As summer becomes a warm memory and cooler weather teases us a little more each day, it’s good to see wonderful new restaurants, retail establishments and recreational facilities welcoming the public to new experiences. Exciting places are throwing open their doors every day, ensuring that we can expect a fall and winter full of new and cool things to eat and do indoors.
Food & Drink
Coming to River North this fall, PLANTA Queen is joining other locations in New York, Maryland, Florida, and Canada. The PLANTA restaurants have announced that their goal “is to make an impact by celebrating the power of plants … to work tirelessly to continuously expand our influence, championing plant-based living as a way to better our health, our communities, and our planet.”
With inventive, plant-forward dishes like watermelon nigiri and truffle udon noodles, PLANTA Queen is breaking new ground in non-meat alternatives. “Chicago has long had one of the most exciting and diverse dining scenes in the country, and I’m thrilled for PLANTA Queen to be part of it,” says Steven Salm, Founder & CEO. “We’re in great company in River North, and PLANTA Queen will introduce a fresh — and decadent take on a plant-based menu to a neighborhood already known for elevated experiences and destination dining.”
413 N. Clark Street, Chicago
Evanston Pour is “an all-day café” inspired by the European café tradition, serving coffee, wine, and several creative and casual plates. Owners, partners and Evanston residents Jen and John Stumbaugh told the Chicago Tribune, “We just love Evanston, its urban inclusivity and its eclectic charm, and an all-day cafe just hit the sweet spot for community connection.”
The Evanston Pour menu leads with beverages, including exceptional Americanos and lattes, but also less common creations like Espresso with Sparkling Water and a turmeric and ginger herbal tonic. The wine list is a tightly curated selection of sparklers, reds, and whites, as well as a few “top shelf wines” like a 2017 Napa Paradigm cab. There are also beers and cocktails. Food options tend toward the light and casual, with several charcuterie plates, as well as Caprese skewers and panini. With artwork lining the walls of this comfortable space, you’ll feel like you’re enjoying a beverage and a bite in a friend’s living room.
528 Dempster Street, Evanston
Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern in Hyde Park is the most recent solo concept from James Beard award-winning-chef Erick Williams, who has recently gained national and international recognition for Virtue, his restaurant of Southern favorites done right, some of which continue at Daisy’s. Williams tells us “Daisy’s is a tribute to my late, beloved aunt Daisy, and her connection to the Bayou region. The community has been so supportive since Virtue opened and we are looking forward to welcoming guests just as my aunt Daisy welcomed me into her home.”
The menu is an introduction to the food of New Orleans and environs, with familiar items like po-boys, fried shrimp, and catfish, but also some lesser known bites like alligator (if you haven’t had it, now’s the time) and Muffuletta, the circular sandwich born in the Big Easy. In addition to beer and wine, there will be cocktails, including Chatham Artillery Punch, a nineteenth-century beverage favorite, as well as New Orleans’ classic Sazerac.
5215 S. Harper Avenue, Chicago
FARE focuses on seasonal, sustainable, and dietary-restrictive foods. Founded by Kasia Bednarz and Brini deLeon, and originally launched at the Wells Street Market (shuttered during the pandemic), FARE’s prepared foods and dietary staples have for some time been on the shelves at Dom’s Market and Local Foods. Now, they’ve set up shop at From Here On, the food hall in the beautifully renovated Old Post Office building. Brini deLeon told us that, “We aim to be a welcome retreat in the loop offering healthy and satisfying bowls, toasts, baked goods and coffee.”
It would be nearly impossible to eat at FARE and not walk away feeling healthier. It all begins with the bowls, and there are several promising ones, including Turkey Basil Meatball, Roasted Salmon, and Seasonal Veggie Bowls. Of course, there are many fantastic-looking veggie sides, as well, like Herby Chickpeas, Chipotle Cauliflower Potato, and Harissa Sweet Potato. To drink: green tea, many coffee creations with a Passion House Baseline blend, and nitro cold brew.
71 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago
The veg-forward, good-for-you food operation that just opened a location in Evanston, is now opening yet another location in Chicago’s Gold Coast Historic District. This new location will kick off with sweetgreen’s late summer menu with delectable items including their Elote Bowl, the Summer BBQ Salad made with all the summer picnic fixings, and a side-dish of Roasted Corn + Peppers. The rapid spread of sweetgreen locations tells us that the market is ready for more veg-heavy, quick service options.
The mission of sweetgreen goes far beyond that of a simple food purveyor, however. On their site, they explain, “We’re leading a movement to reimagine fast food for a new era. Our core values guide our actions, and we aim to empower our customers, team members and partners to be a positive force on the food system. That’s why we’re building a transparent supply network, why we cook from scratch, and why we’re building a community of people who believe in the power of real food.”
2 W. Division, Chicago
Pete’s Tiki Tiki is a new bar-restaurant-party space added onto the already popular Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar in Parkway Bank Park, an oasis of greenery and public space in Rosemont. It would be easy to make a whole night of it at Parkway Bank Park; tropical drinks at Pete’s Tiki Tiki, dinner and then indoor skydiving, bowling or one of the many other attractions on the mall — on second thought, maybe you should do the skydiving before eating.
Rosemont is very excited to have this tiki bar in the neighborhood. Village of Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens recalls that “When I first met the team at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar in Texas, I knew they were the right team with the right concept for Parkway Bank Park. Now here they are again with this fantastic tiki bar that I know is going to be a huge draw for this entertainment district. I’m thrilled that the Pete’s team chose Rosemont for their national launch.”
5510 Park Place, Suite B, Rosemont
Mel’s Craft BBQ in Park Ridge could be the best thing to happen to the Western suburban dining scene in a long time. The Mel’s Craft BBQ website explains that their philosophy is “take this seriously; no shortcuts … real wood fires. We slice our meat to order … know our farmers … respect the animals that feed us.”
Prime beef brisket, Kilgus Farms pulled pork and Ho Ka Turkey are good signs that Mel’s Craft BBQ is, indeed, taking their work at the pit seriously by selecting only the highest-quality proteins. There are also some impressive and somewhat uncommon sides like pit beans, mustard slaw, and sweet potato salad. Owner Mel Thillens introduces his menu as an “opening line-up,” so expect new items to pop up over time. Mel’s Craft BBQ is an outstanding BBQ option, and people are taking notice. Nick Kindelsperger of the Chicago Tribune was impressed, writing that “along with Evanston-based Soul & Smoke, Mel’s makes a good case that some of the best barbecue in Chicagoland is being made in the ’burbs.”
24 Main Street, Park Ridge
New in St. Charles from Scott Harris, the chef/restaurateur behind the exceptionally popular Francesca restaurants, as well as Fat Rosie’s, Davanti Enoteca, and many others, Mio Modo means “my way,” which is basically Harris’ way, because why play around with his spectacularly successful formula?
The menu starts out with favorites like carpaccio and calamari fritti, but you don’t have to look awfully hard to find some truly unusual — and unusually delicious — Italian-inspired dishes. No doubt, you’ve had Bolognese sauce on spaghetti, but at Mio Modo, Harris dresses his spaghetti with lamb Bolognese; a small but significant variation, and one we think you’re going to like. You can find agnolotti at any Italian restaurant, but at Mio Modo, the small pasta envelopes are enriched with brown butter truffle cream and fresh black truffle. What we’re saying is, you can get the Italian dishes you love at Francesca’s Mio Modo, but … with delicious differences.
200 S. 2nd Street, St. Charles
Liva at Chicago Winery in River North is designed to be a working winery, an event venue, tasting room, and a restaurant called Liva. The design of Chicago Winery has been influenced by Chicago’s past and present role as a transportation hub, with spaces representing connections between people and processes, food, and wine. Each aspect of Chicago Winery is its own experience, all expertly connected. Liva, the restaurant, derives its name from the Scandinavian word for “life,” and it evokes a sense of the passage of time and the joy of the journey. Liva will be a chef-driven, community-inspired restaurant for locals and visitors alike.
Under the direction of Chef Andrew Graves (formerly of Alinea), the Liva menu features large format entrees, like whole branzino, venison, and seasonal vegetables, as well as from-scratch pastas. Graves told us that “Liva will be an inviting and lively place for communal-style dining, serving ingredient-driven cuisine that celebrates flavors of the Midwest and wines made onsite. My hope is for guests to leave talking about the next time they plan to return.”
739 N. Clark Street, Chicago
Chia Leah is a healthy snack company started by Leah Bostrom, who had been doing business out of a Chicago office space for the last few years and is now coming back to Wilmette. Bostrom told The Record North Shore, “We are super excited to come back to Wilmette. We have a loyal following here — really supportive clients.”
Bostrom specializes in clean snacks and treats, made by hand in small batches, using the highest quality ingredients but without sugar and other preservatives. She started selling her healthy bites at farmers markets and online, and her products are now available in 30 stores around Chicago and Atlanta, and in Wilmette’s Westlake Plaza. Each of the products — including fascinating creations like Lemon + Rosemary Clean Bites and Quinoa Sprinkle — can be picked up at this, the first of Bostrom’s brick-and-mortar locations.
1222 Washington Court, Suite 2018, Wilmette
Evanston Made, a non-profit that aims to unite emerging and established Evanston artists with those who love art, has opened its second pop-up gallery. Last winter, Evanston Made was offered retail space at Urban Outfitters for a holiday pop-up that in less than 30 days generated $85,000 in sales that went to benefit member artists and support future programming. This proof of concept fueled the effort to continue bringing art to the community and support for the artists. The new space has not been donated, so the hope is that the community will realize the value of Evanston Made and support it through their art and their purchases.
Started almost 10 years ago by Executive Director Lisa Degliantoni, Evanston Made empowers and connects the growing population of local creatives. Degliantoni has said that representation in the gallery will mirror the demographics of Evanston’s population, with a mission to prioritize visibility and sales for artists of color. She encourages artists to bring in prints and a business card, which she hopes will encourage both sales and deeper connections within the community.
832 Dempster Street, Evanston
Set along the Elston Industrial Corridor, The Green is a bar and restaurant. What sets it apart from the many thousands of bars and restaurants in Chicago is that it also offers guests Golfzon, described as “the best golf simulator in downtown Chicago.” The simulator lets indoor golfers chip and putt with an articulating swing plate and realistic surface variations that provide the feel of the rough, sand trap, and fairway.
If you’re visiting The Green for more than golf, there’s a bar and restaurant with bites like their own version of the pimento sandwich, much like the one traditionally served at Augusta National, as well as their unique takes on the Kobe beef hot dog (with bacon giardiniera). Some golfers prefer to hit the greens in the morning, and at The Greens there will be a breakfast menu to satisfy those who come in to fine-tune their game before the workday begins.
2131 N. Elston Avenue, Chicago
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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.