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.
aba (2 images)
You’re here for: A taste of the Mediterranean from Chef CJ Jacobson and an extension of his first restaurant, Ema.
You’re dining on: The heavenly Everything Jerusalem Bagel with whipped honey labneh, za’atar and lemon, a variety of cooked and raw proteins, and cocktails from Mixologist Liz Pearce.
302 N. Green St. (map)
Images: Aba Restaurant
You’re here for: Pre- or post-dinner drinks with sweeping views of Michigan Avenue from atop the Peninsula Chicago.
You’re dining on: Food and drink from every corner of the world like bone marrow poppers and chicken and beef satays, plus cocktails incorporating rare spirits and small-batch bitters.
108 E. Superior St. (map)
Images: Jen Spears
Juniper Spirits & Oysters
You’re here for: A weekday gin- and oyster-filled happy hour tucked away inside the newly opened Claridge House hotel.
You’re dining on: East and West Coast oysters served raw, sauced, fried or Rockefeller style, plus filet mignon sliders topped with oozy quail eggs.
Wells St. Market
You’re here for: A weekday lunch at one of nine fast-casual food stalls or after-work drinks at the full bar.
You’re dining on: A few of our favorites, in no particular order: a pork or chicken gyro from Piggie Smalls, gourmet pierogi from The Chow Brothers and piled-high sandwiches with housemade meats from Tempesta Market.
205 W. Wacker (map)
You’re here for: Fresh breads and baked goods made by former Grace pastry chef Bobby Schaffer.
You’re dining on: Three-Michelin-star-worthy toasts and pastries, from almond croissants to chocolate tarts. And do be sure to take home a loaf of fresh rye or wheat bread to elevate your sandwiches at home.
5318 N. Clark St. (map)
3 Squares Diner
You’re here for: Elevated diner classics and all-day breakfast located inside Uptown’s Lawrence House.
You’re dining on: Lamb and Grits featuring toothy red grits and fork-tender lamb, plus French toast made with Passion House Coffee custard and a donut glaze from Chef Ian Voakes of Logan Square’s Jam.
1020 W. Lawrence Ave. (map)
Images: Photography by FLATS
Two Lights Seafood & Oyster
You’re here for: Seafood and cocktails from the team behind Tortoise Supper Club.
You’re dining on: Raw plates, mostly. Think scallop crudo, salmon tartare and Nashville hot oysters with blue cheese foam. If you need something more filling, you can’t beat the brown butter lobster rolls served on Asian bao buns.
Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
You’re here for: A comforting taste of New Orleans named after Chef Brian Jupiter’s great grandmother.
You’re dining on: Soul-food favorites like boiled and fried seafood sold by the half pound, gumbo, po’ boys and fried chicken served with biscuits and honey.
1415 N. Wood St. (map)