The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Restaurant Week: Chuck's Picks

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Feb 19, 2010 8:00PM

2009_02_20_CRW.jpg The skyline of our fair city is much more beautiful looking and complete from the South Side than the North, where it always seems like it opens up in stages. Likewise, some of my favorite restaurants are located south of Madison Street. With Restaurant Week beginning today and running through the end of the month, I thought that now might be an ideal time for readers to venture "out South" and see how things are done.

Parrot Cage: This restaurant, located in the South Shore Cultural Center, is staffed by students of the Washburne Culinary Institute of Kennedy-King College and boasts alumni such as Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven), John Meyer (BJ's Market and Bakery), Freddy Sanchez (Adobo Grill), and Reymundo Villalobos (Art Smith's chef de cuisine at Table Fifty-Two. The combination of students honing their basic culinary skills in a locally historic setting is one that all diners should try at least once. Start off with a frisee salad tossed in a blood orange vinaigrette with avocados, beets, goat cheese and caramelized walnuts. From there, order the seafood risotto (creamy arborio rice, shrimp, clams, catfish, mussels with sun dried tomatoes, white wine and shallots), and house made ice cream or sorbet.

Anthony has long raved about Mercat a la Planxa in the South Loop. I've always preferred lunch here; it's not as complicated and I'm in and out faster. In a major case of irony, I (who writes "important pieces on restaurants that serve pork") is going lighter and red-meat free. Start off with pimientos de padron (fried peppers, salbitxada and sea salt), follow that up with vieries i alberh'nia (diver scallops a la planxa, eggplant puree and artichoke confit) before topping that all off with croquetas de chocolata (milk chocolate croquettes with banana marshmallow, rosemary caramel and arbequino olive oil).

Something about the Chicago Firehouse appeals to me. I think it's the atmosphere and interior combined with service that is top notch, from the hosts to the busmen. Their regular menus, while hit or miss, do have standouts that make me come back. The Firehouse has put together a Restaurant Week menu. I'd try their blackened Prime tenderloin tips, served with au poivre sauce. Follow that with chicken limone with Yukon gold roasted potatoes, baby spinach, capers and lemon butter sauce, and apple Brown Betty.