Whereas Anna and David's relationship started in the kitchen, Noah and Cara Sandoval's began out in the real world, when they were 14 years old. The executive chef and general manager of Oriole got engaged when Noah took a spontaneous trip to see her in Austin seven years ago. She moved to Chicago, where he was opening Senza in Lakeview, and a sudden managerial vacancy took her away from her bank job and into the world of fine dining. From that moment on, the line between their personal and professional lives disappeared. "We don't balance anything. There's not work and then home. Everything is one thing, one way of looking at stuff," Noah says. "For us not to work together, it would be ridiculous. I don't trust many people and everybody I do trust essentially works here. The epitome of that is trusting Cara to do what she does."
A meal at Oriole has the chill factor of Elske mixed with the cerebral qualities of Smyth. Guests enter through a back-alley freight elevator into a room that looks more like your cool friend's bachelor pad -- exposed brick walls, a timber ceiling, a black-and-white photograph of a bunny, and a glass divider offering a peek into the white-tiled kitchen -- than the stage for a 16-course dining experience. As the front of the house, Cara makes sure guests feel special but not overly doted upon. Napkins are often refolded mid-meal and crumbs are swept off tablecloths, but the small team of servers doesn't hover as guests scoop out the last bits of uni emulsion, and couldn't care less if you mispronounce Bourgogne Blanc. The combination earned the 10-month-old restaurant not one, but two Michelin stars. "We're doing cool shit, says somebody who knows about cool shit," explains Noah.