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Big Kids
Photograph: Wade McElroy

The 23 most exciting new restaurants in Chicago

Switch up your takeout routine while supporting local with these new Chicago restaurants.

By Morgan Olsen
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A list of brand-new restaurants opening in Chicago? Right now? We didn't believe it either, until we started tallying up all of the amazing new concepts that are debuting throughout the city despite the odds stacked against them. The best new restaurants in Chicago are dripping in personality and creativity—from a slew of pizza spots and a nostalgia-driven sandwich shop to several scrappy ghost kitchens. Whether you're feeling thrifty (chicken sandos, anyone?) or you want to splurge at one of the best new fancy restaurants in Chicago, there's something on this list for every occasion and craving. And because all of these eateries and pop-up dining experiences are just finding their footing, it's best to call ahead for reservations and carryout options. Mask up and support local when you dine at the most exciting new restaurants in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Best new restaurants in Chicago

Pizza Lobo
Pizza Lobo
Photograph: Wade McElroy

1. Pizza Lobo

Restaurants Pizza Logan Square

Dreamed up by Dan Snowden—the former executive chef of Bad Hunter—and Heisler Hospitality's Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner, Pizza Lobo features grab-and-go 'za and a lengthy bar menu plus a 4,000-square-foot patio. The trio honed the concept for Pizza Lobo over the course of several years in the kitchen of Bad Hunter's sister bar, Lone Wolf, playing with different ideas revolving around a classic New York-style crust. Now, the stand-alone concept is taking on an identity of its own, thanks to a roster of top-notch pies garnished with everything from grapes and broccoli rabe to hot honey and 'nduja.

Cat-Su sandwich
Cat-Su sandwich
Photograph: Charlie Metcalf

2. Cat-Su Sando

Owners Will Schlaeger (Next, Saison, Blackbird) and Shawn Clendening (Oriole, Saison, Blackbird) say they've always bonded over their mutual love of Japanese culture and cuisine. And with Cat-Su Sando, they're hoping to honor tradition while also injecting their personalities and cooking styles into the mix. The menu consists of five "sandos," ranging from the namesake Cat-Su—with fried pork, pickled bok choy, special sauce and egg on milk bread—to the Club, which boasts layers of turkey, crispy Spam, provolone, mustard-ranch jam, lettuce, bacon and sport peppers.

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3. Beard Papa’s

Restaurants Bakery Wicker Park

The brilliantly airy cocoons of choux pastry at this Japanese cream-puff chain hide a copious amount of custard cream, enough that once the shell is broken, walking and eating is out of the question. A bag of travel-friendly minipuffs could suffice, but you’ll lose the proper pastry-to-cream ratio. So take a seat and get the original size. And if the special green tea filling is on offer, get it—if you don't, a horde of fanatics will soon snatch it from under you.

Big Kids
Big Kids
Photograph: Wade McElroy

4. Big Kids

Restaurants Sandwich shops Logan Square

Go time-traveling at this fun-loving restaurant in Logan Square, where stacked sandwiches and nostalgia are on the menu. Culinary greats Ryan Pfeiffer (Blackbird) and Mason Hereford (Turkey and the Wolf, Molly's Rise and Shine) are the muscle behind the operation, bringing a deep love of sandwiches and all things '90s to the table. Diners can expect playful, stoner-friendly eats, like the Veg Crunch Wrap at the carbo-loaded 'Sketti Pocket, as well as cocktails that are infused with Tang and Hawaiian Punch.

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Nobu Hotel Chicago
Nobu Hotel Chicago
Photograph: Henry Hargreaves, courtesy Nobu Hotel Chicago

5. Nobu Chicago

Restaurants Fusion West Loop

In addition to 115 luxury guest roooms, the posh new Nobu Hotel also boasts its namesake restaurant, allowing Chicagoans a taste of the brand's celebrity-endorsed eats. Encapsulated in the 10,000-square-foot space are a sushi bar, a lounge, a dining room and two private dining areas. Helmed by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the menu includes signature dishes like black cod with miso and yellowtail jalapeño sashimi. An omakase-style tasting menu is also available, but you can build your own progression with a laundry list of nigiri, sashimi and maki.

Milly's Pizza in the Pan
Milly's Pizza in the Pan
Photograph: Jason Bennett

6. Milly’s Pizza In The Pan

Every pizza has a defining feature—whether it's the zingy red sauce, the buttery crust or the imaginative toppings. At Milly's, it's not hard to tell what sets owner Robert Maleski's pies apart. A halo of caramelized mozzarella wraps around each creation, lending a deeply satisfying crunch to each slice. Crafted in seriously small quantities, these pan pies are almost always sold out, but if you can get your hands on one, go for the Que Suerte, with pineapple, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño and brown sugar bacon.

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Kasama
Kasama
Photograph: Tim Flores

7. Kasama

Restaurants Ukrainian Village

Taking up residence in the former Winchester space is a modern Filipino-American concept from husband-and-wife team Tim Flores and Genie Kwon (Oriole). Kasama is part savory, part sweet, with a menu that includes dishes like lumpia Shanghai, mushroom adobo and charred corn alongside confections like apple hand pies, chocolate chip cookies and ube-huckleberry Basque cake. Order delivery or grab and go—there's even a patio for quick alfresco dining on Winchester Avenue.

tamale guy
tamale guy
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Tamale Guy Chicago

Restaurants Mexican Ukrainian Village

Chances are, Claudio Velez has salvaged your night at least once. Lovingly known as "The Tamale Guy" by locals, Velez used to sling corn-husk–wrapped handhelds from a red cooler at the city's best dive bars. Now he's got his own brick-and-mortar restaurant in West Town so that you can get your tamal fix day or night. Choose from fan-favorite fillings like pork, chicken or queso con rajas and toss in some merch while you're at it. If you close your eyes, you might just transport yourself back to a sticky dive bar at last call.

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Pizza Friendly Pizza
Pizza Friendly Pizza
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

9. Pizza Friendly Pizza

Restaurants American Ukrainian Village

Inhabiting the former Bite Cafe space, Pizza Friendly Pizza is a scrappy and hopeful collaboration between friends Noah Sandoval (Oriole, Kumiko, Kikko) and Bruce Finkelman, the managing partner of 16" on Center (Empty Bottle, Bite Cafe). Like its name suggests, the star of the menu is pizza—more specifically, thick Sicilian-style 'za available by the slice or the whole pie. There are four varieties to choose from, including pepperoni and basil with aged parmesan as well as mushroom and Calabrian chili with burrata. Fine-dining chef Sandoval says he worked tirelessly on the winning recipe, which requires a four- to five-day cold ferment and a 12-hour rise time in the pan. The final product sports a thick and bubbly crust that's anchored by crispy, caramelized edges. "It looks like it's going to be this Chicago deep-dish, gut-bomb thing, but it's much more like a lightly cooked English muffin," Sandoval says.

Friend of the Devil with Andrew Brochu
Friend of the Devil with Andrew Brochu
Photograph: Simon Davies

10. Friend of the Devil (Devil Dawgs)

Restaurants Wicker Park

If you ever dined at Roister in the West Loop, you've probably tried Andrew Brochu's top-notch fried chicken—it's easily one of the best versions of the dish in the city. After leaving the fine-dining restaurant, Brochu planned to strike out on his own with a new restaurant that was slated to open this year. One global pandemic and a lost lease later, Brochu is instead taking up residence at Devil Dawgs in Wicker Park with one of the best pop-ups we've seen this year. He's serving a lineup of dressed-up dogs, smash burgers and several chicken sandwiches. First-timers should go classic with the World Famous, which finds the buttermilk fried chicken dolled up with chamomile mayo, dill pickles, lettuce and a tangy sunchoke hot sauce on a toasted brioche bun. Take your feast to nearby Wicker Park and picnic on the lawn.

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11. Testaccio

Restaurants Italian Logan Square

While traveling through Rome several years ago, Aldo Zaninotto found himself utterly obsessed with Testaccio, a neighborhood south of the city center. Zaninotto, who owns Chicago's Osteria Langhe, couldn't get enough of the area's diverse restaurants, historical ties and fantastic art scene. After several more trips, he couldn't help but draw parallels between the Roman neighborhood and Chicago's own Logan Square. Now he's connecting the two with a restaurant in the former Quiote space that spotlights healthy fare cooked in a wood-burning oven. Guests can sample classic Italian dishes alongside modern interpretations—with a robust wine list to match (when in Rome, right?).

Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream
Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream
Photograph: Courtesy Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

12. Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

Restaurants Bridgeport

There's no false advertising happening here: Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream wears its menu on its sleeve. The Sicilian-style pan pies are crafted by Eat Free Pizza, the crispy poultry comes from Kimski chef Won Kim, and the frozen treats are provided by Pretty Cool Ice Cream. Helmed by Ed Marszewski and located next door to Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar, Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream boasts a nifty pickup window and hidden patio for alfresco diners. You can even pick up four-packs from Marz Brewing—after all, beer pairs well with just about everything on the menu.

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The Han Burger
The Han Burger
Photograph: Rose Yuen

13. The Han Burger

Restaurants River West/West Town

The namesake menu item at the Han Burger is a reimagination of a popular Chinese street food called roujiamo, which is often referred to as a Chinese hamburger. The first time co-owner John Hackett tasted the dish in Nanjing, China, he knew he wanted to replicate the taste experience here in Chicago. After plenty of experimentation and some deviation from tradition, he nailed the recipe and opened the Han Burger with his wife, Arami. The couple's handheld morsels feature super tender, slow-roasted pork belly and beef brisket, which is stuffed inside a from-scratch bun and topped with chili sauce and cilantro.

Takeaway Bagel
Takeaway Bagel
Photograph: Courtesy Takeaway Bagel

14. Takeaway Bagel (Superkhana International)

Restaurants Indian Logan Square

Every neighborhood deserves a really great bagel shop, and lucky for folks in Avondale and Logan Square, Superkhana International has come to the rescue with a carbo-loaded new concept called Takeaway Bagel. Just swing by the to-go window on Albany Avenue to snag bagels, shmears, jams and cookies; they've even got a selection of bagel dogs and breakfast sandos if you get there early enough. The secret sauce? A 28-hour process, a stellar "everything" seasoning and lots of love.

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Mama Delia patio
Mama Delia patio
Photograph: Courtesy Mama Delia

15. Mama Delia

Restaurants Spanish East Village

Taking over the Black Bull space in Wicker Park is a smile-inducing restaurant that's painted a shade of pink that stops you in your tracks and begs you to look at the menu. You'll be rewarded with Spanish treats made for noshing the day away; the sprawling patio out front doesn't hurt either. But it's the bar program that will really seal the deal, with more than 35 selections of sherry from across Spain, phenomenal pours of wine, a lineup of gin and tonics and zero-proof cocktails to boot.

fiya, patio
fiya, patio
Photograph: Courtesy Fiya

16. Fiya

Restaurants Israeli Andersonville

Offering a taste of neighborhood spots in Israel, Andersonville restaurant Fiya honors the rich heritage of Levant cuisines. Husband-and-wife team Mark Bires and Mindy Friedler pull recipes and inspiration from their frequent research trips to the Middle Eastern country, of which their daughter is a dual citizen. The menu mostly revolves around two pieces of equipment: a massive wood-burning oven and a wood smoker, both of which lend a fiery kiss to the fare. Start with a selection of salatim, or Israeli salads and spreads, like seasoned cauliflower, Moroccan carrots, pickled veggies and labneh. Take it to the finish line with a pita sandwich, za'atar fries and a wood-oven tart for dessert.

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Santa Masa tamales
Santa Masa tamales
Photograph: Morgan Olsen

17. Santa Masa Tamaleria

Insiders know to set aside time on Sunday to order tamales from Santa Masa Tamaleria, a new pickup-only shop from Daniel Espinoza (Cantina Laredo). If you're quick enough, you'll be able to secure your order through a Google form that's linked in the restaurant's Instagram bio. A pack of 12 tamles goes for $15 and can be frozen and reheated throughout the week. The tender, masa-scented pockets come stuffed with chicken in red or green salsa as well as our favorite, rajas con queso with roasted poblanos and cheese. Look out for newfangled menu items, too, like the Italian beef served with housemade giardiniera and jus.

ever, michael muser, curtis duffy, fine dining, food, west loop
ever, michael muser, curtis duffy, fine dining, food, west loop
Photograph: Michael Muser

18. Ever

Restaurants West Loop

Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser (Grace) plunge back into Chicago's dining scene with Ever, a fine-dining beacon that offers a prix-fixe menu with eight to 10 courses focused on proteins from land and sea that are whipped into edible masterpieces. Almost as impressive as the fare is the dimly lit, seriously sexy dining room, designed by James Beard Award-winning architects LSA. Dubbed Duffy's "creative obsession," Ever promises an unparalleled dining experience that's refined, ambitious and intense—with a price tag to match.

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The Diver
The Diver
Photograph: Courtesy the Diver

19. The Diver

Restaurants Mexican River North

Inspired by small Mexican beach towns like Tulum and Sayulita, the Diver aims to be a tropical escape for Chicagoans—even when the weather forecast calls for snow. Inside, the intimate dining room promises beachy bites, including several ceviches, loaded guacamole, tuna tostones and tacos served on blue corn tortillas. The cocktail menu summons summery, vacation-ready flavors, with a classic margarita and the more adventurous Pacific Rose, with vodka, wild berry puree, basil, lemon, agave syrup and jasmine bitters.

Sir Chicken at Perilla
Sir Chicken at Perilla
Photograph: Thomas Oh

20. Sir Chicken (Perilla)

Restaurants Korean River West/West Town

This summer, the patio at Perilla in River West has been transformed into a bonafide chicken shop serving crispy dark and white meat on white bread with cooling coleslaw. The birds are broken down in-house and cured before they're dredged and fried to golden, craggy perfection. But it's the spice blend that really sets this recipe apart: a satisfying mix of hot and sweet that's finished off with sesame seeds, toasted seaweed and dehydrated scallions.

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Robert Et Fils
Robert Et Fils
Photograph: Lena Jackson

21. Robert et Fils

Restaurants French North Center

Robert et Fils sends us time-traveling into the depths of chef-owner Rob Shaner's childhood, when his late father's job took the family to Paris when Shaner was a teenager. In addition to falling in love with the food and culture, father and son (Bob and Rob) dropped their American names in favor of the more French-sounding Robert. The name of this North Center restaurant translates to "Robert and son," a heartfelt homage Shaner has been planning for years. Paying tribute to their time in Paris, the tasting menu infuses old-school French gastronomy and American playfulness—with a hit of umami flavors at every turn. Opens August 7

Dr. Murphy's Food Hall
Dr. Murphy's Food Hall
Photograph: Courtesy Dr. Murphy's Food Hall

22. Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall

Restaurants Food court Little Italy, UIC

Feast on banh mi, dumplings, pizza and more at this food hall located at the newly redeveloped Cook County Hospital building in the Illinois Medical District. A venture of chef Akhtar Nawab—most notably behind the Mexican restaurants Alta Calidad in New York and Otra Vez in New Orleans—Dr. Murphy's Food Hall is named for John B. Murphy, a leading surgeon who worked and taught in the former hospital. The hall's 10,000-square-foot digs complement the Beaux Arts-style building and include an outdoor patio and bar area in addition to its mix of 11 food stalls.

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Room Service by Pink Salt
Room Service by Pink Salt
Photograph: Courtesy Pink Salt

23. Room Service by Pink Salt

When West Loop food hall Fulton Galley closed late last year, we wondered what would become of Pink Salt, a small but mighty stall that specialized in Thai street food. Owner Palita Sriratana has since taken her delicious show on the road, with pop-ups at various venues throughout the city. Most recently, she launched Room Service, a limited-edition series that specializes in one-plate dishes from Thailand, including the vegan-friendly mee krob tohu, with crispy rice noodles, tamarind pulp, pickled garlic, yellow tofu and Chinese chives. Keep an eye on Pink Salt's Instagram for more information about where they'll be popping up next.

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