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.
Bixi (3 images)
You’re here for: Asian-inspired eats and craft beer
You’re dining on: Bao, burgers and handmade noodles, like the belt noodle soup from chef Bo Fowler of Owen & Engine fame. Wash it all down with house beers that feature unique flavors like lemongrass, jasmine tea and Szechuan peppercorns.
Good Measure (3 images)
You’re here for: Upgraded pub fare and minimalist cocktails in a punk-rock themed setting
You’re dining on: Chef Matt Troost’s handhelds take top honors. There’s a deep-fried truffle polish with foie gras onions and giardiniera, a signature house burger, and devil honey fried chicken. To pair? Simple cocktails featuring no more than three ingredients.
Photos: Richard Shilkus
Brass Heart (2 images)
You’re here for: A special-occasion tasting menu experience from a Michelin-starred chef
You’re dining on: Dishes featuring a refined take on Chef Matt Kerney’s experience with nose-to-tail cooking at Longman & Eagle. Your choice is simple: regular or vegan tasting menu. You’ll then enjoy 15 courses in the former 42 Grams space, which has been transformed into an intimate 20-seat dining room.
Neon Wilderness (2 images)
You’re here for: An after-work drink or casual first date
You’re dining on: Happy hour cocktails, beer-and-shot combos or a glass of bubbly at the friendly neighborhood bar from the team behind Bar DeVille.
Twain (2 images)
You’re here for: Nostalgic Midwestern food and drink from husband-and-wife team Tim (chef) and Rebekah (Beverage Director and Sommelier) Graham
You’re dining on: Comfort-food classics inspired by spiral-bound cookbooks like Beer Cheese Soup or Chicken and Dumplings, paired with wine varieties popular from the 1930s to 1960s. Enjoy it all inside a former car garage studded with subtle references to the literature of Mark Twain.
Blind Dragon (2 images)
You’re here for: Booze-fueled karaoke inside the basement of the FOUND Hotel Chicago
You’re dining on: Asian-influenced drinks are the focus at the upscale karaoke bar and lounge, which is the fourth location of a concept that started in Los Angeles. Try the Midnight Warlock, a margarita spinoff with Asian pear tequila, togarashi and a Chinese 5-spice rim. And if you want to share with the table, order up a Shogun Assassin punch bowl and some straws.
Photo credit: Anthony Tahlier
Pretty Cool Ice Cream (2 images)
Pretty Cool Ice Cream
You’re here for: Nostalgic frozen treats from Dana Salls Cree and Bang Bang Pie’s Michael Ciapciak
You’re dining on: Custard bars including coffee pretzel toffee and caramel potato chip, or popsicles in flavors like matcha mint and banana horchata.
Funkenhausen (3 images)
You’re here for: A taste of Bavaria in a beer hall setting from Chef Mark Steuer
You’re dining on: The “unconventional” brasserie is an ideal spot for trying a slew of dishes inspired by Chef Steuer’s roots. Try the cabbage roll with beef tartare, gouda, pickled mustard and truffle, or the big-ass schnitzel with charred lemon.