Maple & Ash - Chicago
First off, its brash, unapologetic approach feels more New York or Vegas than Windy City. The menu is constantly changing, and it does so in a cheeky manner that's totally acceptable for its upscale clientele. Everything is also larger and share-able, beginning, of course, with the appetizers. Start with the prime beef meatballs in a caramelized tomato sauce; wood-grilled Spanish octopus or wild burgundy escargot that's accompanied by herb butter, lemon and grilled sourdough.
For those going all out, the seafood tower comes highly recommended. Maple & Ash's collection of seafood, with items such as oysters, Gulf shrimp and half Maine lobsters, is roasted in the hearth and finished with garlic butter and chili oil.
All of the steak and fish offerings, in fact, are prepared over the wood-fired hearth. Guests may choose from a 14-ounce, bone-in filet mignon to whole branzino. There's also a butcher's cut selection that includes 48-hour short ribs, 30-ounce dry-aged Tomahawk and "The Eisenhower," which comes in at 40-plus ounces for $125.
Maple & Ash is located on the third floor of a new-construction retail building. On the first level is Eight Bar & Patio, which offers weekend brunch, lunch and late-night bites.