Chicago | August 27, 2021 4:44 pm

The 5 Best Restaurants That Opened in Chicago This Summer

From Spanish tapas (courtesy: José Andrés) to next-level charcuterie

Oysters from Esme
Oysters from Esme
Sandy Noto

To keep tabs on every Chicago restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Bon appétit.

Chicago’s summer openings offer a tale of two restaurant types: meat-heavy charcuterie boards and tapas versus plant-based pasta and fruit ceviche. Doing entirely its own thing is chef Jenner Tomaska’s Esme, which marks the welcome return of true fine dining.

Whatever your pleasure, mask up and tip well: These are the restaurants you should be dining at right now.

Arroz A Banda Con Gambas
Arroz A Banda Con Gambas
Jaleo

Jaleo

River North

You’re here because: You love anything Chef José Andrés does, and his latest restaurant opening is no exception.

You’re dining on: Tapas, paellas, sangrias, gin and tonics and more at this celebrity chef-led mini-chain. Grab your crew and share an order of paella prepared tableside with seasonal vegetables, shrimp, or braised oxtail. You’ll find familiar tapas favorites on the menu, like pan con tomate and patatas bravas, plus an enticing array of Spanish cheeses as well as meat and seafood tapas like grilled flatiron steak with confit piquillo peppers.

500 N. Clark St. (map)

A Lardon Reuben
A Lardon Reuben
Lardon

Lardon

Logan Square

You’re here because: You never met a charcuterie board you didn’t like.

You’re dining on: House-cured meats, cheeses, sandwiches, coffee, and cocktails at this all-day salumeria. Create your own meat and cheese adventure, or try one of Lardon’s curated boards. Looking for a bit more? Opt for one of six sandwich options stuffed to the brim with house meats and accoutrements — like The Frenchie, which comes with house-cured ham, country pork pate, Brie, Dijon mustard, and cornichon mayo on a rustic baguette. Lardon recently expanded to offer weekend dinner service with dishes like duck leg confit and mussels with ‘nduja, tomato, garlic, and white wine. Beverage options feature aperitivo-forward cocktails, plus an expansive wine list with everything from chenin blanc to lambrusco.

2200 N. California Ave. (map)

A veggie-centric spread from The Exchange
A veggie-centric spread from The Exchange
Jack Pontarelli

The Exchange

Loop

You’re here because: You’re in the mood for beets with a side of beats at Chicago’s first listening room.

You’re dining on: Veggie-centric cuisine and clubby music from the team behind DMK. The Exchange is a multi-concept space housed inside Daniel Burnham’s Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Ave. The Listening Room is the first space within The Exchange to open; expect seasonal salads and specialties like sweet corn rigatoni, all set to the tune of some tightly curated playlists. Wash it all down with a lengthy list of biodynamic wines, local beers, and stirred cocktails. A bakery and a bar should follow in the coming weeks. 

224 S. Michigan Ave. (map)

A sampling of Bloom Plant Based Kitchen's plant-powered menu
A sampling of Bloom Plant Based Kitchen’s plant-powered menu
Bloom Plant Based Kitchen

Bloom Plant Based Kitchen

Wicker Park

You’re here because: You’re in search of vegan fare that doesn’t compromise on flavor or creativity. 

You’re dining on: A plant-powered menu from the folks at Amaru. This Wicker Park restaurant highlights unique and playful fruit and veggie preparations like a stone fruit ceviche, beet dumplings, and a “cashew di pepe” with kelp noodles and cashew cream. Heads up: Bloom is currently BYOB.

1559 N. Milwaukee Ave. (map)

Pierogi's
Pierogi’s
Sandy Noto

Esme

Lincoln Park

You’re here because: Fine dining is your jam and you can’t wait to see what’s cooking from former Next chef Jenner Tomaska and wife and partner Katrina Bravo.

You’re dining on: A 16-course seasonal tasting menu. The opening menu features a wagyu éclair with salted strawberries, pine, and parsnip, as well as salt-baked sablefish wrapped in squash blossoms. Tack on wine pairings with your meal; 75 percent of Esme’s wine list is comprised of producers who are women or BIPOC, or have philanthropic connections. Stay tuned for future collaboration dinners with local artists with a portion of proceeds going to worthy causes. Interested in a casual dining experience? The bar is reserved for walk-ins and seats 16. 

2200 N. Clark St. (map)