Despite pandemic uncertainties (are we moving slowly out of it or back into it?) new restaurants, bars and other retail establishments are opening this month and next. The best way to welcome these new ventures is to stop by and maybe give them some business. Be aware, however, that delays and shutdowns are always a possibility, so please call to confirm that these places are, indeed, open for business before you visit with them.
Health & Wellness
1515 N. Sheridan, Wilmette
StretchLab has opened a new location in Wilmette. A nationally recognized name in fitness, StretchLab specializes in professionally-led stretching sessions for sports professionals as well as everyday people who want to loosen up, reduce stress and increase their range of motion. Sessions are available on a one-on-one basis, or in group practices. To ensure that the stretch routines work on the areas that need it most, StretchLab employs MAPS, a 3D body scanning device that a flexologist will guide you through to help maximize the value of the time you spend stretching. Writing in Forbes, a reviewer noted that “The depth of the stretches was based on feedback provided to the flexologists,” this writer reports, “and I never felt like I was being encouraged to go beyond my comfort level.” Whether your head is bowed over a desk all day, you’re recovering from an injury or training for your next marathon, StretchLab could be a good option for improving range of motion, increasing flexibility and relieving pain.
108 N. State, Chicago
Five Iron Golf is where you can keep your game going – and improving – all winter long. With the goal of “Reshaping modern golf culture in Chicago and beyond,” Five Iron Golf is a vibrant and exciting 11,000 square-foot sports zone, which is what we need in the dead of winter, featuring 11 TrackMan simulators with down-the-line and front-facing cameras in each bay, enabling you to practice and play like the pros with the support of instant video analysis and virtual rounds on many of the world’s greatest courses. “From the colorful murals on our walls to the events and experiences we host, every detail in every Five Iron location is purposefully tied back into our mission to make golf for everyone,” said Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Nora Dunnan. “We are thrilled to expand to a new area of Chicago and be a part of reimagining The Loop’s culture with Block37.”
5 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora
Stolp Island Social in Aurora is the newest offering from owner Amy Morton, perhaps best known for Evanston’s Barn Steakhouse and Found restaurants. Located next to the Jeff Award-winning Paramount Theater, this seasonal kitchen is perfect for a pre- or post-theater outing. “My team and I are honored,” says Morton, “to be one of the many amazing local businesses who can call downtown Aurora home.” In the kitchen will be Chef de Cuisine John Thurmond, himself a native of Aurora who is coming home after working in the Michelin-starred kitchens of Rubicon (San Francisco), Faviken (Sweden) and Chicago’s own Alinea, currently the only Michelin three-star restaurant in the city. Expect dishes expertly executed yet accessible and, above all, delicious, like Chicken Three Ways (seared, confit and braised, with leek puree and fregola) and reserve steaks including the Dry-Aged Bone-In Ribeye served with demi-glace and marrow-smashed potatoes.
365 W. Dundee Road, Wheeling
Rebel’s Hot Chicken is now open as a virtual kitchen operating out of City Works Eatery & Pour House in Wheeling, Ill. This restaurant will, as the name implies, be serving the currently trending Nashville-style hot chicken with sides like spicy cauliflower, chicken wings, nachos and mac n’ cheese. Customers can place their delivery orders on GrubHub, Uber Eats, and Door Dash, or they can order directly from the Bottleneck Rewards app (available on the App Store and Google Play). In addition to Wheeling locations, Bottleneck Management is known for Sweetwater and South Branch grills and saloons. Rebel’s Hot Chicken builds on the success of Secret Sauce Barbecue, which opened last January and is also a virtual kitchen that meets the demand for contactless food options. “We’re looking forward to being a new favorite for fans looking for an exceptional way to enjoy Nashville hot chicken,” says Mark Gray, Bottleneck Management Chief Operating Officer, “and we’re especially happy to introduce Rebel’s using the virtual restaurant format.”
306 W. Erie Street, Chicago
Fairgrounds has opened a new location in River North, and as at its other locations, this new Fairgrounds spot offers a broad array of coffees and teas…and some delicious food that goes way beyond the usual coffeehouse offerings. For instance, Breakfast Sammies include Master of Naan (scrambled egg whites, shakshuka spread, feta and baby kale, served on the Indian flatbread) and Bad Hass Avocado Toast (an avocado – Hass, we’re guessing – with tomatillo salsa, radish pico de gallo, ancho-toasted sunflower seeds, mounted on multigrain bread). During this holiday season, they’re also offering several specials, including Cordial Cortada (an espresso, melted with a cherry cordial), Mayan Mocha (traditional Mexican chocolate with spicy cinnamon, nutmeg, and chili peppers), and Roasted Chestnut Cookie Butter Toast (warm, diced apples on one incredible cookie).
804 N. Rush Street, Chicago
Devil Dawgs is a name known to many Chicagoans, and with several locations around the city, a new spot for Chicago’s legendary hot dogs just opened on the Gold Coast. In addition to the classic Chicago hot dog, Devil Dawgs prides itself on taking creative approaches to the traditional wiener. Last year, Devil Dawgs introduced the Elvis Slider, with peanut butter and Sriracha, which joins favorites like The Clucker, a buttermilk batter-fried chicken on a pretzel bun and topped with fried egg. Of this last sandwich, James Beard award winner and Michelin star holder Sarah Gruenberg of Monteverde said, “People go for the dogs, but I love ‘The Clucker’ fried-chicken sandwich…topped with crisp pickles, coleslaw, and sweet, creamy, spicy hush-hush sauce.” Yes, hand-cut fries come with that, and to go along with it, you might want to order a homemade milkshake (available in 25 varieties).
847 N. State Street, Chicago
Café Sophie opening this winter, bills itself as “a European-inspired café and market offering baked goods, wood-fired plates, drinks and wine.” Vintage wooden floors, marble bar and a wood-burning oven add to the old world vibe, which is in line with the vision of What If Syndicate, a national hospitality group that plans to open several locations of Café Sophie in other cities. This first location to open in Chicago will be headed up by Chef Danny Grant (Maple & Ash, Etta). The experience of Café Sophie is, according to What If partner David Pisor, “a concept we’ve been developing for the past four years, and we are thrilled to have everything we love about cafés in Europe. Generations past valued the simple, most honest things – good food, drinks, and conversation. Many times, it’s the small things that make the biggest impact on all of us, and that is the spirit of Café Sophie.”
1000 W. North Avenue, Chicago
Burrito Beach is a Chicago classic and they’re opening up a new location in Lincoln Park, their first neighborhood spot outside of downtown. The menu is, unsurprisingly, strong on burritos, and tacos of steak/shrimp/chicken, but they also have a few select vegan items including Guaco Tacos Platter and the quinoa salad. Owner/founder Greg Shulson is committed to active community involvement, and Burrito Beach is launching a fund-raising effort to benefit Lincoln Park Community Services, an organization that brings together and empowers the impoverished and the homeless to secure stable housing and help participants make sustainable life choices. “Our arrival to the Lincoln Park neighborhood is a really exciting moment for our team,” says Schulson. “We have always been committed to the idea that involvement in our community is just as important as serving our customers a downright delicious meal, so the chance to plant roots in such a special neighborhood means a lot.”
2456 N. California Avenue, Chicago
Soif wine bar in Logan Square presents itself as a speakeasy for wine lovers, which means low light and lots of fermented grape juice. To enhance the speakeasy vibe, you enter Soif down an unmarked staircase in Testaccio restaurant to a room with red velvet banquettes encircling wood and marble tables. French-inspired nibbles will be served, along with a range of Champagne, cocktails, and beers. “We wanted to create a space where wine lovers and novices alike can come together and discover something new, so the wine list represents the classics as well as super energetic varieties from the new guard of French producers,” says Chef Aldo Zaninotto. “After managing wine businesses for so many years, I’m excited once again to work with these winemakers and source some of their most adventurous, limited-production bottles. We want our guests to be able to come here to have a discussion about wine.”
1518 N. Throop Street, Chicago
Dusk is a “unique cultural experience” from Northworks Architects & Planners, probably best known for their collaborations with top restaurants including Chicago’s Ada Street, Tortoise Supper Club and Split Rail. During the day, Dusk is an art gallery; at night, the space magically morphs into a before-dinner cocktail bar. Northworks Architects & Planners have created a design that mingles natural and industrial elements, with green couches and wood furnishings set against exposed ceilings and concrete floors. Art works will be a focal point, and they will be positioned around the space to create a relaxed, sophisticated, and approachable environment to enjoy a cocktail or a selection from a curated list of wines and craft beers. Leveraging the hip location near Elston and the Clybourn Corridor, the 2,100-square-foot-space features floor-to-ceiling casement windows and the opportunity for guests to arrange their seating around a beautiful 25-foot-long bar.
3052 N. California Avenue, Chicago
You’re a Cookie opened in late November, and their site explains that owner Angela Diaz bakes cookies that “are made with fun, simple honest ingredients and flavors that reflect Angela’s American + Mexican heritage.” Diaz has earned a reputation in the industry for her stints at award-winning Chicago restaurants like the Trencherman and Cherry Circle Room, and she serves up nut- and gluten-free cookies as well as vegan options. The cookies will include favorites like chocolate chip and oatmeal, as well as collaboration cookies and snack packs. In addition to cookie-based treats, You’re a Cookie dishes up locally roasted coffee, along with chocolate and whole milk soft-serve ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. You can pick up your cookies and other snacks from the You’re a Cookie counter, where you can also place orders for nationwide shipment.
49 E. Cermak Road, Chicago
Mustard Seed Kitchen is an American Takeout Concept from Erick Williams, the James Beard-nominated chef of the much-praised Virtue restaurant in Chicago’s Hyde Park. This take-out only operation focuses on “everyday eats, approachable and affordable.” That means Williams’ team will be serving up perennial favorites including Cobb and Caesar Salads, Chicken Gumbo and Creamy Tomato soups, as well as entrees like Blackened Tilapia and Glazed Pork Chops. Mustard Seed Kitchen was inspired by Williams’ experience working with his Virtue team during the pandemic to deliver take-out only food to hospital workers at the University of Chicago. Located just down the street from McCormick Place, Mustard Seed Kitchen delivers lunch and dinner that feels just like homemade, prepared by one of Chicago’s most accomplished chefs.
1359 W. Taylor Street, Chicago
Peanut Park Trattoria comes to Little Italy through the efforts of the folks at three classic Chicago Italian restaurants: D’Agostino’s, Coalfire Pizza, and Tempesta Market. Due to urban development and other social forces, Chicago’s Little Italy on Taylor Street has shrunk somewhat over the years. Now, as Tempesta’s Tony Fiasche explains, “we want to bring that true Italian neighborhood place back to Taylor Street.” The power trio of restaurants will work to achieve that goal with a menu that’s pan-regional though tightly focused on simply prepared Italian foods that leverage high-quality ingredients for pure, traditional tastes. Prime examples of this approach would be a robust selection of salumi from Tempesta Market and handmade pastas, and, of course, an intriguing selection of Italian wines. In case you’re wondering, Peanut Park is an old name for a part of town that’s now better known as Vernon Park, close by Chicago’s most famous Italian-American community.
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David Hammond is Dining and Drinking Editor at Newcity and contributes to the Chicago Tribune and other publications. In 2004, he co-founded LTHForum.com, 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.