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  • Balena

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Balena Details

  • Dining Style: Casual Dining
  • Website: http://balenachicago.com/
  • Phone: (312) 867-3888
  • Hours of Operation: Open for Dinner Monday through Thursday 5pm until 10pm.

    Friday and Saturday the kitchen is open until 11pm.

    Saturday and Sunday the kitchen opens at 4:30pm.
  • Payment Options: AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
  • Cuisine: Italian, Pizzeria
  • Executive Chef: Chris Pandel
  • Dress Code: Casual Dress
  • Accepts Walk-Ins: Yes
  • Additional Details: Bar Dining, Beer, Chef's Table, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Non-Smoking Restaurant, Personal wines welcome, Personal wines welcome (corkage fee applies), Private Room, Wine

Getting there

  • Cross Street: North Ave
  • Parking: Valet
A word from Balena
Balena is first collobaration between Boka Restaurant Group and The Bristol Group. Led by Execeutive Chef/Partner Chris Pandel, the restaurant serves what he calls "Honest, Italian cooking." Balena's many accolades include Best New Restaurants in America by Gayot and Bon Appetit, 3 stars by the Chicago Tribune, and a James Beard semi-fnailist position for Best New Rstaurant at the James Beard Awards.Continued
Foodspotting photos
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Diner Reviews
  • "We had a great time at Balena. The service was great and the food was really good. I would definitely go back."
    Dined on 7/26/2014
  • "This trip had the zucchini salad and peach pizza. Both were really different and terrific. I love this place!"
    Dined on 7/24/2014
  • "Excellent service and delicious well prepared food. Very enjoyable"
    Dined on 7/23/2014
  • "Very good service . Menu was varied and intresting"
    Dined on 7/23/2014
  • "Belana has become our go to place before we head across the street to see a show at Steppenwolf."
    Dined on 7/22/2014
  • "Every time my mom and sister come to town, this is our go-to spot. We're addicted to the lemon orecchiette and FIB 10s."
    Dined on 7/22/2014
  • "After 3 years in the US, my wife (from Europe) said this was the BEST and most authentic Italian food she has had in this country. I agree, and we eat a lot of Italian. We were also VERY impressed with the service and their attention to details. This restaurant has our highest recommendation. Thanks for a great experience!"
    Dined on 7/22/2014
  • "This was our first visit to Balena. It is across the street from the Steppenwolf Theater. Our server did a great job timing the meal. We had 2 pasta dishes, the Berkshire pork entrée, and sampled the tiramisu and a hazelnut crispy dessert. We thought the food all tasted very fresh. Thoroughly enjoyed everything. We want to return to try the pizza. Portion sizes are reasonable. Wine by the glass was expensive $14/glass I think is a bit high. All in all a very nice experience."
    Dined on 7/20/2014
  • "This is a good place with decent food, but pretty overpriced for small portions. Nice enough service, but I won't be going back."
    Dined on 7/18/2014
  • "We visited Balena for our anniversary. The staff was amazing and helped us celebrate. And the foot was incredible and very filling."
    Dined on 7/13/2014
  • "Yet another amazing dining experience at Balena. Every time we dine here we have such a wonderful time; the staff is among the best in Chicago and take such great care of you. Truly incredible food and cocktails; I love some of the new cocktails they recently added to the menu. We usually fill up on the pasta and pizza (among the very best pasta and pizza in Chicago) but this time decided to indulge in the 36oz steak and it was such a treat. Already am looking forward to returning soon."
    Dined on 7/12/2014
  • "Incredibly attentive service and helpfulness in accommodating allergies. Homemade pasta was some of the best I've had and practically melts in your mouth. Loved the menu selections that combined new takes on classic Italian (the Kale "Caesar" Salad for instance); the hanger steak was incredible as well. My only two complaints: Soda refills took forever because servers had to have bartenders do all refills and the noise level was a bit high."
    Dined on 7/12/2014
  • "Wonderful food at affordable (for upscale) prices. Pasta course highlight of meal. Attentive, friendly service"
    Dined on 7/11/2014
  • "We unfortunately had a pretty poor experience at Balena. Our waiter was regularly missing and we would have to stop other waiters both just to take our order (for food) and if we needed anything (for example, forks). At least one of us was always waiting for a drink because the bar was either unbelievably slow or because whichever waiter we tracked down forgot to put the drink request in. Our dinner took well over three hours just because of so many delays and an inability to find our waiter. We probably would think the food was better had the service not been so terrible."
    Dined on 7/11/2014
  • "My husband and I were visiting Chicago and would definitely go back to Balena on another visit. Delirious food, great service, very friendly and on top of everything. Cool spot! Good wine too"
    Dined on 7/10/2014
  • "Food was great, restaurant was very noisy and our service was disappointing. Waiter was very busy and spent most of his time with a couple next to us who were more interested in drinking expensive wine than eating. We felt seriously neglected."
    Dined on 7/10/2014
  • "Our waitress was great, very attentive, polite, and energetic. The appetizers and entrees were undersized and severely lacking in flavor and presentation at this price point. The desserts were good, and the drink menu is great too. Aside from the strange neon lights along one wall, the interior is quite gorgeous. I think Balena only remains open due to the affluent neighborhood. Stop by for drinks and dessert, but anything else will disappoint you."
    Dined on 7/9/2014
  • "The food seemed too fussy. I wanted a simple fresh tasty meal, and this wasn't the place. The chef is trying too gard to be different. Decor cool, staff very attentive. Food disappointing."
    Dined on 7/8/2014
  • "The place is gorgeous, the food is delicious and the wine list is wonderful. We loved the kale salad with sardines, the roasted halibut, smoked mackerel and shrimp. The pizzas and pastas also looked amazing but we were too full to try everything so we left it for the next time which we look forward to."
    Dined on 7/7/2014
  • "It's impossible to explain how good Balena is across all characteristics you expect from an amazing restaurant. My friend and I had a great time at Balena this weekend! The food and wine was fantastic, and the service was top-notch. You'll really appreciate your evening if you let the staff pick your meal for you. We did it, and both of us are still talking about the experience! After three unbelievable visits, Balena has secured itself as my new favorite restaurant in Chicago!!"
    Dined on 7/6/2014
  • "This Lincoln Park restaurant was not on our radar when heading to Chicago, but after reading reviews of other diners, we thought we would give it a "try". Great find. Food and service were outstanding, tried the craft cocktails and appetizers...great compliments to the beginning of a great meal."
    Dined on 7/5/2014
  • "Food was wonderful and service was fantastic! Linus was an excellent server!"
    Dined on 7/5/2014
  • "I've been meaning to come hear for over a year. I should not have waited, my new favorite restaurant in Chicago."
    Dined on 7/4/2014
  • "Other than one side, the food was terrific. The pasta dish (forget the name but it included crab meat) was among the best that I have ever tasted. The problem was that our server was so inattentive. It was not a busy night, but our meal lasted over 2 hrs in part because of long gaps between her visits to table. As just one example, I ordered a drink. About 15 minutes later, she returned and asked if I would like something to drink. When I ordered the same drink, rather than own her mistake she lamely responded the bar was backed up. The remaining staff was quite good at their jobs. We felt sorry for the young man who worked with our waitress because he was very good and had to be wondering why his and her roles were not reversed."
    Dined on 7/4/2014
  • "The food was delicious, the service was impressive and helpful. The bar selection is unparalleled."
    Dined on 7/3/2014
  • "We arrived at 5:40 planning to attend a performance at Steppenwolf, across the street. We are asked whether we were planning to attend Steppenwolf and confirmed. Although a server came to our table shortly after we were seated, our order wasn't taken until 15 minutes later. We ordered three courses, and the first two courses arrived within another 15 minutes or so. However, the third course had not appeared by 60 minutes after we were seated. After calling attention to our server and two floor managers (walking around with tablet computers but not really watching tables), we received profound apologies and after three rushed trips to the kitchen our main courses finally arrived at 6:50. We were comped for dinner."
    Dined on 7/3/2014
  • "Balena has been one of our local favorites since it opened. Great food, friendly service, and a nice wine list make this spot a pleasure to visit. Try the Bisteca, the Burrata Salad, the Halibut, and the Pizza. All good!"
    Dined on 7/1/2014
  • "Service was very good. Good was excellent. We will go back when we can. Great location."
    Dined on 6/30/2014
  • "The food was terrific and the atmosphere was great, but the service was poor. Our server was AWOL for much of the night, relying on a team of seemingly unaccountable and disorganized staff members handling discreet services like refilling waters or dropping off food. As a result, the 3 course dinner was poorly paced and lasted 4 hours (8pm to midnight), and it would have lasted longer if we had not been aggressive in hailing a staff member to expedite the bill. During that time, hours went by without any interaction with our server. Ironically, the server requested that we provide the full order upfront, which we did, so that he could manage the pacing of the meal."
    Dined on 6/28/2014
  • "Dining at Balena is always excellent - top notch food and service, with special attention to the wine program."
    Dined on 6/28/2014
  • "Received a tablespoon of lentils with my fish entree for $28. Obscene"
    Dined on 6/28/2014
  • "My sister and I shared the yellow snapper for two - done to perfection!"
    Dined on 6/28/2014
  • "Great food, great service, great ambiance and cool scene. really good cocktails as well. Definitely recommend."
    Dined on 6/27/2014
  • "Had a fantastic experience with the food, drink, service, and feel of the space. Highly recommended and we will be back again without a doubt."
    Dined on 6/27/2014
  • "We really enjoyed dining at Balena. Service was very attentive but not overbearing and the food was generally very good. We were attending a show at 7:30 and our server really kept us on track with ordering, etc. to make sure we'd make it on time."
    Dined on 6/27/2014
  • "My husband and I ate there last weekend (late June) before a concert. The food was amazing! The menu is relatively small but neither of us had trouble finding something that sounded good. We had the salami plate and olives for an appetizer and they were both fantastic. I had the gnocchi and it was incredible - unlike anything I'd ever had! My husband is not quite as adventurous and ordered the roasted chicken. He loved it! The service was perfect and I LOVE the decor - wish they could come do my house! Although the restaurant was a little further out than I expected (20 min. cab ride from hotel on Michigan), it was worth it and we still arrived at concert with time to spare. Hint: upstairs dining was a tad quieter than downstairs."
    Dined on 6/27/2014
  • "All of the food at Balena is flavorful, without being complex or forced. There's a rustic beauty to most plating. Be ready to enjoy three or four courses, each sized moderately, which is a great way to spend an evening if you aren't in a hurry or on a budget. The atmosphere balances raw elements and refined details--exposed brick, sophisticated lighting. Attention is paid to little details: from delicious breadsticks to craft cocktails. And the service is warm, professional, thorough. There was a small flaw in my cheese course, and it was handled perfectly by the staff. Overall, the people, appointments, and bright flavors blend to create an inviting get-away, a consistent level of excellence, a reminder of the hospitality of Italy."
    Dined on 6/27/2014
  • "The blend of flavors was wonderful. The pasta were perfect. Our waitress, Jamie, was very knowledgable and helped guide us through the menu well. We will definitely be back."
    Dined on 6/27/2014
  • "We had been here before to a private party in the awesome wine cellar. I was eager to come back and order off the menu. I had the arugula salad and pasta pomodoro. My husband had the ceasar and gnocchi. This was plenty of food. He had the donuts for dessert and I had the chocolate hazelnut dessert which was amazing! Love the decor and the service was very good. Will definitely return."
    Dined on 6/22/2014
  • "Balena was delicious!! We were a group of 7 and everybody loved every dish they had. Plus, the service was very friendly and attentive. Would definitely go back."
    Dined on 6/21/2014