Best Russian Restaurants in Chicago Illinois

The Best Russian Restaurants in Chicago, Illinois

I love traveling, but traveling is not my business. Therefore, I am home more than I am away. Although I cannot spend each day in a different foreign country, I can do the next best thing: enjoy a taste of foreign cultures. And what better way to do this than dining out at world-class restaurants?

When one considers the mix of world-class ethnic cuisine few would place Russian food at the top of their list. They just might, however, be missing something.

Quality Russian restaurants across the U. S. are few and far between. In my opinion, despite Chicago holding its own against the ethnic cuisine available in other cities such as New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, only five Russian restaurants meet my personal “Exemplary Rating” of Four to Five star dining experiences in this toddling town that poet Carl Sandberg called the “City of the Big Shoulders.”

My rating is based on the quality of the food, the imagination of the recipes used, the savoir-faire and attentiveness of the wait staff, the presentation of the dishes and the all-important ambiance of the restaurant. Price is not a consideration as most Russian restaurants are reasonably to moderately priced, the one exception being the Everest. The Everest is in a special class by itself as a quasi-Russian restaurant that incorporates a strong French influence throughout its eye-popping menu. Since the restaurant is consistently listed among the top twenty restaurants in all of America I can only fall back on the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”

No matter the dish, ingredients and attention to detail are often the factors determining whether you are served a plate of unappetizing hash or haute cuisine, a gourmand’s delight. The Russian restaurants I’ve reviewed all pay attention to the quality of their ingredients and pay special attention to detail.

Ambiance is another important element of any fine dining experience; after all, part of the enjoyment of dining out at an ethnic restaurant – other than the flavor of the food – is the flavor of the environment. Therefore, be aware that I’ve weighted that factor heavily in my reviews.

So, whether you’re a native Chicagoan, a tourist or visit the city on business, I invite you to try one of these restaurants. The differences in ratings are based on subtleties and over all I assure you each is enjoyable and your money and time will be well-spent.

1. Everest
[French /Russian cuisine]
440 S. LaSalle St., Chicago, IL
Phone: 312/663-8920

Rating: Five Stars

If you look up the definition of “world-class ” in the dictionary don’t be surprised if you spot a picture of the Everest restaurant. It’s perhaps the best restaurant in Chicago, certainly one of the best in America and maybe the planet.

The restaurant is amazing it hits the Five Star rating in every category. I was tempted to create a special Six Star rating just for Everest.

The service at Everest is the best: unobtrusive and in the background, but always attentive and at your beck and call. Yes, the food hits the heights the restaurant was named after, but it’s worth every penny you spend. Add to all that a view from the fortieth floor: the entire skyline of Chicago rests at your feet. At night the panorama is especially dramatic. You feel on top of the world.

See website for full menu.

Hours: Tue-Thu. 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Fri. 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. ; Sat. 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Price Range: $100 and up per person.
Accepts all major credit cards.
Full Bar
Reservations: Mandatory
Valet Parking
[Please note: A jacket is required attire.]

2. Russian Tea Time
[Americanized-Russian cuisine]
77 E Adams St., Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 360-0000

Rating: Four and 1/2 Stars

Although the name suggests a modest teahouse, Russian Tea Time offers a full menu of delectable dishes. Some you know and others that may not be so familiar.

I sometimes dine here before attending a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra which is within walking distance.
Try the Russian Tea Time Platter for Two. It’s reasonably priced and after your meal you won’t leave the table hungry. Other delights include their Lamb Samsa (a puff pastry dish from Uzbekistan, stuffed with chopped lamb, onions and a touch of cumin), the Eggplant Duet (an inventive combination of sauteed eggplant and eggplant oriental), and the aptly named Pumpkin Vareniky (six plump dumplings stuffed with pumpkin, mild farmer’s cheese, tangy garlic, and onions with rich cinnamon butter). Delicious!

Other cuisine from the former Soviet Union include: chicken croquettes pojarski, a beet caviar with walnuts and prunes and their house tashkent carrot salad that’s served with all main entrees.

Previously a caterer, Ms. Klara Muchnik started the restaurant and still owns it. During the 1990s she emigrated from a city called Tashkent located in Uzbekistan, the Central Asian region of the former U.S.S.R.

The Russian Tea Time restaurant is very popular and out-of-town celebrities are known to drop in when they’re in Chicago.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday- Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Cuisine: Americanized Russian and Ukrainian, family style. See website for full menu.
Lunch and dinner are served as well as their famous black Russian tea.
(Please note: Their popular “Tea service” is offered between the hours of 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. daily.)
Price Range: $16-$25
Reservations: Recommended. (I strongly advise a reservation for pre-concert dinners.)
Full bar (with an almost embarrassingly extensive vodka list).
Accepts all major credit cards.

3. Zhivago
[Russian cuisine]
9925 Gross Point Rd
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 982-1400

Rating: Five Stars

One of Chicago’s popular “fusion” restaurants, Zhivago combines classic Russian cuisine with overtones of Italian, French and Asian highlights.

For a peek at their menu follow the URL I provided. Briefly, appetizers they offer include smoked salmon and sturgeon smoked in-house. Another wonderful experience is the Mediterranean seafood salad incorporating, calamari, shrimp and greens all topped with homemade sesame dressing.

Try their lamb chops. Three to four double chops are served with potatoes and vegetables. The duck with cherry sauce will make your taste buds do a double take.

If you care to imbibe, why not order one of the available Russian or Ukrainian beers? You can try this suggestion: their cappuccino. Yes, cappuccino. Even though an Italian coffee, Zhivago makes it to perfection. It’s superb.

See their website for the full menu.

Price Range: $15 – $25
Reservations: Recommended
Accepts all major credit cards.
Full Bar

4. Sak’s Ukrainian Village Restaurant & Lounge
[Ukrainian cuisine – although most dishes are very similar to Russian]
2301 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 278-4445

Rating: Four Stars

[Note: The rating would have been Five Stars but for the unpredictable service.]

The quality of service at Sak’s is sporadic. On good days it can equal that of The Russian Tea House. Bad service days are very bad, perhaps barely one notch above the service provided at a roadhouse in Eastern Tennessee.

Making up for the sometimes infuriating service is the food. Good, basic authentic Slavic food. You can tell the difference between food made with care and that just thrown together quickly to get it out on the table. Sak’s food is made with care . . . and it’s authentic. Unlike the fusion of Zhivago’s or the Americanization of Russian Tea Time, Sak’s is heavily populated with Slav diners – a sure sign that the food is the same as mother made back in the Old Country.

What better review for what may be the one truly, one hundred percent authentic Russian/Ukraine restaurant in Chicago than to share the comments of a Slav diner who frequents the place?

“Considering all the Slavs in this little town, places like Sak’s should be a ubiquitous force of pork and sour cream, shaking a proverbial iron fist, casting a giant shadow over the city, submitting one and all to daily portions of borscht and black bread. Sadly, Russian restaurants are few and far between in Chicago, but Sak’s stands strong. Sak’s is to Russian Tea Time as Nordstrom’s is to Target.

“Sure, Sak’s is not swanky, the various taxidermy animals and skeletons mounted to the wall are a bit strange, especially juxtaposed with the modern art in the other half of the place, but, you know, it somehow feels right.

“In (post) Soviet Russia, namely, modern day Moscow, this meal would be more than all of my credit card debt combined (i.e., lots of money). But no . . . I demanded everyone order what should have been four dinners at the price of a Muscovite Latte: a bowl of borscht, bread, five vareniky (stuffed dumplings), a potato pancake, a big ball of sauerkraut, four slices of kolbasa, stuffed cabbage, and mashed potatoes. Then they give you ice cream and chocolate sauce, just in case you didn’t get enough – all for $13.00.” ~ Cheryl B. Chicago

Now can I add anything more to such high praise from an expert?

Price Range: $15 – $25
Reservations: Recommended
Accepts all major credit cards.
Full Bar

5. Regina’s Restaurant
[Russian, Ukrainian and American traditional.]
1820 W. Irving Park Rd.
Chicago, IL 60613

Rating: Four Stars

Unlike the large restaurants previously reviewed, Regina’s is a small cafe with a Russian/American menu. It’s open for breakfast and lunch only opening about 5 a.m. and shutting its doors around 2 p.m.

Typical meals like Chicken Kiev are under $6.00, tasty and filling. Ever listen to Russian Blues music? You’ll hear it at Regina’s! Excellent homemade bakery bread, borscht, beef Stroganoff and potato pancakes too.

Hours: 5:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; closed on Sundays.
Cuisine: Russian, Ukrainian and American traditional.
Price Range: Under $ 10
Specialties: Russian breakfast; daily Ukrainian specials, melt-in-your-mouth beef Stroganoff.
No credit cards, strictly cash.

Honorable Mention List
[I include these if you happen to be in the neighborhood. They are good, but not the best.]

[Russian, Euro-continental and American traditional cuisine.]
1090 South Milwaukee Ave.
Wheeling, IL 60090

Rating: Three and 1/2 Stars

Josephine’s is a Dance/Nightclub: You must be 21 years of age and up to be admitted.

Versailles Restaurant
[Russian/French cuisine.]
131 W. Dundee Rd.
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089

Rating: Three Stars

Old Lviv
[Ukrainian/Russian cuisine.]
2228 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

Rating: Two and 1/2

[Georgian/Russian cuisine]
Neighborhood: Rogers Park
2954 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659

Rating: Three Stars

If you do try one of them contact me through Helium and let me know how you liked it.

Bon appetit!