Chicago during the winter can be a cold and daunting place, but no fear! These warm and welcoming new restaurants in Chicago and the suburbs are open and ready to receive you. Some are cozy, a couple on the larger scale, and a few are filled with certified star power — but all are worthy of checking out.
Beginning Jan. 4, a new vaccine mandate will require Chicago and Cook County restaurants to require proof of full vaccination for guests ages 5 and older. The rule does not apply to takeout or outdoor dining. Evanston, Oak Park, and Skokie will implement similar rules beginning Jan. 10.
AYO Pizza Café
953 W Willow St., Chicago
Lincoln Park welcomed this new pizza café in November, and it neatly fills the pizza-shaped hole left by the closing of nearby Pizzeria Bebu — and Amato’s, which previously occupied the space. One of the few minority-owned pizzerias in Chicago (and the only one within the Cubs fan base domain), AYO offers limited seating but two styles of pizza — Sicilian and Chicago tavern-style — and an intriguing selection of breakfast pastries (think Collard Green & Goat Cheese Danish, or a Panettone Muffin), local roaster Dark Matter’s coffee drinks, and some clutch desserts (Sweet Potato Tiramisu and Hazelnut Torta).
6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn
Currently accepting scheduled orders only for pickup and delivery at Fitzgerald’s, this BBQ joint from El Che’s John Manion raises the bar food bar with Chargrilled Oysters with herb butter, parmesan, and breadcrumbs, smoked and spice-rubbed Giant Wings with Creole Ranch, Brisket Chili with Cornbread, and the usual BBQ suspects (Pulled Pork, Hot Links, Smoked Turkey, Ribs, etc.) offered as meat- and-two platters or a la carte. Batched and bottled cocktails are available, including Old Fashioneds, Margaritas, Mulled Wine, and more. Do yourself a favor and add a bottle of Babygoldy (Carolina-style mustard BBQ sauce) to your order.
Bar Mar and Bazaar Meat
120 N Wacker Dr, Chicago
This Loop restaurant duo is a stunner and will quickly become a destination spot. Celebrity chef/philanthropist José Andres has joined forces with the formidable Gibsons group to open Bar Mar (cocktails and seafood) on the street level of the new Bank of America building, with Bazaar Meat (Spanish cuisine-influenced steaks, apps, and sides) available two flights up. Both spaces are spectacular in their own way, and at the recent soft opening, the food was exceptional. Prepare for an onslaught of umami.
1927 N Damen, Chicago
Chef Trevor Teich is courting Michelin stars in Bucktown with the opening of his fine-dining restaurant in Bucktown. Named for his mother Claudia, Teich took his concept from rapturously received pop-up to brick and mortar in late summer. It occupies the hallowed ground of previous greats Scylla and Takashi, and his adventurous multi-course seasonal tasting menu ($225 for 10 courses, $265 for 15 courses) featuring some of his greatest hits — like “Snails in the Woods,” which highlights braised and tempura-fried snails atop a bed of mushroom and truffle “soil” and fresh-herb “moss” — is sure to elevate him into that pantheon. Not up for the big experience? Grab a seat at the charming bar and order from the a la carte menu, perhaps the Pâté en Croûte or the Lobster Pie paired with a glass of bubbly or one of the innovative cocktails on offer.
1202 W Grand Ave, Chicago
Just when you thought Chicago was maxed out on Italian restaurants, industry vets/chef-owners Ian Rusnak and Eric Safin bring this elevated red sauce experience to an intimate space in the West Town nabe. Your meal starts with complimentary nibbles: garlic bread, salami, and delightfully cheesy focaccia. Then it’s on to plates of fried-to-perfection Fritto Misto, Fusilli di Rabe with sweet Italian sausage and a shower of Parmesan, crisped tiles of Chicken Parmesan, and Baked Clams Casino. Nostalgia never tasted so good. You’ll be BYOB, so what you drink is in your hands.
Fame Supper Club
157 W Ontario St, Chicago
You’ll find modern American food and updated classic cocktails at this Art Deco-influenced spot in bustling River North. Chef Partner Mark Sparacino (Prosecco) created the globally inspired steakhouse menu, which starters ranging from Grilled Alaskan King Crab with truffle butter and charred lemon to a classic French Onion Soup, and entrees like Lamb Chops Scottadito, Mixo-Glazed Salmon, Prime Filet Mignon, and a gigantic Tomahawk Prime Ribeye Steak sliced tableside. The first floor houses the civilized supper club, while upstairs a 3,700 square-foot nightclub with state-of-the-art sound system rages on and is of course available for private functions.
Mustard Seed Kitchen
49 E Cermak Rd, Chicago
Award-winning chef Erick Williams (Virtue Restaurant) has opened a new American takeout-only spot near McCormick Place offering casual foods with a hint of soul. This is comfort food you’ll be craving all winter long: hearty Gumbo with Cajun chicken and andouille sausage, Chop Cobb with Green Goddess dressing and all the fixings, Chicken Alfredo pasta (gluten-free available!), Honey-Mustard Salmon with asparagus and creamed corn, juicy burgers with hand-cut fries, and Cornbread with Honey Butter all share the glory. Finish up — or start, no judging here! — with treats from Brown Sugar Bakery. Don’t miss that glorious Caramel Cake!
1300 22nd St, Oakbrook
Perched atop the impressive new RH (formerly known as Restoration Hardware) building in Oakbrook is this beautiful restaurant, just the right respite from choosing the perfect armoire or sleek sofa below. Enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner in this light-filled space. If furniture shopping turns out to be an all-day affair, fortify yourself first with the RH Scramble (farm eggs, crème fraiche, avocado, and chives) and a latté, then return for lunch sustenance with the Shaved Vegetable Salad with pecans and cider vinaigrette and a Truffled Grilled Cheese on artisan sourdough. For dinner, perhaps the Caesar Salad and a Lobster Roll with French Fries and Garlic Aioli is the only thing that will do. Wash away your regret (you spent WHAT on a velvet-covered ottoman?!?) with a glass or three of La Spinetta rosé.
5959 N Broadway, Chicago
This new Edgewater boîte has opened on the site of the late, lamented Income Tax bar and restaurant, and I hope that it lives up to the legacy left behind. The menu is certainly approachable, offering their takes on well-loved Italian favorites like Gnocchi Ricotta with Truffle Pesto Cream Sauce, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, Risotto Primavera, Polpettine (Meatballs) with Creamy Polenta, Burrata Caprese, and Chicken Saltimbocca. Finish strong with Tiramisu or Chocolate Lava Cake, or a refreshing Almond Semi-Freddo.
Sugar Moon Bakery
3612 W Wrightwood Ave, Chicago
In-the-know foodies and hungry Logan Square neighbors alike are lining up at Dina Cimarusti’s new Sugar Moon Bakery to sample her Tahini Chocolate Chip cookies, flavorful and buttery scones (Kale/butternut squash/caramelized onion/Cheddar was a recent option), Golden brioche stuffed with the likes of red pesto, feta, za’atar and egg, savory and sweet galettes, and exquisitely decorated specialty cakes. Just show up early, because she sells out nearly every day — sometimes a few hours before official closing time.
The X Pot
The Roosevelt Collection, 1147 S Delano Court East, Chicago
Direct from the luxe Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas comes this ultramodern import, and they’re flying in Premium A5 Wagyu beef from Japan on the daily for their hotpot menu. There’s also a full sushi bar, an omakase experience, noodle-pulling demos, and state-of-the-art technology including robot servers (yes, you read that correctly) and 5-D experiences. The tasting menu runs $128, or order from the a la carte menu and choose your own adventure — you’ll find homemade crispy pork, Chilean sea bass, and premium ox aorta are among the many options, so you can play it safe… or not.
Urbanspace Food Hall
15 W Washington, Chicago
There’s a plethora of great choices to make at the new Urbanspace Food Hall in the Loop, close to the theatre district and State Street shopping. We’re talking 12,000 square feet of eating and drinking, including Roberta’s wood-fired pizzas from Brooklyn, Edzo’s award-winning burgers from Evanston, and local favorite Stan’s Donuts. You’ll also find Isla (Filipino eats), Bhoomi (a fast casual take on Indian food), the Happy Lobster, The Budlong Hot Chicken, Sushi Dokku, Pita Yeero, Spanglish Mexican Kitchen, Bianca’s BBQ, and Plant Junkie (plant-based comfort food). Grab a draft or a drink at Sidecar or The Peregrine Club. Truly something for everyone, and perhaps just the ticket when feeding the family before your Frozen matinee. A second location is planned for spring 2022 in the Willis Tower.
Uvae Fromagerie and Tasting Room
5553 N Clark St, Chicago
This popular Andersonville wine bar, owned and operated by chef Lindsey Anderson-Perez, has been open since the summer of 2019, but expanded recently to include a retail space and tasting room, thus its inclusion on this list. It has the same warm neighborhood vibe as Uvae and can hold 50 comfortably for tastings and private events. The Fromagerie, overseen by sommelier/cheesemonger Aaron J Drost, carries a rotating selection of meats and cheeses from local purveyors as well as specialty foods from around the world. Sommelier-led tasting events are held every Wednesday at 6 pm and Saturday at 3 pm. Need a holiday gift basket? This is the place.
How You Can Help:
As you dine out, consider that many struggle to feed themselves and their families. Here are some organizations to support that help feed those in need.
- The Greater Chicago Food Depository
More than 700 partners across Cook County ensure that nutritious food is available all year to neighbors in need.
- Northern Illinois Food Bank
Part of Feeding America, the Northern Illinois Food Bank helps solve hunger through pantries and feeding sites.
- Hillside Food Pantry
Distributes food to those in need in Evanston.
More From Better:
- New in Town: A Speakeasy by José Andrés, a Brewpub with Classic Cars, Plus New Spots for Donuts, Hand Pies, Steaks and More
- How Chef José Andrés Is Using Food to Create a ‘More Perfect America’
- 2021 Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for Foodies
Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.