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Phil Vettel recommends: Chicago Restaurant Week

Dining and DrinkingRestaurantsChicago RestaurantsBars and ClubsRPM Italian

Chicago Restaurant Week is back — bigger and extended.

Running a full 14 days (Friday through Feb. 6), this seventh annual rendition is officially the longest ever. In practice, though, the promotion, in which participating restaurants offer three-course lunches for $22 and/or three- and four-course dinners for $33 or $44, always tends to linger a few extra days, as restaurants keep those deals in force.

To me that's a good thing. It tells me that the menus are discounted low enough to attract customers, but not so low that it's a hardship for restaurants to offer them. The fact that there are more than 250 participating restaurants (about the same as last year) tells me that too.

Chicago Restaurant Week is primarily a city event, but there are at least 20 suburban participants, many of them sequels of city-based concepts, including the Morton's The Steakhouse locations in Northbrook, Schaumburg and Rosemont; McCormick & Schmick's in Oak Brook and Rosemont; Catch 35 in Naperville; and Farmhouse Tavern in Evanston. But such independents as Quince and Oceanique in Evanston, Atwater's in Geneva, Carlucci in Downers Grove and Whitney's Cafe in Oak Lawn are participating as well.

Last I looked, there were still tickets to Thursday's First Bites Bash, which runs 5:30-8:30 p.m. in Union Station's Great Hall, where more than 50 restaurants will be offering tastings and beverages. Tickets are $125, a portion of which will benefit local charities Gilda's Club Chicago and Pilot Light; find tickets at firstbitesbash.com.

To book a table for Restaurant Week, go to eatitupchicago.com, where you'll find all the participating restaurants and their menus; you can search restaurants by neighborhood and make instant reservations via OpenTable, one of Chicago Restaurant Week's sponsors.

Hint: If a restaurant is sold out online, make a phone call. Naha, for instance, is sold out for much of the week, but it always saves a few tables for walk-ins and folks who call. And you can always get the menu at the bar, which is the case at many restaurants.

It's a lot of work to sift through 250-plus restaurants, so I've taken the liberty of highlighting a few restaurants that are new, intriguing and/or worth considering based on past performance.

Ada St.: Dinner ($33) menu includes Moroccan carrot salad, bouillabaisse, citrus pound cake. 1664 N. Ada St., 773-697-7069

American Junkie: Lunch menu includes Duque burger, cedar-plank salmon, mango cheesecake; dinner ($33) includes Berkshire pork chop, Amish chicken breast. 15 W. Illinois St., 312-239-0995

Aquitane: Dinner menu ($33) includes turbinado-glazed salmon, duck breast with apricot-sauternes jam, sun-dried tomato tart. 2221 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-698-8456

bellyQ: Dinner ($33) menu includes Thai-style fried chicken, carrot-ginger soup, smoked wagyu tri-tip, Berkshire pork katsu, Vietnamese cinnamon doughnuts. 1400 W. Randolph St., 312-4563-1010

Big Jones: Dinner ($33) menu includes crispy deviled crab fritters, Angels on Horseback, Carolina rabbit bog, Meyer lemon pie. 5347 N. Clark St., 773-275-5725

Bistro Voltaire: Dinner menu ($33) includes such French classics as escargots, coq au vin, French onion soup, gnocchi Parisiennes, steak frites. 226 W. Chicago Ave., 312-265-0911

Blackbird: You can't beat a $22 lunch at a four-star restaurant. Menu includes sweet-potato soup with swordfish, grilled sturgeon with fingerling potatoes. 619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708

Bub City: Lunch and dinner ($33) menus; Smokie's chili, General Joe's chicken, BBQ ribs. 435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4200

Cafe Spiaggia: Lunch and $33 dinner menus; items include gnocchi with wild-boar ragu, cappelacci with butternut squash and brown butter. 980 N. Michigan Ave., 312-280-2750

Carlucci: Serving $22 lunch and $33 dinner; menus include arancini, pizzette con funghi, porchetta, linguini bobonato. 1801 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove, 630-512-0990

Cicchetti: Only a few weeks old, Cicchetti's lunch options include Nonna's meatballs, assorted bruschette and white-bean soup; dinner ($44) includes gnocchi with pork shank, short-rib ravioli and brick chicken. 671 N. St. Clair St., 312-642-1800

City Tavern: Dinner menu ($33) includes chickpea and potato soup, bourbon-braised short ribs, grilled chicken. 1416 S. Michigan Ave., 312-663-1278

Coco Pazzo: Lunch menu includes risotto del giorno, pizza alla diavola; four-course dinner ($44) offers brick chicken, pork chop Milanese, panna cotta. 300 W. Hubbard St., 312-836-0900

Drawing Room: Dinner menu ($33) includes steak tartare with black-truffle aioli, smoked trout with horseradish vinaigrette, monkfish osso buco. 937 N. Rush St., 312-266-2694

Embeya: Will feature an a la carte lunch; dinner, served family style, available for $33 or $44. 564 W. Randolph St., 312-612-5640

Frontier: Dinner ($33) menu includes shrimp and corn grits, bison rib-eye, alligator scallopine, apple cobbler. 1072 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-772-4322

Henri: Lunch menu includes duck country terrine; dinner ($44) menu includes whole-roasted sea bream, coq au vin. 18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763

Howells & Hood: Dinner menu ($33) includes butternut squash soup, kale salad with Parmesan and charred rapini, truffled lobster pot pie, carrot cake. 435 N. Michigan Ave., 312-262-5310

The Lobby: The Peninsula Chicago lobby restaurant's lunch menu includes cavatelli with butternut squash, beet salad; dinner menu ($44) includes bouillabaisse, braised short ribs. Note: Restaurant Week menus not available Saturday-Sunday. 108 E. Superior St., 312-337-2888

Lockwood Restaurant & Bar: The Palmer House restaurant's dinner menu ($44) includes Hawaiian blue prawns, cauliflower ravioli, flatiron steak with kimchee puree. 17 E. Monroe St., 312-917-3404

Metropolitan Club: This private club in Willis Tower opens its doors for Restaurant Week. Stunning view. Dinner menu ($33, $17 for optional two-wine pairing) includes chicken breast with andouille grits, penne alfredo with pastrami salmon, sesame-lacquered tilapia with crayfish tempura. 233 S. Wacker Drive, 312-876-3200

RPM Italian: Dinner ($44) menu includes provolone-stuffed peppers, prime-beef meatballs, ravioli alla RPM. 52 W. Illinois St., 312-222-1888.

Tesori: Dinner ($33) menu includes charred octopus with shaved artichokes, duck and fontina ravioli, rosemary-brined salmon, chocolate hazelnut mousse. 65 E. Adams St., 312-786-9911

III Forks: Dinner menu ($44) includes scallops with bourbon-bacon jam, salmon with chimichurri and wild rice, petite filet with fried Brussels sprouts. 180 N. Field Blvd., 312-938-4303

Vie: Dinner menu ($44; optional beverage pairings $20) includes grilled trout with crispy pork belly, bittersweet chocolate pave. 4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs, 708-246-2082

pvettel@tribune.com

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