Maybe it's the scientist in me ( having majored in biology as an undergrad ), but I found The Albert ( 228 E. Ontario St.; thealbertchicago.com/ ) really appealing.
Named, of course, after Albert Einstein, and fittingly located within Hotel EMC2, The Albert features tomes in bookcases, flasks and other nods to science. There's also a semi-private area next to the open kitchen, marble tables and comfortable seating.
During a recent lunch at the spot, my friend and I discovered that there was hardly anyonewhich was a head-scratcher no scientist could solve, as The Albert's in one of the busiest areas of Chicago. Maybe it's too hidden, or intimidating?
The lunch menu was inviting, although seemingly a bit limited, with three appetizers, three tartines ( open-faced sandwiches ) and a few other sandwiches available. The gem-lettuce panzanella salad with preserved tomato, with garlic dressing, was good. However, the star is undoubtedly the Slagel Farms burger with "special sauce," cheddar and picklesone of the better burgers I've had in this city. ( Other choices include duck-confit dijonnaise, roast-chicken pimento and grilled brie mushroom conserva sandwiches. ) However, in a place as different as The Albert, some innovative entrees would be great to offer as well.
Desserts are also winners. Try the chocolate ganache ( with goat's-milk sorbet ), but there are also items like pineapple sherbet, buttermilk mousse and even cucumber parfait.
Walton Street Kitchen
One of the more impressive places I've visited recently for dinner has been Walton Street Kitchen ( 912 N. State St.; www.waltonstreetchicago.com/ ).
With a high bar to reach, Walton Street manages to reach it, for the most part, with its lunch menu.
The lunch has been called "vegetable-forward," and there's a lot of delicious items to support that claim. The "From the Garden" section of the menu has items such as the wonderful roasted carrots ( with tahini yogurt, dates, mint and pecans ) as well as raw veggies and even crispy falafel.
The "Big Salads" are aptly named, with selections such as adobo chicken taco and traditional Cobb, while "On Bread" ( sandwiches served with hand-cut fries ) include sweet pea toast, albacore tuna toast, the corned-beef sandwich and the incredible griddle burger, which comes with grilled onion, tomato jam, aged Colby, lettuce, bacon and aioli. ( I like the trend of restaurants serving better and better burgers, obviously. )
There are also some tantalizing-sounding main dishes. The chicken paillard ( meaning the meat is usually pounded thin, and grilled ) sounds promising, and I'll try that when I return. However, my dining companion and I went for the king-crab omeletbut we both thought this was the least impressive dish we tried; it just seemed to lack in flavor, especially compared to the previous dishes.
And although I didn't see them on the website, there are desserts as well. If nothing else, take a slice of cheesecake to go.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.