Happy National Mushroom Month! These umami-packed fungi are low in calories with no fat or cholesterol and they come in so many different varieties. From mushroom melts to Oaxacan red mole, these restaurants are making it easier than ever to enjoy #MeatlessMonday.
New in Town
The Chicago Mushroom Company is planning to open a new urban farming facility in spring 2019 with Venture Verde to make the finest gourmet and medicinal mushrooms more easily accessible to home cooks and chefs.
One of the best courses on the elaborate tasting menu at this fine-dining gem is the walleye pike fillet with whipped potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms. Chef Michael Lachowicz says chanterelles are his favorite mushroom and he gets real French chanterelles from Rare Tea Cellar and Regalis Foods. “They have a sweet nuttiness and perfect chew and mouthfeel,” he describes. “I absolutely love them and they allow the pike to shine without taking a backseat in any way, offering a texture contrast and complimentary buttery flavor.” Lachowicz also dusts the fish with tweezer-harvested dill pollen before sautéeing to add a floral, aromatic note and garnishes the dish with dill flowers. 64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847-562-6105
Wood-fired cooking is all the rage, and Three Embers, located within the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire, makes no exception. Executive Chef Yo Chang smokes Wisconsin mushrooms from River Valley Ranch with applewood then makes a smoky mushroom broth, and chars the mushrooms before dicing them into a fine duxelles to pair with scallops. The scallops are seared in cast iron directly over burning embers, and root vegetables from the hotel’s on-site farm are the finishing touch. 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847-634-0100
Sous Chef Arnett McMurray created a warm, gooey mushroom melt at this boozy deli in the West Loop, inspired by the toppings on his favorite burger. Portobello mushrooms sautéed with garlic and thyme are piled high on ButterCrumb Bakery sourdough bread and layered with both Swiss and cheddar cheeses. Griddled onions add sweetness while housemade horseradish aioli and pickled fresno chiles add bite and acidity to the beautifully mushy mess that’s become their most popular vegetarian option. “If you’re a vegetarian and wish you could have all the satisfaction of a patty melt, this is your jam,” McMurray says. 328 S. Jefferson St., Chicago, 312-929-2707
The grilled mushroom dish at this modern Mexican restaurant has been on the menu since day one and is a top seller. Chef Brian Enyart says the dish was actually born out of a family meal that he cooked for Chef Curtis Duffy and his team at the now closed Grace restaurant. Grilled maitake and shimeji mushrooms are paired with a chestnut corn bread made by Enyart’s wife and Dos Urban Cantina’s pastry chef, Jennifer Jones Enyart. “The mole works so well as a balance to the sweet cornbread and earthy mushrooms,” Enyart says. “I chose these mushrooms because of the wide range of texture they offer, which I find makes the dish more interesting to eat.” There are a couple dozen ingredients in the complex red mole recipe, including guava, sesame, dried apricots, Mexican chocolate, garlic, tomato, and a trio of ancho, pasilla, and mulato chilies. It all culminates in a sweet, spicy, and fruity foundation to a rockstar dish. 2829 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-661-6452
There are a lot of secret menu items at this classic steakhouse, and a baked sweet potato overflowing with cremini mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme is just one of them. Owner and Managing Partner Matthew McCahill grew up vegetarian, so he added this off-menu item a few months ago to offer another nutritious, flavorful vegetarian option — they also serve cauliflower steaks topped with mushrooms. Executive Chef Hector Villegas says a generous pat of creamy Irish butter in the veggie sauté is key to the rich and satisfying flavor. 60 W. Ontario St., Chicago, 312-787-7100
Mushroom pizzas are pretty common, but Pizzeria Bebu takes theirs to the next level with intense umami flavor. They hard roast cremini and shiitake mushrooms in the oven until all the liquid has evaporated, then toss them with roasted garlic. The meaty texture combined with a creamy white sauce, fluffy ricotta, pecorino, and aged balsamic makes a perfect pizza atop Bebu’s signature crunchy charred crust. “Often I find mushrooms on pizza to come out soggy and rather bland,” Chef Jeff Lutzow says. “A lot of pizzerias use raw mushrooms on their pies, which let off a lot of moisture when baked.” By roasting his mushrooms before baking, he removes any excess moisture — a tip to try at home. 1521 N. Fremont St., Chicago, 312-280-6000
This funky neighborhood tavern has a small but mighty food menu to accompany their draft punches and stirred cocktails by the ounce. The vegetarian bolognese looks just like their mostaccioli and with the same campanelle noodles, but instead of using pig head and beef cheeks, they combine three types of mushrooms with smoked cauliflower and melty cheese. There are roasted fresh enoki mushrooms, rehydrated dried French forest mushrooms from Provence, and a sprinkling of maitake powder like umami fairy dust throughout. “Dried mushrooms rehydrated in wine add a depth of flavor that’s unparalleled in vegetarian food,” Chef Nick Jirasek says. 2959 N. California Ave., Chicago, 773-754-7492
The vegan verdure cacciatore is Chef Chris Gawronski‘s tongue-in-cheek play on the classic chicken cacciatore, prepared with farm-fresh vegetables, chanterelle mushrooms, summer truffle, tomato, and polenta. “I usually create meat-focused dishes, but I knew I needed to add a fully vegan entrée to the menu,” he says. “This dish is named after vegetable hunters, the farmers and foragers who hunt endlessly for their produce.” Gawronski uses chanterelles from Oregon, cooks French and Italian summer truffles for the sauce, and finishes the dish with slices of Australian black truffles. “When cooked, European summer truffles release the same dormant, earthy aroma that is found in the Périgord.” 18 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-578-0763
More from Make It Better:
- 7 Easy Weeknight Dinners to Make With a Rotisserie Chicken
- 14 Chicago and North Shore Food Trucks for Every Type of Craving
- New in Town: 8 Chicago-Area Foodie Destinations to Check Out Now
Amber Gibson spends 340 nights a year in hotels searching for the latest and greatest in the travel industry. Her writing and photographs have appeared in print, online, and on the radio for outlets including Four Seasons Magazine, NPR, Saveur, Departures, Rhapsody, Hemispheres, American Way, Private Air, Wine Folly, Plate, Chicago Magazine, Tasting Table, and Serious Eats. She graduated as valedictorian from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and received a fellowship to attend the 2017 Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley. Champagne, dark chocolate, and gelato are her biggest weaknesses. She also admires and supports CAASE in Chicago. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.