Column Editors: Nicole Ameduri (Licensing Manager, Springer Nature)
and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Nicole Ameduri, Springer Nature Licensing Manager, loves eating her way through conferences. Through some random twist of fate or luck, she ended up with a number of chefs, restaurant managers, famous sommeliers and food writers in her close circle of friends. They have steered her in the right direction for every destination on her calendar.
Nicole’s Picks — Restaurants
#1. Duck Duck Goat: I had to start with Duck Duck Goat because it’s where Lisa and I met for the first time. It started out with Lisa saying “I don’t know why you invited me.” I think you can tell from the below photo that we decided to be friends over that incredible meal. We were joined by my colleagues Bobbi Patham and Prathik Roy.
The lounge where we waited when we arrived is done in emerald tones, with a polished wood ceiling. We dined in an all red room with pink floral wallpaper and fringed lamps.
We excitedly ordered a whole fish, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, it arrived covered in mint, which I’m allergic too. The waiter felt badly even though it wasn’t his fault so the restaurant kept sending over new dishes to explore, on the house, including a divine Sichuan eggplant with bits of goat sausage.
Duck Duck Goat serves high-end Chinese but, it’s done in a unique way. There are hit dishes everywhere you look. The kitchen produces fresh doughs daily, noodles are hand-pulled and soup dumplings are made to order. My favorite dishes are the shrimp dishes. The shrimp dumplings are impressive, cooked in a koushuiji sauce. (Koushuiji is a traditional chili sauce usually used with chicken.) Shrimp toast, made with bread from Little Goat Diner, is topped with greens and fermented cauliflower. There are a couple of delightful desserts such as the mango coconut cloud with coconut sponge cake, dragon fruit and kiwi and almond tofu topped with candied almonds and black vinegar sauce.
The fun beverage program includes canned beer, attractively priced wines and whimsical cocktails.
The Boka Restaurant Group, which also owns Girl & The Goat and Little Goat Diner, has established an Employee Relief Fund. 100% of all collected donations will go to the amazing people that work in their restaurants. In addition to this fundraising effort, Kevin Boehn and Rob Katz have personally donated $100,000 to help their employees. You can donate at bokagrp.com/fund.
Address: 857 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607, duckduckgoatchicago.com.
#2. Funkenhausen: My former work wife, Gretel Webster, introduced me to Funkenhausen on marathon Sunday. I was famished after running/cheering all day. I clocked in a total of 18 miles even though it wasn’t my race. Gretel made me run in (figuratively) to order while she parked so that we wouldn’t miss the happy hour specials.
Funkenhausen is in a design conscious space, with brass globe lamps and pristine wood beams. It looks like it belongs in a design magazine.
It’s one of Chicago’s best German restaurants. Chef Mark Steuer draws inspiration from his South Carolina upbringing and German heritage to create dishes like those he grew up with. This funky love child of Southern and Bavarian flavors is a soulful mash-up of cuisines and cultures. They offer a cheery brunch featuring cheekily named dishes like schnitz & grits. The Oysters Hockafeller boasts bits of ham hock, creamed spinach, pickled chiles, and chicharrón. Whether spinning out variations on spaetzle and dumplings or dressing up bivalves the flavor combinations are well calibrated.
All of the beers on tap are German and they have a hopping happy hour with relentless three-ounce Kölsch pours. A tightly curated wine list focuses on high-acid, food-friendly Old World varietals.
Funkenhausen is still open for delivery and take out Tuesday through Saturday from 4pm-8pm and Friday & Saturday from 12pm-4pm.
Address: 1709 W Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60622, funkenhausen.com.
#3. Fulton Market Kitchen: The West Loop/Fulton Market is my favorite neighborhood in Chicago. This former meatpacking area is full of high profile restaurants. I last dined at Fulton Market Kitchen during the MLA Conference and was joined by librarians from the University of New England and New York Medical College.
Fulton Market Kitchen serves as an art gallery and is committed to local art. The restaurant offers a weekly residency, where an artist spends five days creating one or more pieces in full view of diners. Guests are encouraged to engage.
The building maintains that warehouse feel. There is one main large dining area with tables around the edge and high tops in the middle, with a couple smaller rooms offering a more low-key vibe. It’s a creative space showcasing large scale murals and pop art.
Inspired by ingredients sources locally in the Midwest, Fulton Market Kitchen’s menu is a culmination of Chef Curran’s focus on the craft of cooking and use of seasonal produce. The result is an interesting yet approachable variety of refined, rustic dishes that are ideal for tasting and sharing, which we did. I miss those days. My favorite smaller plate is the roasted glazed carrots with whipped goat cheese, honey and crushed pistachio. This dish reminded me of a Yotam Ottolenghi creation. There are brussels sprouts tossed in chile, garlic paste bacon and almonds. I also love the smoked potatoes served with scallion mayo for a good shared appetizer or side dish. My favorite entrée is the halibut with spring succotash in a chowder emulsion. A very good half-chicken picks up umami notes from truffle butter and arrives with a side of roasted root vegetables.
Pastry Chef Becca Zuckerman’s sweets are not to be missed. I like the oat panna cotta with poached rhubarb, candied oats and crème de violet best. There’s a walnut financier accompanied by freeze dried banana, caramel and walnut ice cream. They have s’mores on the menu with a delicious brown butter cake, marshmallows and smoked milk chocolate ganache.
There are some fine cocktails here, including a Char of the Ages made with my favorite bourbon from Buffalo Trace, Don Ciccio Nocino, Sfumato Amaro, mole bitters and bourbon barrel smoke rise and the East of West that is made with Illegal Mezcal, Lejay Cassis, hibiscus thyme syrup and lemon.
Address: 311 N Sangamon St. Chicago, IL 60607, fultonmarketkitchen.com.
#4. The Dawson: I’ve been hosting events here for years. The service is impeccable and the staff go above and beyond to make sure that guests are taken care of from the bottles of champagne on the house to the GM giving me his jacket to wear while dining outside because I looked chilly.
The Dawson is a River West restaurant, bar and gathering place celebrating the craft of food, drink and hospitality and its Michelin rated for 2020. It has all you can ask for in a gastropub — a convivial vibe and clever dishes.
The Dawson has a two-story foyer with a grand staircase, custom tiles and lighting, hand crafted woodwork and abundant natural light. There is ample outdoor seating and there are fireplaces in the garden to extend the outdoor dining season. A communal table and open kitchen with counter offer multiple opportunities for meeting, greeting and eating. I really like the design of this space.
The food is delicious. Guests can nibble on chicken fried lobster with spicy ranch or roasted cauliflower with a boldly spiced masala. In the summer time I like to start with the oysters. My go-to entrée is the Ora King Salmon with fennel purée, broccolini and chive oil. The bourbon caramel blondie sundae is the stuff of dessert dreams.
A wraparound bar pours stirring libations. Speaking of which, the Alvarado Dreaming with tequila, sage and house-made elderflower tonic is on draft and spirited guests can’t get enough of it. For whisky lovers they have the allocated Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year and Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year. Did you know that Van Winkle is made at the Buffalo Trace Distillery? (As an aside, you must visit Buffalo Trace if you haven’t. It’s on beautiful land that smells just as magical as it looks. It’s my favorite along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.) For those who prefer something alcohol free, they have mocktails. My go-to is the Thunder Live with pineapple, ginger beer and cream.
Gage Hospitality has set up an Employee Relief Fund. https://www.gofundme.com/f/gage-hospitality-group-emloyee-relief-fund?fbclid=IwAR3NQppnnOoZMeyRp8Kcke705DeR4s4JX5302LIxHLYzlaWDj3QZUlqoCWw
Address: 730 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60654, the-dawson.com.
As a self-confessed “foodie,” Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe is always on the lookout for new gastronomic experiences during her travels. From food truck to fine china, Lisa takes every place on its own terms and enjoys the range of hospitality the world offers. Lisa’s research skills as a librarian serve her well in finding the best spots in every conference city. Joe Esposito says: “If you are meeting Lisa somewhere, always let her choose the venue.”
Lisa’s Picks – From Coffee to Cocktails in Chicago
Since we won’t be gathering together in Chicago for the American Library Association Conference as we had planned, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to share how you can bring a bit of the best of Chicago’s tastiness to your home.
#1. Intelligentsia Coffee: With multiple locations and a significant distribution network, Intelligentsia Coffee is one of my favorites both in Chicago as well as at home. The Millennium Park Coffeebar location is perfectly located as a treat after visiting one of the fantastic exhibits at the Chicago Cultural Center (a beautiful building that once housed the Chicago Public Library). Or, take you coffee creation to go and cross the street to meander through Millennium Park. For now, consider a shipment of Black Cat Espresso or another roast to accompany your at-home reading and maybe add a Pay It Forward Coffee contribution to Chicago’s essential workers.
#2. Frontera Grill: Rick Bayless is renowned for introducing the American palette to the nuances and complexities of Mexican cuisine and its regional variations. Chicago is home to not only Frontera Grill — one of my go-to places — but also his upscale and street food spots, Topolobampo and Xoco respectively. And, of course Tortas Frontera is an O’Hare must-stop for travelers domestic and international. O’Hare is my “local” airport in that I transit through there on almost every trip. Since I’m not flying these days, I’m getting my Frontera fix through the wide array of options from Frontera Foods. I’m particularly partial to the Original Guacamole Mix and the Lime & Sea Salt Tortilla Chips. Perfect pairing for your summer margarita! Rick is also doing live cooking demonstrations and providing information on how the restaurant group is supporting its workers.
#3. The Berkshire Room: The ACME Hotel is an excellent stop in the morning for the outpost of West Town Bakery they host, which serves Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee and some pretty amazing donuts but I prefer to make it a stop later in the day to grab a drink in The Berkshire Room. Old school wood paneling and a spacious lounge that features a range of intimate seating options, I’ve been happy with a large group, catching up with a close friend, and sitting by myself (the latter being my test of whether a cocktail lounge treats everyone right … and The Berkshire Room does). So, how do you bring this home? My favorite cocktail menu item is The Dealer’s Choice — one chooses a flavor profile, spirit, and glassware and the bartender creates a one-of-a-kind cocktail. How do I do this at home? Pull up your favorite web search box (I use Google, I admit), and type in “inventive cocktail” and the name of your spirit of choice. Add a fruit juice or mixer to the search if you want. Try it. Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite!
#4. The Aviary: Almost every city boosts a molecular gastronomy restaurant or two, but Grant Achatz turned it up a notch with The Aviary, the ticket-based molecular cocktail lounge. Whether you are at Alinea, Next, or The Aviary, Achatz serves up an immersive experience that is nothing like anything you’ve experienced before. Whether you love it or it is just too over the top, you have to admit it is unique. At The Aviary, not only are the cocktails bespoke but so is the serving and mixing glassware. A true design feast. How do you bring this to your home? You get a copy of The Aviary Cocktail Book, a recipe book that is also an an art book featuring truly gorgeous photography. Then, you study, plan, and finally execute on what will be some of the most spectacular creations of your home mixology resume. Or, you can pour a glass or wine or make a classic gin and tonic, and just browse, immersing yourself in the possibilities for your next spectacular evening out.