Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
In just two years, Brendan Sodikoff has carved a place for himself among Chicago's top restaurant operators. He's done it with a clearly communicated identity; take one step inside one of his gently lit, retro-cool restaurants, and you know you're in a Sodikoff place. And if the decor doesn't do the trick, signature menu touches like his ubiquitous roasted bone marrow (served inside Flinstonian bones halved lengthwise) surely will. Already boasting hit concepts in Gilt Bar, Maude's Liquor Bar and the cult favorite Doughnut Vault (where weekend lines stretch around the block), Sodikoff debuted two terrific 2012 concepts. First came Au Cheval, a diner redux notable for its reel-to-reel tape player, retro chopped-chicken liver, inventive omelets and what Bon Appetit called "the best new burger in America." Then Sodikoff opened Bavette's Bar & Boeuf, a throwback steakhouse that manages to avoid all the prime-steakhouse cliches while fleshing out its menu with a first-rate shrimp de jonghe and a swoon-worthy short-rib stroganoff. And though Sodikoff's places are always ready to assist those inclined to spend freely, there are always plenty of options for the budget-constrained. This guy's going places. Specifically, London, where an across-the-pond version of Au Cheval is in the works.
Au Cheval, 800 W. Randolph St., Chicago; 312-929-4580
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf, 218 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, 312-624-8154
— Phil Vettel