Big names are what’s new in town around Chicago and the suburbs this month. Celebrity chef Fabio Viviani opens a new outpost of Bar Siena in Skokie and a new dessert concept in the West Loop; Paul Kahan does seafood — Big Star-style — at Big Star Mariscos; Better Best of 2022 winner Hometown Coffee & Juice opens a third location, this time in Lake Forest; and a 1926 Chicago original, Rainbow Cone, comes to Skokie. Here, we present our latest list of must-visit local openings.
Grill on 21 in the LaSalle Hotel is a modern American Grill in the center of Chicago’s fabled Financial District. The all-day menu focuses on superb steaks as well as updated continental classics and vegetable-forward dishes, served within the luxurious comfort of the classic hotel. Lobster Thermidor is an 1894 classic reimagined with oyster mushrooms, ricotta ravioli, gruyere, many herbs and a brioche crouton. A popular plant-based menu option (among others!) is the Hearth Fired Cauliflower with pine nuts, golden raisins, and Calabrian chili vinaigrette.
“We are thrilled to invite locals and visitors alike for a grand dining experience and exceptional menu items at Grill on 21”, says Director of Operations, Antoine Gaillard. “Whether guests are looking for a nutritious breakfast, an efficient and polished business lunch or an indulgent and special night out, Grill on 21 is the perfect option right in the heart of Chicago.”
208 S. LaSalle St., Chicago
Bar Siena is headed up by Fabio Viviani, a native Florentine who moved to California, where he operated nightclubs and restaurants, and then to Chicago, where he teamed up with DineAmic Hospitality to launch Siena Tavern, Prime & Provisions, and now Bar Siena in Old Orchard. Viviani is known for his creativity and his from-scratch approach to traditional Italian culinary favorites.
The suburban location for a restaurant group that made its name in Chicago offers lots of advantages, including available real estate and a location closer to customers who live outside Chicago city limits. As DineAmic co-owner Lucas Stoioff told Eater/Chicago, “A lot of people that live in the suburbs want to have a city dining experience at a city brand they have been to before, but they don’t want to go all the way into the city. We’ve been building our business in the city, and now we’re opening a place for people who have been some of our biggest fans.”
4999 Old Orchard Road, A2, Skokie
Regalia Bar & Restaurant in Edgewater is the newest of many Italian restaurants that have opened in Chicago and the North Shore over the past year or so. As with many of the new “traditional” Italian restaurants in Chicago, Regalia promises to offer classic dishes from “the boot” …with a twist.
On the menu are some dishes that reflect time-honored recipes but that make use of new ingredients and techniques to put a different spin on the familiar. Chef Jose Marquez serves shrimp in Gorgonzola cream sauce perched on a bed of polenta, which brings out the best in the seafood as well as the funky cheese, a winning combination. Instead of the traditional (and now somewhat non-PC) veal, there’s chicken saltimbocca with prosciutto, sage, provolone, tomato, and white wine sauce. To pair with all these dishes, there’s a well-curated selection of wines, and specialty cocktails created by expert mixologist, Greg Broyles (who also knows his bubbly, having spent years at Pops for Champagne).
5959 N. Broadway, Chicago
Land & Lake Ravenswood, opening close to Chicago’s famous Malt Row, will focus on local beers; the bar program’s craft cocktails use local and regionally distilled spirits, like Strawberry Fields made with rum from CH Distillery and a sparkling cocktail that uses Rhine Hall Mango Brandy.
To complement the beverages, Land & Lake Ravenswood offers a “variety of approachable American classics” that leverage the Midwest’s abundant produce and meat. Menu items like buffalo-marinated crispy cauliflower with vegan corn sauce, the signature burger with house-made pickles, and a seared half-chicken with garlic, olive, and thyme are served welcoming dining room of high and low banquette seating facing an open kitchen. “We want our Ravenswood location to have a strong neighborhood feel,” GM Sara Lindsay told us, “…a place where you’re totally comfortable coming with friends for cocktails or with your family for a casual dinner. We’d like Land & Lake to be the spot you keep coming back to time and again.”
1970 W. Montrose, Chicago
JARS will be the West Loop’s “fast casual gourmet dessert concept” from Fabio Viviani (see above). As you might suspect, the desserts whipped up in Viviani’s bakery/kitchen are served in jars, including tiramisu, cannoli, cakes, and s’mores.
The busy Chef Viviani took a moment from his whirlwind of activity to tell us, “My vision is to create America’s greatest new fast casual dessert concept: delicious, gourmet sweet treats, all presented in an exciting and highly-Instagram-able format. My goal is to have at least one JARS location in the top 50 markets within the next five years.”
905 Fulton St., Chicago
Big Star Mariscos is the latest offering from One Off Hospitality (The Publican, Avec, and many others), and it builds on the immense popularity of Big Star, which has become a beloved Chicago institution with a large and inviting open-air patio and a smashing vinyl record collection. As the name suggests, fish and seafood will be the focus of this new venture.
Paul Kahan, One Off Hospitality Partner and Chef, tells us “Anyone who has been around me knows seafood has always been one of my biggest passions. In the very early days of Big Star, we were grilling fish and people loved it. However, we quickly realized that with the volume and the size of the kitchen, we were limited on what we could offer. Now…we have the opportunity to expand our menu in this space to showcase seafood through the Big Star lens. That’s personally exciting to us and we’re thrilled to implement some new twists for the brand this time around.”
551 N. Ogden, Chicago
Canal Street Eatery & Market from Spearhead Hospitality (The Robey, Getaway Hostel) is opening in tandem with Afterbar to “bring dining to life in the West Loop Gate neighborhood with an exciting range of food and beverage options.”
The restaurant — with Executive Chef Forster Sorensen and Chef de Cuisine Ross Sundberg — promises to be Italian-inspired, with hand-crafted pasta and pizza, ricotta gnocchi, braised beef agnolotti, and clever creations like English pea and goat cheese ravioli. There are also meatier options like the burrata burger and 8 oz NY Strip with marrow butter. The Market offers classic and specialty coffees, as well as sandwiches, salads, and other easy-to-take-away items. Afterbar is a swank cocktail lounge adjacent to the patio, which seats 42, and it’s just north of The Park at 320, the largest garden in the neighborhood, so with patio seating, you can enjoy your cocktails amidst lush nature (in season!).
320 S. Canal, Chicago
Rainbow Cone opens in Skokie inside a Buona Beef, making this location a one-two punch of local favorites under one roof as well as the first location for this popular brand in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Both the ice cream cone and the Italian beef sandwich were invented in Chicago: the ice cream treat came into being in 1926 at the original Rainbow Cone In Beverly, and the Italian beef seems to have been first served commercially at Al’s #1 Beef on Taylor Street in Chicago’s Little Italy.
The Rainbow Cone, for those who haven’t enjoyed one, is chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, and pistachio ice cream, with orange sherbet, cut into slabs and stacked on a cone. The Italian beef sandwich, one of the three iconic foods of Chicago (along with the Chicago hot dog and deep dish pizza), is – as you likely know – a sandwich of thinly sliced beef on a bun dripping with juice, topped with giardiniera and/or sweet peppers.
861 E. Rand Rd, Mount Prospect
Dolci Amori means “sweet love” in Italian, and it’s also the name of an intriguing Italian pasticceria opening in Chicago to offer a contemporary take on Italian pastries, pizzas, panini as well as Italian aperitivi and cocktails. Dolci Amori is designed to emulate the traditional feel of a true Italian pastry shop, with a display case full of things that are as delicious as they are beautiful.
Dolci Amori was founded by Ciro Longobardo, a native of Naples and co-owner of Piccolo Sogno. Longobardo is piloting a juggernaut of Italian pasticerrias in Chicago. With this new location in Wicker Park, and another new one in Lakeview and yet another coming soon, Dolci Amori is positioned to become *the* Italian bakery name in Chicago. Says Signore Longobardo, “when I go in Italy to see my mom and I walk into a pasticceria, the place is so beautiful, there are so many different items, all new…so my idea was to bring a chef from Naples, a pastry chef and open some real Italian pasticcerias.”
2010 W. Pierce, Chicago
Hometown Coffee & Juice, a Best of 2022 winner, is opening a third location in Lake Forest to complement the immensely popular first store in Glencoe and the second store in Winnetka. Hometown Coffee & Juice has proved extraordinarily successful, and owner Lou Rubin told the Record North Shore that “It works because we provide an environment that sort of transforms people. They walk in and it’s not like a normal coffee shop. It appeals to everyone. We see three generations of people in our coffee shop almost always. We focus on being friendly. We try to make connections on many levels.”
Hometown Coffee & Juice elevates morning toast with avocado-forward creations like Greek Avocado Toast with feta and red onion, and Tuna & Avo with lemon capers and Roma tomatoes. There are also plenty of salads plus savory sandwiches built on bagels, including bagel and lox, salami/egg/cheese, and a (more or less) traditional Reuben sandwich with turkey.
231 E. Wisconsin Ave, Lake Forest
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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.