“Game of Thrones” got it all wrong. Winter is over! And not a moment too soon — we welcome the budding trees and the spring rains with barely suppressed glee. (Side note: Did you know that there is actually a word that specifically describes the smell of spring rain? It is “petrichor,” the scent created by the chemical reaction of rain falling on dry soil. Drop it into a casual conversation. You’re welcome.) Spring in Chicago also means new restaurants, some already open, with more just on the horizon. Here’s what you need to know.
64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847-441-3100
Chef Michael Lachowicz’s longtime Winnetka restaurant is reopening, after a month or so of redesign, as three distinct concepts: Aboyer, a modern brasserie (May 1); Silencieux, a quiet and refined three-course prix fixe, perfect for ardent fans of Restaurant Michael (May 2); and the Jean Banchet Award-winning George Trois (May 4), a 12-course extravaganza that highlights contemporary French cuisine (May 4).
1529 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-549-8433
“Top Chef” favorite Fabio Viviani and his partners in Siena Tavern and Bar Siena had a big hit on their hands with their fast-casual Bombo Bar walk-up in the West Loop, so they decided to recreate lightning in a bottle at this new, 30-seat location in Old Town. So now, rather than perching your food on an idling Uber, you can now enjoy an expanded menu — including Pizza by the Square and a Bombo Chopped Salad — while seated. The housemade gelato and the freshly fried bombolini are what you’re really here for, though. (Opened April 2019)
Hoxton Hotel, 200 N. Green St., Chicago, 312-761-1717
The Boka Restaurant Group is, as usual, always at the epicenter of hotness, and their new spots in the brand-spanking-new Hoxton Hotel in the Fulton Market District are no exception to this rule. Chef Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat, Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat) takes over the rooftop spot with her Peruvian-inspired Cabra (goat in Spanish, of course), while Chris Pandel (Swift & Sons, Cold Storage) stakes out the glorious lobby space with his all-day paean to Mediterranean deliciousness, Cira. (Opened April 2019)
2211 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773-799-8650
It’s a family affair at Cebu, the upscale Filipino restaurant in Wicker Park. Siblings Marlon, Cybill, and Malvin Tan bring the unique dishes of the Philippines and give them a modern twist. You’ll find Chicken Adobo and Cebu-style BBQ chicken, and of course plenty of pork, notably the famous Lechon. Desserts follow suit, with the shaved ice delight Halo-Halo, and a kicky Kalamansi Tart, filled with both citrusy mousse and curd. (Opened April 2019)
1700 Maple Ave., Evanston, 847-859-6160
There’s been a Furious (R)evolution this spring, with the Furious Spoon mini-empire shifting brand from fast casual to a full-service, sit-down restaurant. The Evanston location has reopened after being closed for six months for renovations, now with an expanded menu. Chef Shin Thompson and his team have pushed beyond bowls of spicy, porky-brothed ramen to include dumplings, hand-rolled spring rolls, a panko-crusted “Crab Bomb,” and more. Plus booze! (Opened April 2019)
2429 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
James Beard Award-winner Zachary Engel (Shaya, New Orleans) and One Off Hospitality Group vet Andrès Clavero have opened a modern Middle Eastern spot in the heart of Lincoln Park that casts a light on one thing that Palestinians and Israelis can agree on: great food. Think crispy, herby falafel; a veritable festival of hummus choices, topped with Bubbe’s brisket or maybe trumpet mushrooms and collard greens; stuffed cabbage; Shakshukah; and more. (Opened April 2019)
908 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Jeni’s has opened their sixth Chicago scoop shop and we’re feeling pretty jazzed about it, especially their scrumptious new coconut milk-based, dairy-free flavors like Cold Brew with Coconut Cream, deeply dark Texas Sheet Cake, and Roasted Peanut Butter & Strawberry Jam. Founder Jeni Britton Bauer told me that a West Loop location “has been in the works for five years.” All I can say is, well worth the wait. Now, about that Frosé sorbet… (Opened April 2019)
1460 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-877-5016
Dave Park and Jenifer Tran, the couple behind the acclaimed Hanbun at the International Mall in Westmont, have opened this lovely contemporary Korean restaurant in West Town in the old Green Zebra space. Park is making his own kimchi and silken tofu, but the menu goes far beyond those classic Korean ingredients. Opt for the seven-course tasting menu ($87) or à la carte offerings, including excellent mandu (pork and kimchi dumplings), pearl barley juk with uni and mushrooms in a parmesan broth, and more.
23 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-624-8963
The latest River North hotspot — every night I’ve walked by I’ve seen a line of patiently waiting hipster wannabes — might well be forced to change their name in the near future (Christina Tosi of “Milk Bar” fame just filed suit against their name for copyright infringement), but in the meantime, this spot is relentlessly Instagrammable. Chef/Partner Christine McCabe (Charlie Trotter’s, Glazed and Infused), no stranger to sweet fantasias, is focused on wringing the most fun and flavor from comfort foods, from the classic American smash burger and Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese to the over-the-top $14 milkshakes pictured above. (Opened February 2019)
1846 W. Division St., Chicago, 773-276-7422
They’ve a lovely way with veggies at this new Wicker Park offering (Carrot Tartare, Beets with Puffed Quinoa, Smoked Mushrooms with Parmesan and Chestnut Crumbs) but don’t shy away from the animal proteins, either, like the eight-ounce Allen Brothers Beef Tenderloin with bone marrow sauce, or Scottish Salmon with Morels. But the real story here is they are a restaurant and a floral shop. Pre-order an arrangement for your table to take him afterward, or select your own stems from the rolling flower cart. Intriguing, no? (Opened March 2019)
2300 Lehigh Ave., Glenview, 847-904-2386
Contemporary Mexican cuisine comes to Glenview! If you’re an avocado fan, you might branch out with the Guacamole “Tartare,” made with avocado, burrata, pickled onions, and confit cherry tomatoes. They’ve got a Roasted Cesar on offer, as well as wild mushroom quesadillas and a few other twists on favorites. Adventurous eaters should opt for the umami-laden Arroz Negro, a risotto made with huitlacoche (aka “corn truffle”), parmesan, and epazote. (Opened March 2019)
676 N. St. Clair, Chicago, 312-584-3192
Lettuce Entertain You’s newest can be found in Streeterville. The concept, from the team behind Lettuce’s popular Sushi-San and Ramen-San, is all about the maki roll (hence the name) and combo meals, known in Japan as teishoku. These “sets” include choice of entrée (two maki rolls, sushi combo, stir fry or teriyaki), miso soup, roasted edamame, house salad, and a special coordinated side dish (either tuna poke or Japanese potato salad). Wash it all down with sake or a cold draft of Asahi. (Opened April 2019)
The Shops at London House, 111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-428-4344
The award-winning modern American restaurant chain from the prolific Cameron Mitchell stakes its first claim on Chicago, and the location is a doozy. The river and city views from the second-floor restaurant are spectacular, as is the interior décor. If you’re looking for a chic spot to host a special dinner, be sure to check out their luxe private dining rooms. If you’re a raw bar or seafood enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place. (Opened March 2019)
1167 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 224-215-3011
From the owners of downtown Wilmette’s consistently crowded Napolita Pizza comes this new seafood-focused Italian joint, just down the street from the mother ship. (Opened April 2019)
On the Horizon
950 W. Lake St., Chicago
Let’s welcome back chef Paul Virant (Vie and Vistro in the Western ‘burbs), who returns to Chicago with a Japanese restaurant in the West Loop/Fulton Market District. His last city place, the farm-to-table Perennial Virant, closed in 2016. Due to open this summer.
736 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Billed as a “Progressive Indian” restaurant, ROOH (meaning soul or spirit) is due to open on Chicago’s West Loop Restaurant Row later this spring. Look for seasonal ingredients paired with Indian flavors and sensibilities. Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar and Chef de Cuisine Sahil Sethi will balance their full-flavored cuisine with an innovative cocktail selection.
317 N. Clark St., Chicago
Look for the first of RPM on the Water’s three concepts — from the Melman progeny (R.J., Jerrod, and Molly) and their RPM cohorts, Bill and Giuliana Rancic and Chef Doug Psaltis — to debut sometime this summer. Expect fabulous views spread out over three levels, and Psaltis’ food is always on point. Crowds will follow.
3059 W. Diversey Ave., Chicago
Scheduled to open in late May, this “Indian-ish” spot in Logan Square from Yoshi Yamada and Zeeshan Shah (of the successful “Bombay Breakdown” pop-up) and star chef Jason Hammel (Lula Café, Marisol) will feature an interior Haveli-style courtyard open to the sky, and inventive takes on Indian flavors and techniques. The wine list will be heavy on bubbles, and I’m definitely down with that.
916 W. Fulton Market, Chicago
Imagine almost 50,000 square feet of epicurean delights, including 16 food stalls, three bars, demo kitchen, and a retail component over three floors, seating nearly 600 guests. This will be the neighborhood’s first food hall. Participating chefs include Thai Dang (HaiSous), Dana Salls Cree (Pretty Cool Ice Cream), Bill Kim (Urban Belly), and Jimmy Bannos, Jr. (Purple Pig, Piggy Smalls).
1746 W. Division, Chicago
Italian-born Dario Monni and his wife, Chicagoan Jill Gray, will open Tortello in Wicker Park this summer. Fresh house-made pasta will be front and center, literally and figuratively, as pasta makers (known as sfoglinas in Monni’s native Venice) will be making pastas behind a storefront window as diners enjoy their creations.
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 Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits.