Dollar Oysters and Half-Pound Wagyu Steaks Are the Stars at Chicago’s Best New Restaurants
Also on tap: Southern coastal, more super-upscale sushi and dry-aged Holstein
Whoever said there are too many sushi joints in Chicago hasn’t tried the latest from Boka Restaurant Group’s continued takeover of the Southport Corridor: Itoko is a worthy addition to the Chicago dining scene. Elsewhere, we have a new BBQ joint, slinging everything from smoked wings to pulled chicken and pork, a casual West Loop bar with an oyster happy hour (yes, even on weekends), a “Southern coastal” spot in River North and a Basque chophouse.
You’re here because: You’re on a mission to try every upscale sushi spot in town.
You’re dining on: A sushi and robata menu from Momotaro’s chef Gene Kato. Itoko (which means “cousin” in Japanese — aka it’s the younger cousin of Momotaro) serves traditional maki, nigiri and sashimi. You’ll also find hand rolls like the shio koji salmon (with avocado mousse, crispy salmon skin and trout roe) as well as robata-grilled items like shiitakes (with shiso and lemon) and chicken thighs (with scallion). More substantial menu options include a whole branzino and a half-pound wagyu steak with sukiyaki sauce. Itoko’s beverage program focuses on cocktails, highballs and sake to create the perfect pairing for your meal.
3325 N. Southport Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You’re looking for a happy hour before heading to the United Center.
You’re dining on: Dollar oysters during happy hour (Tuesday to Sunday, 4 to 6 pm) plus a selection of seafood dishes, from grilled oysters and mango shrimp ceviche to mahi mahi tacos and mini lobster rolls. More substantial plates include a surf-and-turf burrito and lobster mac and cheese. The cocktail menu plays on classic libations like the Toasted Espresso martini garnished with toasted marshmallow and caramelized walnut, or the Not Your Mom’s Cosmo with hibiscus tea. Plus, there are plenty of wines by the glass, in addition to beer drafts and bottles.
1140 W. Madison. (map)
You’re here because: You’re intrigued by the idea of a Chicago chophouse with a Basque flair — and looking to impress someone special..
You’re dining on: Steaks and Spanish eats from chef Doug Psaltis and pastry chef Hsing Chen. Kick things off with caviar churros or tortilla espanola then move onto the signature beef selection, served by the pound. You’ll find five kinds of steak from dry-aged Holstein to Japanese wagyu, all cooked over coals and served sliced for sharing. Tack on a couple of sides like truffle and Iberico rice or potatoes with aioli, and don’t forget to save room for the citrus coupe or rum cake for dessert. A separate bar menu features more casual fare, like jamon and truffle grilled cheese and burnt Basque cheesecake.
214 W. Erie St. (map)
You’re here because: You’re a sucker for a little Southern charm.
You’re dining on: Classic dishes with a touch of Southern hospitality. Think boiled peanut hummus, cast-iron fried chicken and grilled swordfish with hoppin’ john, peppered bacon and chow chow. As its name suggests, you’ll want to opt for a cocktail or two, like the River North Julep (with blueberry liqueur) or the Coke & Peanuts (with peanut-infused bourbon, Coke and peanut candy).
405 N. Wabash Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You have a taste for barbecue…but are dining with a picky eater.
You’re dining on: All kinds of smoked proteins from brisket and chicken to salmon and ribs, plus traditional sides like barbecue beans, mac and cheese and potato salad. Not a BBQ fan? There are plenty of other options, like steaks, pork chops and salmon. A weekend brunch menu brings a smoked brisket Benedict and pulled pork huevos rancheros. A forthcoming liquor license means a full cocktail menu is on deck.
1856 W. North Ave. (map)
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