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 get it.
Bunny the Micro Bakery
No other way to say this: Iliana Regan is a tremendous chef. She's finally followed up Elizabeth with Bunny the Micro Bakery, an exceptional bakery and fine choice for a lazy breakfast. Inside: modern wood walls. A simple counter and minimal seating. But talent floweth from this tiny space. That boule. You want that. Donuts? Yes. Mushroom tea? You're more of a coffee guy, but order it anyway. And another thing: the corn spatzle (pictured above, dusted with truffles). Think of Bunny as Elizabeth’s experimental test kitchen — a point reinforced by its rotating off-hours concept called Wunder Pop.
2829 N. Broadway (map)
A menu designed to satisfy all seafood lovers. That’s what you get at Oyster Bah besides its name being amusing to say. The decor: oyster shack-ish, but not cluttered or overly kitschy. They’ve got raw bar here, naturally, which, in addition to the oysters, you’d do well to order the tuna poke. But evidence of chef Pete Balodimas’ talent (menu right here) is in plates like the chorizo New England stuffies and entrees like the crispy one-sided snapper with thai chili sauce served over fries.
1962 N. Halsted St. (map)
A rotating menu of creative dumplings is the idea at this fast-casual Hyde Park eatery from chef Mike Sheerin (Embeya). The corner spot offers a lot of menu surprises, like — hey, chefs taking risks. But more specifically: doughy vessels filled with peking duck served with a ginger scallion sauce, or another tasty option — the braised short rib dumpling filled with brown rice and horseradish cream. Wrapped dough relief comes in form of sandwiches and sides like the udon mac n’ cheese — a peculiar favorite.
1321 E. 57th St. (map)
Strong drinks that incite conversation. A slick barroom with a welcoming social scene. Not to mention a deep roster of antique liquors. There’s more to love about the Sixth other than the fact that it’s located in the underserved but greatly deserved Lincoln Square neighborhood. Comes down to quality. Your drinks may look good (read: showstoppers, like the Doris, pictured above), but do they taste good? At the Sixth, they most certainly do.
2200 W. Lawrence Ave. (map)
Former Rootstock chef Mike Simmons has added a touch of French to Humboldt Park and it’s working for 'em. An all-day joint that really fits the neighborhood. Charmingly spartan inside. Unpretentious place to linger a bit. Maybe people-watch. The bread’s made in-house so you’ll wanna check the sandwich spread, but other temptations on Simmons’ rustic menu include the smoked fish platter and the quarter smoked chicken served simply but executed near-perfect.
Main photo/Packed photo: Nick Murway