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 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 […]

  • Phil Vettel reveals his Critic’s Choice Awards for 2018

    CHICAGO, Ill. — Every year, my Critic’s Choice Dining Awards recognizes outstanding work by Chicago chefs and restaurateurs. Honorees range from newcomers to veterans, and, together, they defined Chicago dining in 2018.  Following are six of the award winners. The chef of the year is Diana Davila, whose Logan Square restaurant, Mi Tocaya Antojeria, won recognition from the James Beard Foundation, Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. In addition to producing memorable food, chef Davila emerged as an important voice in […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Brindille

    CHICAGO, Ill. — A lot of people ask me to recommend quiet restaurants. Well, here’s one of my favorites: Brindille, an elegant French restaurant in River North. Here, the atmosphere is as muted as the dark walls and low-key artwork (16:44.26). Chef and partner Carrie Nahabedian says she wanted to create a place where guests could relax.   This is matched by Nahabedian’s food, which is refined but approachable. Her tart-tatin of potatoes, for instance, is a complex mix embracing rocket […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Avec

    CHICAGO — Strange but true, to me at least, is that Avec turned 15 late last year. The 50-seat, wood-enclosed space holds only 50 people, and those lucky 50 are treated to Mediterranean small and large plates by chef Perry Hendrix, who has been chef for nearly six years. Some dishes have been on the menu since Day One, such as the deluxe focaccia, which, stuffed with taleggio and ricotta cheeses and truffle oil, functions as a kind of non-pizza pizza. […]

  • Vettel: Virtue offers sophisticated take on Southern staples, grounded in history ★★★

    Boasting Southern country charm and urban sophistication, Virtue, which opened in November in Hyde Park, is a new restaurant that belongs on your to-visit list, according to food critic Phil Vettel. Chef and owner Erick Williams, last seen as executive chef at the highly regarded MK restaurant, applies his fine-dining skill set to Southern staples, which is not at all contradictory. “Through my career — Italian and French predominantly — ingredients overlap. Kale is very close to collard greens, as […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Amerikas

  • Phil Vettel reviews Twain

  • Phil Vettel reviews Two Lights

    CHICAGO, Ill. — A new Old Town restaurant aims to brings the tastes of the Maine coast to Chicago. Dining Critic Phil Vettel shares his thoughts on Two Lights.

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