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The Cool List: 10 Restaurants That Aren't "Hot" But Are Definitely Still Cool

PHOTO: Christina Slaton

We regularly get asked about the best brand new restaurants in Chicago, as well as about the all-time classics – and those categories are covered in our Hit List and Greatest Hits List.

But what about the places that get blown up for six months and then aren’t cool anymore as soon as everyone decides to move onto the new shiny thing? A lot of those places are still great. Let’s not allow them to become the N64 you stashed in your drawer when Playstation came out. We all remember how that went – the N64’s never went away because they're still great, particularly Mario Kart.

With that in mind, we present The Cool List, featuring still-excellent restaurants that are no longer “hot,” but definitely still cool.

The spots

1

The Purple Pig

500 N Michigan Ave
MAP

We're often guilty of overlooking The Purple Pig. Maybe because it's been around a while, maybe because they don’t take reservations, but most likely because it's located on the Magnificent Mile and walking over there always seems like such a terrible idea. But it's worth doing, because The Purple Pig serves great food and is always a lively spot. The extensive menu of small plates has something for everyone, but make sure to order at least one pig's ear.

Photo: Facebook/The Purple Pig
2
8.1
MAP

The hype machine decided Momotaro was the best restaurant ever before it opened. Then it opened, and shortly after nobody seemed to care it actually existed. Which is why we're here to remind you about it: the Fulton Market Japanese restaurant is a fun, trendy place where you can eat both sushi and interesting bites like a tomato tartar that tastes exactly like steak. There's also a basement izakaya that sneakily might be the best part of the whole operation.

3

Bavette's Bar and Boeuf

218 W. Kinzie St.
MAP

New steakhouses keep opening at a record pace, and they are all some sort of twist on the classic. But Bavette's was the first to do the revamped steakhouse thing a few years ago, and made an otherwise corporate concept feel exciting. The steaks and sides at Bavette's are traditional steakhouse, but the atmosphere has the style and character of a cool cocktail bar.

4
8.5
MAP

Angry Crab might be up in West Ridge, but a Cajun-style crawfish boil is never a bad idea. It's one of the only times we can say with confidence that wearing a bib is cool, and it will guarantee you have a great meal. Order a big bag of shellfish - make sure crawfish is involved - and be prepared to get covered in sauce while you eat delicious seafood.

5
7.8
MAP

Fulton Market and the West Loop continue to churn out new restaurants, so it's easy to forget about the ones that have been around a few years. But don't do that to La Sirena Clandestina. It's intimate enough for date night, but fun enough that you can go with a couple of friends, and the Brazilian-inspired food is something a little different for a change.

6
8.5
MAP

We're all in on trading the usual, stuffy French restaurant environment for the laid-back, rustic atmosphere at Maude's Liquor Bar. It's a much better vibe and still serves all the favorites you'd want with any French meal.

7

Gemini Bistro

Lincoln Park
2075 N Lincoln Ave
8.0
MAP

Forget remembering Gemini Bistro - do you even know it exists? It's not a hip restaurant in the West Loop, or River North, or Wicker Park, or Logan Square, or even Pilsen. Instead, Gemini Bistro is a hip restaurant in Lincoln Park - home of yoga moms and sh*tty college bars. But it's still a great place for a night out, and the menu is a good mix of American classics and more adventurous dishes.

8

Yusho

Avondale , Logan Square
2853 N Kedzie Ave
7.9
MAP

Yusho may be old news, but the inventive Japanese small plates are still exciting. You could come here just for ramen, which isn't a bad idea, but everything else at Yusho is more interesting. Try the fried chicken pork buns or the mentaiko bucatini with spicy cod roe, and don't forget the house sake canned especially for Yusho.

9

Osteria Langhe

2824 W Armitage Ave
MAP

Osteria Langhe has quietly established itself as a really good Italian restaurant that sits nicely between trendy and casual. This place puts a lot of emphasis on its antipasti - which you should definitely go deep on, as well as a couple things from the pasta and entree portions of the menu. Don't skip dessert.

10

Vincent

Andersonville
1475 W Balmoral Ave
8.2
MAP

Fact - if you pulled Vincent out of Andersonville and put it in River North, it would be the hottest date night restaurant in town. But one of the best parts about Vincent is the fact that it is in Andersonville, which makes it more approachable and casual (yet still date night worthy).

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