Today it is difficult keeping up with the many new restaurants opening in Chicago. I always make a conscious effort to support my favorites, while at the same time trying as many new ones as possible. I also like exploring different neighborhoods throughout the city. My recent finds include:
Dos Urban Cantina, at 2829 W. Armitage, has been featured recently on many of the hot lists of where to eat in Chicago. They feature a contemporary take on Mexican food in a sleek setting. I highly recommend the Sunday brunch which is served buffet style. Here you can try a number of dishes from ceviche, pastries, quiche, eggs, tamales, salads and more.
Across from Dos Urban Cantina is a wonderful Italian restaurant, Osteria Langhe at 2824 W. Armitage. I enjoyed a prix fixe menu with a great pasta appetizer, pork entree and lovely panna cotta for dessert. I highly recommend it and will definitely go back. They feature a very creative menu of appetizers, pastas and entrees.
One of the hot new spots in town is Baker Miller located at 4610 N. Western Ave. They source their own grains, then mill them into their own flours and bake them into wonderful breads and pastries. They also have a cafe serving breakfast and lunch. You can find grits, oatmeal, a toast bar, a grain bowl and other items. For lunch they have wonderful pot pies, sandwiches, sides and tarts. On my first trip I enjoyed a vegetarian pot pie with curry, a side of dressed greens and a wonderful pear and cherry tart. On my second, I loved the sandwich on a fresh baguette with roasted beets and goat cheese plus a perfect piece of blueberry pie. Owners Dave and Megan Miller have received two James Beard nominations for Outstanding Baker.
Ampersand Wine Bar: At 4845 N. Damen, just east of Lincoln Square, is a great new restaurant featuring refined American comfort food, wines and cocktails in a rustic, contemporary atmosphere. I had a really great meal and wine. I loved the heirloom tomato salad with cous-cous and burrata and the whole roasted game hen with parsnip confit and roasted summer squash. The free form rustic tart with peaches, toasted granola and honey caramel yogurt was also great. The service was really excellent.
Our newest neighborhood find in Lakeview is Coda di Volpe at 3335 N. Southport. It is a sleek spot featuring Italian pastas, pizzas and specialties. I enjoyed dinner with my niece who was moving that week to NYC.
Nearby to the east is one of my newest recommendations, Mortar and Pestle at 3108 N. Broadway. Opened in the fall of 2015, they serve breakfast, brunch and lunch. They are doing some pop-ups for dinner and may expand into that as well. My friend enjoyed the decadent grilled cheese which was very decadent and I loved the Alaskan king crab benedict with poached egg, sriracha hollandaise and watercress. Thanks to my friend, restauranteur and food columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Ina Pinkney, for this great suggestion. I enjoyed visiting with the manager and chef/owner.
West Loop/Fulton Market
Next to Blackbird and Avec is Salero restaurant, from the owners of Wood in Lakeview. This new spot features modern Spanish restaurant cuisine and is getting great reviews and press. They feature excellent Basque pinxtos, starters and larger main courses. I loved the smoked salmon pinxto with cheese and a honey truffle sauce. The beet salad with frisee, toasted pistachios and Spanish goat cheese was lovely and the shrimp was beautifully cooked and presented. Next time I want to try the scallops which looked amazing. It has a sleek and warm contemporary interior. 621 W. Randolph.
My latest find is Fulton Market Kitchen at 311 N. Sangamon. Billing themselves as part art gallery, part restaurant and part craft cocktail bar, I had a wonderful meal surrounded by street art, paintings and eclectic furniture. They have a small menu of large and small plates for sharing and an extensive craft cocktail menu. The restaurant was inspired by the 1980’s NYC art scene and the Wynwood Walls in Miami which is one of my favorite spots in my recent travels. We had great service and enjoyed meeting and visiting with Chef Kyle Petersen. The decor is one of the best in town!!
Pleasant House Pub: Pleasant House Bakery in Bridgeport has moved north to Pilsen and taken over the former Nightwood restaurant space at 2119 S. Halsted. You can stop in for coffee and a pastry or sweet or enjoy one of their famed meat or royal pies. I enjoyed a Sunday brunch and loved the chicken Balti Pie made with all-natural chicken in fresh-ground curry spices with tomato and Nigella seeds along with buttered peas in mint. It is a perfect spot to eat while visiting the National Museum of Mexican Art or one of the local galleries nearby.
Dixie: Recently opened in the former Takashi restaurant space at 1952 N. Damen, this is a hot new restaurant, from the chef/owner of Lillie’s Q and featuring a contemporary take on Southern cuisine. The menu consists primarily of small or shared plates. I really enjoyed the biscuits with pepper jelly; the shrimp with rice grits, corn and peas; the corn custard with crawfish and a tasty bay scallop dish. Their small cocktail lounge in the back, 1952 ½, offers a number of Southern inspired cocktails and Kentucky bourbons.
A wonderful new addition to the city is in the Bucktown neighborhood is Cafe Robey at The Robey Chicago. It is aimed at independent and global travelers who appreciate great style and design. The second floor lounge offers coffee by day and cocktails by night. Cafe Robey is a French American bistro on the ground floor and there is a 35-seat rooftop bar overlooking the neighborhood which is open to guests and their friends. I loved the food and the service in the restaurant and the view from the upstairs bar is amazing.
West Town/Wicker Park
Taus Authentic: I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to a new restaurant getting rave reviews. It has a warm, contemporary and sleek décor. I really enjoyed the panzanella kale salad with cherry tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers, dill croutons, blue cheese in a lemon-caper dressing and the sea trout entrée with spring pea risotto, honey-thyme carrot puree and baby carrots.
White Oak Tavern & Inn: The former John’s Place at 1200 W. Webster at Racine is now the elegant White Oak Tavern & Inn which features creative farm-to-table fare and craft cocktails and whiskeys. I have been three to four times and always enjoy it. It is still owned and operated by John Manilow. It is open for lunch, dinner and brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. The decor is stunning, the staff excellent and food really exceptional. The small and large plates are easily shared. We loved the roasted carrot and cabbage salad and the fall grains salad with brie, mushrooms, cranberries and apples. The pork collar with sweet potatoes, collard greens and apples was really excellent and was followed by a great pumpkin tart with creme fraiche, pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs. This quickly became one of my favorite spots in the city. Luckily I live 2 blocks away! They have a four-bedroom apartment above the restaurant available for rent.
Our top new restaurant find in the area is The Duck Inn at 2701 S. Eleanor. After getting great reviews, I had to go. Located just south of an industrial area, you can go south of Cermak on Loomis across the Chicago River. It has a warm, contemporary atmosphere in a building that looks like it was a local bar/restaurant for many years. They also have a large patio in back for dining in the warmer months. They are known for their Sunday brunch as well as their rotisserie duck entree. You need to pre-order prior to your dinner. It serves two people, and comes with a salad of roasted potatoes in duck drippings with fall greens, roasted pears and apples in a gooseberry vinaigrette. It was a really excellent dish and was perfectly paired with a cocktail called The Don made with Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur and Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters.
N. Michigan Ave.
A great new find is GreenRiver. This is a Danny Meyer restaurant, offering creative, upscale American fare and craft cocktails in a stylish, 18th-floor setting with a great outdoor patio. The lobster roll sandwich was excellent as was the pear crisp. It is just east of Michigan Ave. at 259 E Erie St.
Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood has a growing food scene. Leading the resurgence of the area has been Parachute at 3500 N. Elston. This is a hip, popular spot that features creative Korean-American cuisine plus wine and cocktails. It has received one Michelin Star for the past two years.
One of my favorite new finds in town is Band of Bohemia at 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave. Opened in 2015, it already has a Michelin star. A culinary brewpub, they feature their own creative beers and a menu of appetizers, small plates and large plates. They offer a tasting menu and brunch menu as well on weekends. The duck breast and pork collar were really excellent as was the autumn salad, winter squash and the sorghum bundino for dessert, consisting of blackberry, brown butter ice cream, smoked almonds and sea salt.