One sixtyblue executive chef Michael McDonald wants his restaurant to be a place you come twice a week, not twice a year. While the average $25-per-entree price point may rule out such frequency for most guests, the West Loop spot has succeeded in creating a relaxed, but still special-occasion-worthy, atmosphere, meaning you'll be equally comfortable whether you're wearing jeans or a business suit—though we'd probably go with something in between.
The menu reflects this "come as you are" philosophy, marrying traditionally upscale ingredients with more approachable foods in playful combinations. A standout appetizer on our recent visit was the house-cured King Salmon, which came laid atop some of the crispiest, chewiest hash browns we've ever had (they can be ordered as a side plate). McDonald—drawing from his experience working for Charlie Trotter—also does his best to keep every dish light; even the indulgent pork belly comes with a citrusy salad. Entrees include choices like blue crab ravioli with a lemon brown butter sauce and Hawaiian yellowfin with hearts of palm, pineapple and fresh wasabi. You can watch it all being created in the open kitchen from your seat in the spacious yet intimate dining room, decked out in dark woods and plush seating (you'd never guess this place used to be a pickle factory).
If you really want to experience one sixtyblue's food and service on the regular but find yourself without a gold card, the lounge is a better bet. Options here are less expensive, but no less enticing; the chanterelle mushroom risotto cakes with tomato-rosemary fondue sound a bit more appealing than your favorite bar's mozzarella sticks, especially when paired with one of the many wines, beers or specialty cocktails. Looking for a little variety? The Monday Night Flights deal ($35) includes a six-pour flight of wines with a six-bite tasting menu.
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Ben Rubenstein