To keep tabs on every Chicago bar and restaurant 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). Get out there.
El Che Bar
The latest addition to Chicago’s fascination with open-fire cooking comes in the form of El Che Bar, a new Argentinian restaurant from chef John Manion (La Sirena Clandestina). Manion shows that technique goes a long way: the eight-oz. steak filet with mustard steak sauce is easily the best thing we’ve eaten in the city that’s come off a wood-burning hearth. The braised lamb ribs also leave much to talk about — all good comments — as does the understated dining room, which, much like the restaurant’s exterior, doesn’t yell to be noticed. An all-around winner in the West Loop.
Revival Food Hall
Lunch in the Loop got a massive upgrade this month with the arrival of Revival Food Hall. In a year where food halls have become a bona fide trend (see: Latinicity and 3 Greens Market), this 24,000-square-foot market stands out from the pack because its offerings read like a greatest hits of Chicago’s best local eats. With 15 stalls plus a reading nook from indie book publishing house Curbside Splendor, it’s totally acceptable to make this your new downtown lunch go-to. We picked our favorite vendors. It’s time to pick yours.
Photo: Sarah Joyce
There are a lot of good things going on at the newly minted Kimpton Gray Hotel, and Boleo, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant that comes with a retractable roof, is certainly one of them. That’s not to say you should skip Steadfast on the ground floor, or the Mad Men-esque Vol. 39 on the second — it’s just to say you’ve got options. At Boleo, tucked away on the 15th floor, it’s all about the flavors and sights of South America. In other words: hope you like pisco.
Smyth & The Loyalist
A dual high/low concept from husband-and-wife power couple John and Karen Shields, who both cut their teeth at Charlie Trotter’s and Alinea, think of Smyth & the Loyalist as a restaurant that’s covering its bases. The first to open was the Loyalist. It’s downstairs. It’s casual. It’s where you go when you want a churched-up cheeseburger or crispy chicken thighs served up with Carolina gold rice grits. Meanwhile, upstairs you’ll find the just-opened Smyth, the couples’ fine-dining concept that serves as a nod to their impressive resumes. Expect a tasting menu spread out over eight courses in an open-kitchen with a wood-fire hearth.
Here in Chicago, it’s smart to have at least one good four a.m. bar stuffed into your back pocket. The owners behind Wicker Park’s Estelle and Logan Square’s The Owl know this. And they’re giving us another option: Remedy, a most handsome late-night bar if we ever saw one, located right on the edge of Bucktown. It’s pretty straightforward here. It’s a neighborhood bar. Unpretentious. There’s a very solid jukebox, and a proper beer list that’ll keep your thirst sated no matter what time you arrive.
Main Photo: El Che Bar