Lincoln Park’s Esmé is one of our highest-rated restaurants in the city, but with a $235 price tag, casually waltzing in for their tasting menu isn't always feasible. Luckily, their a la carte restaurant next door, Bar Esmé, is a great alternative for a similar experience without having to use nothing but candlelight for a month to try and save up. Seating in the bright, modern dining space is limited, but reservations are easy to book and it’s possible to walk in, making it great for a date night or an upgrade to a casual dinner with a couple friends.
Dishes like giant flamin’ hot cheetos that look like a surrealist bouquet or buttery sunchoke frites with a tangy bravas sauce are excellent starters. But one of the best dishes is the Iberico pork loin—juicy pieces of meat paired with pillowy spaetzle, and a burnt onion jus that we want to carry in a flask everywhere we go. They also have an impressive wine and spirit list, and though they don’t have a cocktail menu, their bartenders can whip up something delicious based on your preferences.