In many ways, an acclaimed restaurant that opened in 1997 may seem like old news, but Chef/owner Paul Kahan continues to enliven this Chicago original with fresh talent and new flavor. The space is small but packed, right down to the last lunchtime bar stool. Everything feels glossy and white, accented with high-back leather banquettes and orange place mats at the bar that pop with color. Service is sharp, busy, and handling it all very well. Meals may begin with a symphony of flavors in what appears to be a breakfast sausage patty. However, this golden-brown rabbit sausage is coarsely ground and intensely savory, fragrant with sage and pepper, set over gnocchi dressed in creamed parsley root topped with a bit of "bread and butter" pickled fennel. Slightly crisped grilled monkfish has an almost Californian sensibility, with puntarelle, shaved persimmon, sunchoke, and a dollop of green basil foam. Inspired by the yeasty baked doughnuts of the Czech Republic, Blackbird's version of kolache is light, sweet, and filled with what tastes like a perfect bit of cheesecake. Dinner may be served as a ten-course tasting menu that shows just what this capable kitchen can do. Lunch is an astounding bargain.
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