Every city has its gems located on and off the beaten path, and Chicago is no exception. When it comes to the Windy City’s eateries and entertainment venues, diamonds are on just about every corner. The following is a list of this year’s hot spots recommended by the city’s most prestigious go-to men and women: the concierges of Chicago’s most respected hotels.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner,
Oh My!

Backstage Bistro
180 N Wabash Ave ? (312) 475-6920
Cuisine: American Contemporary
Lunch Hours: Monday?Friday: 11:30 am?1 pm
Dinner Hours: Wednesday?Friday: 5:30?7 pm; Closed Saturday and Sunday

At Backstage Bistro, visitors can taste the cooking of chefs in training enrolled in the Illinois Institute of Art’s Culinary Arts program. Diners can watch students through glass walls as they prepare meals like grilled salmon, seared monkfish, grilled pork tenderloin, and grilled ostrich. The atmosphere is intimate and quiet, even when the room fills to capacity, which it does quickly—reservations are strongly suggested. When at the Backstage Bistro, you’ll soon discover that one of its greatest treats is the bill: An outstanding three-course meal with wine averages $40 to $50 per person, tip included. Backstage Bistro is overwhelmingly considered to be the best value for fine dining in the city.

The contemporary dining room at Caf? Spiaggia.

Caf? Spiaggia
980 N Michigan Ave, 2nd Fl ? (312) 280-2750
Cuisine: Italian
Hours: Sunday: 6?9 pm; Monday?Thursday: 6?9:30 pm; Friday?Saturday: 5:30?10:30 pm

Such signature dishes as seared scallops and wood-roasted Colorado lamb chops are served in Caf? Spiaggia’s tiered dining room. The restaurant is known for its rich and neutralizing ambiance, which features 40-foot towering windows that overlook the corner of Oak Street and Michigan Avenue—framing a breathtaking view of the shores of Lake Michigan. Contemporary custom-designed Italian chandeliers cascade from the ceiling, softly lighting champagne-colored booths nestled between black-marble pillars. Nominated for Outstanding Service in the United States by the James Beard Foundation in 2005, Caf? Spiaggia is a requirement for all who visit the city.

Devon Seafood Grill
39 E Chicago Ave ? (312) 440-8660
Cuisine: American Contemporary and Seafood
Lunch Hours: Sunday: 11 am?3 pm; Monday?Saturday: 11 am?4 pm
Dinner Hours: Sunday?Thursday: 4?10 pm; Friday?Saturday: 4?11 pm

Chicago is a renowned beef city, but it also has a knack for preparing items with fins and gills. The seafood-focused Devon Seafood Grill is an ideal location for business diners with the restaurant’s semisecluded booths downstairs. Folks looking for a comfy spot to have a post-work drink also will enjoy the large, wraparound bar. Devon offers a variety of seasonal preparations and fresh fish from around the globe, such as blue-fin tuna, halibut, tilapia, Chilean sea bass, rainbow trout, king salmon, and Mahi Mahi. And as a local FYI, when making reservations at Devon, the name is pronounced “DEV-in” and not “dev-ON.”

The elegant interior and cuisine of Everest.

440 S La Salle St, 40th Fl ? (312) 663-8920
Cuisine: French
Hours: Tuesday?Thursday: 5:30?9 pm; Friday: 5?9:30 pm; Saturday: 5?10 pm; Closed Sunday and Monday

Located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building, Everest is considered one of the most breathtaking restaurants in the city, for both its skyline views and the exquisite French cuisine prepared by reputed chef Jean Joho. The menu includes such items as wild hare sandwiched between fried potatoes served delicately upon a soft quail egg. Roasted chestnut soup, wild mushroom consomm?, potato-crusted halibut, and venison filet also are popular requests, and the wine list holds its own next to the world-class dining selections. With an elegant seating capacity for only 75, a jacket is required and reservations are essential.

800 W Adams St ? (312) 829-8820
Cuisine: Greek
Hours: Sunday?Thursday: 11 am?Midnight; Friday and Saturday: 11 am?1 am

One of the most culturally diverse areas of downtown, Greek Town plays host to a number of authentic Greek restaurants and caf?s. Although more extravagant and touristy establishments line the streets, Santorini is where the Chicagoans go for great Greek. With satisfying seafood in a charming yet rustic setting, the restaurant boasts a wood-burning hearth. As for Santorini specialties, fish, shellfish, and roasted chicken are best bets on the menu that includes most Greek favorites.

The scene at Tony Rocco’s River North.

Tony Rocco’s River North
416 W Ontario St ? (312) 787-1400
Cuisine: Italian
Brunch Hours: Saturday?Sunday: 9:30 am?3 pm
Lunch and Dinner Hours: Sunday: 4:30?10 pm; Monday?Thursday: 11:30 am?10 pm; Friday: 11:30 am?Midnight; Saturday: 4:30 pm?Midnight

Relatively new to this hip and growing area of downtown, Tony Rocco’s River North is the neighborhood Italian restaurant for those residing in the swanky new condos surrounding the establishment. The rustic yet affordable Italian dishes served in the narrow, quaint dining room include such specialties as “My Ma’s Lasagna,” asparagus risotta, pressure-cooked chicken, gnocchi, and a signature imported olive mix. Particularly nice on a cold November night, the restaurant encourages patrons to stay and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine from its extensive, Italian-focused wine list. The dining room’s exposed brick and low lighting create a warm and welcoming environment for neighborhood locals and guests to the city.

Going Downtown

A new trend has re-emerged within the Chicago dining scene: Locals of all ages are, once again, frequenting the city’s chic downtown hotel dining rooms and lounges for gourmet meals, signature drinks, and generous amounts of live music.

Fine dining at China Grill Chicago.

China Grill Chicago at the Hard Rock Hotel
230 N Michigan Ave ? (312) 334-6700
Cuisine: Pan-Asian
Breakfast Hours: Monday?Friday: 6:30?11 am; Saturday?Sunday: 6:30 am?Noon
Lunch Hours: Monday?Friday: 11:30 am?5 pm
Dinner Hours: Sunday: 5?10:30 pm; Monday?Thursday: 5:30?10:30 pm; Friday?Saturday: 5?11 pm

Located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, China Grill offers a menu that features items primarily prepared on woks or grills in the exhibition kitchen. Expect appetizers like coriander-dusted shrimp with Asian slaw, yuzu glaze, and red pepper sauce; and crab cakes with tomatillo-pineapple three-mustard sake sauce. Entree choices include a sake-marinated drunken chicken with ponzu sauce, sweet crispy onions, and Asian slaw; and seared beef tenderloin with wasabi panko potato cake and whole-grain mustard. The China Grill’s splashy interior features wine-cellar pillars and what seems like hundreds of flickering candles. Be sure to check out the floor near the entry of the dining room—excerpts from Marco Polo’s diary are inscribed in the tiles (the restaurant’s signature gimmick).

The contemporary decor at Custom House.

Custom House at the Hotel Blake
500 S Dearborn St ? (312) 523-0200
Cuisine: American Contemporary
Breakfast Hours: Monday?Friday: 7?10 am
Lunch Hours: Monday?Friday: 11:30 am?2 pm
Dinner Hours: Sunday: 5?9 pm; Monday?Thursday: 5?10 pm; Friday?Saturday: 5?11 pm

Using local and farm-raised products whenever possible, chef Shawn McClain creates some of the most seasonably delicious meals in the city at the Hotel Blake’s Custom House restaurant. The frequently changing menu may include such appetizers as roasted quail, charred sashimi-style sirloin, and marinated shrimp. Entrees may include diver sea scallops, beef short ribs, and bone-in filet of beef. Lunch features a mix of signature salads and hearty main courses like prime sirloin, organic chicken, a steak sandwich, and risotto. Only a short cab ride from the McCormick Center, the Custom House’s Chicago-style charm draws from what the area is remembered for—a turn-of-the-century hotbed of saloons, bordellos, gambling parlors, and pawnbrokers instead of the ritzy condos, bars, and restaurants that reside there today.

Steaks at Drake Bros.’ Restaurant

Drake Bros.’ Restaurant at the Drake Hotel
140 E Walton Pl ? (312) 787-2200
Cuisine: American Steakhouse
Hours: Sunday: 6:30 am?2:30 pm; brunch from 11:30 am?2:30 pm; Monday: 6:30 am?2:30 pm; Tuesday?Saturday: 6:30 am?10:30 pm

The Drake Hotel has been a Chicago tradition since it first opened in 1920. Over the years, the Drake has hosted kings, queens, Hollywood stars, and celebrities, including Prince Charles. The hotel’s signature eatery, the Drake Bros.’ Restaurant, is named after the brothers who established the hotel. This contemporary Chicago restaurant is popular with locals and guests, and its Lake Shore Drive location provides some of the most breathtaking views of the lake and north side of the city. The menu includes spectacularly prepared steak dishes, the restaurant’s famous crab cakes, and an extensive selection of wines.

Sushi from NoMI

NoMI at the Park Hyatt Hotel
800 N Michigan Ave, 7th Fl ? (312) 239-4030
Cuisine: Contemporary French
Breakfast Hours: Monday?Friday: 6:30?10:30 am; Saturday?Sunday: 7?10:30 am
Brunch Hours: Sunday: 11 am?2:30 pm; Monday?Friday: 11:30 am?2:30 pm; Saturday: 10:30 am?2:30 pm
Dinner Hours: Sunday?Saturday: 5:30?10 pm

Located in the Park Hyatt Chicago, NoMI serves upscale contemporary French cuisine with an Asian twist. The seventh-floor restaurant boasts stunning views of Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan, and it even has a 50-seat outdoor terrace. French-born chef Christophe David, of the Park Hyatt Paris, took over the kitchen in August 2005, and since then, he has been offering high-end palate pleasers, such as spiced watermelon soup with basil oil and lobster croutons, summer truffle risotto, and Brittany Turbot, as well as an elegant selection of specialty sushi. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea, NoMI is a favorite among Chicago natives.

Off the Beaten Path

Downtown Chicago has a lot to offer its visitors and residents; however, much of the city?s vitality is fueled by its surrounding neighborhoods. The city’s North side offers a tremendous selection of restaurants, pubs, dance clubs, shopping, and popular attractions. Accessible by a simple cab ride from the McCormick Center, this list of neighborhood hot spots is worth the cab fare … and the tip!

Ein bier, bitte!
The city’s North Side is home to one of the most densely populated German neighborhoods this side of Deutschland. The neighborhood of Lincoln Square (aka German Town) boasts such favorites as the Chicago Brauhaus (4732 N Lincoln Ave; 773-784-4444; www.chicagobrauhaus.com), which offers a year-round Oktoberfest. With its blue-and-white-checkered flags, servers in traditional Bavarian garb, and live polka band with members donning lederhosen, this restaurant forces guests to embrace the kitsch factor. If you’re more in the mood for eating than dancing, the menu is loaded with hearty German fare, such as liver dumpling soup, roulaude (beef rolled with pickles and onions), schnitzel, herring, bratwurst, and kassler rippchen. Draft beers include Spaten, Stiegl, and Bitburger. The restaurant’s huge tables easily accommodate big groups, although reservations are recommended on weekends.

Seeing Chicago by Way of Clark
Moving south from the polka dancing in Lincoln Square, Clark Street is an ideal route, serving as one of the major veins connecting downtown Chicago and its northern neighborhoods. While en route, heading south on Clark from Lincoln Square, you’ll come along a number of interesting Chicago sights, such as Wrigley Field (1060 W Addison St; 773-404-2827; chicago.cubs.mlb.com), home to the Chicago Cubs. Although closed to visitors when baseball season isn’t under way, the park features a large opening in the wall for passersby to peer inside the park at street level. Located on the field’s east-side wall, near the intersection of Addison and Shefield, the opening is a popular picture-taking site.

Once in the area surrounding the ballpark, referred to as Wrigleyville, feel free to explore the countless sports bars and unique restaurants that line every street in all directions. Area highlights include The Cubby Bear (1059 W Addison St; 773-327-1662; www.cubbybear.com), Irish Oak (3511 N Clark St; 773-935-6669; www.irishoak.com), and Casey Morran’s (3660 N Clark St; 773-755-4444; www.kincadesbar.com).

Continuing south on Clark into the neighborhood known as Lincoln Park, it’s not long before you come to the famous Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co (2121 N Clark St; 773-248-2570; www.chicagopizzaandovengrinder.com). Regulars here appreciate large portions and generous wooden booths, and the restaurant’s renowned pizza potpies. ?Think pizza in a bowl, with layers of cheese, homemade sauce, and toppings,? says employee Cathy Gallanis. The dining room is relatively small, and they don’t take reservations; however, customers are encouraged to put in their name the with host at the door and then dash across the street for a drink at the Clark Bar (2116 N Clark St; 773-327-3070). The darkness of this poorly lit neighborhood bar has nothing to do with the fact that it borders the St Valentine’s Day massacre site. In fact, its customers—who range from young yuppies to Lincoln Park’s more ?established? residents—frequent the dim tavern as a low-key place for drinks after work or while waiting for a table.

Only a few roars and a hop south on Clark is Chicago’s own Lincoln Park Zoo (2200 N Cannon Dr; 312-742-2000; www.lpzoo.com). Located in a beautiful park setting near Chicago’s lakefront, the Lincoln Park Zoo boasts winding paths that lead to indoor and outdoor exhibits, including the recently opened Regenstein African Journey, where wild dogs, meerkats, aardvarks, giraffes, crocodiles, ostriches, and other animals live in large, lush habitats. The zoo is free to all and, during the winter months, is decorated with colorful twinkle lights—a sight that shouldn’t be missed!

For more monkey business, minus the moneys, humans can enjoy the world-famous Second City improvisational comedy club (1616 N Wells St; 312-337-3992; www.secondcity.com), located one block west of Clark Street in the neighborhood known as Old Town. An incubator for celebrities, Second City is famous for encouraging the talents of Mike Myers, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Ed Asner, Betty Thomas, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, George Wendt, Chris Farley, Shelley Long, and Alan Arkin—just to name a few.

After the show at Second City, many locals head one block west to the Old Town Ale House (219 W North Ave; 312-944-7020) for a late-night drink and some interesting conversation. Open since 1958, the Old Town Ale House has had plenty of time to develop character—the bar’s interior looks like the living room of an old woman who’s cross-addicted to antiques and books. The ?Old Town Ale House Book Sharing Library,? also a local perk, features a case of paperbacks that patrons can borrow. ?You don’t have to buy a drink,? says a bartender named Sharon. ?Nor do you have to leave a book.? What’s more, the Old Town Ale House has the endorsement of the actor who played the most famous barfly in television history, George Wendt, who also used to drink here.

Hopping back on Clark Street and heading south into the heart of downtown Chicago, you’re only minutes away from the city’s beautiful architecture and gleaming skyline—a perfect backdrop for some impromptu photos, shopping, and dining. Explore and enjoy!

Lori Sichtermann is a Chicago-based contributing writer for Medical Imaging. For more information, contact .

Chicago’s Specialty: Blues and Jazz

Chicago is known as the blues capital of the world. With so many clubs and lounges around the city that offer live blues and jazz music, Medical Imaging has compiled a list of venues, hand-picked by Chicago natives and die-hard blues and jazz fans. In these clubs, the music is loud, the drinks are strong, and there isn’t a gift shop available at the door.

Andy’s Jazz Club
11 E Hubbard St ? (312) 642-6805
Hours: Sunday: 5 pm?1 am; Monday?Friday: 11:30 am?1:30 am; Saturday: 5 pm?2 am

Andy’s began as a shot-and-a-beer hangout for newspaper types, but over the years, it’s become a premiere venue, featuring mainstream, bebop, and swing-jazz combos. Andy’s offers a live music menu 7 days per week, including noontime performances during the week. Crowds gather around the large horseshoe bar and then spread to the tables fronting the stage. Favorites who play here include Chuck Hedges, Art Hoyle, Franz Jackson, and Von Freeman. The lunch menu offers sandwiches, appetizers, and salads; and the dinner menu includes sandwiches, ribs, and even hand-cut New York Strip steaks.

Blue Chicago
536 N Clark St (at Ohio) ? (312) 661-0100
Hours: Tuesday?Sunday: 8 pm?2 am;
Closed Monday

Blue Chicago primarily features women singers in its long tavern room with a stage at the end. Holding only about 160 people on a crowded night, Blue Chicago at Ohio is a cozy place to catch these acts, and it allows the singers to interact closely with the audience—call-and-response performing is a staple here. The seating is limited to some stools along the bar and a few tables along the wall, so it’s best to arrive early if you want a seat—but there’s a fair amount of space in front for dancing if you’re stuck without one.

2519 N Halsted St ? (773) 528-1012
Hours: Sunday?Friday: 8 pm?2 am; Saturday: 8 pm?3 am, music starts at 9:30 pm

Since 1979, B.L.U.E.S. has presented its namesake genre in an intimate, enjoyable setting that’s cherished by aficionados and blues browsers alike. Mostly local artists are featured, including such major performers as Son Seals, Otis Clay, Eddie Shaw, Magic Slim, Eddy Clearwater, and Jimmy Johnson. The crowd is a bit older and generally more knowledgeable about the music than at some other North Side blues joints.

The Green Mill
4802 N Broadway ? (773) 878-5552
Hours: Sunday: 11 am?4 am; Monday?Friday: Noon?4 am; Saturday: Noon?5 am

Al Capone once claimed The Green Mill as his favorite jazz joint, and his signature booth still exists, kept intact like a subdued shrine to Chicago’s most popular gangster. Many other law-abiding celebrities also haunted this nearly century-old club in its early days, but today, The Green Mill is frequented by jazz enthusiasts and urban hipsters. Touring and local acts, from cool jazz to big band, take the stage each night, and the club fills up quickly on weekends, so come early to get a view of the stage—and even earlier if you expect to get a seat.

Kingston Mines
2548 N Halsted St ? (773) 477-4646
Hours: Sunday?Friday: 9 pm?4 am; Saturday: 8 pm?5 am

A Chicago blues institution that encourages its patrons to “hear the blues, drink booze, and talk loud,” Kingston Mines is a prime site for live music on the north side of town. With 35 years in the business, Kingston Mines encompasses three storefronts and a kitchen. Two stages in adjoining rooms present nonstop blues all night long—anticipate a round of musical chairs at the end of every set, as the crowd scrambles over to the other side. The Mines has a 4 am license (5 am on Saturday), so you just might bump into your favorite blues artists relaxing after they complete their own gigs. If you’re not happy about what you’re hearing at Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S. is directly across the street.

—L. Sichtermann