Phil Vettel, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, joined Tribune Company (at Suburban Trib) in 1979, and has been The Tribune’’s restaurant critic since 1989. He has a wife and two sons, one or more of whom often accompany Phil on his culinary adventures. He also makes a mean egg-salad sandwich.


Recent Articles
  • Phil Vettel’s summer dining guide

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Now that it’s summer – and despite the weather, it really is summer – let’s take a look at some recently opened restaurants that belong on your eating List. Galit is a Middle-Eastern restaurant with an Israeli focus. Sitting at 2429 North Lincoln Avenue, the restaurant features an open kitchen with counter seating and comfortable banquettes. The wood-burning oven churns out great pita bread, handy for the hummus and side dishes that dominate the menu. It’s already […]

  • Vettel: At new River North location, Entente is still ‘a complete package,’ ⭐⭐⭐

    CHICAGO — The old Entente earned a Michelin star, but had trouble drawing customers to its northwest-Lakeview location, so it moved to a new River North location six weeks ago. It’s a larger space with well-spaced free tables, comfortable banquette seating and a much-larger bar. It’s better-looking than the original location, too. The constant is Executive Chef Brian Fisher, who says the physical space is the only thing that’s changed about Entente. “Everything’s the same… obviously the neighborhood is a […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Jeong

    CHICAGO –What was once a tiny restaurant called Hanbun in the west suburbs, has become a beautiful restaurant called Jeong in Noble Square. Jeong seats just 40 guests along two long banquettes; decorative touches include traditional rice-paper screens and contemporary lights. The traditional and contemporary theme plays out on the menu. Chef David Park’s food is based on the flavors of Korea, but then the chef’s creativity takes over. Guests can order a la carte, or choose the seven-course, $87 […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Momotaro

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Momotaro is a Japanese restaurant with many facets. There is the upstairs dining room, whose bar is a subtle homage to the Tokyo stock exchange. There is the downstairs Izakaya, with its lounge-y lighting and posters, meant to evoke a Tokyo back alley. There’s a very good sushi bar, with a wide range of sushi, maki rolls and sashimi. But for me the real draw are the robata dishes executed by chef Gene Kato. The default robata […]

  • Vettel: Memorable, elegant night out awaits at Les Nomades

    For more than 30 years, Les Nomades has been the standard bearer for French fine-dining in Chicago. Led by chef Roland Liccioni, Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phill Vettell says the gracious  restaurant has outstanding food and charm to spare. He gives Les Nomades, located at 222 East Ontario Street, four stars. Dinner runs $130 for four courses, and $145 for five, so it’s definitely a special-occasion destination. But for a memorable elegant night out, it’s hard to improve on Les […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Brass Heart

    CHICAGO — Brass Heart opened in August in Uptown with sky-high ambitions and prices to match. Dinner for two is going to set you back around three hundred dollars without wine. Matt Kerney is the chef and partner. His resume includes years as chef of the well-regarded Longman & Eagle, in Logan Square. But conceptually, he acknowledges, Brass Heart represents a higher level of dining. Start with the dining room, which holds just 20 seats, guaranteeing an intimate evening. A […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Siam Marina

    TINLEY PARK, Ill. — For 25 years, south suburbanites have been able to dine at Siam Marina, though they’ve had to point their cars in different directions from time to time. The original was a storefront in Calumet City, the second was in River Oaks Center and for the last four years, Siam Marina has occupied a stand-alone building in Tinley Park. As the sign suggests, there’s a little something for everybody here, including occasional live music and about 5 […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Yūgen

    CHICAGO — Chicago’s high-end restaurant roster is now a little bigger with the arrival of Yūgen, which opened in November and features a set menu priced at $205, before beverage, tax and tip. The dining room doesn’t lack for elegance. There are rich charcoal-colored tables, light earth-tone walls and luxurious chairs. A living wall of growing greenery adds a three-dimensional effect and a pastoral feel. You’ll begin with a plate of canapes, which include choux pastry puffs stuffed with mushroom […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Avli Taverna

    CHICAGO, Ill., — Chef Louie Alexakis, who has owned Avli restaurant in Winnetka for nearly 10 years, is taking his Greek-cuisine act to Chicago; specifically, Lincoln Park, where Avli Taverna has been doing very well for four months. Alexakis strives to be more adventurous, more regionally varied than most Greektown restaurants, but there’s a lot of familiarity on his menu. For example, he offers saganaki – not the tableside-flamed version that was invented in Chicago, but a nicely composed dish […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Kyoten

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Chicago has experienced a recent boom in omakase restaurants. Loosely translated to “chef’s choice,” omakase restaurants are spare and intimate, where a handful of guests experience a progression of dishes designed and delivered before their eyes. Kyoten opened five months ago in Logan Square; chef and owner Otto Phan had a very successful restaurant in Austin, Texas, but he moved to Chicago – and he’s not shy about saying so – to increase his national profile. The […]

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