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Perfect pairings for Restaurant Week 2013

Book table Bill Kim's newest restaurant BellyQ. The set lunch menu ($22) includesdishes like lemongrass salmwith red quinoVietnamess cinnamdonuts.| Richard

Book a table at Bill Kim's newest restaurant, BellyQ. The set lunch menu ($22) includesdishes like lemongrass salmon with red quinoa and Vietnamess cinnamon donuts.| Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Restaurant Week 2013

The annual foodie fest runs from Feb. 1-10 with set menus priced at $22 for lunch and either $33 or $44 for dinner. Reservations are filling up at popular restaurants, so it’s best to act quickly. To see all the participating restaurants head to or Here are but a few with availability:

Naha, 500 N. Clark, (312) 321-6242 ,

Mexique, 1529 W. Chicago, (312) 850-0288,

BellyQ, 1400 W. Randolph, (312) 563-1010,

Trencherman, 2039 W. North, (773) 661-1540,

Sepia, 123 N. Jefferson; (312) 441-1920

Perennial Virant, 1800 N. Lincoln, (312) 981-7070,

Lowry’s, 100 East Ontario Street, Chicago, IL (312) 787-5000 ‎ ·

Geja’s Cafe

Updated: January 17, 2013 3:30PM

It’s that time of year again. Chicago Restaurant Week, otherwise known as Christmas for foodies, begins Feb. 1 and runs for ten days. More than 250 restaurants are participating in this year’sbacchanal, so there’s no shame in not knowing quite where to start.

Some hardcore foodies keep spreadsheets to maximize their eating and make all their reservations weeks in advance. For the more casual diner (who still wants a great bargain) here are some recommendations for Restaurant Week 2013. All still had availability at the time this went to press.

A day of Michelin-starred discounts

The Michelin Guide has come to Chicago in a big way, and while some people scoff at their outsider status, others worship this little red book as much as Mao’s followers worshiped theirs. For a great day of Michelin-approved dining, start with lunch at Naha. Chef Carrie Nahabedian’s restaurant week menu hasn’t been released yet, but that just means diners haven’t started swarming. We promise, at just $22 for lunch, you will have a memorable meal. Move onto dinner at Mexique, one of the latest additions to the guide. For $44, Chef Carlos Gaytan is serving a four-course meal of favorites from his Mexican/French hybrid menu. Start with Ahi tuna ceviche, move onto pork belly with squash mole and finish with a chocolate tamal.

Try the best of 2012 for less

Who can keep up with all the restaurant comings and going in a city this big? If you aren’t the first person to make reservations six months out, you may have missed some wonderful new 2012 openings. Have lunch at BellyQ, Chef Bill Kim’s new Korean Barbeque joint in the former One SixtyBlue location. The lunch menu includes dishes like lemongrass salmon with red quinoa and Vietnamese cinnamon donuts with caramel sauce. Make reservations for dinner at Trenchermen, the latest addition to the fine dining scene in Wicker Park. They have one of the most comprehensive restaurant week menus, including favorites like pickle tots, milk-braised pork shoulder and heirloom sweet potatoes with miso cream.

Normally, you couldn’t afford this

Let’s face it: dining out can get very, very expensive. For restaurant week, try out a couple of restaurants that normally would scare you away with a higher price tag. Lunch at Sepia is a wonderful bargain, with three courses of Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s normally somewhat-pricey food for just $22. Start with veal agnolotti, munch on a grilled pork belly pastrami sandwich and finish with a decadent chocolate pecan cake. Head to Lincoln Park for dinner at Perennial Virant, which has opted for the less expensive $33 dinner menu — quite a bargain for Chef Paul Virant’s local, sustainable cuisine. A salad of local lettuces with pickled tomato vinaigrette starts the evening, followed by grilled Rushing Waters rainbow trout.

Don’t forget the classics

Just because a restaurant has been around a long time doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. Have you walked past Lowry’s a hundred times, wondering what kind of people dine inside its windowless chambers? Now’s your chance — try a 3-course lunch at the classic steakhouse for only $22. Slow-cooked onion soup, moules frites, brie tart and crème brulee; the menu is a bit old-fashioned, but it’s still delicious. Looking for a romantic date night? Head to Geja’s Café, often rated Chicago’s most romantic restaurant. The fondue-based menu is exactly the same as always, but during restaurant week it only costs $33 a person, a substantial discount.

Anthony Todd is a local free-lance writer.

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