The Best Restaurants in Chicago Now
Want to know where to find the best restaurants in Chicago now? At these nine new spots, risk-taking chefs are following their passions no matter how outlandish (think: a real chocolate factory, a bar that serves bottled cocktails, and a high-end eatery that changes chefs every single month).
Hotspots like Big Star and Dove’s Luncheonette, along with cocktail darling the Violet Hour, were first to draw urban lumberjacks to Wicker Park, which has since become home to some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Publican Anker further solidifies the neighborhood, focusing not on oysters and beer or cocktails and comfort food, but on a vaguely Mediterranean-inspired menu loaded up with fresh herbs and spices. Chef de Cuisine AJ Walker, formerly of Publican Quality Meats, mans the kitchen, overseeing a menu that celebrates raw and wood-roasted seafood (though people rave about the super-thin burger).
Duck Duck Goat
Stephanie Izard is a bonafide celebrity even beyond the city limits, and her idea of a good time is comfort food from every corner of the earth. At her newest venture, in Fulton Market, her chosen purview is the Chinatowns of the world with, yes, an eye on goat meat. Hand-pulled noodles with clams and bacon and forbidden goat rice are standouts, as are the crazy-fun cocktails with unexpected spirits (duck fat-washed bourbon, anyone?). The tricky part is getting a reservation in this kitsched-out, expansive space by design darlings AvroKO; unless you’re willing to dine at 4:30pm or 10:15pm, book your reservation for anytime in 2017 STAT.
Smyth & The Loyalist
Smyth & The Loyalist are technically two restaurants, by husband/wife team (and Alinea alums) John and Karen Shields. The Loyalist, downstairs, opened in July with a casual ambience and a farm-to-plate, share-the-love ethos—with heavy favorites like chicken liver mousse on sourdough toast and aged rib-eye with brown butter and black garlic. Smyth began taking reservations in August and has already earned a Michelin star. It’s a ticketed affair, with guests paying in advance for the 8- or 12-course dining adventure ($135 or $195) and the open kitchen serving up whatever the owners of the 20-acre farm just south of the city brought in. Book five weeks out if you can.
The Boka Group is at it again, this time with a steakhouse that is totally worth the hype. The GT in the name stands for veteran Charlie Trotter protégé Giuseppe Tentori, and the other half of its title refers to more than just the cuts of beef (which are pricey but exquisite). The menu is a smorgasbord of lamb, buffalo, venison, and, of course, beef, that are free of bone and fat and sold by weight; you get what you pay for. Mix and match your meats and pair them with mac-n’-cheese (here with pork belly) or the gnocchi Genovese if you need a starch companion (no loaded potatoes here). Save room for pastry chef Andrea Cote’s s’mores ice cream cake.
Set in the middle of the beloved Intro Kitchen restaurant (where a new chef is tried out every month), Naoki manages to turn out traditional sushi in an imaginative fashion every night. A whiz with a knife, chef Naoki Nakashima can slice hamachi and scallops so thin, they’re like paper. No matter that you have to walk through the kitchen to enter this temple of just-caught fresh fish; the casual ambience in Lincoln Park’s rather stuffy Belden-Stratford puts the focus strictly on what’s on your plate—from the ahi tuna tacos to the miso-glazed sea bass. Wasabi is grated before your eyes, as well, natch.
Helping to further the West Loop’s reputation as a foodie destination, Bad Hunter arrived in October with the goal of creating a welcoming neighborhood mainstay where vegetables reign supreme. Chef Dan Snowden incorporates all manner of preparations, from wood-fire grilling to pickling, in his surprisingly tasty dishes like beet tartare and tempura-fried lemons. Vegans aren’t the only ones welcome in this greenery-laden spot on Restaurant Row; cocktail aficionados love the botanical-infused libations while design snobs dig the vintage French doors and clean, mid-century look. And carnivores can find a happy home here, too, by trying out the lamb chop scottadito wit harissa and feta or the smoked sable fish with kvass cream.
You can’t get more local than Logan Square’s Giant—a haven of contemporary design and art showcasing Chicago talent from the hand-forged tables to the charmingly Midwestern fare of chef Jason Vincent. Straightforward and simple, the 1400-square-foot space (so, not really a giant) serves unpretentious comfort food like Jonah crab salad with waffle fries, baby-back ribs, and pici pasta with jalapeno and bacon. Portions are great for sharing, but you’ll want to keep those cocktails to yourself. Like to see a rockstar chef in action? Book the chef’s table in the open kitchen, available to only 4 lucky guests a night.
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Revival Food Hall
When restaurateurs reference a food “concept,” they typically mean a new spin on an old idea. So it goes with Revival Food Hall, but on a truly grand scale. Chicago’s 16” On Center, the team behind ever-popular Longman and Eagle, have taken over the ground floor of the historic Daniel Burnham-designed National and filled its 24,000 square feet with 15 fast-casual stalls that turn out anything from treats by James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal to raw plates from Aloha Poke Co. Look for the record store and reading nook curated by Curbside Splendor (which focuses on Windy City musicians and writers). It’s great for lunch, or for fussy eaters who can’t decide what’s for dinner—meaning pretty much any group.
It takes gravitas to open a restaurant in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey—both alums of Chicago’s Michelin-starred Blackbird—have that to spare, plus a whole lotta love to share. David spent time at Grant Achatz Alinea, and his attention to detail no doubt gleaned from his previous boss shines in the 8-course tasting menu that starts with grilled carrot with mussel cream and sherry and ends with frozen fennel with mint. Anna handles all the sweet stuff, down to the wallpaper, which the fine artist herself designed. The three floors across which the space sprawls is high-Danish, with simple architectural details, custom ceramics, and, come spring, an edible garden used in cocktails by Kyle Davidson, an alum of the Violet Hour. As its name translates from the Danish, Elske is an act of pure love.
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