If you're planning to attend the 2014 NRA Show, held May 17–20 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, and you want to try some of the city's newest concepts, don't waste any time. Grab this list now and figure out a game plan. By the time May rolls around you'll be lucky to get a table at any of these spots.
519 N Clark St.
An American melting pot of updated comfort food with the many twists of a test kitchen is the premise behind this Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises all-day restaurant, offering an almost behind-the-scenes eating experience. Additional components include a bakery as well as coffee, juice and adult beverage bars. Menu options range from a poached farm egg with truffled pasta to chili- and chocolate-glazed salmon.
671 N. St. Clair St.
The Rosenthal Restaurant Group chose a Venetian accent for its latest full-service concept. A minimalist contemporary, sustainably “green” decor provides a dramatic backdrop. Small plates are showcased, including cobia and aged hanger steak carpaccios. Other options include a range of pastas, risottos and entrees like an aged trio of duck (breast, sausage and confit) and Venetian seafood stew.
730 W. Grand Ave.
Friendly American dishes, from steaks and burgers to Arctic char and scallops, preside at this latest creation from Billy Lawless of Gage and Henri fame. A large and boisterous late-night bar sets the tone for the restaurant, a gastropub with a 19th-century Chicago decor theme. Liquid refreshments range from classic and original cocktails to craft beers, boutique wines and nonalcoholic cherry phosphates.
43 E. Ohio St.
Power partners Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich have opened a Chicago outpost of their gigantic collection of 23 Italian-inspired eateries and two-story gourmet market. It boasts 63,000 square feet of fresh pastas, pizzas, fish, bread, wine and gelato, along with the massively popular Nutella bar. Baffo, the white-tablecloth flagship and the only eatery that takes reservations, offers a multicourse sampling of Italy’s best and brightest.
Green Street Smoked Meats
112 N. Green St.
(No website yet)
Restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff continues to build a miniempire with this off-the-beaten-track newcomer that spotlights Texas-style barbecue and sports separate ramen and juice bars. Unlike Sodikoff’s other, plusher restaurants, Green Street keeps things casual with a chalkboard menu and counter service, communal bench seating, industrial lighting and an alleyway entrance marked with a graffiti-inspired mural.
Japonais by Morimoto
600 W. Chicago Ave.
Renowned “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto brings his many talents to the revamped Japonais restaurant, which has been made over with walnut tabletops and an open kitchen. A full sushi bar complements a menu of small plates from hamachi tacos to steamed foie gras oysters and new East-meets-West flavors. His omakase menus are especially over the top and in good hands with executive chef Hisanobu Osaka, who worked with Morimoto for eight years.
410 W. Superior
Sustainable seafood from the world’s oceans and fresh waters graces the menu at this River North standout. The concept pays tribute to Midwest fly fishermen and conservationists and spotlights lesser-known “rough fish” such as amberjack, cobia and triggerfish. The catch of the day and the Kinmont Tower of shellfish—featuring two dozen oysters, a whole Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab and more—are particularly popular.
1015 N. Rush St.
Italian seafood is the latest offering from uber-chef Paul Kahan and partners, best known for pork and beer at The Publican and contemporary American fare at Blackbird. A daily-changing menu at this approachable Gold Coast restaurant showcases pristine ingredients, which include Japanese needlefish, grilled ocean trout and oven-roasted king crab legs, served with creative accompanying accents.
118 W. Grand Ave.
Worldly chef Gaston Acurio brings his elevated Peruvian cuisine to Chicago at Tanta. Citrus-cured seafood dishes, including fresh cebiches, are highlights, as is the pisco sour on the beverage side. A lively vibe accompanies the wide-ranging menu that incorporates Peru’s many international influences from Spain, China, Japan and Italy.
330 N. Wabash Ave.
One of the most luxurious newcomers in town, Travelle travels the entire Mediterranean, from the South of France to Turkey. The menu includes breakfast specialties like chorizo beignets, while dinner features delicacies such as harissa-spiced beef tartare, grilled octopus and many small plates to share. The chic lounge provides live entertainment and its own menu, and a great view of the Chicago River substitutes for the sea.
333 E. Randolph St.
This classy dim sum parlor specializes in contemporary Cantonese food with an adventurous bent. Chef Rodelio Aglibot, who opened Sunda, brings his deep knowledge of Asian cuisine to a downtown neighborhood that’s been underserved by Chinese restaurants. Traditional dishes like Peking duck and sweet-and-sour pork are accompanied by more modern, playful offerings like moo shu pancakes and a foie gras-topped egg tart.