There are no videos at this time.


1633 N Halsted St , Chicago, IL 60614


The doors are open and the fires are burning. Come by our Lincoln Park location now.

Menu:Recent Reviews

profile image I want to live here!

From the moment I walked into Balena, I fell in love with the rustic ambiance. Once we were seating in the dining area, we were greeted by our server. He was very knowledgeable about the menu and offered up suggestions to get us started. Once we told him we were interested in a bottle of wine, we were introduced to the sommelier who suggested an outstanding and affordable bottle of wine. Then came the delicious food…we started with the heirloom tomato bruschetta, followed by the Orecchiette with lemon and kale deliciousness. The main dish was the swordfish and was my least favorite, but gives me a reason to go back and try the chicken thigh that everyone recommends. The baked polenta was out of this world and made up for the swordfish. Now on to my favorite part…dessert. Started with a cappuccino and split the tiramisu and a?ogato,- can you say homemade cinnamon sugar donuts- YUM! I can't wait to go back and dive into the other dishes. Enjoy!

profile image Nice Evening!

Walking into Balena is a treat in itself. The space is absolutely gorgeous and lends to a romantic atmosphere that is perfect for a date and enjoying a beautiful meal. We had friends in from California, and had been itching to get to Balena, so this made for the perfect night out. We were all struck by the decor as we came in the door, and really just enjoyed hanging out for some wine and great conversation as we looked over the menu. We decided to start with the bruschetta with oil poached tuna and white beans, which was a hit all around, the smoked mackerel with soft cooked egg, also very delicious, and a perfect burrata. For our main pasta course we had to try the ricotta ravioli with chard and brown butter, the tagliolini nero with crab and sea urchin, and tajarin with pork ragu. We shared the plates around the table and really couldn't pick a favorite. We also had a decadent side of polenta as well. The house made pastas with a beautiful bottle of wine really made for a nice evening!

profile image Fussy Italian, in a good way

Visited Balena on Friday night and really enjoyed the experience. The restaurant space itself is very open and relaxing. Another shared plates concept, so we ordered several items from each section of the menu. There wasn't one item that I didn't enjoy. Timing on the food was good considering the variety of the order. Standouts were the burrata app, the sausage pizza, Orecchiette w/ lemon kale and chili, and the chicken thighs. I'm looking forward to returning to try other items on the menu.

profile image X Marks the Spot

After reading Amanda Puck's review of this place, I immediately made a reservation (by refreshing the page 100 times until someone cancelled) for the following Friday night. I wanted to relive my experience in Italy with my sister, so we did. From the moment I walked in, the service, the style and the smells that wafted in from the beautifully rustic archway blew me away. The bird's-nest-tumble-weed light fixtures were romantic and matched the brushed-metal surroundings. Because there were two of us, we followed Ms. Puck's choices with a few omissions and we carb-loaded up for the night. I had the Montenegro No. 6 at the bar while I waited for my sister. When she arrived, she ordered the Strawberry No. 1. The Montenegro was perfect combination of bitters and amaretto, and the Strawberry was sweet and refreshing. We ordered the Peter's bread. My favorite bits were the thinly-sliced crostinis with the carmelized onion spread (YUM!) and the lemon-pepper challah. The rustic breads were also fresh, warm, and a perfect balance to the sweet garnishes. We then had the oil poached tuna bruschetta. I've never had oil poached anything before, and per Ms. Puck's glowing recommendation, I tried it out. From the first bite, the tuna exploded with rich olive oil, and the freshly-baked bruschetta melted beneath the mixture. I could have eaten that every day of my life. Following the Bruschetta, we had the Tagliolini Nero with Sea Urchin and Crab. The squid-ink pasta was even richer than I could have hoped, and the light sauce balanced well with the sweet, meaty seafood. I was in heaven at that point. Finally, we finished our main meal with a pizza. The pizza we ordered (per our wonderful waiter's recommendation) was topped with ricotta (my favorite), rhubarb, mint and a garlicky crust. We were so full that we could only eat half of it, but it was amazing nonetheless. Plus, we had to save room for dessert. With Chef Amanda Rockman at the helm of the dessert program, Balena could survive solely based on the delectable creations she serves. We had a really hard time deciding what to order, but our waiter helped narrow down the choices. My sister's favorite is pistachio gelati, so that was a must, and the nougats that came along with it were heavenly melt-aways. I ordered the strawberry rhubarb semifreddo (it's summertime after all) and enjoyed the whipcream-icecream consistency of the dessert. The freshness of the berries was a perfect topper for the night. All along we sipped a bottle of Sangiovese, which was a hard choice from the epic-novel-length winelist.

profile image Everything Good Ends in a Vowel

When you walk into Balena the first time, all you can say is WOW. It is a great sign when a new restaurant settles into an older space, and you can’t even remember what the place before it looked like. With it’s industrial charm, deconstructed neon, chef oogling bar perches and sexy nooks and crannies, Balena is the place to be. And the food ain’t too bad either! First: “The Balena.” We started with the combos of their cured meats from The Smoking Goose (Stagberry Salame, Gin & Juice, Saucisson Rouge), Cheese (Robiola, Pecorino Grand Cru, Oregonzola) and Peter’s Breads. The breads need a whole separate section. They were crispy, chewy, spicy and cheesy goodness. From Ramp Crostini to Nigella Grissini, the various garnishes were’t even needed. The cocktail hour started with a classic Negroni no5, Strawberry no1 (dive right in!) and Montenegro no6 (MINE – Amaro Montenegro, Nolet Gin, Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters, orange peel). I was quite fond of that one. Then we dove on in again nd ordered... Bruschetta of Oil Poached Tuna, Marinated Beans and Red Onion. Whenever I have oil poached tuna, I feel very European. Tagliolini Nero, Crab, Sea Urchin and Chili. All of the pastas read worth a try – but a squid ink pasta is always a MUST try. Grilled Head-On Prawns, Grapes, Finger Chiles, Aioli. AMAZING. Salt and Pepper Chicken Thighs, Green Garlic, Coriander and Watercress. A delicious modern Tiramisu with Chocolate Sauce, Coffee Streusel and Roasted Pear. We made the mistake of bringing Amanda Rockstar Rockman some of our favorite torrone from Italy, when her nougat was beyond the best we ever had. (Sorry Amanda!) And it was perfect with the Pistachio Gelato. And after reading their Three Star Review in Phil Vettel’s column in The Chicago Tribune, I realized we didn’t try the pizza. So, see you again soon!