Sepia’s foie gras royale with sour cherry gelee, hazelnuts and brioche (Photo: Courtesy Sepia)
Chicago — it’s quite possibly the easiest town to celebrate a special occasion. Just look at our track record with parades. This city loves a birthday, anniversary or even the slightest raise. So, where’s the best place to blow out the candles on your birthday? Of course, there are always the staple two-starred Michelin restaurants offering tasting menus but be prepared to hand over a car payment and five hours of your life. Luckily, Chicago is ripe with other classy options dotted around town.
Boka has retained its Michelin star since 2010, which won’t break the bank but it will blow your mind. Chef Lee Wolen joined Boka as executive chef in 2014, an import from New York’s famed Eleven Madison Park, and Chicago has taken notice in a big way. The restaurant, opened since 2003, was given a complete facelift and features a stunning living wall in the solarium along with a sleek new look in the dining room and the lounge. Wolen is known for shopping the local farmers market to highlight simple ingredients with flawless execution.
What would Chicago be without at least one steakhouse on the list? It’s the Windy City’s pride and joy — a big hunk of meat accompanied by buttery endless sides. Chicago Cut happens to be a local favorite nestled on the river with great views inside and out, fabulous martinis and a swagger vibe. For those not so inclined to order from the land-lovers side of the menu, the seafood at Chicago Cut is over the top along with an abundant selection of veggies.
They may be the new kids on the block having opened in October 2014, but Momotaro is the hottest seat in town and perfect for any special occasion. The latest installment by the Boka Group, Momotaro serves impeccable Japanese cuisine in a spectacular main dining room with a funky Izikaya downstairs. Much of the fish being served is shipped in overnight from Japan, which has quickly given them the reputation as having some of the best sushi in Chicago. However, the menu includes 80-plus dishes in categories from the hibachi, over the coals, to hot and cold and then all the sushi. It’s an out-of-body Far East experience right in the Midwest.
Sepia is one classy joint that keeps on giving. Opened since 2007 in the West Loop, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2011 under Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman and has retained its one star rating since. Zimmerman is fiercely bound to his technical training yet showcases locally sourced ingredients that qualify as “imaginative American” dishes in one of the most charming spaces in Chicago. Sepia often flies under the radar because its been around for awhile; but Zimmerman is quite possibly one of the most talented chefs in Chicago and not to be missed, especially if you’re toasting something special.