If you’re visiting Chicago soon, whether it’s for the upcoming National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (May 21-24) or not, you’ll want to sample the latest crop of restaurants joining an already stellar field. Noteworthy newcomers range from stylish spots featuring leading avant-garde chefs to those focusing on more familiar favorite cuisines.
615 N. State St.
This quick-service sandwich shop is a far cry from Chicago’s ubiquitous hot dog and Polish sausage stands. Chef Graham Elliot of his namesake fine dining restaurant touts his whimsical style with a limited menu of eight sandwiches, such as a Vietnamese-inspired banh mi with pork belly, roasted pineapple, daikon slaw and shiitake mushrooms on a French baguette; a few breakfast items; and addictive snacks, including popcorn flavored with truffle oil, grated parmesan and chopped chives. All sandwiches are $10, and payment is cash only. Limited seating at a long communal table and at a counter is available.
18 S. Michigan Ave.
Fine dining is alive and well at this contemporary French restaurant next door to its more casual cousin The Gage, both owned by Billy Lawless and presided over by chef Dirk Flanigan. The kitchen’s pretty presentations and twists on the classics match the style of the dining room inspired by iconic Chicago architect Louis Henri Sullivan. Dishes include lobster and foie gras Wellington, bouillabaisse and fig-glazed duck breast. Entrees range from $17 to $38 in an elegant space.
Girl & the Goat
809 W. Randolph St.
Fun fine dining best describes the atmosphere at this much-publicized spot featuring chef Stephanie Izard, winner of the Top Chef prize in Season 4 of Bravo television’s tension-ridden reality show. Her quirky personality comes through in dishes with provocative names, all served on small plates. Owners Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of Boka, Perennial and Landmark in Chicago allow her to focus on the food while they take care of business in the casual converted loft space.
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
300 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago continues to be known for great steaks with openings of still more downtown steakhouses. In addition to its on-premises dry-aged steaks and other familiar steakhouse menu classics, Chicago Cut boasts nonchain local ownership (Matt Moore and David Flom) and a rare location on the Chicago River, complete with seasonal patio. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this luxurious dining room presents its wine list on an iPad. Jackie Shen, one of the city’s best-known female chefs, heads the kitchen.
840 N. Wabash Ave.
Parisian-born Martial Noguier left Café des Architectes to work his magic at this more personal modern bistro with partners Matt Fisher and John Ward. With just over 100 seats, the cozy, photography-filled restaurant (above) transports guests to the Left Bank with the chef’s homemade pate, ahi tuna tartare with avocado, basil and lemon vinaigrette, braised lamb shoulder with dried fruit, saffron and couscous and chocolate hazelnut bars with crispy praline and orange sauce. Entrees range from $16 to $26, and a cheese and charcuterie menu is especially popular at the bar.
1359 W. Taylor St.
Scott Harris and partners, who opened his first Mia Francesca restaurant in town umpteen years ago, have grown his empire to some 30 restaurants and counting, with about a half-dozen opening in the past year alone. Varying a bit from his core trattoria concept, Davanti Enoteca focuses on a wine bar where guests may choose their own bottle from two walls at the retail price plus corkage. The rustic Italian food is influenced by leading Italian restaurants the culinary team explored across the U.S.
JW Marriott Hotel
151 W. Adams St.
New York’s BLT Restaurant Group operates this Italian-American ristorante in the new luxury outpost of the Marriott empire. The menu combines coveted Italian imports alongside stellar foodstuffs from local and organic farms. Hearty Tuscan cuisine dominates with dishes including handmade pastas in full or half portions, veal porterhouse, Great Lakes whitefish in white bean puree with rock shrimp and green beans, thin-crust pizzas and breakfast staples on the morning menu.
GT Fish & Oyster
531 N. Wells St.
Boka Restaurant Group is on a roll, as evidenced by the newest of its five concepts and the first to focus primarily on seafood. Veteran Boka chef Giuseppe Tentori, a previous Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef and Restaurant Hospitality Rising Star, conceived a seasonal menu that aims to remain moderately priced. Shared plates are featured, as are craft cocktails. Nautical décor accents the mix of traditional and nontraditional seafood dishes.
110 W. Hubbard St.
A tavern with a big menu, Hubbard Inn is an eclectically decorated newcomer that aims for broad appeal, from vegetarian dishes such as truffle ravioli with mushroom ragout to meaty short ribs with bone marrow radish salad. Classic cocktails, 22 craft beers on draft and even punch bowls emphasize the thoughtful beverage program, conceived by partners Adolfo Garcia, Daniel Alsonso and David Mitria. Bohemian décor is a mélange of objects the owners have collected during world travels.
951 W. Fulton Market St.
Visionary chef Homaro Cantu continues the culinary adventure he began a few years ago at
nearby Moto by debuting a new modernist cuisine emporium with an Asian twist. Menu descriptions range from “Heating” and “Cooling” to “Melting” and “Sweetening.” Dining here is meant to be fun, interactive and engaging for all of the senses. Diners may observe exhibition cooking at several stations, including the kitchen chef’s table. All-inclusive pricing by the hour is recommended for the full experience, but a la carte ordering also is available.
59 W. Hubbard St.
The sons of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants founder Richard Melman are putting their own mark on their second restaurant under the LEYE umbrella with the opening of Paris Club in the space that formerly housed the company’s Brasserie Jo. Brothers R.J. and Jerrod Melman retained the French theme but are keeping the dishes uncomplicated. A few recommended examples are skate wing with lemon, capers and brown butter and confit of duck leg with wheat berrries and candied cherries. Bistro classics and luxury items offer something for everyone.
400 N. State St.
Public House has special appeal for beer lovers, with some 103 choices, including 25 on tap. The large pub, with its self-serve beer and chilled liquor taps, seems well-suited to small private parties and after-work groups. Televised sports are the focal point of the 27 plasma TVs, while
American favorites dominate the extensive menu.
955 W. Fulton Market St.
For something completely different, Michelin three-star chef Grant Achatz and business partner Nick Kokonas of Alinea fame are serving up tasting menus sold in advance with nonrefundable tickets. Menus will change seasonally and may vary from classical French to Thai. Projected prices are between $45 and $75 for five to six courses, plus beverage pairings. Neighboring cocktail lounge Aviary offers cutting-edge libations.
Maude’s Liquor Bar
840 W. Randolph St.
More than a bar, Maude’s emulates an intimate Parisian hangout of bygone days. The two-level establishment serves rustic French food and specializes in interesting cocktails, which proprietor Brendan Sodikoff knows about from his first restaurant, Gilt Bar. This is a place for romance, conversation and joie de vivre.