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.
It’s hard to believe new restaurants are opening at a solidly pre-pandemic pace, but we’re here for it. Vaccines are in arms, patios are popping up and Chicago’s weather finally seems to be rising to the occasion.
Believe it or not, several veteran Chicago chefs are brave enough to be expanding their restaurant presence here, including S.K.Y.’s Stephen Gillanders and Kyoten’s Otto Phan, while Top Chef winner Joe Flamm’s new spot is one of the most exciting restaurant openings of the year.
Put away the sweatpants for a night and enjoy that post-vaxx life: These are the best spots to make a reservation right now.
You’re here because: You’re a seafood fanatic who enjoys pairing wine and food.
You’re dining on: Coastal European and Mediterranean dishes from S.K.Y.’s Stephen Gillanders. Apolonia’s wood-burning oven and grill fire up the wide variety of seafood and meat dishes like hearth-baked calamari and fire-roasted chicken with charred lemon and salsa verde. Save room for pastas including a unique tagliatelle with scallops, shellfish butter, and a piquillo pepper sauce. S.K.Y.’s acclaimed pastry chef, Tatum Sinclair, flexes her sweet and savory muscle with an intensely flavorful black truffle puff bread, as well as rotating gelatos and sorbets and a banana budino cake big enough for two. Rejoice in an extensive by-the-glass wine menu with more than 30 options including several types of vermouth.
2201 S. Michigan Ave. (map)
Elston Corridor (Lincoln Park/Bucktown)
You’re here because: You’re up for a laid-back izakaya dining experience or a more formal omakase-style meal.
You’re dining on: The second restaurant from Kyoten’s Otto Phan’s is actually two restaurants in one: the ground floor features a casual izakaya menu of shared plates like gyoza, plus sake, cocktails, wine and beer, while the second floor is a reservation-only omakase experience for up to 40 people at a time. Upstairs you can enjoy a 90-minute omakase featuring 18 pieces of quality fish at either the sushi bar or dining room, making it ideal for parties large or small.
1465 W. Willow St. (map)
You’re here because: You’re a Top Chef fan who cheered on season 15 winner Joe Flamm.
You’re dining on: “Adriatic drinking food.” What’s that, you ask? Think pastas, veggies and proteins, plus plenty of wines from Italy, Croatia, France and more. Flamm’s standouts include coal-roasted beets with creamy kajmak cheese and honey, tuna crudo with an umami-rich beef fat vinaigrette and veal aioli, and spicy-sweet pork ribs (BYO Wet-Nap). The former Spiaggia chef’s pasta lineup includes duck sausage tagliatelle and lamb ragu malfadine. Since it’s the hottest reservation in town, be sure to set up those OpenTable alerts.
932 W. Fulton Market (map)
You’re here because: You’re up for enjoying a glass of wine and bites at the third location of this wine shop (and the first with a full restaurant).
You’re dining on: A small but impressive lineup from chef Ryan Epp of Roister and Per Se acclaim. Think fresh, seasonal dishes like heirloom beets with whipped ricotta, and modern spins like layered eggplant Parmesan with buffalo mozzarella. While you’re there, shop the well-curated retail wine shop with something for every budget and taste, like the $27 bottle of Roagna Dolcetto d’Alba. Not in the mood for food? Pop open any bottle from the shop for a $25 cork fee that can be enjoyed on site.
2349 N. Lincoln Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You enjoy the finer things in life (hello, Champagne, oysters and caviar) and you’re looking to impress out-of-town guests.
You’re dining on: Located inside the Pendry, a swanky new Mag Mile hotel, Venteux specializes in French brasserie fare from Michelin-starred chef Don Young of Temporis. Kick off your night with a cocktail like the “Welcome to Chicago” featuring Malort, grapefruit liqueur, Lillet Blanc, lemon and prosecco. You’ll find the usual suspects on the dinner menu: French onion soup, steak frites and mussels, plus other imaginative proteins like lamb loin with rhubarb and morels, or a hefty burger with charred leeks and Raclette.
224 N. Michigan Ave. (map)
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