Chicago summer is so fleeting, which means you don’t have a ton of time left to check out one of the most charming new restaurants this year—Expat, a 24-seat, alfresco-only sidewalk café in the West Loop. Located on Green Street just south of Randolph, Expat is from Element Collective (Nellcote, Kinmont and others), and serves a menu of summery dishes, easy drinking roses and boozy sno-cones beneath fluttering yellow flags.
Element Collective’s RM Champagne Salon is nearby, and Expat similarly offers fresh, cleanly shucked oysters loaded with brine and well-composed crudo plates, like Hamachi atop creamy mango with jalapenos and cilantro. The dishes are mostly light, so you’ll need to order a lot for a full meal, but that’s easy when there’s so much good stuff to try. That includes vegetable crudités in an ice-packed tray with green goddess and togarashi-spiced ranch for dipping; sopressata with whipped butter piled into an everything baguette; and a crab Louie salad, with a generous amount of avocado and crab. The burrata topped with smoked trout roe was a nice combination, but the amount of olive oil was overwhelming, and it was the only misstep on a menu of delightful and pretty-looking dishes. The other misstep: The loud soundtrack of club remixes probably works on Saturday at 9pm, but it’s a little much for a weekday lunch, and detracts from the vibe.
For dessert, there are ice cream sandwiches and raw fruit, but you’re going to get a boozy sno-cone, like La Tête des Lions, a fruity combination with St. Germain, vanilla and vodka—you’ll need the memory of the refreshing treat to keep you going till next summer.