As much as we love our dining stalwarts—the places we frequent again and again—there's something special about the best new restaurants Chicago has to offer. Of course, with so many newcomers to choose from, it can be tricky for even the most savvy foodie to sift through the noise. Like an in-the-know friend, we've got you covered with a roster of trusted spots that we've experienced for ourselves. From one of the most innovative Mexican restaurants Chicago has ever seen to an oyster-slinging seafood restaurant in Wicker Park, these newbies deserve your full attention. Scope out the 15 best new restaurants Chicago has to offer and plan your next meal accordingly.
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Best new restaurants in Chicago
Beloved chef Carlos Gaytán makes his triumphant return to Chicago with Tzuco, a breathtaking River North restaurant that pays homage to his hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico. It won't take you long to realize that this restaurant is different—the interior is unlike anything we've ever seen in Chicago, designed with an earthy palette and outfitted with thorn-covered vines and other artifacts native to Huitzuco. The menu, too, honors his hometown and his mother's cooking techniques. The Chicharron de Pescado is a standout favorite, with a whole fried fish, chunks of tender meat, tangy salsa, pickled veggies and feta cheese foam. Gaytán also owns next-door bakery, Panango, where diners can cruise the pastry case for conchas, stuffed croissants and other traditional Meixcan treats.
The couple behind Michelin-starred Parachute scooped up another Avondale storefront and transformed it into a whimsical dining retreat with a tasting menu that changes as often as the weather shifts in Chicago. Priced at $65, guests are treated to a four-course meal that always includes generous add-ons. And don't plan on peeping the menu before you go—owners and IRL couple Beverly and Johnny Clark switch things up daily and don't confine their cuisine to any particular labels. One thing is for certain: You'll never have the same dining experience twice at Wherewithall.
We're usually wary of fast-casual taco shops so close to the Loop, but Asadito Taco proves us wrong with its hand-pressed tortillas, spot-on al pastor and craveworthy margaritas. If you're dining with a group, consider ordering one of every taco, with options that range from barbacoa and chicken tinga to citrus shrimp and roasted mushroom. Don't fear the avocado margarita, which sounds peculiar but totally rocks your tastebuds. And since Asadito is so conveniently located near Ogilvie and Union Stations, there's no reason you shouldn't grab an order of churro bites to take for your train ride.
After years of contract brewing, Middle Brow Beer Co. finally has a home of its own on a bustling stretch of Armitage Avenue in Logan Square. Sporting rustic brick walls, a trio of foeders (giant wooden barrels used to age beer) looming over the dining area and a spacious bar, Bungalow tries to create a welcoming environment for guests to sample Middle Brow's experimental brews. In the morning, toast topped with cream cheese, fruit and honey is the main attraction, served alongside coffee and beer. Thin crust pizzas piled with toppings fill tables in the evening, with the action spilling out onto the patio when the weather cooperates. Go ahead and order an extra pint, because 50 percent of all Middle Brow profits are donated to local social-justice organizations.
We like to think of Tortello as the fresh pasta shop we didn't know we needed. Of course, now that we have it, our pasta standards are through the roof and we're constantly craving the al dente noodles that this Wicker Park restaurant cranks out on the daily. While you're waiting in line, turn your attention to the front of the space, where sfoglini knead, roll and shape hand-crafted pastas. When you get to the register, you'll have to make some game-time decisions, but just promise us that you'll order the namesake Tortelli, which are stuffed with creamy burrata and topped with brown butter, crispy sage and roasted hazelnuts. Deliziosa!
Team Alinea goes full-on Midwestern with its latest project, an elevated, supper-club–inspired den tucked below Roister in the heart of the West Loop. Make a reservation in advance to find out how Chicago's fine-dining heavyweights tackle throwback classics like oysters Rockerfeller, spun Caesar salad, juicy prime rib and—of course—pristine frozen grasshopper pie.
West Town has catapulted itself into one of the city’s finest dining neighborhoods, thanks in no small part to this Korean-American kitchen. You may already know chef Dave Park and co-owner/fiancé Jennifer Tran from Hanbun, their now-defunct Korean food stall in a suburban strip mall that also served after-hours tasting menus. At the roomier, full-service Jeong (pronounced “chung”) Tran oversees front of house as GM while Park helms the focused tasting (seven courses for $87) and a la carte menus, suffusing childhood taste memories with joyful modernity.
Indian cuisine gets the fine-dining treatment at ROOH, a Chicago import with locations in New York and San Francisco. The West Loop outpost offers creative takes on classic Indian fare, like the chicken malai kofta, with cheese fondue and walnut crumbs. There's plenty here for vegetarians, too, with options like jackfruit kofta, tandoori mushrooms and avocado and edamame papdi chaat. Snag a seat at the upstairs bar to enjoy live music on select evenings and to admire the beautiful floral wallpaper, which was crafted for the restaurant by Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee.
Hummus, falafel, shakshuka, labneh—hell, even pita. You will have no doubt already experienced many of the dishes on Galit’s broad-spectrum Middle Eastern menu. But this Lincoln Park newcomer from James Beard award-winning chef Zachary Engel (Shaya, Zahav) is where you go to revise the standard for how they should taste. Everyone who dines here should begin with salatim (an array of dips and pickles) and hummus, each served with fluffy, charred pita balloons. Or forego the hard work of choosing with The Other Menu, a tighter series of shareables for $65.
Named for a mythical weapon used by the Hindu God of Thunder, Vajra illuminates the diminutive yet diverse destination of Nepal through adaptations of the dishes co-owner Dipesh Kakshapaty grew up eating in bustling Butwal, from tandoori-roasted game to soothing root-veg curries. Service here flows effortlessly like a quiet, steady stream of attention and care from the ever-roving waitstaff, all of whom are fluent in the expansive food and drink menu, without a hint of preach.
Have you ever been on a vacation so inspiring that you wanted to bring a piece of the trip home with you? That's exactly what celebrated chef Paul Kahan did after traveling to a tiny French town called Cancale for his 50th birthday. Of course, he didn't just bring back a souvenir; he and his One Off Hospitality partners opened a restaurant dedicated to the easy-going French fare he experienced there. Situated in the heart of Wicker Park, Café Cancale slings East and West Coast oysters by the dozen, delicate starters and seafood-heavy mains. Erika Chan begs you to save room for dessert with tempting chocolate-coffee eclairs and buckwheat crepes drizzled with goat's milk caramel.
Cebu is one of a small handful of restaurants around the country specializing in the food of its namesake Filipino island province, known for sugar-white beaches and lechon (crisp-skinned roasted pork). This easy-going Wicker Park café’s generous, meaty comfort dishes have a transportive quality that takes you somewhere warmer but also familiar. Cebu’s focused, affordable menu is one for carnivores: Cigar-shaped lumpia egg rolls crackled beneath your teeth to reveal juicy-sweet bits of marinated pork and shiitakes. The skin of the three-hour roasted lechon belly crunches like hard candy; the succulent, lightly smoky meat beneath whispers of spicy star anise and sweet lemongrass.
Julia Momose’s elegant West Loop bar pairs Japanese omakase with bespoke cocktails—and the results are sublime. Guests can go a la carte in the main dining room or reserve a seat the intimate eight-seat omakase counter for $130. No matter where you sit, the carefully crafted cocktails are the main attraction, using ingredients like Japanese whiskey, lemongrass shochu, plum brandy and orange-saffron bitters. Balance the booze with king salmon nigiri, A5 wagyu with black garlic molasses and Japanese milk toast with fermented honey ice cream and truffle.
You can feel the love and attention in the food that chef Erick Williams serves at his Hyde Park restaurant, Virtue. The Southern American restaurant is rooted in hospitality and kindness, traits that diners will be able to pick up on from the expert service team. The menu here is rife with soul food, including juicy green tomatoes, andouille-studded gumbo and (our personal favorite) blackened catfish with Carolina gold rice and barbecue carrots.