Table Stakes: May
The best Chicago bar and restaurant openings of the past month
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.
A new project from award-winning duo chef Kevin Hickey and barman Brandon Phillips of the Duck Inn in Bridgeport, Otto Mezzo is not your typical 5 a.m. bar. By looks alone, you won’t recognize the room as the former Ay Chiwowa space. The narrow bar has been transformed into a sexy, dark lounge dressed with art deco fixtures and colorful murals. When it comes to food, casual Italian bar bites are the name of the game. Cocktail options are plentiful — the Chiampan, a modern take on lambrusco — is not to be missed. But with a last call just before sunrise, you’ll have plenty of time to try ‘em all.
Twenty-one floors above the handsome Conrad Hotel you’ll find Noyane (pronounced: no-YAH-nee), the latest addition to Chicago’s rooftop bar scene. The Japanese-influenced lounge features Japanese and non-Japanese cocktails, like the rum-filled Painkiller, but it’s the food menu curated by top chef Richard Sandoval that solidifies this destination-worthy aerie as a summer staple. King crab maki, pork belly steamed buns, and BBQ beef cheek skewers are several menu standouts for sharing … or, y’know, not.
Meanwhile, atop a roof at the Robey Hotel, you’ll ask yourself, “Am I in Wicker Park?” It’s nothing the Blue Line tracks and unrivaled west-facing view of the skyline couldn’t answer. But yes, a buzzy sixth-floor lounge that has a pool is as transportive as you think. Point is, we finally have an elevated (literally) spot to enjoy Latin bites (try the tuna tostada) and adult beverages poolside (though you must be a hotel guest to take a dip). Is Cabana Club worth visiting anyway? Absolutely.
Roscoe Village’s The Region is serving a burger you never knew you needed, or existed: the Northwest Indiana smashed burger. The burger spot — which gets its name from the Indiana “region” that includes towns like Valparaiso, Munster and Hammond — serves up a simple menu of smashed burgers griddled on a flat top. Each crispy-edged patty is topped with relish and a mayo-based “region sauce.” An order here won’t be complete without a side of hand-cut onion rings.
The Dana Hotel’s rooftop got a serious upgrade with the opening of the sexy Apogee Lounge. Your preconceived notions of River North rooftops? Throw ‘em out the window. Apogee is the result of cocktail genius Benjamin Schiller (The Sixth, Berkshire Room) who’s turned the space into a drinking destination. The cocktail menu is a collection of Willy Wonka-style libations, including the Mr. Nice Guy housed in a bong (because why not?), and the Mario Bros.-reminiscent 1-Up with vodka, white sage, pineapple and dehydrated blackberry.
The couple behind The Bagelers in Lincoln Park have moved their attention south, opening a cafe at the site of Lacuna Artist Lofts in Pilsen. During the day you’ll find a relaxed, counter service hangout with Ipsento coffee, bagels, pastries and breakfast sandwiches. Coming soon: the cafe will turn into a full-service restaurant complete with access to a 2,000 square-foot rooftop bar (expect booze-filled slushies and tea-based cocktails), plus small plates and live entertainment.
Somehow there’s still open real estate for another new restaurant on Randolph Row and La Josie is proving they can stand out from the rest. Helmed by the family behind the South Side’s El Solazo, La Josie represents a modern take on Mexican cuisine from the Jalisco region. Family recipes bring a fresh approach to familiar items like tacos and ceviches, but there are also plenty of exciting entrees including a skirt steak for two, and a delicious grilled red snapper. Grab a table, take a swig of your cerveza, and wave to the suckers in line at Au Cheval across the street.