Big Star (photo credit: Edouard Pierre)


Avec (photo credit: Derek Richmond)

5 restaurants that should have a Michelin star

A Michelin star is one of the highest honors in the restaurant industry. With its booming hospitality scene, it’s no surprise that Chicago has garnered a fair share of them over the past few years—19 one-star, three two-star, and two three-star restaurants just for 2015. What’s more? This town has plenty of other star-worthy gems just waiting to be recognized. Below are five standouts that we think should join the ranks in 2016.

Big Star
Clearly chef Paul Kahan, the palate behind Michelin-star spot Blackbird, is on to something in Chicago. Big Star, his cash-only joint in Wicker Park, might model its approach on Mexican street food, but it’s so much more than tacos and tequila. Like at his other restaurants, Kahan lets the food here speak for itself. All of the tacos are made with only the highest quality ingredients, and if you’re not a margarita fan (no judgment), the bright horchata washes down your meal just as well. In the warm weather (we can dream can’t we?), the best way to enjoy Big Star is on the string-lit patio, with an ice-cold beer in one hand and a taco al pastor in the other.

Smoque BBQ
Chicago hasn’t always been synonymous with barbeque, but over the past few years, more and more finger-licking joints have sprung up all over the city, and this spot in Irving Park is not to be missed. Every house-made rub and sauce packs just enough flavor to complement but not overpower the meat. Can’t choose between chicken, sausage, or pork? Don’t worry—you’ll have plenty of time to make up your mind while waiting in line to order. Better yet, just order all three. You won’t regret it.

Elevated Peruvian cuisine isn’t exactly a common find, so when Tanta opened in River North less than two years ago, its refined menu and lively atmosphere were a welcome surprise. The lime-soaked ceviches are the standout of a star-filled menu, but other excellent choices include the arroz criollo (Peruvian fried rice), and any of the crispy empanadas. The artful presentation of each dish takes it up a notch further, a visual display that transports you straight to South America even before you take the first bite.

Chicago chef Paul Kahan is also responsible for this trendy yet cozy restaurant in the West Loop. Everyone you ask will suggest you order the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates—a recommendation that will undoubtedly prove to be on target. While Avec does offer large plates, you’ll still want to share everything, just to try as much as possible. The communal benches and no-reservations policy make for a relaxed and refined dining experience—so relaxed that you might feel tempted to snatch another bacon-wrapped date from your neighbor.

GT Fish & Oyster
Oysters aren’t exactly local to the Midwest, but thanks to GT Fish & Oyster, nearly every type of seafood is now deliciously accessible in Chicago. The restaurant itself feels like a rustic-chic boathouse perched right on the water where the seafood itself was harvested—grab a seat at the communal table for a perfect view of oysters being shucked. Though the raw options are some of the best on the menu—oysters, king crab, tuna poke—it’s the comforting lobster mac and cheese that keeps regulars coming back.

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