If Americans have diners and Brits have pubs, the French have brasseries, social neighborhood spots to enjoy a leisurely meal and glass of wine with good friends. Of course, Chicago's best example, Brasserie Jo, is a great deal classier than most diners or pubs. A heavy wood revolving door escorts diners into the main dining room, where intricate black and white mosaic floor tiles, crisply uniformed wait staff and plush forest green seating are overlooked by a booming black and white clock perched above the long bar.
From here you'll have your choice of seating options, from one of the private wine rooms tucked into the corner to the vaulted winter garden with a floor-to-ceiling mural of a gentleman's kiss (no surprise, the winter garden has been the setting for a handful of weddings over the years). On the heavily canopied front patio, dogs are not only welcome but treated to a complimentary canine meal of steak tartar and a house-made biscuit. Human diners can score a free treat on Thursdays, when those wearing a fancy hat enjoy a complimentary hat-shaped chocolate dessert. The bar also serves up free tarte flambe on Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m.
The entirely French menu is vast, including everything from frog legs Provencal and steamed mussels to calf's liver and Parisian gnocchi. Most main entrees hover just beneath $20, and specials are available each night. The extensive drink list spotlights Alsatian wines as well as French and Belgian beers. The restaurant even offers a signature beer, Hop La, brewed exclusively for Brasserie Jo and served on tap.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood