Spring calls for shedding our winter layers and filling our social calendars—that includes tracking down new spots to try during your next night out. Get a taste of fine dining or dig into some pasta at a new Italian joint by visiting some of the most talked-about restaurants this season in Chicago.
Elske: This highly anticipated opening from David and Anna Posey offers an affordable introduction to fine dining for those interested in inching toward their first five-plus-course dinner. (If you aren’t feeling quite up to that, there is an à la carte menu, too.) We’re taken with the toothsome confit bass with squash broth and shaved shiitake mushroom, as well as the buckwheat-crust tart with salted ramps and duck liver. Pick from either nonalcoholic pairings—house-made juices like spritzes with ginger—or an affordable wine pairing with both reds and whites. The small space does a good job of making you feel at home, with comfortable, closely arranged tables and an outdoor waiting area featuring a cozy wood-burning fireplace to curl up next to.
Bar Roma: Andersonville’s new Italian spot serves pastas in a space that feels hip and rustic, with a wine-crate–covered ceiling and lighting fixtures made of wrought iron. You’ll find dishes such as large risotto croquettes filled with mozzarella and topped with pomodoro sauce, as well as a satisfying cheese-and-charcuterie plate. The stars of the show are the huge, chunky and perfectly seasoned meatballs; go for the Manzo, which combines braised beef cheeks and ground beef smothered with pomodoro sauce and ricotta. Pick from classic cocktails like a Negroni, or sip from oversize glasses of wine (each pour is about a regular glass and a half), and finish your meal with the ultra-creamy tiramisu.
Ronero: Chef Corey Morris of Mercat a la Planxa and Rural Society is heading up the kitchen at Randolph Row’s new Latin-inspired restaurant. Though it’s outfitted with huge gold chandeliers, Ronero opts for ultra-dim lighting, accented by a gray and black color scheme, which lends its curtained booths a private, extra-romantic feel. Begin your meal with the ropa vieja, served with crunchy focaccia and goat cheese. The bisteca entrée plays to Morris’s strengths with red meats, featuring a plate dotted with tender potatoes and earthy mushrooms. Don’t overlook the drink list, featuring the fresh green Cadejo Blanco, which combines the tiniest kick of jalapeño with chimichurri greens. Needless to say, we can’t wait to try the rum-soaked Esco Bar upstairs.
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