Tasting menus allow guests to fully experience a restaurant, but it can often come with a hefty price. However, many Chicago restaurants are now offering guests more affordable options, giving guests a luxe experience that’s also budget friendly. Below are some wallet-friendly tasting menus around the city:
Mercat a la Planxa
Spanish restaurant Mercat a la Planxa’s eight-course tasting menu rings in at just $55 a person and features a selection of signature tapas and plates, including bacon-wrapped chorizo stuffed dates, paella, and a sweet treat for dessert.
Mercat a la Planxa is a modern interpretation of timeless Catalan traditions. Located on Michigan Avenue, Mercat offers an authentic dining experience that combines fresh meats and produce with the energetic spirit of a Barcelona market. The interiors boast bright, rich fabrics and weathered mosaic tiles, accented by dynamic sculptural furniture and distinctive art murals.
Mercat’s menu is a mix of authentic Spanish cuisine with an emphasis in the Catalonian region. From street food-styled starters to meal-sized classics, rice and grilled specialties from our planxa grill, each dish leads diners to another stage along Mercat’s culinary adventure. Complementing the rich cultural experience is an extensive, yet finely curated selection of cava, sangria, wine and cocktail creations. Mercat a la Planxa combines the best of both the old and new worlds, bringing a Catalan aesthetic to the heart of Chicago.
Mercat a la Planxa, a modern Catalan tapas restaurant and bar located adjacent to the historic Blackstone Hotel, was introduced in early 2008 by restaurateur Peter Karpinski of the Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group. Mercat’s menu features meats and seafood served a la planxa or on the grill, all inspired by Barcelona and Spain’s Catalan region. The bar offers Spanish-influenced cocktails, as well as an extensive collection of Spanish sherries, wines, sangrias and beer.
Jeong’s modern Korean tasting menu ($85 per person) draws inspiration from Chef Dave Park’s childhood with his grandparents, and the seven courses include his interpretations of traditional Korean fare like hwe (sashimi) with a salmon tartare, yulmoo rice served with duck and a corn tea glaze, and more.
Jeong, the restaurant from Chef Dave Park and Jen Tran opened its doors in February 2019 in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Park and Tran opened Jeong following the success of their chef-driven restaurant Hanbun located in a food court that earned Park a James Beard semifinalist nomination and Eater Young Gun award. Hanbun served fast casual Korean fare for lunch as well as upscale tasting menu dinners in their kitchen, and Jeong’s cuisine will continue in that more refined style.
The name “Jeong” has a dual meaning for the couple – it’s Chef Park’s grandmother’s maiden name, but it also holds significance in Korean culture. “Jeong” is a certain kind of love that builds a soulful connection and bonds people – something that the couple hope to convey through their food and warm hospitality. Park’s love of food was first sparked by cooking with his grandmother in Korea, and much of the menu is inspired by those early food memories.
Each dish in the tasting menu is inspired by the traditional ingredients in Korean cuisine but interpreted using modern technique. Jeong sources ingredients from local purveyors and Korean producers but also makes many base ingredients in-house, including silken tofu and kimchi. Park features the silken tofu as the base of a dish with King crab, maesil (Korean plum), and chili-braised fern. His take on the Korean tteokbokki (rice cakes) is roasted with schmaltz and glazed with chili sauce, served with marinated quail eggs, charred cabbage, and pickeled mustard seed. Desserts also utilize traditional ingredients like dwenjang (fermented soybean paste) – Park incorporates this into a carmel which he serves with a chestnut financier topped with smoked chestnut cream and chocolate.
Jeong is open Tuesday – Saturday, with reservations available from 5:00 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations can be made online through OpenTable.
Two Michelin-starred restaurant, Acadia has even offered an affordable tasting menu for guests who were interested in sampling a two Michelin-starred tasting menu without the expense or time commitment. Acadia’s bar offered Chef Ryan McCaskey’s Bar Snacks which consisted of small bites, showcasing some of Acadia’s greatest hits in just a mouthful at a fraction of the price.