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15 Most Anticipated Summer Openings in Chicago

A British pub, Cuban bar and lots of new hotel restaurants
May 31, 2016
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by Matt Kirouac

We can't predict the future, but we don’t need a crystal ball to tell us we’ll be eating well this summer. Between a vegetable-centric restaurant in the West Loop, wood-fired Argentine cuisine and Peruvian cocktails, here's what’s getting us excited:

Bad Hunter
Opening: June
The hits just keep on coming from Heisler Hospitality, the group behind Queen Mary, Sportsman’s Club and Pub Royale. Next up is Bad Hunter, a vegetable-focused restaurant and bar in the West Loop beside 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.   

802 W. Randolph St. 

Giant
Opening: Early summer
We won’t call it a comeback, because Jason Vincent never really went anywhere after the dearly departed Nightwood. However, Chicagoans have been chomping 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. Their collective résumés make for quite the powerhouse trifecta, creating a restaurant that’s sure to elevate the ideology of Midwestern food entirely. 

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

The Ladies Room
Opening: Early summer
No more will the space next to Fat Rice be a waiting room for the Macanese hot spot. 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 homemade bitters, vegetal drinks and even their own version of Malört made with Chinese herbs, bitter melon, ginseng and mushroom. Cheers! 

2957 W. Diversey Ave.

El Che Bar
Opening: June
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.

845 W. Washington St.

Lola Braza/Vol. 39
Opening: June
Further solidifying the Loop’s steady metamorphosis into a hot dining and drinking district are dual concepts taking shape inside Kimpton’s new Gray Hotel. Lola Braza is a Latin American bar and lounge on the 15th floor rooftop. Housed under a retractable glass roof that keeps the space operational all year round, Lola Braza concentrates its menus on Peruvian and Argentine street food, while pisco maintains prominence on the drink list. Downstairs on the second floor, Vol. 39 is an upscale lobby bar with an emphasis on wine and spirits. The grandiose motif of the historic space, housed inside the former New York Life Insurance building, is echoed nicely by appropriately opulent tableside champagne and caviar service. 

39 S. LaSalle St. 

Revival Food Hall
Opening: Mid-summer
Following the rampant success of Eataly and Latinicity, the next food hall to descend on Chicago is set for a summer debut. Unlike its progenitors, which borrow inspiration from Italy and Latin America, Revival Food Hall (pictured above) is distinctly Chicago. The 24,000-sq.-ft. space taking shape in the Loop's National building comes courtesy of 16” On Center (MONEYGUN, Saint Lou’s Assembly, Dusek’s, The Promontory), so, you know it’s got a good amount of local cred. There will be 15 fast-casual stalls featuring numerous chefs and restaurants from throughout the city, offering a fresh new setting in which to enjoy local favorites. Antique Taco and Furious Spoon have so far been announced as vendors, with more to follow. There will also be a coffee shop, cocktail bar and even a record store. 

125 S. Clark St.

Il Tavolino/Baptiste & Bottle/Noyane
Opening: Late summer
The hotel restaurant scene just keeps getting hotter, as Richard Sandoval (Latinicity) has signed onto a trifecta of concepts taking shape at the upcoming Conrad Chicago. When the hotel opens next season along the Magnificent Mile, it will feature a ground floor Italian restaurant called Il Tavolino, a classic American restaurant Baptiste & Bottle on the 20th floor and a Latin-accented Japanese spot on the roof called Noyane. The cross-cultural array of dining and drinking options is thoroughly impressive, and it speaks to Sandoval’s culinary talents and dexterity. 

101 E. Erie St. 

Coda di Volpe
Opening: Summer
Dream team Billy Lawless and Ryan O’Donnell are joining forces for a Southern Italian restaurant in Lakeview, with Chris Thompson tapped to man the kitchen. The chef rose to prominence out west, where he worked as executive chef at San Francisco’s A16. Newly in Chicago, he’s getting back to his passion for regional Italian fare with a menu filled with pastas, house-cured and Neapolitan pizzas. The wine program, presided over by Jon McDaniel and Clint Rogers, will do a nice job mirroring the food with a focus on Southern Italian varietals. 

3335 N. Southport Ave.

The Flamingo Rum Club
Opening: Early summer
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.

601 N. Wells St. 

Ēma
Opening: Early summer
After moving to Chicago from Los Angeles to serve as opening chef at Intro, CJ Jacobson (pictured above) stuck around to partner with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises for this upcoming Mediterranean spot. Smack dab in the thick of River North, Ēma (pronounced ee-ma) translates to “mother” in Hebrew, and the project serves as an ode to moms and their influence on young chefs. Expect plenty of mezze small plates and a fresh, California-style approach to cooking with an emphasis on spices. When it opens this summer, the restaurant will also have a fast casual counter stocked with rotisserie chicken, salads, salsa and housemade frozen Greek yogurt. 

74 W. Illinois St.

Like Minds Brewpub
Opening: Late summer
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, with options such as seasonal sours made with quince and rhubarb, cucumber kolsch as well as barrel-aged black tea beer.

1800 W. Walnut St.

Dixie
Opening: Late summer
Longtime pit master 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. 

1952 N. Damen Ave.

Pleasant House Pub
Opening: June
When one door closes, another swings open. Such is certainly true for Pleasant House Bakery, the beloved British eatery in Bridgeport. Owners Art and Chelsea Jackson closed up shop as they move to larger digs in Pilsen and prepare to re-emerge as Pleasant House Pub. Taking shape in the former Nightwood space, the pub looks to be everything the bakery was known for (breads, farm-fresh ingredients, savory pies) and more, with an added beer component and full dining service. Unique to Pleasant House, the restaurant will showcase English drawn ale, a rarity in Chicago, courtesy of Whiner Beer. 

2119 S. Halsted St. (Photo by Bobbi Lin)

Elske
Opening: Late summer
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.

1350 W. Randolph St.

Smyth + The Loyalist 
Opening: June
Charlie Trotter vets and husband-and-wife duo of John Shields and Karen Urie Shields (pictured above) 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.

177 N. Ada St.

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