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’re not tired of the recent influx of Indian spots in the city. Superkhana is the newest, and also comes with a pedigree: it’s backed by experienced chefs Zeeshan Shah and Yoshi Yamada.
You’re dining on: Three words: butter chicken calzone. It’s just one highlight of a carb-heavy menu built on veg and non-veg options. Other hits include the French Fry Manchurian, pillowy naan brushed with ghee, and chana chaat — a chickpea street snack with sev (Indian crunchy noodles), mint, jalapeno, masala spice and tamarind chutney. There’s also an extensive list of sparkling wines by the glass, and a streamlined cocktail list (we like the Greens & Tonic, with seasonal greens like cucumber, peas, mint and basil). Relax in the colorful dining room or enjoy a cocktail in the intimate courtyard patio.
You’re here because: You want to be transported to the Italian Riviera but will settle for Chicago’s riverwalk.
You’re dining on: Pizzas, pastas and cocktails with gorgeous views of the Chicago River. Start with antipasti like the spicy tuna bruschetta or burrata with green olives then move on to hand-stretched pizzas like the Due Funghi with roasted mushrooms, mozzarella, red onion and porcini crema. If seafood is your thing, opt for the Spicy Sicilian Lifeguard linguine pasta with lobster, clams and mussels, or one of seven types of charcoal-grilled seafood (like swordfish and red prawns). Enjoy a spritz, beer or Italian coastal wine with some prime people watching.
You’re here because: You’re in search of a quick, nutrient-dense lunch in a sea of trendy (and indulgent) West Loop restaurants.
You’re dining on: Customizable bowls to go featuring local and seasonal ingredients. Choose your own adventure with a choice of three bases (ancient grains, market greens), vegetable-centric sides (za’atar-spiced carrots, salted beets with honey gremolata) and a variety of proteins (harissa-spiced pork meatballs, ghee-roasted chicken thighs). And don’t sleep on the house-made sauces (hello, piri piri with serrano and Thai chili peppers) — they really kick the flavor level up a notch.
939 W. Randolph St.
You’re here because: You consider yourself a high roller and want to enjoy a stiff drink and filling supper at this nod to 1940s and ‘50s casino life from the team behind The VIG.
You’re dining on: The vibe is retro casino and full of lavish details like chandeliers, glass fixtures and gold accents. Enjoy shareables like lobster tacos or caviar deviled eggs, plus a huge variety of mains and sandwiches to satisfy all palates. Try the lamb chop, steak frites, eggplant banh mi or tempura mahi mahi sandwich. Enjoy a booze-filled slushie or beer poured from taps housed inside antique slot machines.
2427 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The St. Clair Supper Club
You’re here because: Prime rib is your jam and you like an unusual setting — this Midwestern supper club lives in the basement below hot spot Roister.
You’re dining on: One of four cuts of prime rib served with a la carte sauces and sides like mashed potatoes, English creamed corn and Yorkshire pudding. The limited menu is supplemented with weekly specials like pork chops or a Friday fish fry. Don’t skip the frozen grasshopper pie for dessert.
951 W. Fulton Market
You’re here because: You’re in the mood for a relaxed dinner or drink at the latest concept from husband and wife team Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim.
You’re dining on: A sister restaurant to Parachute (a few blocks down), Wherewithall focuses on a nightly four-course pre-fixe dinner for $65 inside a simple space featuring blonde and espresso wood and lush greenery. The menus focus on seasonal ingredients, meaning they will change frequently. You can also tack on wine or cheese pairings. Not up for a full dinner? Grab snacks and a cocktail or a glass of wine from the American-focused list in the adjoining bar area.
You’re here because: You love Latin cuisine and are up for something different, with influences from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and more.
You’re dining on: Chef Rodolfo Cuadros’s cuisine features traditional South and Central American flavors, but also draws on the Asian and Mediterranean influences prevalent in contemporary Latin culture. Try the Frita Cubana with Cuban beef, queso Oaxaca, burnt garlic aioli and shoestring potatoes, or the yucca gnocchi with rabbit ragout, Grana Padano salsa verde and sugar snap peas. The showstopping Holy Water rum cocktail is served over crushed ice and garnished with a hollowed-out lime filled with a sugar cube and green chartreuse, which is then lit on fire tableside. Mind your eyebrows.
1904 W. North Ave.
You’re here because: You’re a fan of the French-inspired eats at sister restaurants Cochon Volant and Taureaux Tavern and want a Loop lunch or dinner that‘s not uber touristy.
You’re dining on: Grab a seat at the rotating carousel bar, which was inspired by the namesake bar inside New Orleans’ Hotel Monteleone. The handsome space features plenty of seating areas, including a courtyard-inspired dining room and plush booths. On your plate, you’ll be sampling traditional French fare like foie gras torchon or escargot a la bourguignonne, as well as black truffle macaroni gratinee, lobster cioppino and prime steaks.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.