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). Let’s ride.
Photo: Anthony Tahlier
Patio season might be all but over, but we plan to keep hitting up Devereaux for reasons beyond the gorgeous poolside hangs. Perched on the 18th floor of the Viceroy Hotel, this ‘70s-chic sibling to Boka Group’s Somerset entices year round with sweeping views and knockout cocktails the likes of which Viagra Triangle’s never seen, from barman Lee Zaremba. Take the Salty Dog, a bracing gin, aquavit and citrus sipper with Hawaiian black sea salt rim. If you’re a Negroni lover, Not Your Mom’s Negroni is an emboldened iteration with mezcal, carpano antica and luxardo and tobacco bitters. Whatever you're sipping on, you'll wanna sample chef Lee Wolen’s tempura-fried Buffalo cauliflower. Ey, it’s not like it’s swimsuit season anymore.
We were admittedly blue when barman Jay Schroeder abruptly departed Logan Square's Mezcaleria Las Flores bar in January. Luckily, he wasn’t gone long. He’s taken the helm at Mexican hotspot Quiote’s subterranean mezcal bar, giving it a separate name and (still mezcal-centric) identity. Todos Santos, meaning “all saints,” debuts with seven clever yet accessible cocktails, poured into bespoke vessels from all over Mexico and Chicago. Your correspondent’s sipping the bright and vegetal Check My Soundcloud, with Sotol por Siempre, ancho reyes verde, absinthe, amaro and lemon. Pro tip: Quiote’s taco trucks will hawk snacks here on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
The first thing you should do when you arrive at the Loop’s latest food hall is grab a cup of coffee at Sparrow, the roaster whose joe you could only sample at restaurants like Fat Rice and Grace until now. Your must-hits don’t end there, because Butcher & Larder is doing custom doggies and Italian sausages; while South Loop fave Flo & Santos’ tavern-style pizzas beckon nearby. Among the 10 vendors you’ll also find one of the city’s largest salad bars—with a local bent to boot—plus rotating pop-up restaurants and an incubator for women and minority-owned startups. On deck right now is Willpower Your Day, a line of protein-rich snacks from entrepreneur Diane Garber. By the way, your dollar bills are no good at this cashless hall; order at digital kiosks stationed throughout, and embrace the future.
BBQ Supply Co.
Barbecue soothsayer Jared Leonard (the Budlong) brings his far north side barbecue restaurant to ‘cue-starved Hyde Park with a second location of BBQ Supply Co. (formerly Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse), in the bygone Yusho space. Along with the usual suspects of pork ribs and pulled pork, expect Texas-style smoked brisket, sausages and a melt-in-your-mouth smoked brisket burger at this handsome 40-seater, outfitted in natural wood and leather. Booze is imminent, including craft beer, a few cocktails and a deep whiskey program.
You know how Chicago never seems to reach capacity on steakhouses and Italian joints? Consider this trilevel stunner from the Gibsons Group (Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar) the mashup motherload. In posh digs reminiscent of midcentury Milan and overlooking the Chicago River, Italia couples a venerable steak and chop program with modern Italian fares from exec chef and 16-year Gibsons vet Jose Sosa. Delicate crudo is a must, as is at least one of four housemade pastas (read: fusilli with beef and onion sugo). But your first move upon arrival should be to grab a cushy lounge chair on the bar level and order a Manhattan. Because these steakhouse virtuosos mix a damn fine classic cocktail.
Metropolitan Brewing Tap Room
The city’s best lager brewery has finally debuted the riverfront taproom at its 20,000-sq.-ft. brewery, and it’s a beaut. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the central bar and long wooden tables, overlooking the Chicago River’s north branch. Watch the leaves turn while you throw back one or two of a dozen available draft beers, from core brews like Krankshaft Kolsch to special releases like Grindamo Dynamo Copper Lager or the autumnal Arc Welder Dunkel Rye — all brewed some 30 feet away. (This slashie also hawks growlers and six packs, if you can’t stay.) The sole downside for loungers? There’s no food. Luckily, Honey Butter Fried Chicken is a stone’s throw away, and they deliver.
As well it should in every Chicago 'hood, quality tacos have arrived to the South Loop, thanks to this versatile newcomer from exec chef Daniel Espinoza and the owners of The Scout. Espinoza’s cheffed-up tacos range from scallop and pig ear with sikil pak and green apple to chile marinated pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, and onions — piled high on housemade tortillas. A to-go counter allows for easy walking and eating en route to Soldier Field. Should you dine in, this sprawling spot is equipped for a range of experiences — from group dining at tabletop grills featuring live, traditional Mexican cooking to after-work drinks in the 35-seat bar.
Main Photo: Devereaux/Anthony Tahlier