Libertyville’s Chili U offers spice for life
Owner and chef Marc Bianchini makes his CU Mac & Cheese with three white cheddars, gruyere cheese, fontina cheese, candied bacon and freshly cut chives at chiliU. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Chili U
LOCATION: 547 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
SPECIALTY: Modern comfort food, including a variety of gourmet chili, mac n’ cheese, sandwiches, salad, wraps, appetizers and desserts; Also includes a full-service bar
HOURS: Open for dinner starting at 5 p.m. daily; will begin serving lunch starting in September
CONTACT: Visit chili-u.com or call (847) 549-3152
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:08AM
LIBERTYVILLE — If you have a spice for life and a taste for chili, Libertyville’s newest downtown restaurant Chili U may be the place for you.
Chili U, which opened at 547 N. Milwaukee Ave. in early July, features gourmet chili and exotic modern comfort foods that are receiving rave reviews from some local restaurant goers.
“I think the food is delicious and the atmosphere is fantastic,” said Kathy Haan of Libertyvlle, as she nibbled on a Korean steak salad while enjoying dinner with friends last week. “I’ve been here twice and I had the chili the first time. It was fabulous.”
Haan’s dinner companions Judy and Mark Fiore of Libertyville were also impressed by the food and the atmosphere.
“The decor is fabulous,” said Mark Fiore. “They did a nice job in here. It’s another nice restaurant in town. It’s good for Libertyville.”
Owner and head chef Marc Bianchini has been in the restaurant business for more than 25 years and operates four restaurants in the Milwaukee area. Bianchini said he wanted to break into the Chicago market and, after doing some research, joined forces with a group of local investors to start Chili U.
“When we were driving around the area, we fell in love with Libertyville,” he said. “There are a lot of great restaurants in town and we just wanted to be in good company.”
Bianchini said Chili U specializes in modern comfort food with an international flair.
As the name suggests, the highlight of the menu is chili. Chili selections include a Texas chili, an African chicken chili, a lean turkey chili, a Midwest chili and the restaurant will soon be adding other varieties such as a vegan soybean chili, Mexican meatball chili and Thai shrimp chili. Gourmet spices are added to the different chili recipes and diners can choose a base, such as mashed potatoes, macaroni noodles, hash browns or angel hair pasta, and toppings, such as peppers, bacon chips, cheeses or caramelized onions.
“The heart of your menu is chili, but it’s all modern comfort food,” Bianchini said. “Our tag line is ‘life with extra spice’.”
Another popular menu item is the macaroni and cheese, which is made with five cheeses and topped with bacon and chives. Chili U’s mac n’ cheese won Libertyville’s Macaroni and Cheese Cook-Off in April at the Libertyville Civic Center from seven local businesses competing in the event.
The restaurant also offers sandwiches, such as a slow-roasted prime rib sandwich, hamburgers, a spicy crispy chicken sandwich, a spicy meatball sandwich, Vienna beef hot dogs and a veggie Boca burger. There are also appetizers and salads, including a Korean steak salad, a Mexican chopped chicken salad, a spicy Asian tuna salad and a hot and crunchy chicken salad. Desserts include cheesecake, Texas sheet cake and Fluffernutter bread pudding.
The restaurant also has a full-service bar featuring domestic and craft beer on tap and in bottle, along with 25 varieties of wine, as well as soft drinks and fruit infusions.
Sharon Von-Heidecke of Gurnee and friend Sharon Keller of Waukegan visited Chili U for the second time last week. They are impressed by the variety of the menu items and atmosphere.
“We’ve tried the mac n’ cheese and it’s very tasty,” said Keller. “It was baked and crispy on the top. It’s very good.”
Von-Heidecke said she likes the open, welcoming feel of the restaurant, including large glass doors that open at the front of the restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue.
“It’s something outstanding, fun and different in Libertyville,” she said. “It’s a very airy feel. It’s a comfortable environment.”