Prix-Fixe Menus Under 50 Bucks

Get a taste of a chef's chosen dishes without sacrificing your bank balance

Many restaurants offer prix-fixe menus -- a complete meal of several courses offered at a fixed price. They might seem like a cost-effective way to sample a chef's offerings, or they could give you sticker shock, depending on the price tag. Several Chicago restos are taking today's economy into consideration when planning prix-fixe menus, giving diners a deal while still getting to show off a little. Read on for our guide to some of the most creative and affordable prix-fixe presentations in town. 

Take one look at Lockwood, the fine-dining restaurant at the historic Palmer House Hilton in the Loop, and you'll think, whoa, this has got to be big bucks. Not if you go the prix-fixe route. Chef Phillip Foss has put together a $38 pre-theater menu (available to those without tickets to a play, as well) featuring three courses. Selections include such choices as Blue Hill Bay mussels with shallots, garlic, thyme and a chardonnay broth; slow-cooked Scottish salmon with baby potatoes, brussels sprouts, bacon, walnuts and balsamic; and an apple tarte with star anise ice cream and salted caramel.

Park Grill, which has an enviable location overlooking Millennium Park, offers a three-course, prix-fixe menu (also for Loop theater goers) for $35. The first course offers a choice of roasted beet salad, Park Grill chicken soup or a jumbo lump crab cake. The entree course features either garlic-roasted half chicken, sauteed Atlantic salmon or ricotta cheese ravioli. For dessert, pick from butterscoth creme brulee or a peanut butter tart.

At West Town's Green Zebra, a spot known for its imaginative vegetarian meals, chef de cuisine Molly Kipp developed a four-course seasonal tasting menu for $44 (with $4 benefitting World Bicycle Relief, an organization dedicated to providing bikes to people in impoverished areas around the world).

In the dynamic Sofitel Chicago Water Tower you'll find Cafe des Architectes, a colorful, energetic restaurant with new chef Martial Noguier (formerly of One Sixtyblue) at the helm. Noguier is presenting a chef's seasonal menu for $42, offering an appetizer, entree and dessert. You'll be hard pressed to choose from such dishes as spiced marinated duck confit, Swan Creek Farm suckling pig and diver sea scallops.

SushiSamba Rio's "recession prix-fixe" menu is $35 for three courses. Diners get to choose from three of the River North restaurant's unique Japanese-South American selections for each course, with items like seared Otoro kobe beef with ponzu gelee and warm Japanese mushroom and truffled tofu crema; mini moqueca with shrimp, squid, clams, mussels and crayfish in coconut milk; and a soft Japanese rice cake filled with ice cream.

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