18 New Chicago Restaurants You Need on Your Radar: Bar Biscay

Bar Biscay's Gambas a la Planxa (Photo by Galdones Photography.)

Updated March 15, 2018

The past few months have seen quite a few new restaurants added to the already crowded Chicago market, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. From Mexico to the Mediterranean, poke to pastry, and city to suburb, the list keeps growing. Here are some sure-to-be new favorites to put on your must-try list.

Bar Biscay

1450 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-455-8900

Brought to you by Scott and Sari Worsham, the visionaries behind Lincoln Park’s tiny Spanish powerhouse MFK, Bar Biscay’s ocean vibe — by way of the west coasts of France and Spain — is bringing all the sunshine to Noble Square. Chef Johnny Anderes (of the now-shuttered Honey’s) has just the right touch with his pinxtos, shellfish, and large plates suitable for sharing … or hogging all for yourself.

Dishes to die for: Light-as-air (and thrice as cheesy) Gougères ($9) with garlic aioli; White Beans, Clams & Ham Salad ($16), just the right amount of toothsome bite, and a triumph of varied textures; Roasted Wild Mushrooms ($16) topped with a sherry jus and a lightly poached egg; and the Sausage-Stuffed Peppers ($22), tongue-tingling chorizo smoothed by the Idiazabal cheese-laced Mornay sauce.

Opened: February 2018

Bellemore

564 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-667-0104

New Chicago Restaurants: Bellemore

Bellemore’s Caviar Pie (Photo by Anthony Tahlier.)

Yet another hit for Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm of the Boka Group, who have presciently paired with chef /partner Jimmy Papadopoulos (the original chef at Bohemian House) for this West Loop stunner. “Bold” and “beautiful” is what chef Jimmy is aiming for, and he succeeds here, brilliantly.

Dishes to die for: The oft-Instagrammed Oyster Pie ($65), an extravaganza of savory oyster custard gilded with osetra caviar and crème fraiche, and served with a glass of Moet & Chandon 2009 Grand Vintage champagne; eggy and lightly sweet Hawaiian Rolls ($8) with country ham butter, smoked sesame seeds, and saba-stewed pumpkin; and rustic Spaghetti Chitarra ($24) tossed with scallops, baby squid, sweet red shrimp, crispy garlic, and espelette pepper.

Opened: Fall 2017

Café Coralie

633 Howard St., Evanston

New Chicago Restaurants: Cafe Coralie

Cafe Coralie’s Chocolate Almond Croissants (Photo by Julie Chernoff.)

Pascal Berthoumieux is at it again! Last year, he closed his iconic Bistro Bordeaux, opened and sold Z Breakfast Club, and started rehabbing the old police precinct office on Howard Street. In February, he opened a second, larger outpost of his popular Patisserie Coralie in the space, and it has been transformed. No trace of the precinct remains, and in its place is a whimsical, decidedly French café where you can grab a perfect croissant and a coffee drink on your way to the train, or linger over a book with a sandwich.

Dishes to die for: Chocolate Almond Croissant ($3.80), because there’s no such thing as too much; Roast Beef and herby Boursin cheese ($6.50) on a crusty baguette; or a box of jewel-toned Macarons ($2 each, 6 for $11, 12 for $22).

Opened: February 2018

Fort Willow

1721 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, 773-687-8898

New Chicago Restaurants: Fort Willow

Fort Willow’s Cape Route Mule (Photo by Neil Burger.)

This is the bar you didn’t know you needed (desperately) until you happened upon it and ventured inside. The spectacular indoor, man-made tree is worth a visit alone, but then you’ll stay for the killer craft cocktails and the globally inspired bites.

Dishes to die for: The spice-forward Cape Route Mule ($11), made with turmeric vodka, cumin, ginger, and coriander; Crispy Cauliflower ($8) with serrano-poblano hot sauce; the Indian-Thai mash-up Vegetable Curry ($10) with coconut milk and house-made naan; super tender Meatballs ($8), porky and herby, served with salsa verde.

Opened: January 2018

FRÍO Gelato

1301 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8797

New Chicago Restaurants: Frìo Gelato

FRÍO Gelato’s Argentine Flight (Photo courtesy of FRÍO Gelato.)

Husband-and-wife team Sebastiàn and Karla Koziura opened the original location in Evanston a few years ago, but have moved to more spacious digs down the street and expanded the menu a bit. More importantly, they are now open year-round, so savvy connoisseurs can get their Argentine gelato fix at any time, and that’s good news for everyone — but maybe not for your waistline!

Dishes to die for: Argentine Gelato Flight ($6.50), smaller scoops of four specialty flavors, like Dulce de Leche, Malbec with Berries, Avocado, and Cheese and Honey; Alfa-lato ($4.25), a made-to-order gelato sandwich using Argentine alfajor cookies; house-made waffle cone ($5.50) or bowl ($7) filled with your choice of gelato.

Opened: January 2018

Gideon Sweet 

841 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-888-2258

Chicago super chefs Graham Elliott (of “Top Chef” and “MasterChef Jr.” fame) and Matthias Merges (Billy Sunday, A10, Lucky Dorr) have been friends since first meeting in Charlie Trotter’s kitchen 20 years ago. They’ve joined forces here to bring a convivial vibe — and haute comfort food — to Restaurant Row.

Dishes to die for: Soul-stirring Lyonnaise French Onion Soup ($12) with plenty of Gruyère cheese; Steamed Mussels ($12) garnished with focaccia toast and togarashi butter; and Warm Beignets ($10) stuffed with sweet and earthy parsnip cream and rolled in sugar.

Opened: Fall 2017

Kinship

625 Davis St., Evanston, 847-563-8242

New Chicago Restaurants: Kinship

Photo courtesy of Kinship.

The word kinship conjures up a convivial gathering; friends sitting around talking and connecting. After Lyfe Kitchen closed in the summer of 2017, Evanstonians were concerned about what would fill the oddly configured space, the vestige of a longtime bank location. Happily, Kinship has found a lovely, light-filled solution, complete with comfortable seating and well-prepared food. Next of Kin (I can’t condone the name) is their fast-casual spot next door.

Dishes to die for: Tuna Tataki ($10), lovely ruby-red tiles of fresh tuna garnished with edamame, sesame seeds, and watermelon radish and drizzled with a ginger-lime marinade; Kinship Roast Chicken ($22), perfectly crispy exterior and moist within, served with charred garlic and “heavenly” (read butter, and lots of it!) mashed potatoes; Choix des Eclairs ($12), your choice of three house-made éclair flavors (we loved the Kinship Classic and Lemon Meringue).

Opened: February 2018

Old Grounds Social

950 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago, 773-832-4000

Opening mid-March in Lincoln Park in the old Barn & Company Barbecue space, the newest from 8 Hospitality (Joy District, Hubbard Inn, Pearl Brasserie), with an urban-casual menu (thin-crust pizzas, deli-style sandwiches, entree salads, Chicago-style burger) from chef Jason Paskewitz in a departure from his French bistro roots.

Pono Ono Poke

1630 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-859-6390

New Chicago Restaurants: Pono Ono Poke

Pono Ono Poke’s Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl (Photo by Jack DeMar.)

Does the world need more poke? Apparently Evanston does, or at least this particular poke place. Just south of the downtown Whole Foods, you’ll find this charming fast-casual place where they remain committed to responsible sourcing practices both for ingredients as well as packaging. All of their fish is certified sustainable, an effort that’s vital to support.

Dishes to die for: Island Style Tuna with sesame vinaigrette, Kukui nut, cucumber, Maui onion, and Limu Seaweed; Sweet Spicy Salmon with light shoyu sauce, pineapple, Fresno chili, mint, and red onion; or Vegetarian with sesame-soy dressing, avocado, cucumber, carrots, sweet potatoes, edamame, and fried shallots. (Medium bowl, $10.50; Large, $13.50; rice, brown rice, or salad available as a base)

Opened: February 2018

Salty Fig Kitchen & Pantry

909 Burlington Ave., Western Springs, 708-505-3118

New Chicago Restaurants: Salty Fig

Salty Fig’s Chocolate Chip Scones (Photo courtesy of Salty Fig.)

Western Springs might not know the whole story behind the gem in their midst: Chef/owner Suzanne Florek, who stepped away from professional kitchens 20 years ago to raise her three boys, was once the executive chef of Spiaggia and the late, lamented Tuttaposto. The woman knows whereof she cooks! Having lived in both Kentucky and Spain, she’s equally at home with savory Mediterranean food and delectable Southern baked goods, and that’s a very, very good thing. They’re closed on weekends, but you can’t beat it for a commuter breakfast or a languid late afternoon weekday lunch.

Dishes to die for: Kentucky Buttermilk Hot Cakes ($7) with real maple syrup; buttery Chocolate Chip Scones ($4); Gambas a la Plancha ($12), griddled shrimp seasoned with lemon, smoked paprika, and a good hit of garlic; Steak Sandwich ($12) on ciabatta with caramelized onions and greens, aioli, and romesco sauces.

Opened: January 2018

S.K.Y.

1239 W. 18th St., Chicago, 312-846-1077

New Chicago Restaurants: S.K.Y.

S.K.Y.’s Hamachi Sashimi (Photo courtesy of S.K.Y.)

The Los Angeles born-and-raised chef Stephen Gillanders, who worked for a decade under legendary chef Jean Georges Vongerichten, originally came to Chicago as the chef-in-residence at the now-shuttered INTRO. He and his wife, Seon Kyung Yuk, decided to make Chicago home, and opened their first restaurant — named for Seon Kyung — in Pilsen, the current epicenter of cool. The seasonally influenced menu is ever changing, but the creativity is clear no matter the time of year.

Dishes to die for: Crispy Organic Fried Chicken ($19) with fermented hot sauce and the creamiest creamed corn; Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup ($9), scented with kaffir lime and fresh ginger; moist and tender Cornbread Madeleines ($7) served with extra virgin olive oil butter; Maine Lobster Dumplings ($16) with glorious green jade butter and soft herbs.

Opened: November 2017

Slyce Coal-Fired Pizza Company

254 Green Bay Road, Highwood, 847-780-4065

Slyce first opened to nearly universal acclaim in Wauconda in 2010, and developed a strong North Shore following for their Neapolitan-influenced, coal-fired pizzas. Those aficionados were rewarded with the recent opening of a second outpost in Highwood. Hormone-free dairy products and locally sourced (whenever possible) produce and meats make for a pizza with just the right amount of char and chew, and with 16 carefully curated combinations, you’re sure to find the pizza of your wildest dreams.

Dishes to die for: The Sunday Salad ($13), fresh romaine tossed with roasted red pepper, red onion, chick peas, pepperoncini, shaved parmesan, and red wine vinaigrette; the Number 16 ($18), a white pizza topped with pesto, creamy burrata, crispy pancetta, and a crunch of pistachios; the Number 5 ($18), red sauce with all the meats (meatball, pepperoni, fennel sausage, and prosciutto); and the coal-fired House-Roasted Turkey Sandwich ($12), hand cut and served on freshly baked bread slathered with sun dried tomato-basil aioli, swiss cheese, tomato, onion, and vinaigrette-tossed greens.

Opened: December 2017

Sushi San

63 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-828-0575

Lettuce Entertain You hits again, this time with “hand rolls and hip hop” in youth-centric River North on the site of what once was Osteria La Madia. Customizable hand rolls, nigiri bombs, and tempura have supplanted pizza; sake and Japanese whisky abound, along with snappy-sounding craft cocktails. An Oma-Kaze experience (that would be an omakase menu prepared by Chef Kaze) is available for $88 per person at the sushi bar, but seating is extremely limited.

Dishes to die for: Crazy Shrimp Tempura ($11) in an impossibly light and crispy batter; Yuzu Crab Maki ($12), citrusy and memorable; Wasabi Salmon Maki ($9) with avocado and freshly grated wasabi root; Charcoal-Grilled Cauliflower ($8); Spicy Kalbi Beef Skewer ($10).

Opened: December 2017

Tied House

3157 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, 773-697-4632

New Chicago Restaurants: Tied House

Tied House (Photo by John Stoffer.)

The Southport Corridor can boast the latest from the team behind Schubas and Lincoln Hall, but this time they’re getting serious about the food, especially evident in their hire of James Beard Award-winning chef Debbie Gold (The American and 40 Sardines in Kansas City) to helm the comprehensively renovated Harmony Grill, now known as Tied House. Gensler Chicago did the gorgeous redesign of the space.

Dishes to die for: The incredible bread program is highlighted by Seeded Rye Bread ($5) with creamy Chicken Liver Mousse ($4); the risotto-like Carnaroli Porridge ($10) with red beet; Milk-Braised Pork ($23) with cabbage, salsify, and apple; and Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Ice Cream ($9) with cajeta, pastry cream, and white balsamic vinegar.

Opened: February 2018

Veggie Grill

614 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, 773-868-1863

New Chicago Restaurants: Veggie Grill

Veggie Grill’s Avocado Toast (Photo courtesy of Veggie Grill.)

Welcome to a cleaner way of eating! Lakeview is home to the first Illinois outpost of this premium, fast-casual vegan chain from the West Coast. The most surprising thing, at least to me? The food is actually really tasty. It’s better for you, and better for the planet. This is a new store design for the chain, with an open-air kitchen and plenty of seating. It could very well be your gateway drug to a vegan lifestyle.

Dishes to die for: The Masala Bowl ($10.50) of spiced chickpeas, supergrains, turmeric-roasted cauliflower, steamed kale, hemp seeds, cilantro-green curry sauce, and creamy vegan raita with garlic flatbread; Avocado Toast ($6.50) on grilled sourdough bread with chopped tomatoes, sunflower seeds, fresh peas, micro greens, olive oil, and flaked sea salt; and Kung Pao Tacos ($10.75) with chunks of crispy “chickin’,” not-too-spicy kung pao sauce, crunchy cabbage slaw, vegan crema, cashews, and pickled Fresno chiles on flour tortillas with a side of black beans.

Opened: February 2018

The Warbler

4533 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-681-0950

When the owners of Gather, a much-loved Lincoln Square restaurant, took over a failed space nearby, the neighborhood buzz was electric. Now that it has opened, everyone is talking about this light-filled space, and that’s even before its partially covered, 100-seat patio space opens later this spring. Ken Carter, who worked at Charlie Trotter’s (it seems like nearly every Chicago chef of note went through that storied kitchen at some point), helms the kitchen, producing craveable instant classics.

Dishes to die for: Addictive sticky Chicken Wings ($10), Korean style with tamari glaze and sesame seeds; Roasted Carrots ($11) with carrot hummus, dried dates, sumac, crispy chickpeas, and pistachio dukkah; Risotto ($15) with butternut squash, cardoon cream, fried cardoon, mascarpone, and crispy pumpkin seeds; and a sinfully rich Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie ($9) with banana ice cream.

Opened: January 2018

On the Horizon:

Greenwood

200 Green Bay Road, Highwood

Highwood is looking forward to the second restaurant from Mark Newman and Josh Kaplan of Ballaro. This time, they take on a casual American kitchen/bar concept. Look for updated comfort foods and well-chosen beverage options. Opening in late March.

Octavio Cantina

5310 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-444-8025

Coming to Andersonville in mid-March, the higher-end Mexican resto will take over the former Acre space. Dudley Nieto (Adobo Grill) is developing the menu. You can expect lots of smoky mezcals, handmade tortillas, and big, bright flavors.

 

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Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz ScaggsRick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.

 

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