Lighten Up for Spring

Warmer weather means more seasonal ingredients and fresh menu ideas

It's finally spring in Chicagoland, and restaurants are getting excited about the possibilities of more seasonal ingredients and lighter, fresher fare. Read on for a selection of new spring menus that are cropping up along with the tulips around town. 

At River North's Farmerie 58, where locally grown, sustainable ingredients are always starring attractions, executive chef Nathan Kosakowski has a much wider repertorie to work with now that spring -- and some crops -- have sprung. A sampling of his new seasonal menu includes an arugula salad, pan-roasted wild salmon BLT and ginger creme brulee for lunch; asparagus and spring pea soup, seafood salad, halibut en papillotte, Duroc pork chop and "58" steak frites featuring Tallgrass beef for dinner ($8-$26); and stuffed grape leaves, ale-battered Great Lakes perch and citrus-glazed quail as small plate offerings ($5-$7). 

Chicago's quintessential bar for bubbles, Pops For Champagne, has introduced a spring bar menu featuring seasonal flavors served in small plate sizes, perfect for pairing with a flute of something fun. Executive chef Andrew Brochu works such spring favorites as strawberries, artichokes and dandelion greens into the recently unveiled vernal menu, which offers hot and cold entrees. Highlights include big-eyed tuna, lamb carpaccio, blue crab "packets," foie gras, a braised pork sandwich, chicken wings and flatbread topped with royal trumpet mushrooms, tomato and black garlic. (Prices range from $9-$19.)

At the recently opened Sortie in the Gold Coast, a new spring menu highlights traditional Turkish recipes made with fresh herbs and globally influenced ingredients. The sleek dining destination offers a full menu of hot and cold appetizers, salads, kebabs, entrees and desserts, with fresh spring dishes such as lamb kebabs, a mixed vegetarian platter and sauteed shrimp taking center stage. Prices range from $5 for the Turkish pizza with ground beef, tomato, onion, pepper, parsley and black and red pepper baked in a thin layer of dough, to $31 for a 16-ounce filet mignon cooked in a signature sauce. Sortie has also rolled out a new Sunday brunch menu to coincide with the warmer weather, which is available for $14.99 per person from 10:30AM-2:30PM every week.

Glen Prairie in west suburban Glen Ellyn, which was recently named one of Chicago magazine's "Best New Restaurants," always keeps its focus local and seasonal, a job made much easier with the warmer season. New additions to the restaurant's lunch, dinner and dessert offerings feature of-the-moment ingredients utilized in such dishes as a confit tuna Nicoise salad and grilled Iowa skirt steak salad for lunch ($12-$14); spiced grilled Missouri catfish and baby eggplant involtini for dinner ($16-$18); and a strawberry, peaches and cream trifle and a fruit and berry plate for dessert ($5-$7). 

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