The Chicago restaurant scene is back in business! We’re thrilled to see all the restaurants that have re-opened to enthusiastic guests. And against all odds, new restaurants are still opening… and thriving. It’s a celebratory feeling out there right now, with people gathering joyously on Chicago’s fabulous restaurant patios, and inside as well. Be sure to check opening hours for restaurants new and old, as many have changed it up over the last year, often due to a shortage of restaurant staff. Remember: They’ve been anxious to open, and to serve their customers. Be understanding of new protocols and tip generously if you can. From the city to the North Shore and out to the western suburbs, here’s an update on the best new restaurants in Chicago and beyond.
It’s definitely a powerhouse team running the kitchen at this new Italian spot in the Gold Coast. Michelin-starred chef Soo Ahn (Band of Bohemia), Jean Banchet Award-winning pastry chef Nicole Guini (Blackbird, avec), and chef de cuisine Sam Rosales (Monteverde) oversee a menu of classic Italian flavors with some new interpretations — think Cacio e Pepe Arancini and Salmon Vesuvio. Opened June 2021.
Another new iteration of the Four Seasons restaurant dining room, but this one might have legs. James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer (The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland) returns to his hometown to dazzle us with the bounty and variety of Midwestern ingredients available. The Pickle Brine River Trout with sauce Meunière, cauliflower and capers, Peeled Tomato Tartlet with Carr Valley cheese, melted leeks and shallots, and the Red Wine & Black Truffle Poutine featuring Wisconsin cheese curds and “proper” French fries are sure to be highlights. Opened May 2021.
Take a journey to Mexico but go no further than Fulton Market (flights are SO expensive right now). Executive Chef Guillermo Reyes (Mercat a la Planxa) will transport you with his eye- and palate-pleasing dishes like King Crab Chile Relleno, Carne Tártara (beef tartare) with jalapeño purée and tomatillo, and Pato en Mole (duck with mole negro). The cocktail program dazzles with unexpected flavor combinations and ingredients. Opened June 2021.
Meant to include this Lakeview stunner in my last new restaurant roundup, but I won’t make that mistake twice! This French-Canadian “love letter to Midwestern ingredients” is unlike any other. The dining room is now (finally!) open, although reservations are still limited. Canadian-born chef Ryan Brousseau (Le Sud) is firing on all cylinders with his personal take on the food of his youth. Fried Smelts and pickles are fried in beef tallow and served with house-made tartar sauce; the Heirloom Tomato Salad is dressed with ice wine vinegar and whipped fromage blanc. House-Smoked Trout is complemented by dill crème fraiche and blueberry aigre-doux, while the Aged Duck Breast comes with French lentils, grilled baby onions, and dandelion greens, all in a burnt lemon jus. And being Canadian cuisine, you can bet there is a Nanaimo Bar for a sweet ending to your meal. Opened January 2021.
I am in love with this gorgeous new gourmet market in Lincoln Park, a “retirement” project from the great Bob Mariano, retired CEO of Roundy’s Supermarkets and brain trust behind Mariano’s. This place is a departure for him; the store is only 17,500 square feet in total. But within, you’ll find a wealth of regional and local products (from fresh meats, fish, and dairy to grocery items) and a deep bench of fresh produce — and a “plant butcher” who will slice and dice any ingredient for you for a $1. Grab a cappuccino or a craft cocktail at The Brew and pair it with a freshly baked croissant or a cheeseboard. Soups and sandwiches are the name of the game at The Stackup, while Gohan offers sushi, bowls, and Japanese sandos. At The Hearth you’ll find a rotisserie pumping out juicy roast chickens, porchetta, and more, and best of all: Mariano was able to convince the great Roman pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci to entrust him with the first Bonci Pizza outlet located inside of a supermarket. They’re already outselling the West Loop Bonci location, and it’s that same outstanding crust with a plethora of creative toppings. Look for your favorite chefs to show up for demonstrations at The Chef’s Table, “the heart of Dom’s,” according to Mariano. Opened June 2021.
Wrigleyville welcomes restaurateur and designer Adolfo Garcia’s latest concept to the neighborhood with a 100-seat Mexican restaurant that sports a dog friendly, 200-seat outdoor beer garden with fire pits, tree sculptures, and even some swing seating. Menu highlights include Shrimp-Mango Ceviche, Baja Fish Tacos, Chicken al Pastor Quesadillas, and more. Wash it all down with a Cucumber Margarita (shaken up in the vintage bar camper) as you and your pup enjoy the people watching. Opened July 2021.
Owner Rebecca Goldfarb (L&M Fine Foods) brings a new restaurant to the Ravenswood neighborhood with the opening of Parkside. Chef Justin Kaialoa (The Bristol, The Violet Hour) has a playful, ingredient-driven take on modern American cuisine with just a hint of the South, like his Carrot Pâté with pickled green strawberries, raspberry jam, pistachio, and sourdough, or the Tea-Smoked Cornish Hen with sweet tea, broccoli, black garlic, and cornbread. The Corn Custard with fried okra, tomatoes, peppers, and sorghum is calling to me, perhaps washed down with a Floral Fizz (gin, chamomile, grapefruit, sherry, egg white) or a frozen Lychee Spritz (vodka, Aperol, lychee, lemon, chai, and prosecco). Cocktail program is overseen by Robert Shamblin (BLVD and Rose Mary). Opened July 2021.
Acclaimed chef Chris Thompson (Coda di Volpe) has joined forces with Steve Lewis (Centennial Crafted Beer + Eatery) to open Lardon in Logan Square. Given the name, it’s not surprising to learn that Lardon will specialize in house-made charcuterie and cured meats — and the sandwiches and cheese boards that such deliciousness would imply. Try the “Finocchiona and Butter” sandwich with cured fennel seed salami, Wisconsin farm butter, sea salt, and arugula on a crusty baguette, or the “Frenchie,” with thinly sliced house-cured ham, ripe camembert, country pork pâté, sharp French mustard, and cornichon mayo. The cocktail program will be vigorous, with Aperitivo-style drinks (think Aperol Spritz) aplenty, French vermouths, and even Fernet Branca on tap. Opened July 2021.
Italian-born chef Claudio Ulivieri celebrates the seasonally driven, rustic food of Tuscany at this Oakbrook charmer. This is the perfect spot for family meals where the table will be laden with wood-oven baked pizzas, antipasti, Shrimp Scampi, Pappardelle Bolognese, whole wood-fired Branzino al Forno, and sliced ribeye. Opened May 2021.
Straight from Soho and South Beach comes this new seafood-centric spot from Mercer Street Hospitality, located next to the new 21C Museum Hotel in River North. The menu is filled with ocean delectables, like Shellfish Plateaux dripping with raw oysters, clams, crab, and shrimp; freshly made sushi, sashimi, and maki; Lobster Bisque and Clam Chowder; Moroccan-style Charred Octopus with merguez sausage and chickpea purée, whole branzino and dorade, and a Classic Lobster Roll. Meat lovers, never fear! You’ll find chicken and beef dishes as well. Opened June 2021.
You’ll be eating ALL the proteins at this swanky new Gold Coast hotspot, a Japanese fusion restaurant from restaurateur Rodrigio Ferrari Millicardi. The interior is sleek and sophisticated, and the service is exceptional. Everything about it is luxe, from the extensive caviar offerings to the cuts of American and Japanese Wagyu. Inventive signature maki and specialty sashimi spotlight the freshness of the fish here. Opened May 2021.
I was sad to hear they closed their wonderful restaurant in Northbrook but heartened to hear that they’ve relocated to a light and airy space on a Lincoln Park cul de sac. Happily, the menu remains pretty much the same, with the bright, bold flavors of Mexico shining through. They’ve got killer margaritas here, and I love the Smoky Pepino with mezcal, fresh cucumber, and lime. Their interesting take on Shrimp Ceviche (which includes passion fruit, mango, and avocado) is super refreshing, and the Carne Asada, made with USDA Prime Allen Brothers skirt steak, is top notch. Opened April, 2021.
The fourth Parson’s has opened in Andersonville, and the patio is glorious. Sandwiches are huge (looking at you, double Parson’s Burger and the Hot Chicken Sandwich), but that won’t stop you from slamming down an order or two of the Hush Puppies. Do you want Ranch Fries, tossed with house-made ranch powder and Parmesan cheese? Emphatically, yes. The dill pickle mignonette that comes with the raw oysters on the half shell are worth the price of admission, so don’t miss those. And the “Original Negroni Slushy” deserves every bit of the hype, a frosty blend of Letherbee Gin, Luxardo Bitter, Sweet Vermouth, and citrus. Come at me, summer. Opened June 2021.
It’s been a busy summer for restaurateur/designer Adolfo Garcia! His newest spot in downtown Highland Park has an American coastal vibe, with a three-season wrap-around patio with fire pits, pergolas, and a white marble bar. The kitchen is helmed by chef Bob Zrenner (North Pond Restaurant, XO Chicago), who combines coastal dishes with Midwestern ingredients, like Lobster Guacamole with charred lemon, Spicy Mussels and Clams in a corn and potato broth, and Woodfired Swordfish with chimichurri. They’ve also created some intriguing private dining spaces with The Bungalow (capacity 24) and The Study (holds 48). Opened July 2021.
Michelin-starred chef Donald Young (Temporis) has opened this stunning bistro on the Mag Mile in the new Pendry Chicago hotel in the Loop. Located in the landmark Carbide & Carbon building, the space features gorgeous parasol lights, vintage rugs, dark woods, and plush booths, simply oozing romance. Young, known for his innovative cuisine, brings air and brightness to French cuisine. The Grilled Gem Salad is much more than the Caesar salad it nods to; the anchovy emulsion is a lighter, fluffier version of Caesar dressing, and the crunch of parmesan frico and popped grains delights. The Whole Dry-Aged Duck really knocked our socks off, bringing in Asian elements (a tangle of fresh herbs, house-made hoisin sauce, scallion pancakes, ginger-orange marmalade) to really showcase the bird. Young oversees the desserts, too, and the Corn Financier with Marcona almonds and blueberries is not to be missed. Opened May 2021.
This new Lincoln Park spot is the third Verve Wine location — after NYC and San Francisco — but the first to open with a restaurant. Executive Chef Ryan Epp (Roister, Per Se) has based his menu around local, seasonal, and deeply flavorful food, all pairing beautifully with the many wines available. The gorgeous plate of Heirloom Beets with Whipped Ricotta, thinly shaved fennel, and fresh citrus is just the right amount of pretty to eat, and you’ll want to dig right in to the bowl of Prince Edward Island Mussels flavored with Calabrian chili and a bath of artichoke pistou. As you might expect, the selection of wines by the glass is both thoughtful and exciting. Opened April 2021.
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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.