“By the time I was done with culinary school, I knew that the only chef I wanted to work for was Charlie Trotter and decided to make the pilgrimage to Chicago,” says Graham Elliot, chef-owner of three Chicago restaurants: Graham Elliot, Grahamwich and the eclectic bistro G.E.B. “I always thought that this city had a great history to it, and I’ve been here ever since.” Here, Elliot reveals where he eats on his days off and says what he really thinks of the city’s famous deep-dish pizza.
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Graham Elliot’s Favorite Restaurants
Photo courtesy of Girl & the Goat.
Fun Night Out: Girl & The Goat
“The menu is always evolving, so I just go in and try a bunch of different things every time. Chef Stephanie Izard’s cooking style is really fun. For example, she has a head cheese dish that she calls ‘pig face.’ It’s a fun , and she’s there all the time cooking.” Photo © Lisa Predko Photography.
Meat Specialist: The Purple Pig
“There are lots of restaurants that are doing small shared plates and house-cured meats; I think that they do it better than anyone right now in the city. Jimmy Bannos has been a chef in the city for years, and now his son Jimmy Bannos, Jr., is helping to run it.” Photo courtesy of Yasmina Cadiz.
Noodle Fix: Urban Belly
“The noodles are really amazing, there are great little dumplings and chef Bill Kim is the nicest, most humble guy that you can find. It’s a great little space.” Photo courtesy of GT Fish & Oyster.
New England West: GT Fish & Oyster
“They’ve got these amazing little lobster rolls and oyster po’boy sliders that are incredible. They also serve New England clam chowder in a little mason jar. Chef Giuseppe Tentori and I worked together at Charlie Trotter’s 10 years ago. He does some great stuff, and he’s actually my son’s godfather.”
Ingredient-Driven Japanese: Yusho
“This yakitori-style place with small plates is run by chef Matthias Merges, who was the chef at Charlie Trotter when I worked there with Giuseppe. My son’s middle name is his first name. It’s all quite incestuous. The food is very Asian-inspired, but it’s more about the Asian philosophy and approach to let ingredients taste like themselves.” Photo © Lara Kastner, courtesy of .
Dinner Theater: Alinea
“This is my favorite fine dining place. Obviously, chef Grant Achatz’s menu is always evolving, but it’s just the idea that you’re almost paying admission to go in and have this theatrical edible performance.”
Fast Lunch: Wow Bao
“They sell six-packs of little steamed buns that you can grab and go mow down on during your lunch break. The teriyaki, curry chicken and Mongolian BBQ buns are all delicious.” Photo courtesy of Blackbird.
Highbrow Lunch: Blackbird
“Chef Paul Kahan does great food, and the restaurant has always been supersolid.”
Favorite Bakery: Glazed & Infused
“Their maple-bacon long John is a traditional long John that’s glazed in maple frosting and topped with a huge, thick piece of applewood-smoked bacon. It’s pretty great. We use their doughnuts at Graham Elliot. Plus, it’s got a great name.” Photo courtesy of David Burke’s Primehouse.
Steak & Potatoes: David Burke’s Primehouse
“Chicago’s always been known as this meat and potatoes place, and a lot of restaurants play that up. They try to outdo each other by adding another 10 ounces, so their 80 ounce steak becomes a 90 ounce steak with 10 pounds of mashed potatoes on the side. I think David Burke is somebody who’s been overlooked for a long time. In the early ’90s, he really pushed the idea of food is art with whimsy and humor. You see that reflected on his menu at Primehouse, and I think it’s fun to have him in the city doing something cool with steak.”
Pizza Mediator: Pequod’s Pizza
“Even though I live in and love Chicago, I can’t stand deep-dish pizza. I’m a New York–style pizza person. The pizza at Pequod’s is kind of in between Chicago and NY-style. They leave the thick-crusted pizza in a cast iron cooking pan until it gets absolutely charred on the outside and the cheese is kind of burnt. It’s just really good.”
Best Value: Maude’s Liquor Bar
“They have classic bistro food like steak tartare, escargot and roasted chicken. Everything’s very affordable and very simple.”
Brunch Staple: The Original Pancake House
“I go with the chocolate chip pancakes. You’ve got to smear the right amount of butter and a tiny bit of salt. That little dash of salt balances it all out, and then you’re good to go.”
Coffee Stop: Metropolis Coffee Company
Graham Elliot’s Shopping Picks
Chef Equipment: Northwestern Cutlery
“They’ve been there forever, and lots of chefs go here for their knives and kitchen equipment.”
Ethnic Food Strip: Argyle Street
Graham Elliot’s Top Hotel
Foodie Ho The Peninsula Chicago
“I worked at The Peninsula for years. There are a lot of different dining options in the hotel, from a French café to a Chinese restaurant to an American-style restaurant. Lee Wolen, the number two chef from New York’s Eleven Madison Park, just started at the hotel’s The Lobby restaurant. He’ll do some cool stuff, so I’m excited to see that.”