The next time you go out to eat, you can certainly order from the regular menu. No problem with that. But imagine how much better it would be to ask for top-secret menu items at some of Chicago’s hottest spots. These are the plates chefs only prepare for connoisseurs, so you’ll get the most delicious and creative meals, the kind the chef simply can’t provide for everyone who walks through the doors.
From burgers to sushi, you’ll delve into the chef’s imagination, trying dishes he could possibly put on the menu – or sampling dishes he dares not offer ordinary people because of everything from rarity of the ingredients used to the technical difficulties they encounter in making them. One thing is certain: you will enjoy a unique pleasure.
We’ve scoured Chicago’s best restaurants, bars, and hotels, using all our weight to convince chefs to reveal their secret dishes. Here is. Please do not share. You haven’t seen that here.
Sushi By Bou
Order this: The Big Mac
At this traditional omakase spot with three locations around town (our favorite is hidden behind a random door in Suite 202 at the Lincoln Hotel), you can grab a full omakase meal for just $50. Add the Yuzu Honey Bee cocktail (Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey syrup, yuzu, simple syrup, and pink peppercorn) and you’ll feel like you’re in Chicago. But go a step further and ask for the Big Mac, and you’ll have the power Mayor Lori Lightfoot cedes without the bad press. It’s even better than its fast-food namesake: Sushi By Bou’s Big Mac ($18) is an a la carte bite loaded with wagyu, scallops, otoro and uni. Close your eyes before taking a bite and ask your dining companions to be quiet. It is so good.
Pigtail by José Andrés
Order this: Smashburger
Jaleo Chicago’s lower-level speakeasy-style bar is known for its Iberian pork and bespoke cocktails. The tapas are so authentic that your tongue will be transported to Spain. Don’t sleep on the bao frito con lechón (homemade steam fried bread with glazed pork belly, marinated apple and piquillo mayo). This will whet your appetite for the secret menu item: the Iberico Smashburger ($60). The succulent burger is served on a brioche bun with caramelized onions and piparra mayonnaise, but the meat is the main show. It is accompanied by a glass of cava.
Order this: Karaage chicken sliders and fish liver tacos
This Michelin-recognized spot in Bucktown offers two dining experiences. The first floor is an izakaya-style lounge serving modernized Japanese comfort food, while the upstairs dining room is devoted to the 15-piece omakase (from $150). And since there are two dining experiences, there are also two secret menu items here. Start at the bottom and ask for the karaage chicken slider with crispy soy-marinated chicken and cabbage ($5), which is a hit with Hinoki regulars. Then, head upstairs and order the fish liver taco with crispy nori, fish liver and kampachi ($8). It’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted and you’ll wish it was on every secret menu.
Order this: Bouillabaisse at the bark
Chef Michael Lachowicz has two amazing (read: very fancy) restaurants in Winnetka, and it’s where you go when you want your fix of French cuisine. His secret item is one of his favorite recipes he’s created, and he occasionally adds it to the specialty menu when he’s feeling generous. But if you feel like it, you can also ask for it, and it will do it at any time. “After more than 35 years, I have many of these hidden gem dishes that I will prepare on demand for discerning guests,” he says. “Dishes like these make up my greatest hits collection.” Bouillabaisse à l’Aboyer is a mix of lobster sea bass roulade, Prince Edward Island mussels, clams, prawns and chanterelles in a classic bouillabaisse broth topped with a crouton rouille with saffron ($48).
Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse
Order this: Killer B Burger
This iconic Chicago restaurant is known for its steaks, and with good reason. But next time, order the Killer B Burger, which is made of wagyu beef sandwiched between the steak house’s fan-favorite garlic bread, topped with Nueske bacon and served with a bourbon vanilla milkshake. You’ll need a nap after that burger.
Grill on 21
Order this: old fashioned $100
Do you drink to impress? Then you’ve come to the right place. Chicago’s newest Modern American Grill offers a new and expensive take on a classic Old Fashioned, complete with Old Rip Van Winkle 10-Year-Old Bourbon, Gold Leaf, and Chinato Vermouth.
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