Grant Achatz, Chef and partner at Alinea and Next
A molecular gastronomy master whose Alinea (dinner, $185; 1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110; alinearestaurant.com) has won every award out there, Achatz debuts his new project, Next (nextrestaurant.com), this fall. The novel spot will change its culinary concept every three months and will sell tickets instead of taking traditional reservations.
Most Innovative: The Hendrick’s salad at Schwa (pictured). “It combines the rose, cucumber, and juniper flavors of one of my favorite gins.” Part of $110 tasting menu. At 1466 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-252-1466; schwarestaurant.com.
Cheap Eat: Bahn hoi at Pho 777. “My Vietnamese fix: lemongrass pork and grilled shrimp in rice paper with lettuce and pickled carrots.” $11. At 1065 W. Argyle St.; 773-561-9909; pho777chicago.com.
Secret Indulgence: Sweetbread veal nuggets at The Drawing Room. “Some of Chicago’s best late-night food is at one of its top cocktail spots.” $12. At 937 N. Rush St.; 312-266-2694; thedrchicago.com.
Haute Splurge: Alaskan king crab poached in citrus with cucumbers and steelhead roe at Avenues. “Playful and boldly sweet.” $21. At the Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St.; 312-573-6754; peninsula.com.