Smyth – Chicago

smyth-chicago chef john smyth

Dining at Smyth-Chicago was just dumb luck. We unexpectedly found ourselves with a long weekend and no commitments, so that meant frantic last-minute travel and dining arrangements. All the splashiest names were booked for a Saturday evening, but that’s where lady luck intervened and a cancellation at Smyth allowed us to nab a 7:30 rezzie for two.

Chef-owners Karen and John Shields opened in 2016 after a five year sabbatical in Smyth County, Virginia where they not only found their mojo in fresh farm to table produce, but also the name for their new restaurant.

Back in Chicago they went to work, establishing ties to The Farm, a 40 year old, 20 acre oasis an hour south in Kankakee, and creating the welcoming atmosphere they envisioned. They did it with stylish “rusticity” using natural woods and lighting. Their dress code? I was told to come as you are, which of course we did not, however they were absolutely serious. Without white tablecloths it’s almost jarring when each dish arrives, each more beautiful and scrumptious than the last.

kitchen area


Karen and John have impeccable credentials, cooking at Alinea and Charlie Trotters. Then their ideas crystallized while running the Town House in Virginia. In just two short years after opening Smyth they have achieved one, then two Michelin stars that they retain today. They also received the prestigious Jean Banchet award for Chicago Restaurant of the Year.

Our Smyth-Chicago Tasting Menu

Smyth offers three tasting menus and three optional wine pairings. I don’t usually spend a lot of time detailing the cost of fine dining, but it bears mentioning that their tasting menus are a bargain in today’s world. We chose the eight course tasting ($155) with the traditional (+$85) wine pairing.

Smyth salted radish

Salted frozen radish and melon with oyster and seaweed

Smyth sungold tomato

Sungold tomatoes with rhubarb preserves

Smyth Dungeness Crab and foie gras with scrambled Kani Miso

Dungeness crab and foie gras with scrambled kani miso

Aged ribeye with Farro Koji chantarelles and hollandaise

Aged ribeye with farro koji, chanterelle and hollandaise

Smyth Milk Chocolate with huckleberry and preserved shitake mushroom

Milk chocolate bars with huckleberry and preserved shiitake mushroom

Smyth-chicago egg

Egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with frozen yogurt meringue

smyth-chicago Aged ribeye

Aged ribeye with caramelized onion and kelp marmite

smyth-chicago blueberries sunflower cream

Blueberries, sunflower cream and marigold on lemon thyme ice

Post Script

We were lucky in many ways. Our visit was pre-covid and so were the prices. Now the tasting menu will set you back $285, almost double, but well earned. Were I to visit today I would opt for the chef’s table experience at $345 in a heartbeat. Check out the website HERE.