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.
You’re here because: You saw that photo of “Goth bread” floating around on the internet and you’re curious to try it. This is the newest spot from the team behind Ludlow Liquors, Sportsman's Club and Estereo.
You’re dining on: CBD-infused cocktails and snacks like the Calmonds with chamomile, chicken, salt, CBD oil and thyme, or the aforementioned Goth Bread: activated charcoal, leek ash and a gooey egg yolk. Relax and enjoy dinner and drinks in the colorful space adorned with locally commissioned art, right down to the drink coasters.
2545 N Kedzie Ave. (map)
Image via Francesca's Restaurant Group
You’re here because: You’re in the mood for a pre- or post-dinner bite paired with wines inspired by operating partner and wine director Joe Fiely’s global travels. The rustic space is on the intimate side, making it ideal for date night.
You’re dining on: One of 40 wines offered by the glass, quartino or bottle, paired with small plates like the addicting fried Parmesan puffs, foie gras deviled eggs or bluefin tuna carpaccio. Find a wine you love? Grab a bottle to go from their retail selection.
813 W Fulton Market (map)
Barton G. The Restaurant
You’re here because: You’re looking to impress someone with over-the-top food and drink presentations in the heart of River North. The third location of the chain from restaurateur and event planner Barton G. Weiss is a place to share an extravagant meal, whether with a date or group of friends.
You’re dining on: Whimsical and creatively presented dishes like the BBQ of Bones: 12-hour beef ribs, lamb riblets and long-bone chicken wings, served on a mini grill. Save room (and money) for Instagram-worthy shared desserts like the $250, four-foot-tall cinnamon sugar cone, filled with vanilla cake and fresh strawberry ice cream.
415 N Dearborn St. (map)
Image via Middle Brow / Facebook
Middle Brow Bungalow
You’re here because: Homemade pizza and craft beer are always a great combo. Logan Square’s newest brewpub is a bright and lofty space to throw back a beer or two with a group of friends.
You’re dining on: By day, it’s all about toasts like freshly baked whole grain bread with turmeric milk jam and cream cheese, pickled mackerel or burrata. By night, it’s salads and pizzas (think butternut squash with arugula, mozzarella and sage salsa verde, or a sausage, olive and mozzarella). Pair it all with house beers like the brut IPAs or a Berliner Weisse.
2840 W Armitage Ave. (map)
Lucky Strike Social
You’re here because: You’re up for a friendly game of bowling in the heart of Wrigleyville as you anticipate Cubs’ opening day from across the street.
You’re dining on: In between frames and 100+ arcade games in the 30,000-square-foot space, share bites like Kahlua Pork Nachos and Andouille Stuffed Mushrooms, or filet mignon sliders.
1027 W. Addison St. (map)
Image via Jeff Marini
The Bamboo Room
You’re here because: You’re a rum connoisseur looking to escape Chicago’s winter.
You’re dining on: The 22-seat space is housed in Three Dots and a Dash’s former private event space, and you can experiment with a variety of rums in one of four categories: daiquiris, stirred, classic and modern. Try a house daiquiri with your choice of one of four rum blends, or a modern tiki drink like the Tall Drink in a Short Glass (Jamaican rum, mezcal, housemade soda and jerk spice).
435 N. Clark St. (map)
Image via Vajra / Facebook
You’re here because: Vajra brings a taste of Nepalese and Indian cuisine to West Town with a large menu of small and large plates, four styles of curry and tandoor entrees featuring meats and seafood (goat, duck, shrimp).
You’re dining on: Momos (dumplings) filled with minced goat and cabbage and topped with avocado chutney, or larger plates like paneer stuffed peppers and a salmon curry with grated coconut, all in the former Charlatan space.
1329 W. Chicago Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You’re up for global eats with a neighborhood vibe from the team behind Uptown’s Fat Cat and Bucktown’s Silver Cloud.
You’re dining on: Shared plates, pastas and pizzas span a globally-inspired menu. From white pizza with ricotta, hot honey and nuts, to orecchiette with braised lamb and saffron, you’re bound to leave with a full stomach. Harissa-glazed chicken thighs and a Portuguese stew are more unique menu items, but there’s also room for classics like a burger with Merkts cheese and special sauce. Fast forward to warmer months and you can enjoy cocktails on Stone Fox’s massive patio.
5721 N. Clark St. (map)
Main image via Barton G.