Some of Chicago’s best restaurants offer a front-row seat to the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and exclusive access to chat with the chefs while they create your dish. The chef’s counter is no longer a novelty of fine dining, but an accessible and fun way to dine out. Here are four we’re loving right now.
Omakase — Japanese for “I’ll leave it up to you” — is nothing new to sushi, but chef Kaze Chan adds his own creative twist. Watch him stuff hand rolls, slice fresh pieces of fatty tuna sashimi, and torch pieces of nigiri throughout 14 courses, all as he makes jokes and drops sushi knowledge. $88 Tues.-Wed., $108 Thurs.–Sat.; 5 and 7 p.m. seatings. Late-night diners can indulge in six courses for a 9 or 11 p.m. seating. ($48 Tues.-Wed. $68 Thurs.–Sat.) 63 W. Grand, 312-828-0575; sushisanrestaurant.com
The four seats facing the open kitchen at this coastal Basque restaurant are a guaranteed good time, and you’ll have a blast chatting with chef Johnny Andres and his team. Don’t expect regular menu items in these seats; the five-course menu (inclusive of drink pairings, $75) is tailored to your requests. Expect plenty of pintxos to nibble on and maybe even a swig of wine from the porrón. 1450 W. Chicago, 312-455-8900; barbiscay.com
Band of Bohemia
It’s luck of the draw to sit at the first-come, first-served six-seat chef’s counter at the Michelin-starred brewpub. Pastry gets plated at arm’s length, making it almost impossible not to crave dessert. Choose from the tasting menu ($75) or a la carte options like wild boar agnolotti ($25) paired with unique beers like an India pale ale ($8) with cardamom, star anise, makrut lime, and roasted grapes. 4710 N. Ravenswood, 773-271-4710; bandofbohemia.com
For a more upscale experience that can seat up to 12, head to this West Loop spot where the tasting menu is constantly changing ($95, or $125 with wine pairings). Dishes could include creamy Burrata or Vietnamese-inspired walu crudo. Chef Devon Quinn plucks as many ingredients as possible from the onsite greenhouse and everything else he secures from local purveyors. There are also a la carte options like a house burger ($18) with pork belly, pickled house tomato jam, and house American cheese. Available Wed.–Sat. 1748 W. Lake, 312-366-2294; edeninchicago.com
Photo by Sarah Nader