New in Town: Alpana Singh’s Latest Restaurant, Japanese Street Food and Ramen, a Celeb Fitness Favorite and More

Weather is warming, and people are coming out to eat, shop and play at new restaurants, shops, salons and studios around Chicago and the suburbs. Supporting old favorites and giving a boost to newly opened restaurants, stores and other businesses is a good way to help keep our communities thriving. Here’s what’s new in town this month.

Food and Drink


Tomo Japanese Street Food - new in town

Tomo transports Japanese street food to the streets of Evanston, and the lines out the door on opening day suggest that this is the kind of food that locals have been wanting. Tomo was opened in mid-April by Penny and Chris Mohr, who told the Evanston Round Table, “We just wanted to have something more casual, just a place to come and get your ramen and watch Power Rangers or anime.”

So, what is Japanese street food like? Similar to much of the world’s street food, the street food of Japan includes a lot of deliciousness that can be eaten with the hands. Edamame (salted soybeans) is a good way to start any Japanese meal, and there are also dumplings of octopus, pork and shrimp. Ramen and udon noodles are the kind of food that pleases all ages, and for an interesting lunch, check out the bento boxes of beef, panko shrimp and karaage (a traditional — and very juicy — Japanese chicken preparation).

1726 Sherman Ave., Evanston 


Alpana, Ballyhoo Hospitality - new in town

Alpana is the new restaurant from (you’ll never guess!) Alpana Singh, who you probably know as host of Check, Please! as well as the woman behind Chicago’s Boarding House, Seven Lions and Terra & Vine restaurants. Located on Chicago’s Gold Coast, Alpana has announced it will focus on Asian and Mediterranean food, and the common denominator for both those popular cuisines is noodles. The restaurant will place a heavy emphasis upon pasta, including rigatoni, tagliatelle, and tortellacci, with some universally appreciated comfort food options like roasted half-chicken and cheeseburger. 

Though located in one of the city’s most upscale neighborhoods, Alpana’s menu is approachable for the many who’d prefer to drop less than a few hundred dollars on dinner: the priciest item on the Alpana menu is a steak, coming in at a reasonable $40. As Singh was the first South Asian — and the youngest woman — to pass the Master Sommelier exam, you can be sure the wine selection will be superb. 

831 N. State St., Chicago

District Brew Yards

District Brew Yards - new in town

District Brew Yards in Wheeling’s Restaurant Row, their second location, is described as “the first of its kind in the nation to house a production brewery collective, pour-your-own beer hall, and shop under one roof.” Charlie McKenna (Lillie’s Q, Roux) is in the kitchen, and he’s turning out favorites like brisket, pulled pork, and pork belly. You can buy the meat in a sandwich or by the half-pound. McKenna is internationally known for his sauces (we’ve spotted them at shops in Morocco and Paris). At District Brew Yards, he’ll be offering up several, including mustard-based, vinegary Carolina-style, and a more traditional sweet and smoky sauce.

This is a cashless restaurant, so you get a plastic card upon arriving, then you use that card to serve yourself at over 40 taps at four stations. To help you make your drinking decisions, beer guides will be standing by to help you make the all-important choices about what to drink. If you find something you really like, you can take home some cans of the same. When it’s time to go, you present your card, and a staffer tallies your total for food and drink. Easy. 

700 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling


Evette's - new in town

Evette’s has opened its third location, this time in Time Out Market, joining its very popular first location in Lincoln Park and its second location within Logan Square’s Spilt Milk Tavern. The new Evette’s will continue serving Lebanese cuisine like shawarma wraps, fries in garlic sauce with feta, and fresh salads. “Many of our recipes have been passed down many generations, but not all of them are traditional,” said owner AbouJamra. “We’ve added a twist to the classic items…nourishing, tasty and cared for food.”

At all three locations, Evette’s promises an experience that is, in the words of AbouJamra, a “good kind of weird,” though that may suggest a more out-there experience than you’ll probably find in the food or in the casual, homey Evette’s vibe. Still, we have to admit that the Hash Brown Sandwich and the Peanut-Butter-Date-Churro-Baklava Shakes are pushing the limits of the usual (in a *good* way).

916 W. Fulton Market, Chicago


Union - new in town

Union is a new sister to next-door Lardon, opened by Steve Lewis of Meadowlark Hospitality and chef/partner Chris Thompson (Coda di Volpe, Spruce, A16). Union is intended to be “a neighborhood hangout built around the idea that every good occasion calls for a beer.”

Thompson is serving up some exceptional menu options. Fried Castelvetrano olives are a good way to kick off dinner, and you can follow that up with pan-roasted black cod or one of the meatier options like “almost boneless” half-chicken or the hanger steak, enriched with beef tallow. As you might expect, there are some outstanding beverages to be had, including Czech lagers, classic pilsners, a few funky sour beers, and a carefully curated selection of brews on 24 taps from Chicago and Midwestern breweries like Middlebrow, Marz, and Hopewell. “Chicago is arguably one of the best beer cities in the country,” says Lewis. “With Union, we wanted to bring together the best parts about beer and the city’s beer culture in an environment that lends itself to that experience, but with all of the exciting things Chris can put on a plate.” 

2202 N. California Ave., Chicago

Sueños at Soho Friends

Entre Suenos - new in town

Suños at Soho Friends is a six-month residency at Soho House for Chef Stephen Sandoval (The Entre Sueños Experience), who is championing “Borderless Baja” cuisine in an atmosphere that promises to be hip and energetic yet casual. There will be Sunday brunch and Mexican breakfast dishes inspired by Sandoval’s grandmother. The menu also includes a lot of seafood, like oysters, fish tacos, and fish both raw and wood-fired. Traditional gifts of the sea will be presented, we are told, in a “slightly elevated manner, showcasing high-quality ingredients and techniques.”

“We want to have fun this summer and test a concept that we have a passion for,” says Sandoval. “As a San Diego native, I’m excited to introduce a Baja-inspired mariscos concept that explores street food from both sides of the border between San Diego and Tijuana.” The bar program for Sueños at Soho Friends is headed up by Danielle Lewis (Boka), and it’s designed to complement the Pacific cuisine with spirits from Mexico, Spain, and Argentina. 

113-125 N. Green St., Chicago


Kyuramen - new in town

Kyuramen has over 100 locations around the world, but the first Illinois location of this international ramen franchise network is in Oak Park. So far, the restaurant has been meeting with tremendous success with dishes like Tokyo Tonkatsu Shoyu Ramen, with chashu pork, and other ramen bowls that utilize classic Japanese pork roll, marinated egg, bamboo shoot and edible seaweeds. For a small upcharge, you can get a “combo” order with a spicy pork bun and a sweet Thai iced tea, which pairs well with the heat of the bun. 

A lot of work goes into each bowl of Kyuramen ramen. Terry Wilson is partner in the business, and he tells us that “Our ramen is the most traditional style of Japanese cooking. To make our pork base, we take 80 pounds of pork bones, add some seasonings, and boil it on low heat for four days to extract all the flavor. Sometimes we have cooks staying with the broth in the store all night just to make sure it comes out right.” 

118 N. Marion St., Oak Park


Chalet Nursery at Lake Forest Market Square


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Chalet Nursery, Landscape and Garden Center, which has been proudly served the North Shore and Chicago for over 100 years, has a new satellite location conveniently located in the Lake Forest Market Square, a few steps from the Lake Forest train station. This is the first Chalet Nursery satellite location, and Lake Forest is glad to have it. On display and ready to take home and plant in the ground are herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs as well as a large selection of indoor plants, including rare and hard-to-find varieties like the Anthurium Cobra, white prickly pear cactus and African fig.

Cursed with a brown thumb? Chalet Nursery, voted 2021 Best Home & Garden Store by Better readers, says they can help. As they explain on their site, “Shop with Chalet for greatest chance of success with the edible plants in your garden. We offer a wide variety of herbs, vegetables, fruit, and even edible flowers that you can grow inside, outside, or on a patio. Need assistance? Book an appointment with one of our horticultural experts.”

695 North Western Ave., Lake Forest


It'Sugar - new in town

It’Sugar announces that what it offers is “part of a colorful diet,” and looking around the multicolored rainbow created by all the candy in the store, it’s hard to deny the claim that your diet will be more colorful with a little candy added. And It’Sugar, like the old Dylan’s Candy Bar that was a few blocks south on the Mag Mile, has a lot of candy to tempt you and the children (and it’s all about the kids, right?).

Some of the candy you will no doubt recognize from your youth, though sometimes they’re presented in new formats. For instance, most of us know about Sour Patch Kids, the mouth-puckering sweets that come in a regulation candy box; at It’Sugar, you can get a three-foot tall Sour Patch Kid! There are also a one-pound Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a two-pound Rice Krispy Treat and a three-pound gummy worm. You get the idea. It’Sugar is a house of excess; be forewarned.

717 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Health & Wellness

Chic Couture Nail Bar

Chic Couture Nail Bar - new in town

Chic Couture Nail Bar in Highland Park proves that there’s apparently no limit to the public need for more places to dress up their nails. Treatments for men and women include pedicures and manicures, specialty shapes and gel fills. There are also some options for younger guests, including a Princess manicure and pedicure, fingertip and toenail polish.

Because a trip to Chic Couture Nail Bar is intended to be a pleasant experience, beverages will be available. There are soft drinks, of course, but also mimosas, champagne with cranberry juice, and popular wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. A complimentary drink, from a mimosa or champagne with cranberry juice, to wine and soft drinks, is provided with every service.

181 Skokie Valley Rd., Highland Park

Rise Nation

Rise Nation, new in town

Rise Nation promises to be the “first-ever curated 30-minute workout class to activate all major muscle groups simultaneously … burning twice the calories in half the time. So far, Rise Nation has attracted such notoriously fit celebrities as Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Anniston and LeBron James.

Focusing on climbing (rise, get it?!), Rise Nation’s courses are designed to be both motivational and exciting by leveraging the body’s upright biomechanics to promote healthy spinal alignment, a balanced physique and neuromuscular coordination. Their total body workout, which utilizes an upright climbing machine, is guided by expert instructors and supported by a stimulating audio-visual environment. Scheduled to open this month, Rise Nation has a series of packages available to suit your work and workout schedules. Workouts are based on “choreographed climbing” created by internationally respected trainer Jason Walsh, who draws upon his expertise in strength training, conditioning, and human physiology to help clients elevate their workouts.

667 N. Wells, Chicago

Life Time

Life Time - new in town

Life Time in Lake Zurich will be the newest outpost of this national fitness chain, which bills itself as the “premier Athletic Country Club with…the hottest classes, world-class trainers and luxurious amenities,” including a large pool and deck, kids academy, café and spa. The spa specializes in “head-to-toe pampering,” and includes massage, as well as hair, skin, and nail service. There are special programs for older adults, and as at other Life Time clubs, there will be an emphasis upon the community of health-minded individuals who believe activity is crucial to a healthy lifestyle.

This Lake Zurich location is due to open in August. About Life Time locations, Dr. Workout website writes that “Life Time is constructed like one big resort with pieces of exercise equipment and a lot of allied facilities. Covering about a hundred thousand square feet area almost every location of this high-end gym fits a large number of exercise equipment.”

400 N. Rand Road, Lake Zurich

More From Better:

David Hammond is Dining and Drinking Editor at Newcity and contributes to the Chicago Tribune and other publications. In 2004, he co-founded, the 15,000 member food chat site; for several years he wrote weekly “Food Detective” columns in the Chicago Sun-Times; he writes weekly food columns for Wednesday Journal. He has written extensively about the culinary traditions of Mexico and Southeast Asia and contributed several chapters to “Street Food Around the World.”

David is a supporter of S.A.C.R.E.D., Saving Agave for Culture, Recreation, Education and Development, an organization founded by Chicagoan Lou Bank and dedicated to increasing awareness of agave distillates and ensuring that the benefits of that awareness flow to the villages of Oaxaca, Mexico. Currently, S.A.C.R.E.D is funding the development of agave farms, a library and water preservation systems for the community of Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca. 

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