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). Do it to it.
In case you missed it, Chicago’s most respected culinary team opened up an early contender for best restaurant of the year. Diverse crowds have descended on Roister, the Alinea Group’s first ever casual iteration. Two ways you can go: an open-hearth tasting menu, or a la carte, which we can speak to. There are many pleasures on this menu. You’ll gasp, you’ll delight, you’ll look deep within yourself to describe its complexities, then realize you haven’t the vocabulary to justly express them.
So, uh, y’know, get the aged cheddar rillettes. The beef broth. The maple poached salmon. The whole chicken and chamomile — a bird served up three ways (braised, poached and fried with sunchokes) — is certainly something you’ll want. Another can’t-miss: the cocktail menu. Delightfully playful and ultra minimalist.
A joint venture between Four Corners Tavern (Benchmark, Highline) and Brendan Sodikoff (Au Cheval, Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf), SteakBar is a beef-driven bar concept that has the trappings of a late-night hot spot. Mind the screens, there are many. But with its grandiose open-window exterior, expect this spot to become an Old Town go-to this summer. It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood, offering up subtle twists to your typical steakhouse grub, while giving revelers a reason to buzz about on the weekends with a vintage hi-fi sound system and guests DJs.
When Birchwood Kitchen closed late last year, Wicker Park lost a true neighborhood gem, which makes the offerings from its successor such a treat. If you’re angling for an exceptional bistro brunch spot, our money’s on Americano 2211, which comes by way of pastry chef Nancy Silver (Blackbird, Charlie Trotter’s) and Chris Pappas, who owns the Winchester. The menu, which includes highlights like shakshuka and other breakfast delights, is primed by a stellar pastry case where you can order up rosemary sea salt biscuits and cinnamon-hickory nut brioche. Don’t let that back patio go to waste.
River North is filled with clubby scenes, but Joy District promises style and low-key sophistication. It’s from the same team who brought you Hubbard Inn and Pomp & Circumstance. And if you’re wondering exactly what kinda’ spot this is, they’re offering up bottle service in the swanky second-floor lounge, which they’re calling Onto. Rooftop? Coming soon.
Millie's Supper Club
In every man’s heart of hearts lies a little place for a joint like Millie’s. Once inside, you’ll feel like you’re at the end of some highway in the backwoods of Wisconsin. You got the throwback, camp-lodge fixins. The crucial neon signage. The vintage beer signs. And perhaps best of all, the nostalgia-inducing menu that even looks the part of an old school Wisco supper club. Point is, this place stays true while offering food even the city curmudgeons will appreciate. Daily “Friday” fish frys? We’re in. Prime Rib of Beef? 32 oz. for the table, please. Waldorf salad? Been a while, but sure. Family-friendly, too. Bring the kids and give ‘em a taste of what they’re missing.
Robert's Pizza Co.
Looking for pizza? Good pizza? Like, pizza whose makers claim it took 20 years to perfect? That’d be Robert’s Pizza Company, newly opened out in Streeterville. Magic’s in the dough: the crust chars and blisters while the interior crumb crisps to the ideal degree. This slice has got audible deliciousness. The wild mushroom and carmelized onion is a must.