5 Chicago Restaurants That Will Transport You Around the World

5 Chicago Restaurants That Will Transport You Around the World

Fodor's |
Jul 22, 2015

With dirt-cheap taco joints and trailblazing temples of haute cuisine—and everything in between—Chicago has one of the richest, most diverse, most satisfying food scenes in the United States. Of course, the city has hometown staples like deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and Chicago-style hot dogs, all of which are worthy of indulgence, but this is also a town where you where you can taste the flavors of the world. What’s more, certain restaurants and bars are paying increasing attention to décor, effectively conjuring other locales with their attention to design and furnishing, in addition to menus. Whether you want to pretend you’re near the beach in Santa Monica, in a bustling bistro in Paris, or at a hip Tokyo eatery, these five spots will make you feel like you’ve temporarily departed the Windy City—but happily you will not have.

SUMMER HOUSE SANTA MONICA

Summer House Santa Monica

The beaches on Lake Michigan are nice, but they’re a far cry from the sands of California. Still, if you’re looking for a taste of the SoCal experience, head to Summer House Santa Monica in Lincoln Park for a beach-house setting and sunny vibes no matter what time of year. White-lacquered wood, string lights, hanging plants, and a retractable glass ceiling set the scene for this casual spot, which takes advantage of the warmer months but manages to feel like an escape even in the depth of Chicago’s miserable winters, thanks to the sunshine and the wood-burning oven. (The restaurant’s main dining area is called the “Vitamin D Room.”)

The menu itself may not hew exactly to what you would find in Santa Monica, but the emphasis on light, fresh, and seasonal is authentic. Salads are lightly dressed, the excellent burrata is handmade daily, and the pastas are surprisingly the standouts of the menu. The lunch menu is limited, but at night you’ll find a greater emphasis on seafood, including sushi, and grilled steaks. The refreshing cocktails focus on fruit and herbal components, while the wine menu has a good amount of offerings from California, in particular the southern part of the state, a nice change from the Napa and Sonoma selections you can find everywhere else.

PARIS CLUB BISTRO & BAR

Paris Club Bistro & Bar

Paris Club originally opened its doors in the River North neighborhood in early 2011; at the time, it was a barn-sized brasserie with a nightclub upstairs and a see-and-be-seen crowd. These days, things are a bit different, as the space downsized, redecorated, and separated itself from the nightlife aspect, reopening as Paris Club Bistro & Bar in February 2014. The room has a classic look, with wooden paneling, leather banquettes, vintage French lithographs adorning the walls, and a handsome bar upfront. And the ambiance is different—better—more grown-up with an intimate, romantic vibe that puts the focus on the food rather than the people watching.

Paris Club Bistro & Bar

The menu of French classics, overseen by acclaimed chef Doug Psaltis, satisfies with familiar favorites, such as escargots in garlic butter, steak tartare, moules frites, and coq au vin. Still, you’ll find occasional touches of surprising luxury, as in a dish of lobster scrambled eggs topped with black truffle or profiteroles made with salted caramel, fleur de sel, and a rich chocolate sauce. The wine list features selections from Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, and southern France, as well as a handful of international selections that are identified as “French at Heart.” In a city where traditional, unfussy French food is hard to find, this restaurant is a welcome retreat.

RAMEN-SAN

Ramen-san

Occupying what was formerly half of Paris Club, Ramen-san has been slinging its bowls of ramen since March of last year. The space is airy and bright, with sand-colored brick walls, blonde-wood benches and tables, and an uncluttered bar that doubles as seating for countertop dining. The soundtrack, which might include hip-hop, is loud and upbeat, while Japanese signs and golden cat statues serve as the few decorations, making this feel like a place you might see young, hip diners if you were in Tokyo.

Ramen-san

Of course, the point of coming here is to eat ramen, and there are seven options on the menu; stick to the traditional tonkotsu option or, if you’re feeling like something more unique, opt for the kimchi and fried chicken bowl. Small plates include de rigueur offerings like gyoza and steamed buns stuffed with pork belly, but don’t overlook the spicy Szechuan chicken wings, irresistibly flavorful and messy, or the wonton stuffed with pork and shrimp, doused with umami-heavy XO sauce. For drinks there are sake bombs, ice-cold Asahi on draft, and a robust selection of Japanese whiskeys, a surprising find in this relatively modest space.

RPM STEAK

RPM Steak

Chicago has no shortage of great steakhouses, but RPM Steak brings a Vegas-sized dose of glitz and glamour to the sometimes-staid restaurant genre. A joint effort between hospitality group Lettuce Entertain You and celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic, RPM followed in the footsteps of RPM Italian, debuting in August 2014 and remaining a River North hot spot ever since. There’s no other way to put it: This is a sexy restaurant, with seductive lighting and spacious, half-moon banquettes lining the perimeter of the bar area, where you can perch and watch over the action in the main dining room.

RPM Steak

If the ambiance doesn’t make you feel like a high roller, the menu (and the fifty-page wine and spirits list) certainly will. Foie gras, lobster, bone marrow, and Wagyu beef all make appearances, as does a showy “millionaire’s potato,” a large spud that is baked twice then topped with fontina and black truffle. To start, take the advice of the wait staff and create your own appetizer by ordering both the thick-cut bacon with a bourbon-vanilla glaze and the coal-roasted king crab—combine bites of each to reach a hedonistic nirvana. If you wish, you can spend almost $200 on a 36-ounce steak or you can be reasonable and stick to the $39 steak frites—either way you won’t be disappointed.

THREE DOTS AND A DASH

Three Dots and a Dash

Sometimes you pass through an unmarked door, down a set of stairs, and suddenly you feel like you’re on a tropical island. That’s the case at Three Dots and a Dash, which opened in July 2013 but gained international recognition late last year when it appeared on an annual ranking billed as The World’s 50 Best Bars. (Yes, technically it is a bar, but they also serve food.) Ever popular, this downstairs den is a temple of Tiki-bar culture that both pays homage and brings a contemporary sensibility to Polynesian–themed drinking establishments. Sticking to a traditional Tiki-bar look, Three Dots and a Dash features bamboo, funky lighting, and all the other expected design elements without ever feeling too over-the-top.

Three Dots and a Dash

As for the drinks, there are sixteen of them: half are old recipes sourced from historic Tiki spots like Don’s Beachcomber Cafe, which opened in Hollywood in 1936, and the other half are new inventions that stick to the tried-and-true formula of rum, fruit, and various other fun ingredients. There are also group drinks served in large vessels shaped like clam shells, skulls, or ships; there’s also an ostentatious treasure chest designed for six to eight drinkers, which is served with a bottle of Dom Pérignon for a cool $385—you shouldn’t order one, but it’s fun to see it at a neighboring table nonetheless. The food menu features throwback items as well, including coconut shrimp, crab Rangoon, and a genuine Pu Pu platter that serves three to four tipplers, an ideal way to soak up those drinks at the end of the night.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

Openings
Now Open: Aba Brings Mediterranean Summer Vibes to Chicago
Jun 6, 2018

Aba is now open for dinner and with summer in Chicago almost here, we’ve got our eyes set on…

read more >
Openings
Ramen-san Sends Noods to Fulton Market
Jun 4, 2018

The second edition of Ramen-san (@ramensanchi) is now open, bringing the "San" vibe of broth, beer…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Negroni Week: Drink Up For Charity
Jun 2, 2018

Drink a Negroni and benefit a local charity? We're in. June 4-10 marks Negroni Week 2018, a…

read more >
In The Restaurants
A Gift Guide for the Food Lover in Your Life
Jun 1, 2018

Whether a birthday, graduation or any other of the countless holidays, we're here to make selecting…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Future of Tiki at Three Dots and a Dash
May 29, 2018

Three Dots and a Dash's Beverage Director, Kevin Beary, has been busy. While running the bar…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Unconventional Wine Regions of the World
May 24, 2018

Everyone loves a great Napa Cab or Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, but lately, our LEYE Wine…

read more >
How To
Here’s How to Make Pesto
May 21, 2018

Summer is upon us and one of our favorite seasonal condiments is pesto! You can make pesto with…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Brunch this Weekend
May 18, 2018

If you're anything like us, you plan your weekend around brunch. Here is your guide to all of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Farm(ers Market) Right to Your Table: Brunch at Stella Barra
May 17, 2018

Chef / Partner Jeff Mahin (Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra Pizzeria, M Street Kitchen and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to Eat Lunch
May 11, 2018

For that one hour escape from your office, you want to make sure to make most of your lunch hour.…

read more >
In The Restaurants
21 Dishes for Celiac Awareness Month
May 7, 2018

May is Celiac Awareness Month, so we've rounded up our favorite gluten-free dishes that you have to…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Guide to the 26 Best Burgers to Try During National Burger Month
Apr 30, 2018

Burgers deserve a full month of celebrations which is why May has been declared National Burger…

read more >
In The Restaurants
In Season: Spring Peas
Apr 24, 2018

Spring has sprung and with the change in the season, our chefs have beautiful green veggies on their…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Happy Hour
Apr 21, 2018

It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Here are all the happy hour deals at select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Best Time of the Year: Patio Season
Apr 20, 2018

Warm weather is here, which means al fresco dining is too! We've rounded up the best patios at…

read more >
In The Restaurants
James Beard Eats Week 2018
Apr 17, 2018

James Beard Eats Week is back! From April 27-May 7 show your support of aspiring Chicago culinary…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Trending Now: Matcha
Apr 10, 2018

For all those who are matcha obsessed our chefs and mixologists have incorporated this…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Apr 8, 2018

Finding gluten-free friendly restaurants has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. At Lettuce…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Wait Is Over – The Three Dots and a Dash Mug Shop is Now Open
Apr 6, 2018

Looking for your tiki fix but can’t make it to Three Dots and a Dash? Not to worry! The online mug…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Celebrate Passover 2018
Mar 29, 2018

Join us for your Passover dinner this year on March 30 and March 31. Select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Easter 2018
Mar 28, 2018

Celebrate the end of Lent and bring the whole family in for Easter. Whether you're looking for…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Kid-Friendly Dining Options and Activities
Mar 15, 2018

You've been to the zoo, the beach, the pool... the kids are starting to get stir crazy. We've got…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Join RPM & Mercy Home’s March for Kids Campaign
Mar 10, 2018

Looking for a way to give back to the Chicago community? Join RPM Italian and RPM Steak this month…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Meet the Women Behind Some of Your Favorite Desserts
Mar 7, 2018

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8 (and every day) we want to give a shout out and…

read more >
How To
Giuliana Rancic Dishes on How To Throw An Award-Winning Oscar Party
Mar 2, 2018

The 90th Academy Awards are happening this Sunday, March 4th! With a little planning and some useful…

read more >
In The Restaurants
St Paddy’s Day 2018
Mar 1, 2018

St. Patrick's Day calls for corned beef, cabbage and all of the beer! Lucky for you, our restaurants…

read more >
How To
Perfect Pair: Ramen + Riesling
Feb 26, 2018

Winter in Chicago just begs for a large bowl of steaming hot ramen, so why not do it up right and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
This One’s For Our Indecisive Diners
Feb 26, 2018

For all of you indecisive order-ers out there - the "I want to order one of everything on the menu"…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce in Love: Weddings with Lettuce Parties
Feb 13, 2018

It's almost Valentine's Day and love is in the air. Believe it or not it's a tale as old as time (or…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Presidents Day 2018
Feb 8, 2018

Enjoy your long weekend on Presidents Day (Monday, February 19) by staying up late, sleeping in and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to go on Valentine’s Day 2018
Feb 4, 2018

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? It's right around the corner and there's lots of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Valentine’s Day Dishes Designed for Two
Feb 1, 2018

February 14 marks a day when it's appropriate, if not preferred, to share your food "Lady and the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Big Game 2018: Where to Watch and What to Carry-out
Jan 25, 2018

Need a place to watch the big game on Sunday, February 4, 2018? The below restaurants are a great…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Set Sail, Drink Wine and Celebrate
Jan 16, 2018

Do you like cruising and wine? Well, come aboard! Join Burt Wolf from PBS and Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
How To
Already Fell Off the Healthy New Year’s Resolution Wagon? Let’s Eat.
Jan 12, 2018

"New Year, Same Me" more your speed? Well, we're right there with you. Celebrate one of our favorite…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to Eat: Martin Luther King Day 2018
Jan 6, 2018

A long weekend calls for long brunches filled with sweet and savory treats. And don't forget about…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Cheers for Mocktails
Jan 3, 2018

If you're doing Dry January, mocktails are the perfect way to still enjoy Happy Hour without the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Our Chef’s Predictions and Resolutions for 2018
Jan 2, 2018

Our chefs aren't psychic but they do have a finger on the pulse of what's on the horizon for the New…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
Jan 2, 2018

Chef / Partner Jeff Mahin of Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra Pizzeria, M Street…

read more >
How To
You’ve Made Your Healthy Eating Resolution: Here’s How to Stay on the Wagon
Jan 2, 2018

When the new year strikes we all inevitably vow to eat healthy, exercise more, drink less; just be…

read more >

Recent Posts

How To
Re-Create Saranello’s Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi at Home
Jun 20, 2018

We know that everyone's schedule is busy between work, getting to the grocery store, soccer games…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Las Vegas Restaurant Week
Jun 19, 2018

Las Vegas Restaurant Week (June 18-29) has begun! With multicourse lunch and dinner specials running…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Tallboy Taco’s Boozy Rainbow Paleta Benefits the Center on Halsted
Jun 18, 2018

To celebrate Chicago Pride, Tallboy Taco is serving a limited-edition Rainbow Paleta available June…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Oh Marie, Take Us To Summer
Jun 14, 2018

Summer is in full swing and there's a newfound spring in Marie's step with il Porcellino's warm…

read more >
In The Restaurants
After 20 Years, Here’s 20 Things to Know About Mon Ami Gabi
Jun 14, 2018

Since 1998, Mon Ami Gabi has been serving up French classics like our signature Onion Soup Au…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Rich Says You’ve Gotta Try: Stella Barra Pizzeria
Jun 13, 2018

Summer time is typically synonymous with (trying to) eat lighter but what if we told you that what…

read more >
How To
Here’s How Bub City Celebrates the Best of American BBQ
Jun 11, 2018

Let’s stop for a moment and really think about… BBQ. Burning embers, fragrant smoke, saucey…

read more >
In The Restaurants
What’s New at Booth One: Breakfast, Brunch and a Bar Menu
Jun 7, 2018

We've got three things to add to your summer to do list! Booth One has rolled out a new weekday…

read more >
Openings
Now Open: Aba Brings Mediterranean Summer Vibes to Chicago
Jun 6, 2018

Aba is now open for dinner and with summer in Chicago almost here, we’ve got our eyes set on…

read more >
In The Restaurants
5 Perfect Date Night Dishes from Tokio Pub
Jun 5, 2018

Hey everyone! Kailley of Kailley Lindman Photography here! I'm a food writer-turned-photographer,…

read more >
Openings
Ramen-san Sends Noods to Fulton Market
Jun 4, 2018

The second edition of Ramen-san (@ramensanchi) is now open, bringing the "San" vibe of broth, beer…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Negroni Week: Drink Up For Charity
Jun 2, 2018

Drink a Negroni and benefit a local charity? We're in. June 4-10 marks Negroni Week 2018, a…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!