The 10 best new Chicago restaurants and bars of 2014

After a year of eating and drinking at dozens of new restaurants and bars, our critic picked the 10 best new openings—and revised one star rating
Pork schnitzel at Bohemian House.
Photograph: Martha Williams Pork schnitzel at Bohemian House.
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This was a delicious year of eating and drinking in Chicago, as we covered hundreds of restaurants, barsbreweries and basically anywhere you can get something to eat or drink. Out of these, 48 were starred reviews of new restaurants and bars, which were wide-ranging this year, from a tiny fine dining restaurant in Uptown to a huge new restaurant and music venue in Hyde Park.

So what stood out as the best openings of the year? Some are thoughtful concepts that reflect the food a chef grew up with, while others fill a gap we didn't know we were missing. Others present a new way of looking at ingredients, classic dishes or even restaurants themselves. But all of these restaurants (and one bar) think about food and drink differently, and all are places worth returning to again and again.

RECOMMENDED: Complete list of the best of 2014

The 10 best openings of 2014

Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, American

42 Grams

icon-location-pin Uptown
The tiny Uptown restaurant has made an immediate mark on Chicago's dining scene. It's BYOB, and there are only 18 seats, so it has the intimate feel of a dinner party. Just, you know, one where your hosts, chef Jake Bickelhaupt and GM Alexa Welsh, have earned two Michelin stars their first year in business.
Time Out says
Comfort is King is on Analogue's winter menu.
Photograph: Courtesy Analogue
Bars, Cocktail bars

Analogue

icon-location-pin Logan Square

On my first couple review visits to Analogue, I fell hard for Alfredo Nogueira's Cajun food, like the light smoked fish dip, fluffy biscuits served with pepper jelly and a fried chicken sandwich on toast. But the cocktails were kind of lackluster, and certainly weren't the main draw. And then I went back, and back again, at first for the food, then both the food and drinks. The cocktails have gotten better and better over time, so much so that I'm revising my star rating, from 3 to 4. This is a comfortable, low-key cocktail bar, where you can get an excellent cocktail like a bourbon and sherry cobbler and a terrific plate of food. In the year it's been open, Analogue has already become one of my favorite bars in Chicago.

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Restaurants, Mexican

Authentaco

icon-location-pin River West/West Town

Wicker Park is not hurting for taco joints, but the latest, Authentaco, has already become my preferred spot in the neighborhood. The thin tortillas are made right in the window, and beckon you to come in if you're passing by—do it, since the huitlacoche quesadilla, packed with cheese and corn smut, is savory and earthy, while tacos, like the poblano and cheese, are so good you'll want to fill a whole tray with them.

Oatmeal with figs at Baker Miller bakery & millhouse.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Bakeries

Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse

icon-location-pin Lincoln Square

Using only grains milled in house, the duo behind Baker Miller, Dave and Megan Miller, are working wonders with oatmeal, grits and baked goods. The charming Lincoln Square restaurant runs through menu standouts like the sourdough cinnamon rolls fast, so set your alarm and wake up early to hit Baker Miller before work or the weekend brunch rush.

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Restaurants, Czech

Bohemian House

icon-location-pin River North

An outstanding Czech restaurant isn't something I would have predicted would open in River North, but under chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, Bohemian House has become a restaurant that I recommend to pretty much everyone. It only took one bite from a soulful take on chicken paprikash with potato dumplings and pickled sweet peppers and pork schnitzel brightened up with a squeeze of charred lemon to make me a believer.

Time Out says
Cantabrian salt-cured anchovies at mfk. The simplicity of these cured anchovies, twisted atop buttered bread with a sprinkle of lemon peel, is a perfect example of why we love this charming, refreshing restaurant. $12
Photograph: Andrea Donadio
Restaurants, Seafood

mfk.

icon-location-pin Lake View

With its small menu of simple but elegant seafood dishes, a dinner (or lunch, if you're lucky to work nearby) at mfk. is a welcome break from fancy plates and elaborate combinations of ingredients. Here, there are boquerones piled with peppers and fennel on a grilled baguette; easy vegetable salads; occasional crab feasts. At mfk., chef Nick Lacasse proves that less is more.

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Restaurants, Korean

Parachute

icon-location-pin Avondale
Baked potato bread; warm, creamy blood sausage custard; Korean ssam piled with country ham—Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark's highly personal Korean-American restaurant is the most creative new place in town. But it's not just the food that makes Parachute special—there's an interesting and well-edited beverage list, affordable prices and an utter lack of pretension that makes dining here comfortable.
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Nashville hot chicken sandwich at The Roost Carolina Kitchen “Hot” is a laughable understatement—this fried-to-order sandwich, served on the most buttery biscuit in town, is positively incendiary. Add cooling cucumber slaw to the sandwich to help dull th
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

The Roost

icon-location-pin Lake View
What makes the Roost's fried chicken sandwich the best in town? For starters, there's the biscuit, which is wonderfully buttery. The menu is short, with just two kinds of chicken available: spicy and the fiery Nashville hot, so you'd better be able to deal with some spice (or just sip on a sweet tea). Then there's the perfectly crisp, juicy chicken, which is fried to order. That means you'll be waiting about 15 minutes for your sandwich—don't worry, it's worth it.
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Confit potatoes a la plancha at Salero So often consigned to being a side dish, the potato gets its due at Salero, where the tender slice of potato is joined by a fried egg, mushrooms and thick slices of melted Spanish cheese. $23.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Spanish

Salero

icon-location-pin West Loop

Chef Ashlee Aubin (also of Wood) hit on something we were missing in Chicago—elegant Spanish food that's definitely not tapas. At Salero, you order off a menu with appetizers, entrees and desserts, which is refreshing, considering we're dining in the age of shared plates. And I was doubly thrilled, since it meant I received an entree-sized portion of potato confit, topped with a gleaming egg and accompanied by mushrooms and a dreamy slab of melted Spanish cheese. Other items on the menu—perfectly textured grilled octopus tentacles, seafood bathing in a sherry-saffron broth, silky flan capped with blood orange gelee—just further confirmed how good this restaurant is.

Time Out says
Restaurants

Tête Charcuterie

icon-location-pin West Loop

Tête absolutely nails charcuterie, like a longanisa sausage with dried shrimp fried rice, a luscious slice of pork blood pate, and all manner of cured meats. But man cannot survive on meat alone (even in Chicago), and chefs Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski also embrace vegetables, like the seasonal cocotte, packed with dozens of raw, pickled and cooked vegetables. Not only is a mix of meat and vegetable dishes the best way to break up a heavy meal, it's how to ensure you're sampling the full array of the chefs' talents. 

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