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


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.


photo credit: Garrett Sweet

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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.

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
The 10 Most Exciting Tasting Menus In Chicago Right Now

Our favorite tasting menu restaurants in the city.

Oriole review image

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

Elske review image

Elske is a tasting menu spot in West Loop that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and we’re big fans.

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