02/17/2012 06:48 pm ET | Updated Feb 17, 2012

Chicago Restaurant Week 2012 Cheat Sheet (PHOTOS)

Restaurant Week kicks off Friday, which means Chicagoans have until the 26th to cram in eats from as many of the 200 participating restaurants as they can. And with gourmet prix-fixe menus priced at $22 for lunches and $33-44 for dinners, it's worth hitting the ground running.

If you're joining this late in the game, you're already behind. Luckily, Chicagoist has rounded up some spots with reservations still available. Chef Ryan Poli's newly-opened and much-acclaimed Tavernita just joined the event, and has some tables still open. Other last-minute options they recommend trying are The Bristol, Markethouse, and waffles at Leopold that are not to be missed.

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel, a veteran of all four previous Restaurant Weeks, loves Nightwood, whose dinner menu this year "puzzles and intrigues" him. He spotlights Bar Toma's lunch for including the restaurant's best features in each course, and is excited to try first-time participant Paris Club.

Chicago Now blog Show Me Chicago's Carole Kuhrt Brewer speaks highly of Restaurant Week newcomers as well, especially Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, NoMi Kitchen, Paris Club and Table Fifty-Two.

Chicago Like a Local blogger Tammy Green, co-founder of Chicago Bites, zeroed in on The Gage, both for the reliability of Chef Dirk Flanigan and the descriptions of his celery root puree and BBQ duck confit.

Guided by your own gastronomical compass? Click away at OpenTable's easy-to-use Restaurant Week directory. (We hope the reservation gods smile upon you.)

(In need of some perspective? Get WBEZ's Claire Zulkey's take.)

Check out some top picks with Restaurant Week offerings (and vote for your faves!). Anything we missed? Tell us in the comments.


Chicago Restaurant Week: In Photos