners in Chicago and is also a favorite for out-of-towners passing through. Best chef nominees David and Anna Posey serve up delicious meat and vegetable-centric dishes, like the celery-root risotto served with black truffle, candied hazelnuts and sherry as well as the grilled lamb loin, served with soured squash, farmer’s cheese and autumn olive capers.

best chicago restaurants james beard awards boka chicago alive magazine st louis

Photo courtesy of Boka Restaurant.

Chef and best chef nominee Lee Wolen of Boka and best chef nominee has transformed the restaurant into one of the best seasonal American restaurants in the city, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Treat yourself to elegant food in an upscale setting, like the grilled striped bass served with radish, shiitakes and Chinese broccoli or the charcoal grilled beets, served with pumpkin seeds, bitter greens, feta and licorice.

Upscale dining with a farm-to-table twist dictates much of the menu at Elizabeth, helmed by best chef semifinalist Iliana Regan, a self-taught cook who was brought up in the traditions of farming and homesteading. The current menu is an homage to the work of Wes Anderson and changes seasonally, with dishes like the Sam and Suzy Forage inspired by “Moonrise Kingdom,” a fitting roe-and-berry tart.

Big Jones
For a menu focused on Southern comfort food with a focus on sustainability, you’ll love the stylings of best chef semifinalist Paul Fehribach of Big Jones. Enjoy an artisan selection of whiskey and cocktails alongside dishes like the shrimp and grits, made from Laughing Bird sustainable shrimp, creamy antebellum heirloom grits, mushroom-and-tasso gravy, housemade Worcestershire and scallions. You’ll find more soul food dishes like this on the menu, with a creative twist.

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