Summer is here and the heat is on with new restaurants and other businesses throwing open their doors. From a new Serena & Lily design outpost in Winnetka to a pizza spot slinging inventive Roman pies in Oak Brook and a rooftop cinema club in Fulton Market, there are a lot of must-visits on this list of the latest and greatest new restaurant and business openings in Chicago and the suburbs.
Food & Drink
Complimentary Cafe is coming to Skokie. As the Chicago Tribune explains, “When Riyaz Ali and his wife Noor Alkhawaja were in college, they would visit local coffee shops and dream about the day when they could open their own café. That dream is becoming a reality thanks in part to Skokie’s 20-year-plus campaign to create a vibrant downtown core. The village has poured hundreds of millions of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars into the effort and the new café is the latest business to take advantage of the financial help.”
Complimentary Café offers organic, fair trade tea and coffee, as well as pastries from local vendors who daily deliver the fresh stuff, including zabhia (kind of like a gyros scone with creamy jalapeno sauce and pepperoni flat bread). Owner Riyaz Ali, along with his wife Noor Alkhawaja, pour drip coffee and espresso, paired with menu items like charcuterie boards of 100% locally sourced cheese, vegetables, nuts, jams, and hand-cut meats, as well as croissants, bagels, and cookies.
4933 Oakton St., Skokie
Cuckoo is an eccentric-looking Andersonville place that’s likely to appeal to kids and adults alike (though perhaps more to the former). Big and bright yellow inside and out, Cuckoo is focusing on Pan-Asian food (Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Chinese).
Look at the menu and you’ll see that the edible entertainment continues in the broad range of beverages and Korean fried chicken. In the drinks department, there are a great many smoothies and bubble teas (fun, right?!); the fried chicken is served on pillow-soft buns, and there are also Korean and Japanese rice bowls. Sides like takoyaki, squid rings, and scallion pancakes ensure there will be something for everybody. Meals are served in wooden frames with partitions, reminiscent of Japanese bento boxes, and as of this writing, diners are given big plastic protective gloves to wear as they chow down on food that’s best consumed with fingers (fried chicken, looking at you).
5143 N. Clark St., Chicago
O Marshmallow Café
XO Marshmallow Café looks like a super fun place to score cool treats. The brightly accoutered store and café are owned and operated by two enthusiastic and creative young women: Kathryn Connor (her title is Marshmallowist Maven) and Lindzi Shanks (Marketing and S’Mores Sommelier). Shanks told us, “Our vision for XO Marshmallow is to continue to evoke notes of nostalgia for our customers while also introducing the joys of marshmallows to a new generation. The new space will allow us to continue to innovate in the niche marshmallow space while expanding on new initiatives including private events and new menu offerings.”
On the menu, for eating on-the-spot or taking out, are a load of awesome treats, including OMG! (Ooey Marshmallow Goodness), their version of marshmallow cream with additions like cookie dough and chocolate chunks, as well as marshmallow-forward brownies, cones, and Gourmet S’Mores kits. You get the picture: this is a fantastically fun place, and a guaranteed hit with kids and grownups who want to exercise their sweet tooth. If you’re hard-core into the marshmallow experience, you’ll want to join the Marshmallow-of-the-month club.
6977 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago
Howard Street Brewing Company
Howard Street Brewing Company, located in Rogers Park between The Factory Theater and Sol Café, opened at the end of May, promising a dozen beers rotating on and off tap, every one of them brewed on site. Owner Chuck Patella explains that “We’re doing craft beer, [but] we’re also doing creative beer. We’re going to try new things; we’re going to experiment. And we’re really excited to bring that artistic value to a community that’s already bustling with artists.”
Billing itself as “Chicago’s Northernmost Taproom,” Howard Street Brewing Company has a wide selection of on-site brews available on tap, including sours, porters, pilsners, kolsch and wit beers. Want to celebrate a wedding with your own brews; Howard Street Brewing Company can help you create the beer and the bottle: if you’ve never brewed before, bring in a few beers you like, and staff can assist you in creating a unique brew that’s in line with your tastes.
1617 W. Howard St., Rogers Park
Piccolo Buco by Luca Issa and Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk expands its portfolio of 49 Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant locations with a new endeavor guaranteed to get the attention of pizza connoisseurs. Cooper’s Hawk Founder Tim McEnery first tasted Chef Luca Issa’s pizza at Piccolo Buco Roma, steps from the Trevi Fountain, and was determined to bring it stateside.
The fruit of this collaboration is the duo’s new restaurant at Oakbrook Center. Start with Italian classics like Arancini or Crispy Stuffed Squash Blossoms, or an Italian take on a classic America Wedge salad before moving on to Chef Luca’s transcendent pizza. Choose a base of “Red” — classic, tangy tomato puree, “Yellow” — slightly sweeter yellow tomato puree, or White and toppings like the Classic Margherita with fior di latte mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil (available red or yellow) or the white-base Carbonara. Pastas and classic Italian mains like Baked Eggplant Parm and Diavolo Chicken are also available but trust us, you won’t want to miss the pizza with its tall and airy crust (served with scissors for delicately cutting at your table!).
Pair with one of Cooper Hawk’s signature wine flights, available in Italian varietals, and you’ve got the makings of the perfect meal.
1818 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook
Sugar Moon Bakery
Sugar Moon Bakery is ready to break – or at least stretch – some traditional rules and expectations regarding baked goods. Take, for instance, the chocolate chip cookie, to which baker Dina Cimarusti mixes in tahini, an unexpected and unpredictably delicious Middle Eastern addition to the usual mix. Besides her spectacular array of cakes, Cimarusti says she likes comfort food, including savory creations like her brioche pastry inspired by eggs in purgatory (kind of like shakshuka, eggs in tomato sauce) and focaccia with spicy giardiniera, Chicago’s signature condiment.
Cimarusti is very fond of comfort food; as she told the Chicago Tribune, “I’m trying to keep it small scale. I just want it to be a little neighborhood spot. I’m inspired by bakeries you find in small towns. The food is a little rustic and messy but tastes like mom made it.” There are also some vegan options on the menu, but whatever is looking good to you, you might want to grab it while you can: Cimarusti has a constantly changing menu, and today’s cookie may be gone tomorrow.
3612 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago
Serena & Lily Design Shop
Serena & Lily Winnetka Design Shop offers furniture and stylish accoutrements for the bedroom, bath, dining room, kitchen, and outdoor spaces.
For the bedroom, there’s a range of high-quality necessities, including duvets, coverlets, blankets, shams, pillowcases, and pretty much everything you need to create a beautiful boudoir. If you’re looking to upgrade the look and usability of the bathroom, you can choose from a range of towels, rugs, mats, and hampers, all tastefully created. In the living room, Serena & Lily offers sofas, sectionals, ottomans, poufs, and other comfortable items for the most relaxed space in your home. For the dining room, check out the a selection of tables and chairs, bars, and stools, designed to make eating at home a special experience. Upgrade summer with outdoor gear like tasteful chairs, sofas, protective covers, umbrellas and much, much more.
1070 Gage St., Winnetka
Architectural Artifacts had been in Ravenswood for 35 years, but now the retail group is moving to River North with a renewed concept and a bigger space (about 35,000 square feet). This new and revitalized space in a Mid-Century school building will provide multi-use private and large-scale event spaces as well as unique and hard-to-find antiques and furnishings. “We’ve created a place that’s unlike anything else in the world,” said Stuart Grannen, one of the founders. “After decades spent traveling the globe searching for interesting and evocative artifacts, I’ve built a collection that’s unmatched [and] we’ve built a hub where people from all walks of life can eat, drink, host, shop and play under one roof.”
In addition to the store, there will be The Café, a Euro-inspired all-day dining zone headed up by Lula Café’s Andrew Holladay, a speakeasy-type bar, and a ballroom that will re-purpose a vintage gymnasium into an event space for weddings, corporate conferences and pickleball. Classrooms are available for rent and are suitable for wedding showers or brand pop-ups, and there’s a full bridal suite and green room.
1065 N. Orleans, Chicago
North Shore Fine Gardening/Plant Perfect Design
North Shore Fine Gardening/Plant Perfect Design arrives in Winnetka just in time for the warmer months with a selection of indoor and outdoor plants that will transform any home or garden space into something special. The collaboration between North Shore Fine Gardening and Plant Perfect Design ensures that with one stop, you can get every plant you want and every service and piece of hardware you need to create a beautiful natural space, either inside or outside your home or place of business.
North Shore Fine Gardening offers a massive selection of gorgeous plants, as well as landscaping consultation and services intended to maximize the beauty of each green thing you bring home; Plant Perfect Design brings the plants, of course, but also pottery, gifts and custom containers that will turn a simple plant plant into a beautiful adornment for your home or place of business. Working with North Shore Fine Gardening and Plant Perfect Design, you’ll be able to set to great advantage any indoor or outdoor space.
994 Green Bay Rd., Winnetka
Wild Fork Foods
Wild Fork Foods is opening a new Skokie location, and as at other locations, this outpost of the national chain of higher-end grocery stores focuses on proteins, an abundance of proteins. There are the USDA prime beef cuts, but also, get this: exotic meats such as alligator, bison and goat, yak, ostrich, and boar. If you’re not familiar with cooking some of these lesser known cuts, no worries: Wild Fork provides recipes. All orders are delivered free to members who order over $35 worth of food (membership is around $30/yr.)
9234 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
For the Family
Let’s Play Work
Let’s Play Work in Forest Park is a self-described “Grown-Up Friendly Kid Space” for “working parents whose kids are driving you crazy.” What Let’s Play Work provides is a large, open play space (with slides and other fun equipment) for kids and a (not completely walled off) workspace for parents. Kids will have access to the adult areas through a gate that can be opened only by staff; in these areas, adults will have three rooms furnished with large tables, electrical outlets, and six-to-eight computers. Kribi coffee will be served; there are fruit and yogurt snacks for the young ones.
Owner Angela Hart has worked at home with her two young children, so she understands the challenges faced by work-at-home parents. She had no place to bring her children during the days when she had to get work done from her home office, and looking around her local community, she discovered that others had the same problem. “I’m a working mom with two kids, and I’m trying to help with achieving a work-life balance,” she told us. “We need to work, but we also want to be there for our kids.”
25 Elgin Ave., Forest Park
The Lot, Highland Park’s “new gathering space,” is opening in June and will run through December of this year. For these monthly, and sometimes twice monthly, events, the south portion of St. John’s North Lot at the northwest corner of Central and St. John’s in downtown Highland Park will be transformed into a multipurpose space with several cool events planned.
Kicking off The Lot for the 2022 season will be June’s Taste of Highland Park, a gathering of local chefs doing demos and musicians making music. In July, a World Music Festival is planned, and in August, both a Vintage Car Show and a Veg Fest are on the calendar. The year closes out with November’s Stews & Brews (you can guess what’s on the menu), and heading into Christmas, a Heart of the Holidays event. The Lot is aiming to be the heart of Highland Park.
1707 St. Johns Avenue, Highland Park
Rooftop Cinema Club
Rooftop Cinema Club – with locations in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and London – promises “the ultimate open-air viewing experience” in Chicago’s Fulton Market area (where it does not get more hip). If you’ve been holding back on going to movie theaters, this viewing room au plein air is an excellent opportunity to get back into the swing of catching flicks somewhere other you’re your living room.
With beautiful views of the city, and headphones to help you hear dialogue above the characteristic din of city streets, Rooftop Cinema Club on the terrace of the Emily Hotel offers deck chairs to relax while watching iconic cult and classic movies. Food and a full bar make it possible to arrange a one-stop “dinner and a movie” date, and the box office is stocked with classic movie snacks like popcorn and candy (we’re guessing Dots, Twizzlers, and Snow Caps will be well represented). Rooftop Cinema Club is, predictably, weather-sensitive, so pick a warm (and rain-free!) summer night to visit and view. Should be a blast.
311 N. Morgan St., 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.