CHIReview

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Atelier image
8.1

Best New Restaurants

2023

Atelier

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American

Lincoln Square

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSpecial OccasionsDrinking Good Wine
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Atelier in Lincoln Square definitely checks the fine dining boxes. This New American restaurant serves a $165 ($190 on weekends) 10-course tasting menu full of pretty dishes that graduated from Tweezer University. But while some fine dining spots feel uptight and pretentious, Atelier radiates the genuine warmth of a no-B.S. smile throughout the entirety of its delicious two-hour dinner.

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

This spot should be uncomfortable. In the wrong hands, the tiny, eight-table space could feel sterile and claustrophobic. But quirky touches, like rustic tables and plates from an estate sale fever dream, add personality. The hum of conversation mixed with music bouncing between rock, bluegrass, and hip-hop keeps it from feeling eerily intimate. Servers bond with you over Michigan wine and talk about mushrooms from a nearby farm like they’re best friends. And though the open kitchen is constantly busy, it’s impressively quiet, never disrupting the restaurant’s sense of calm. 

Like how the playlist jumps between genres, each course at Atelier jumps between continents. A lot is going on, but it never feels chaotic because the transitions between flavors and cuisines are smooth. 

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Atelier image

photo credit: John Ringor

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Atelier image
Atelier image

One moment you’re snacking on a very American Lunchable-reuben crossover: crackers topped with buttery beef cheek pastrami, thousand island dressing, and sauerkraut. Then you might be enthusiastically slurping Japanese yuba noodles in nutty sweet potato dashi, or ruminating over a Wonka-esque bite of pheasant and apple crisp that tastes like a Thanksgiving meal. The food is complex and technical, but not overly serious—especially when dishes like a cute mini cider donut and a tiny mug of coffee milk land on your table for dessert. 

With so much that's great, any shortcoming feels glaringly obvious. Leek fondue with roe is an exciting upgrade to sour cream and onion dip, but the potato chips are too light and thin to stand up to the rich cream and fish eggs. The pain perdu is a playful take on PB&J, but the salty pecan butter overpowers the subtle whipped grape jam. And though they’re good, we wish they had more than three cocktails—but at least they have a long wine list and a few pairings, including a non-alcoholic cocktail option.

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

In the grand scheme of the Chicago tasting menu ecosystem, Atelier is a fairly straight shooter. It’s not a loud BYOB spot that might evolve (or devolve) into an all-out party after the chefs take a few shots, or a place that will paint your table with ice cream. But it’s a memorable fine-dining experience that embraces casual elegance and pairs great food with fantastic service. That timeless combination is perfect whether you’ve been saving up to celebrate, or just want a nice dinner to spice up a very mundane Wednesday night.

Food Rundown

Dishes Change Regularly, But Here Is An Example Of What You Can Expect:

Atelier image

photo credit: John Ringor

Beef Cheek Pastrami

This is one of the little, snack-sized dishes in the opening Larder section of the meal. The thin slivers of meat are nicely balanced by sweetness and tang from thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, horseradish, and lacto-fermented ketchup. It all pairs perfectly with the side of housemade crackers.

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photo credit: Veda Kilaru

Leek Fondue

This is also part of the Larder course. The richness from the the leek fondue and roe is satisfying, but overpower the too-thin potato chips.

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Yuba Noodle Soup

Sweet, nutty, spicy—there's so much complexity coming from this sweet potato dashi. The tofu skin noodles are bouncy and light-complementing the very flavorful broth perfectly.

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Pheasant

The combination of pheasant thigh, breast, and organ meat is rich and meaty, but counterbalanced with sweetness from the apple crisp and apple butter. Strong hints of nutmeg and cinnamon make each bite reminiscent of a holiday meal, minus any family drama.

Atelier image

photo credit: John Ringor

Pupusas

The pupusas have a crispy exterior and pillowy center. They're stuffed with both squash and mozzarella, and the cheese is masked by the sweetness from the filling. Luckily, the accompanying salsa roja and curtido help to balance that sweetness out.

Atelier image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Cake Donut

The apple cider donut is pleasantly fluffy, and we wish we had a fountain of the coffee milk in our apartments. Not only is this our favorite dessert, it's one of the best dishes in the entire tasting menu.

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FOOD RUNDOWN