Six farm-to-table restaurants for spring
C-House Chef Nicole Pederson brings comforting flavors and Midwestern purveyors to celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson’s fish house. Her menu changes with the seasons, but look for balance in dishes such as garlic soup studded with crispy frog legs and pickled spring onions or pan-seared sturgeon with Swiss chard, roasted fingerling potatoes and potato puree. Pastry chef Melissa Trimmer ends meals on a high note with finales such as goat-cheese fritters with strawberry or a sorrel ice-cream float with blueberry soda. Sweets aren’t your thing? End with a cocktail on the rooftop bar, C-View. 166 E Superior St (312-523-0923). El: Red to Chicago. Bus: 3, 4, 26, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 151. Breakfast, brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average main course: $22.
erwin The namesake chef-owner here has a knack for the kind of food people want to eat, and he’s been delivering it to Chicago for almost two decades. There’s no fusion or piled-high presentations—just good, solid food. Expect seasonal soups, classic salads, pan-roasted fish and grilled meats, with standouts like wood-grilled flank steak with smoked Gouda mashed potatoes, and what’s surely in the running for the best roasted chicken in town, served with Yukon-gold potato gratin. 2925 N Halsted St (773-528-7200). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Diversey. Bus: 8, 76. Brunch (Sun), dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $18.
Lula Cafe This Logan Square favorite has one of our favorite seasonally driven menus. You’ll probably wait for a seat during weekend brunch, but the famous eggs Florentine and red-pepper strata will make the wait worth it. Local eggs and sausage pair perfectly with the black sambal Bloody Mary or blackberry Bellini. At night, try creative specials that range from crispy suckling pig with smoked eel to chickpea and green garlic crêpes with morel mushrooms. 2537 N Kedzie Blvd (773-489-9554). El: Blue to Logan Square. Bus: 56, 74. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner (closed Tue). Average main course: $16.
Markethouse We realize you’re not likely to rush over to the DoubleTree for dinner (deep-pocketed remodeling or not) without the promise of deliciousness, so consider this an endorsement. Executive chef Scott Walton puts out flavorful, smart, well-executed comfort classics, slightly updated with seasonal flair. Four-meat meatloaf wrapped in caul and served with roasted spring vegetables is a standout, while housemade country pâté and a salad of asparagus, smoked duck and Meyer lemon are fantastic starts. A simple ending of butterscotch bread pudding seals the deal on a surprisingly good meal. 300 E Ohio St (312-224-2200). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 2, 3, 66, 157. Breakfast, brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average main course: $26.
North Pond When you’re only a few feet from a pond in the middle of Lincoln Park, you’re as close to wilderness as it gets in the city. Even more so when you sample Bruce Sherman’s creations, concocted with as much locally grown food as he can get his hands on. Sherman’s ever-changing offerings—marrow-crusted charred flat iron steak with rutabaga cake, smoked French horn mushrooms in a porcini-madeira soup—are lovely reminders of the season in case you can’t get a window table. 2610 N Cannon Dr (773-477-5845). Bus: 76, 151, 156. Brunch (Sun), dinner (Tue–Sun). Average main course: $30.
Charlie Trotter’s Night after night, Trotter proves that not only did he train the younger talent in town, but he can still school them. À la carte doesn’t exist here, so go full throttle with the impeccable eight-course tasting menu and tack on wine pairings; this team hits them out of the park. Trotter changes the menu every other week or so, but his salutations to the season include dishes like Millbrook Farm venison loin with coriander, preserved pearl onions and hedgehog mushrooms. 816 W Armitage Ave (773-248-6228). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Armitage. Bus: 8, 73. Dinner (Tue–Sat). Average degustation: $140.