Where Tom went:

Restaurant

Alinea

At chef Grant Achatz’s exquisite, modernist dinner theater, the show might include “spring” (asparagus, begonias, pea tendrils) being served on “concrete” (meringue) that smacks of black truffles, a live fire and dessert balloons filled with helium and tasting of green apple. Next year: a makeover, which Achatz told the Chicago Tribune would encompass the entire experience: “What is the impossible?” he teased.

1723 N. Halsted St.

312-867-0110

website.alinearestaurant.com

Bar

Aviary

Turn chefs into bartenders, and this is what you get: layers of pineapple juice, Campari, rum and rum-flavored beads with the bounce of bubble tea (“Jungle Bird”) and a Boulevardier delivered inside an ice cube cracked open with a … slingshot (“In the Rocks”). Insiders know to ask about the Office, a speak-easy within the bar. Does the magic show feel familiar? Aviary comes by way of the owners of the novel Alinea.

955 W. Fulton Market

312-226-0868

www.theaviary.com

Bar

Billy Sunday

The cocktails at this sepia-toned place — a first-rate daiquiri, a spirited mango lassi served in a Russian nesting doll — show thought, and so does the chow. With good reason: Chef Matthias Merges of the Japanese-inspired Yusho is the owner.

3143 W. Logan Blvd.

773-661-2485

billy-sunday.com

Bakery

Bittersweet

Raspberry scones, brown-butter custard tarts, almond-strawberry-brulee cake, cookies that look like art: If it’s sweet and elegant, this long-running bakery and pastry shop from the self-taught Judy Contino probably makes it. Can’t wait to eat a purchase? Spring for a cafe table.

1114 W. Belmont Ave.

773-929-1100

bittersweetpastry.com

Store

Chopping Block

The mission of this recreational cooking school and retail market in the sprawling Merchandise Mart: “to get the country to cook.” Class topics include knife skills, Korean cooking, gluten-free meals and more. On the shelves: retro aprons, hand-shaped salad tongs, books by local chefs and pre-folded paper napkins. Lincoln Square hosts a smaller location.

222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, #107

312-644-6360

www.thechoppingblock.com

Restaurant

Chicago Cut Steakhouse

The new-wave steakhouse’s beef is prime, aged and butchered in-house. The service is sterling, the prime rib is fabulous (and should be, for $64) and so is the Dover sole, sauteed in Plugra brand butter. Spring for the Oreo mint pie. The location is a cut above, too: From your red-velvet chair, you can see the Chicago River.

300 N. LaSalle St.

312-329-1800

www.chicagocutsteakhouse.com

Restaurant

Dove's Luncheonette

A Tex-Mex diner with a Southern accent, swivel stools at a winding zinc counter, a jukebox playing blues and soul, and heaping helpings of modernized comfort food. Try the brined, pounded, floured “chicken-fried chicken” showered with peas, lapped with brown gravy and stabbed with an upright steak knife.

1545 N. Damen Ave.

773-645-4060

www.doveschicago.com

Restaurant

Gene & Georgetti

At this 74-year-old institution -- supposedly built with wood salvaged from the Chicago Fire of 1871 -- the intense heat of its gas broilers gives a beautiful char to the wet-aged sirloin, filet mignon and bone-in rib-eye. Italian American dishes include winy chicken Vesuvio with potato wedges and peas.

500 N. Franklin St.

312-527-3718

geneandgeorgetti.com

Market

Green City Market (Outdoor, May - October)

“They pretty much have everything you want,” a visitor tells her companion. Sure enough, May through October, you can spot such finds as stinging nettles, popcorn flour, goat milk gelato, breakfast pizza – plus a fiddler for entertainment and Lake Michigan as backdrop. Pick up inspiration from “The Green City Market Cookbook.”

1817 N. Clark St.

773-880-1266

www.greencitymarket.org

Market

Green City Market (Outdoor, June - October)

Market

Green City Market (Indoor, November - April)

Restaurant

GT Fish & Oyster

Tradition and novelty come together on the small-plates menu and in the sleek dining room. Drop anchor for clam chowder and lobster rolls, but also for a one-bite oyster po' boy slider fired up with kimchi, and an elegant Thai-style seafood soup. The nautical design finds a wall of fish jaws, teakwood floors and a boomerang table in the bar.

531 N. Wells St.

312-929-3501

gtoyster.com

Restaurant

Fat Rice

Macanese food borrows from the repertoires of China, Portugal, India and Southeast Asia. The signature dish here is arroz gordo (or "fat rice"): jasmine rice layered in a clay pot with Chinese sausage, Portuguese chicken thighs, prawns, pickles and more, typically served only in homes on special occasions. Try to sit around the open kitchen, where chef Abraham Conlon jams.

2957 W. Diversey Ave.

773-661-9170

www.eatfatrice.com

Restaurant

Fatso's Last Stand

Picking a winner among wieners is impossible, but Fatso’s oozes easy charm. The guy behind the counter sounds a gong after every order of signature dogs. (“Always charred! Never steamed!”) Get yours “wit everything,” and it arrives in its poppy-seed bun with green relish, yellow mustard, chopped onions, “sport” (chili) peppers and a dusting of celery salt.

2258 W. Chicago Ave.

773-245-3287

www.fatsoslaststand.com

Restaurant

La Chaparrita

A combination grocery store and dining room, this taqueria uses a charola, a wide circular stove top, for cooking. Go for the two-ply tripe taco, with its agreeable funk and crisp-soft chew. And go easy on the seriously hot salsa, made in-house. Refreshment comes by way of whatever fruit juice is fermenting in a small barrel on the counter.

2500 S. Whipple St.

773-247-1402

Restaurant

Nico Osteria

My favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago, with duck heart sliced over thick garlic toast, superior fritto misto, fried artichokes that bring Rome to mind and roasted turbot as good as it gets. Maestro of the animated open kitchen is Erling Wu-Bower, an alumnus of the popular Avec and Publican Quality Meats.

1015 N. Rush St.

312-994-7100

www.nicoosteria.com

Restaurant

Parachute

Chef-couple Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim fuse American, Asian and French ideas to come up with a thrillingly original menu – and a groovy design. Order the bing bread, flavored as if it were a loaded baked potato; boudin noir staged with rhubarb, crunchy seeds and raspberry vinaigrette; and bibimbap with Spanish mackerel and preserved lemon.

3500 N. Elston Ave.

773-654-1460

www.parachuterestaurant.com

Restaurant

Podhalanka

“How hungry are you?” asks the no-nonsense host behind the bar of this Polish stalwart. The soup — cabbage with shredded chicken — delivers Old-World comfort; the dumplings topped with buttery onions become my model for pierogis forevermore. “Get the blintz,” an insider insists. How do you say “swoon” in Polish?

1549 W. Division St.

773-486-6655

Restaurant

The Radler

Ich liebe just about everything about this ambitious, upscale German tavern: the house-baked pretzels, the snappy weisswurst, the tangy braised beef, the Bavarian-style clocks on either side of the oak bar, the rows of tables lined up as if for Oktoberfest. Two of the many brews are made exclusively for the Radler.

2375 N. Milwaukee Ave.

773-276-0270

www.dasradler.com

Restaurant

Tête Charcuterie

Source of some of the city’s best cured meats and sausages. Home in on the pâtés and terrines; pink “pot roast” in a mosaic with carrots is like nothing any mom ever made. The biggest surprise in this former meatpacking operation might be the kitchen’s celebration of vegetables in the seasonal “garden,” staged in a deep pot.

1114 W. Randolph St.

312-733-1178

tetechicago.com

Restaurant

Topolobampo

Twenty-five years after Rick Bayless launched "Topolo," this sophisticated companion to Frontera Grill still sets the standard for high-end Mexican cuisine in this country. Lunch is a deal: $25 for three courses that might include a sparkling tuna seviche, rare flank steak draped with a complex mole and a brownie rich with Mexican chocolate. Margaritas, shaken at the table, fuel the most luscious fiesta in town.

445 N. Clark St.

312-661-1434

www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/topolobampo

Restaurant

Uncle John’s Barbecue

A no-frills barbecue joint where you order from a cashier behind a glass partition and ought to eat the signature meats on the spot: Fried hot links lose their snap if they travel, and pork tips (the ends of spareribs) lose crustiness. The source: an “aquarium” smoker that helps define Chicago-style barbecue. Ask for the sauce on the side — with extra napkins, of course.

8249 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

773-952-6236

www.unclejohnsbarbecue.com

Restaurant

Vito and Nick's

Red and green neon glows in the windows, the stools are aqua, and the drill is cash-only and no deliveries. The main attraction is thin-crust pizza adorned with sausage and cheese and cut grid fashion, or “party style.” The crackery, buttery crust nearly upstages the toppings. Fans of local fish come for the Friday night special: all-you-can-eat smelts (plus salad and fries) for $10.

8433 S. Pulaski Rd.

773-735-2050

vitoandnicks.com

Restaurant

Xoco

Fast food in the hands of Rick Bayless means three kinds of churros, steaming bowls of chicken posole, and suckling pig packed with black beans and pickled onions into crisp tortas. Xoco (say SHO-ko) means “little sister” in Aztec. Don’t miss the stellar hot chocolate, which uses cacao beans from Tabasco that are roasted and ground in-house.

449 N. Clark St.

www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco