5 Tasting Menu Restaurants With Slightly More Affordable Bar Menus guide image

CHIGuide

5 Tasting Menu Restaurants With Slightly More Affordable Bar Menus

Because you deserve nice things.

Chicago has so many tasting menu restaurants, there’s probably one standing behind you right now. These meals can be some of the best in the city—but they’re usually very expensive, and require reservations made weeks in advance. That’s where this guide comes in. These are the best tasting menu spots in Chicago that have slightly more affordable bar menus because you deserve nice things, no matter what your bank account is telling you.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Garrett Sweet

Oriole imageoverride image
9.2

Oriole

$$$$

661 W. Walnut St, Chicago
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Oriole in the West Loop will give you one of the best meals of your life for $285. But you don’t have $285. So make a reservation for a “nightcap” at their lounge, where you can order incredible cocktails, and the world’s best ham sandwich made with ham, mortadella, and raclette. You’ll be pampered by the same incredible service, and still get to hang out ​​in a space that’s fancy but not at all  stuffy. Plus, you’ll have a view of the open kitchen, which will very likely inspire you to save up for a meal here.   


Lincoln Park’sEsmé is one of our highest-rated restaurants in the city. But casually waltzing in for their $235 15-course tasting menu when your check engine light has been on since the Obama administration isn’t very responsible. Luckily, their a la carte restaurant next door, Bar Esmé, is a great alternative for a similar experience. Bar Esmé serves dishes like giant Flamin’ Hot Cheetos that look like a surrealist bouquet, or the Iberico pork loin that’s paired with pillowy spaetzle and a burnt onion jus. The bright space is small, but reservations are easy to book and it’s even possible to walk in.


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After is a cocktail lounge in the West Loop from the same team (and right next door) to the fancy tasting menu restaurant Ever. Like its sister spot, this place is luxurious—there’s a circular glowing bar that looks like it was designed by Apple, and there's a private couch area with a fireplace. Sure the cocktails are fantastic, but we’d come here just for the food, like wagyu skewers or crispy Vietnamese duck wings glazed in a sweet and savory fish sauce. Drinks are pricey (hovering around $23) and so is the food, but it’s nowhere near as traumatizing as Ever’s $325 price tag. Plus, you can fit a lot of skewers in your purse.


This restaurant is in an old house, and both the space and service are upscale without being too formal. They serve a nine-course $285-385 tasting menu at tables right next to the kitchen, which you’ll walk right by on your way to the bar. That’s where you can eat a la carte dishes like wild boar pate en croute, tenderloin with truffle, and a bunch of other rich, comforting dishes. They might not be plated with the same tweezerly love, but are still incredible, and none of them cost as much as a car payment.


photo credit: Sandy Noto

Wherewithall imageoverride image
8.2

Wherewithall

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open table

In the world of Chicago tasting menus, Wherewithall in Avondale is downright affordable, clocking in at $85 for four courses. But you know what’s even more affordable? Their bar menu. That’s where you can order dishes like steak frites, prawns, and various other snacks ranging in price from $5-$25. And just like the restaurant, the casual front bar area feels like you’re  hanging out at a dinner party, but with no appetizers from Trader Joe’s. Plus, there’s a lovely secluded courtyard for when it’s nice enough to hang outside.

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Suggested Reading

The 10 Most Exciting Tasting Menus In Chicago Right Now guide image
Guide
The 10 Most Exciting Tasting Menus In Chicago Right Now

Our favorite tasting menu restaurants in the city.

Claudia review image
8.9
Review
Claudia

Claudia is a fancy tasting-menu spot in Bucktown with a frequently changing menu.

Oriole review image
9.2
Review
Oriole

Oriole is an outstanding tasting menu spot in the West Loop.

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