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.
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Dutch & Doc’s
You’re here for: Lunch or dinner before a Cubs game or weekend brunch
You’re dining on: Hearty fare from Chef Chris Pandel, including fried chicken thighs with cornmeal biscuits, pimento cheese, and poppyseed slaw. See also: Chicago prime broiled steaks. Not feeling like a pre-game food coma? Opt for a seasonal salad or snack like cauliflower toast with whipped ricotta.
3600 N. Clark St. (map)
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Ballast Point Chicago
You’re here for: Throwing back a few San Diego-style brews with friends or co-workers
You’re dining on: The focus is not just beer at this West Coast import. The 12,000-square-foot space houses enough room for enjoying a brew, along with California-inspired dishes like steak burritos and fish tacos. Wash it down with a specialty or local beer you won’t find outside Chicago’s tap room (Ed. note: BP’s Grapefruit Sculpin is the only fruited beer I have ever admitted to liking).
212 N. Green St. (map)
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You’re here for: A dart duel with your friend who likes to make wagers while drinking
You’re dining on: Flight Club turns playing darts into a social occasion, so it’s best to stop in with a small group. Reserve an oche (that’s the lane where you play darts), grab a beer or cocktail, and enjoy some friendly competition.
111 W. Wacker Dr. (map)
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You’re here for: Well, donuts, of course. And maybe a booze-free first date.
You’re dining on: Frosted and filled donuts in a variety of flavors and colors, like matcha green tea, maple and coconut. Eat your donut at the shop and enjoy unlimited coffee refills and a friendly round of Monopoly or your board game of choice.
1122 W. Wilson Ave. (map)
You’re here for: Korean-Italian (yes, it works) from Chef Jennifer Kim
You’re dining on: Start with a raw dish or two (a nod to Chef Kim’s days at Snaggletooth) like big eye tuna or hamachi. But save room for the lamb neck ragu with rolled rice cake, which is meant to emulate a pasta. And don’t leave without trying the kalbi, a platter of glazed short rib served with seasonal banchan (housemade sides like kimchi, pickles and hot sauce).
5420 N. Clark St. (map)
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You’re here for: A quick bite at Ogilvie before catching the Metra, or a weekday lunch
You’re dining on: The newest fried chicken in town, by way of Charleston. Keep it simple with the signature Boxcar sandwich: chicken, pimento cheese, peach slaw, house pickles and spicy mayo.
500 W. Madison St. (map)