Pre-Moda Night Out: Dining Spots in River North
If you’re not already aware: get hype, MODA Magazine’s summer issue is scheduled for release on May 31st – celebration is in order. And what better way to celebrate than with a night in River North, ending (or maybe just beginning) in the release party at Joy District? There’s no doubt that there’s plenty to do in advance of the event, and even less doubt that one of these things that has to be done is grabbing dinner at the cornucopia of restaurants that River North is.
In anticipation of this night, we’ve compiled a quick spotlight of this cornucopia to show what the neighborhood has to offer, which is quite a lot. Due to the sheer number of eateries in the area, this list is by no means exhaustive, but rather an attempt at calling attention to a few great spots to fill up at before the event.
Mario Batali’s ultimate end, Eataly is an all Italian mega-marketplace located on Ohio just east of State that contains more than any eye could see: six restaurants, a grocery store that has enough olive oil to fill Water Tower, antipasti bars, gelato, espresso, etc, ad infinitum. Such a huge number of options makes Eataly a fantastic place to go when you’re not really sure what you’re in the mood for – so long as you’re ok with choosing the subcategory of Italian (which honestly, who isn’t). Not getting a reservation can sometimes result in wait time for being seated at the restaurant of your choice, but I’d even recommend not getting one since they rarely exceed 30 minutes – the perfect amount of time to get lost in that sauce (literally, there’s enough tomato sauce in the grocery store that you could spend hours looking at all of it).
The Purple Pig
In terms of approach, The Purple Pig is on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from Eataly – it’s small, focused, and tucked away. While Eataly perfects the classics of Italian, The Purple Pig invents the perfections of contemporary American (think updated pub and charcuterie). No doubt, though, both share the common stance of appreciation for food. If you’re daring, go for the bone marrow, if not, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy. Be careful about wait time, though, the space consistently fills up quickly due to demand and first-come first-serve seating (no reservations!).
The Slurping Turtle
Simultaneously classic and whimsical, The Slurping Turtle is chef Takashi Yagashi’s childhood experience of Japanese comfort food exemplified in a restaurant. The no-wrong-choices menu and bright communal space makes for a refreshingly casual dinner that is perfect for small groups. Make a point of trying your friends’ dishes; as to go to The Slurping Turtle and not try multiple items on the menu would be a shame – even more so if one of these items isn’t the absolutely massive creme puffs they have for desert.
Four years ago, Tanta made a big splash in River North as an instantaneous hit. And no wonder, the restaurant comes from Peruvian celeb chef Gastón Acurio, who was already established at the time as an international wonder chef with successful restaurants around the globe. Move to present date, and Acurio’s Chicago spot still delivers on providing exciting Peruvian cuisine that’s just as colorful as the room its being served in. Influenced by South American flavors, trans-Pacific trade, and European immigration, Peruvian features fascinating, global flavors that Tanta head chef Jesus Delgado thoughtfully presents in all their uniqueness, making the menu perfect for both newcomers and old fans of Peruvian fare.
If you’re looking to be full after dinner, this is the place to go. Not to say that the other restaurant in this list won’t deliver, but the hearty central European food of Bohemian House is something else entirely. Cozy, rich, and food coma-inducing, the menu and atmosphere at Bohemian house is fit for a Hapsburg emperor, a German farm boy, and pretty much anyone else. And no self-respecting central European establishment would have such a menu without including beer – tons of it. Go for a flight and then choose your favorite out of the selection, or perhaps another flight representative of another style, you really can’t go wrong.
The name goes straight to my heart. Korean-Mexican fusion street food in River North? I think I may faint. I remember thinking this the first time I walked past Seoul Taco and thinking that I may have been getting my hopes to high, but let me tell you, I wasn’t. Especially if you’re looking for something entirely uncommitted (Seoul Taco is a counter-style quick stop rather than sit-down, although there are a few small tables in the space), I couldn’t recommend anywhere in River North more than David Choi’s beautiful child. I’d recommend a specific menu item, but the number of available ingredient combinations is such that I feel like I’d be limiting you by suggesting a specific one. So go, enjoy.
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