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: Stephanie Izard’s newest restaurant is the hottest table in town.
You’re dining on: Housed atop the West Loop’s stunning new hotel, The Hoxton, Cabra offers a colorful and scenic setting to enjoy Peruvian-inspired cuisine. Grab a seat at the ceviche bar to watch chef Izard in action. Plates are small and meant for sharing, meaning you should try items across the menu. Shrimp and fish ceviches and tiraditos like tuna with serrano, cilantro, passionfruit and jicama are great cold starters; chicken thigh skewers with peanut chimichurri, yuzu and cilantro, and the smoked goat empanadas are ideal warm appetizers. Larger plates like skirt steak and whole snapper are also ideal for sharing. Step out on the rooftop for a post-meal pisco cocktail or glass of wine.
200 N. Green St. (map)
You’re here because: You just can’t stay away from The Hoxton. Chef Chris Pandel’s all-day Mediterranean restaurant offers a variety of dishes inspired by Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and Greece. And the street-level space, located just off the lobby, is downright gorgeous, so you’ll never want to leave.
You’re dining on: Enjoy smaller dishes like flounder crudo, falafel with pickled carrot and za’atar yogurt, brown butter hummus, and avocado and tabbouleh salad. Larger dishes include pistachio ravioli with saffron-orange butter and a tagine featuring three variations of lamb. Up for a post-prandial nightcap? Head to The Hoxton’s basement bar, Lazy Bird, for one of its 52 available cocktails and live weekend entertainment.
200 N. Green St. (map)
District Brew Yards
You’re here because: You’re a craft beer aficionado with limited time to try Chicago’s best brews.
You’re dining on: District Brew Yards is home to three breweries in one: Burnt City Brewing, Around the Bend Beer Co. and Bold Dog Beer Co. Enjoy pour-your-own beers across 40 taps from the hosts and a selection of rotating guest breweries. Beer is also available to go from the retail shop. Want to pair your beer with a bite? Try some BBQ meats and sandwiches like the pork belly sandwich and brisket sold by the half pound.
417 N. Ashland Ave. (map)
SX Sky Bar
You’re here because: You’re up for lounging, sipping or clubbing at the colorful bi-level bar in the redesigned Hotel Essex.
You’re dining on: Californian- and Asian-inspired small plates like sushi, fish tacos and duck confit carnitas, paired with classic and modern cocktails. Stick around for late-night beats, eats and drinks like the $669 Dominatrix: a large format cocktail with a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut, Clase Azul Reposado, orange liqueur, candied oranges, lime and agave served in a crystal vase.
808 S. Michigan Ave. (map)
You’re here because: Lauded chef Zach Engel brings his modern Israeli and Middle Eastern Cuisine to a casual spot in Lincoln Park and you want to see if all the hype is worth it (spoiler: it is).
You’re dining on: A little bit of everything. Don’t leave without trying brisket-topped hummus paired with addicting and piping hot housemade pita, salatim (cold dishes) like labneh and pickles, and hot dishes like the carrots, falafel and steak with schmaltz potatoes — a nod to Midwestern home cooking. Grab a counter seat to watch the wood-fired pita making, or relax in a blue-hued booth, a reflection of the restaurant’s Mediterranean-inspired design.
2429 N. Lincoln Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You’re wining and dining a client or date at Chicago’s latest steakhouse, which offers sweeping views of Michigan Ave. and the Chicago River.
You’re dining on: The chain restaurant’s supersized dining rooms are matched by its supersized menu. Think sushi, an impressive raw bar, fresh fish, prime steaks and 14 side dish options, from smoked gouda tater tots to bacon creamed spinach. Enjoy a meat and seafood feast in the luxe dining room, which is outfitted with countess chandeliers, gold accents and marble.
87 E. Wacker Dr. (map)
Flat & Point
You’re here because: You’re in the mood for some casual BBQ from head chef Brian Bruns, who’s worked in many of the city’s top kitchens. His chef’s touch puts the focus on local and seasonal ingredients, all done in a traditional BBQ style.
You’re dining on: Named after both ends of the beloved brisket, Flat & Point serves meat-heavy platters in an order-at-the-counter setting. Try the pork & polenta and signature brisket served with creamed spinach and radishes. Save room for the burnt ends truffle mac and cheese.
3524 W. Fullerton Ave. (map)
You’re here because: Hidden basement bars are your thing. Besides, when was the last time you hung out in a former janitor’s closet?
You’re dining on: The discreet bar inside the FieldHouse Jones hotel is a nod to the room’s former purpose back when the building housed the Borden Dairy Depot. Every detail is on theme, from the mops on the walls to the hardware displayed on the bar. You’ll find interesting cocktails such as the Lily’s Pad: okra infused vermouth blanc, aloe liqueur, dill aquavit, Thai basil and lemon.
312 W. Chestnut St. (map)
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.