Feature

Chicago's 10 Most Anticipated Spring Restaurant Openings

By Matt Kirouac  |  March 13, 2017
Credit: Margeaux Brasserie

Michael Mina helms two restaurants at the Waldorf Astoria

We can’t predict the future, but we don’t need a crystal ball to tell us that spring is going to be a great season for new restaurants in Chicago. Between a French brasserie and a long-awaited Vietnamese entry in Pilsen, here’s what’s getting us excited for the months to come. 


Chef Alex Placencia (center) of Fat Baby Tacos, courtesy of Kailley Lindman

Fat Baby Tacos
Chicago can never have enough tacos, especially ones as fresh and flavorful as those promised at River North’s soon-to-open Fat Baby Tacos. The menu is simple but high-quality, with an assortment of tacos and burritos, including options like charbroiled steak, shrimp a la plancha and grilled vegetables. Each one gets bundled in warm housemade tortillas, adjoined by other menu fixtures like salads, tamales and warming pozole. To drink, expect draft cocktails, quenching aguas frescas and vegan coconut milk horchata. 
109 W. Hubbard St.; any day now

HaiSous
One of the most unique openings slated for next season is HaiSous, the joint handiwork of dynamic husband-wife duo Thai and Danielle Dang. Chicagoans fell in love with them when they opened the now-shuttered Embeya, but HaiSous represents an exciting opportunity for the couple to get closer to their roots and passions. Headed to Pilsen, the Vietnamese concept will showcase authentic dishes and preparations rarely seen in Chicago, such as open-flame clay pot grilling. While Thai mans the kitchen, Danielle oversees the beverage program, and she took on design duty through her firm Den of Lions. 
1800 S. Carpenter St.; early spring

Mi Tocaya Antojeria
After dazzling guests with her take on Mexican cuisine at Cantina 1910, Diana Davila is embarking on her own with Mi Tocaya Antojeria in Logan Square. Translated as “my namesake” in Spanish, the restaurant is a love letter to the chef’s heritage, and it offers her version of home cooking for the masses. She’ll focus on less familiar regional specialties presented as antojos, or small plates. For drinks, she'll be offering house margaritas on tap, paloma slushies and Mexican and local beers. 
2800 W. Logan Blvd.; next few days


Mi Tocaya Antojeria's Diana Davila, courtesy of Andrea Bauer


Split-Rail
Since her critically acclaimed days at Ada Street, Zoe Schor has been one of the most buzzed-about chefs in town, making Split-Rail a restaurant to watch in the coming weeks. The chef went off on her own to work on this "New Americana" concept in West Town, focusing on modern American cooking, oftentimes rooted in classics. The location itself is unique and cool as well, housed in a large industrial space with plenty of preserved character. Expect dishes like “Fajitas, Reimagined” with skirt steak, creamy masa, caramelized onions, roasted red pepper gelee and pickled jalapeños, and “A Study of Eggs” with a 63-degree hen egg, uni cream, Osetra caviar and toasted brioche. Additionally, Schor is helming the wine list herself as well. 
2500 W. Chicago Ave.; spring

BLVD
A bit of classic Hollywood glamour is heading to the West Loop this spring courtesy of BLVD. Drawing inspiration from restaurants and lounges on Sunset Boulevard in the 1950s, the restaurant incorporates art deco design elements and an air of luxury. The food will be contemporary American, courtesy of esteemed chef Ross Mendoza, with an emphasis on shareable plates, and the music and decor will offer a stylish juxtaposition of old and new. 
817 W. Lake St.; late spring

Punch Bowl Social/Kuma's Corner
The biggest new addition to the rapidly developing Fulton Market area is the first Chicago outpost of Punch Bowl Social (there’s one in Schaumburg), the hip Denver-based bowling alley and gaming complex. Already renowned for its food, the chain now has celebrity chef Hugh Acheson developing its menus. The venue anchors a hulking multistory development on Fulton, where a branch of the popular burger joint Kuma’s Corner is expected to open ahead of Punch Bowl Social.
832 W. Fulton Market; late spring

Katana
One of LA's hottest sushi spots is en route to Chicago, in River North. If it's anything like its predecessor, we can expect pristine sushi and steaks in a sexy atmosphere. The cocktails and bar scene should be sizzling too.  
344 N. State St.; June


Chef Katsuji Tanabe, courtesy of Barrio 

Restaurants and bars from the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group at the Dana Hotel
By opening Steadfast, Bodega and Bunny Slope, all in relatively rapid succession, the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group really solidified itself as a power player in Chicago’s restaurant and bar scene. It's keeping the momentum going with a trifecta of dining and drinking outlets at the Dana Hotel. Names and menu details are scant, but diners can anticipate a higher-end seafood restaurant in place of Freestyle Food + Drink, a second-floor bar showcasing Benjamin Schiller’s cocktail talents and a rooftop haunt focused on large-format drinks to replace Vertigo Sky Lounge. 
660 N. State St.; late spring

Barrio
Already wildly successful with Italian food at Siena Tavern and Bar Siena, and steaks at Prime & Provisions, the DineAmic Group is turning its attention to Mexican food with its newest venture Barrio. Taking over the massive Blackfinn space on the same block as Siena Tavern, Barrio will feature the contemporary handiwork of executive chef Katsuji Tanabe, who blends Mexican, Pan-Latin and American traditions. The menu will offer shareable plates, gluten-free options, organic ingredients and robata-style grill items like grilled diver scallops with poblano uni relish. Designed by Katherine Ingrassia and architect Ryan Nestor, the 6,000-sq.-ft. space will host a sprawling main dining room, an oval-shaped bar, an elevated deck and a private dining area with street views. 
65 W. Kinzie St.; late spring

Margeaux Brasserie and Petit Margeaux
Prominent chef Michael Mina makes his Chicago debut with two restaurants inside the Waldorf Astoria. When the hotel first opened as the Elysian in 2009, it was a red-hot dining destination thanks to on-site restaurants Balsan and RIA. With the departure of chefs Jason McLeod and Danny Grant, and the closure of RIA, its popularity waned and the beautiful space lacked the restaurants it deserved. That should change with the French duo Margeaux Brasserie and Petit Margeaux. The former, on the third floor, harkens to Parisian cafes in both elegant design and cuisine. Petit Margeaux, meanwhile, is a French patisserie on the lobby level. Brent Balika joins Mina as executive chef. 
11 E. Walton Pl.; May