Chicago's 17 Most Anticipated Restaurants for Spring

Trust us, they're worth the wait
March 14, 2016
by Matt Kirouac

We can't predict the future, but it’s a safe bet you’ll eat well this spring. Spoiler alert: vegetables are taking over the West Loop, more noodles are coming to Wicker Park and tasting menu restaurants abound. Here's what is getting us excited:

Bad Hunter
The hits just keep on coming from Heisler Hospitality, the group behind Queen Mary, Sportsman’s Club, Pub Royale and more. Next up is Bad Hunter, a vegetable-focused restaurant and bar in the West Loop alongside their tavern, Lone Wolf. Designed to conjure images of a lush English garden, the relaxed, sunny space is a refreshing change of pace for Restaurant Row. Nico Osteria alum Dan Snowden serves as chef, maximizing a wood grill to punch up flavors on his veg-driven plates. Wines and cocktails round things out on the beverage side.   

ETA: June

802 W. Randolph St. 

We won’t call it a comeback, because Jason Vincent never really went anywhere following his exit from Nightwood. However, Chicagoans have been champing at the bit for the past two years eagerly awaiting news on the chef’s next move. It’s similar to how die-hard fans wait years between albums for a new track from Adele. This spring, Vincent is back, and it’s going to be huge. Not literally, because the 40-seat space on the western fringes of Logan Square is quite small, but in name and scope. Giant is one of Chicago’s most exciting openings of 2016, a casual neighborhood gem hinged on ever-changing Midwestern fare. Joining Vincent is chef-partner Ben Lustbader and general manager-partner Josh Perlman. Altogether, their collective résumés make for quite the powerhouse trifecta, and a restaurant that’s sure to elevate the ideology of Midwestern food entirely. 

ETA: May

3209 W. Armitage Ave. (Photo by Galdones Photography)

Over the past couple years, Wicker Park evolved into a mecca of noodles, with spots like Furious Spoon, Oiistar and the newly opened Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya. Apparently appetites for hot broth around these parts are insatiable, because the granddaddy of local ramen is making its way into the neighborhood this spring for its second location. Bill Kim is set to unveil Urbanbelly 2.0 in the coming weeks, honing his distinct brand of classic-meets-contemporary Asian flavors. Expect the same comforting dishes you know and love from the original, including dumplings, noodles, rice dishes and PB&J soft-serve with huckleberry jelly and peanut butter crunch. 

ETA: March

1542 N. Damen Ave. 

An open hearth, à la carte menu, “rustic but refined” cuisine by chef Andrew Brochu and boisterous music is pretty much all that is known about the fourth, and most casual, restaurant from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. That’s not all Achatz has up his sleeve this season either. Alinea closed earlier this year for major renovations, and the team acquired the recently shuttered Moto space on Fulton Market. 

ETA: Late spring 

951 W. Fulton Market

Beloved Bridgeport bar Maria’s will soon boast an equally destination-worthy restaurant. Helmed by chef Won Kim, the counter-service eatery will combine owner Maria Marszewski’s Korean roots with the neighborhood’s Polish ones via dishes such as kimchi-covered sausages and potstickers with pierogi filling.

ETA: Early spring

960 W. 31st St. (Photo by Matthew Meschede)

The Ladies Room
No more will the space next to Fat Rice be a waiting room for the Macanese restaurant. It will be a Chinese bakery and petisco, or small snacks, bar. “We initially opened the hidden space as a simple waiting room, but people really love it for what it is. Locals in the neighborhood stop in to just grab a cocktail and a quick snack,” chef and owner Abraham Conlon said. “We're taking the casual nature of that idea and transforming it into a cocktail lounge with light food and a really sexy, unique vibe.” Sexy and unique can also be applied to the astonishingly unique drink program, filled with housemade bitters, vegetal drinks and even their own version of malört made with Chinese herbs, bitter melon, ginseng and mushroom. Cheers! 

ETA: Early spring

2957 W. Diversey Ave.

Smack Shack
A Minnesota food truck-turned-restaurant renowned for its lobster rolls has announced it will open its first Chicago location. A partnership with Four Corners Restaurant Group, the new outpost will be located in the 1KFulton building (aka the new Google building). Highlights of the space on the northeast side of the building include a 100-gallon lobster boil in the middle of the dining room.

ETA: April 19

326 N. Morgan St.

El Che Bar
The second restaurant from chef John Manion (La Sirena Clandestina) shifts its focus to the cuisine and culture of Argentina. It will feature wood-fired cuisine in a casual setting anchored by a custom open grill that serves as the dining room’s focal point. The beverage program, led by recently acquired Bill Anderson, offers spirits of the Americas, Latin and local beers as well as new-world wines.

ETA: Early spring

845 W. Washington St.

The Flamingo Rum Club
Inspired by the recent lift of the Cuban embargo, Phil Stefani (Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants) and Adolfo Garcia (Pearl Tavern) are teaming up to open a rum-filled restaurant and lounge in the River North. The small space will house one of largest rum selections in the country as well as live Cuban bands and Afro-Cuban jazz music. Expect 1940s and '50s island-chic decor with palm tree wallpaper, a brass bar and cement tiles imported from the Dominican Republic.

ETA: Early spring 

601 N. Wells St.

Like Minds Brewpub
Justin Aprahamian and John Lavelle are making their way down from Milwaukee to open a West Side brewery and restaurant. The former is a James Beard Award–winning chef for best chef Midwest in 2014 for his restaurant Sanford. He will be contributing to the food portion of the project, which includes a lobster roll with cucumber kimchi, lamb mole tacos and other beer-friendly items. Beers will lean toward the experimental, will options such as seasonal sours made with quince and rhubarb, cucumber kolsch as well as barrel-aged black tea beer.

ETA: Spring

1800 W. Walnut St.

Duck Duck Goat
When Stephanie Izard does something, she does it big. One of the most anticipated restaurants in recent memory (probably since her last restaurant, actually), Duck Duck Goat is finally almost here. For real. Stephanie Izard’s third restaurant will present on her take on Chinese cuisine, as inspired by multiple trips to Asia. In addition to the seated dining room, Duck Duck Goat will also offer a take-out window serving Taiwanese-inspired street food, like seasoned fried chicken bites, beef noodles and dumplings.

ETA: Early spring

857 W. Fulton St.

Longtime pitmaster Charlie McKenna is expanding beyond barbecue and fried chicken. The Lillie’s Q chef and owner will open Dixie in the former Takashi space with a focus on rice dishes, small plates and vegetables. The team recently announced the space will also boast a bourbon-focused cocktail bar called 1952½. 

ETA: Early June

1952 N. Damen Ave.

Cruz Blanca
The latest project for Rick Bayless is a Latin-inspired nano-brewery in the West Loop. “The brewery will include a tasting room, food service, a growler program and the sale of large-format bottles. It will be equipped with a 10-barrel brewing system,” according to his company’s blog, which also announced its flagship beer, La Guardia.

ETA: Late spring

900 W. Randolph St.

Anyone who isn’t pregnant who has dined at Tanta understands how sensational the cocktail program is. So sensational in fact that the Peruvian restaurant is branching out with a cocktail lounge down the block called Arbella. Courtesy of VBD Hospitality, Arbella is a sophisticated bar boasting an impressively eclectic mix of drinks, which makes sense considering the core inspiration for the space was the team’s various cultural backgrounds and travel experiences. The result is a dynamic space showcasing techniques and flavors derived from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, the Americas and everywhere in between. Small plates by Jesus Delgado and Cristian Padilla are icing on the cake.  

ETA: May

112 W. Grand Ave.

The power culinary couple of David Posey (Blackbird) and Anna Posey (The Publican) will bring affordable fine dining to the West Loop. The 55-seat restaurant will offer an eight-course tasting menu in the $75–$90 range as well as an à la carte option. Expect Anna’s art to make a special appearance, as the pasty chef also dabbles in drawing and painting.

ETA: Spring

1350 W. Randolph St.

Smyth + The Loyalist 
Charlie Trotter vets and husband-and-wife duo of John Shields and Karen Urie Shields are planning two restaurants in a two-story space in the West Loop formerly occupied by Centered Chef. The first floor will be a casual lounge called The Loyalist, featuring an à la carte menu, while upstairs is Smyth, a tasting-menu concept that offers reservations via the Tock ticketing system.

ETA: Late spring

177 N. Ada St.

Joey & Elissa (Working Title)
Fine dining in the West Loop is one thing, but fine dining in Portage Park is another. Bring the tasting-menu format to the far northwest side next season, Joey & Elissa is an ambitious concept from restaurateur Quay Tao, who also owns Community Tavern next door. The restaurant is tentatively named for the two chefs, Joey Beato and pastry chef Elissa Narow, with 25 seats, a ticketing reservation system and dinner served only three days a week. 

ETA: Late spring

4042 N. Milwaukee Ave.

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