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). Let's eat.
Looking for the city’s next great brewpub? Want to drink in the most handsome bar in all the land? Look no further than Forbidden Root, the city’s first “botanic brewery,” now tapping brews in West Town. This spot is for adventurous drinkers — those with “champagne taste and craft beer income,” as a fellow carouser told your correspondent the other night. That sums it up well. Sophisticated flavors is the point. You’ll order a flight, natch. Don’t sleep on the food menu, either. Burger’s slammin’. And you don’t have to order the Fried Giardinere, but who are we kidding, get the Fried Giardinere.
3 Greens Market
If you’ve lived in Chicago for any amount of time in the past five years, we’re guessing you know Brendan Sodikoff. If not by name, you’ve at least heeded jabber about the man's mushrooming empire (Gilt Bar, Au Cheval, et. al.). But 3 Greens Market is something of a culinary summit for the restaurateur: a food hall/marketplace that brings together his most accessible concepts under one roof. Burgers from Small Cheval. Pastrami sandwiches from Dillman’s. Coffee and pastries from C.C. Ferns. Plus an elevated salad bar which we've already covered in full. This is the neighborhood’s new go-to lunch grab. G'head and do it five days a week. We won't judge.
As if you need another reason to check out GreenRiver, the acclaimed Streeterville restaurant brings you the Annex, an intimate bar with an even bigger spotlight on opulent cocktails than its forebear. Once you get off the elevators, head to GreenRiver’s host stand — just ask and they’ll point you in the right direction. Once inside, you’ll be welcomed into a dimly lit cocktail lounge with all the exclusive feels and then some. Gather a few close friends, order up a Jack Knife (a lovely concoction of Japanese Whisky, Oloroso Sherry, Cocchi Rosa and Chicory) and disappear for awhile.
If you’re looking for a relaxed place to grab bagel tartines and coffee in Lakeview, pay a visit to Snaggletooth. It’s a true mom-and-pop spot headed up by former C Chicago chef Bill Montagne. The focus here is on cured fish that can be purchased by the ¼ pound — a rotating selection featuring the likes of jasmine tea-cured trout, kombu-cured tuna and more. Grain bowls are also available. The quaint shoebox-sized cafe offers cozy seating up on its lofted second level as well as a smear bar where you can dig into a few jars filled with better-than-average spreadables. We’re partial to the Raspberry Rosehip, but you can't go wrong with Spicy Mango Pickle, either.
From the same team who brought fine dining back last year with Intro comes a swank sushi bar inspired by the backrooms of Tokyo. For anyone who remembers L20, Naoki Sushi is located where the private dining room use to be. Check in with the host and they'll usher you through the kitchen to reveal a quiet enclave where longtime Lettuce Entertain You sushi chef Naoki Nakashima awaits. Go for a selection that's heavy on the nigiri. The chutoro medium fat bluefin tuna was so fresh it made us tear up. If you're gonna go sashimi, go with any of the "Naoki-style" options: basically churched-up interpretations that show off chef Naoki's knowledge and skill.