Paul Kahan’s on Top of His Game and a Big Star

Paul Kahan. The man, the myth, the legend. After starting as a computer scientist out of college, he quickly found his proper place out of the cubicle and in the kitchen. He has four of the hottest restaurants in Chicago right now and is at the top of his game. I finally completed the quadruplet of spots and here’s the quick and dirty.


The food is amazing there’s no question about that. The subtle flavors in their meat and fish glazes and marinades are a thing of magic. The unsung hero are the sides though, the frites with aioli and the chili green beans could be a meal in themselves. The atmosphere is hit or miss, personally I’m not a fan of the shared beer hall type of tables (I just don’t like strangers all that much), and the waiters definitely gave off a quirky West Loop vibe.

Big Star

If you can get out here before the weather sends you into hibernation, do it. Arguably the best (and busiest) patio in the city, who can resist $3 gourmet tacos and private stock bourbon. Awesome guac, awesome pork belly, just don’t expect to be able to find a seat or hear your neighbor over the Johnny Cash. And if you’re not wearing skinny jeans, the hipsters may give you a dirty look.


Recognized for their sweetbreads, ultra-modern Blackbird is the most upscale and oldest of the foursome opening way back in 1997. Gaining national recognition back in the day for the trend of obtainable, but upscale French/American fusion, in 2010 I’d opt to skip it for one of the others.


Known for it’s small plates and vino, Avec invented the genre of “wine cuisine.” One of my favorite date spots in the city, portions are perfect for sharing, the decor is minimalist and creates an intimate setting. A classic establishment that never goes out of style.