2017 may be just starting out, but it’s already shaping up to be a sterling year in terms of dining in Chicago. The forecast may be chilly still, but new restaurants continue to heat things up all over the city. To keep tabs on all the action, here are the city's 10 hottest restaurants right now.
Must-order: The latest example of Chicago’s ever-expanding fine dining scene branching out further beyond Downtown, Temporis stuns with its dynamic tasting menus in West Town. Dishes change fairly frequently, but some to look out for include the Sunflower in Five Forms, a springy and floral plate of sunchoke and endive with salsify, sunflower seeds and chamomile; and a tandoori-spiced rabbit presentation with carrots and greens.
Insider tip: Expect a few surprises along the way during your meal here. Tables contain built-in secret compartments filled with herbs and other additions to enhance meals.
Must-order: As the name suggests, toasts are a surefire way to go at this new all-day cafe-meets-whiskey bar in the West Loop. For savory, try the smoked trout tartine with smashed avocado, farm greens and a fried egg on sourdough rye. On the sweet side, make sure you get the rich and wonderful butterscotch Nutella toast.
Insider tip: Slightly Toasted utilizes honey from the building’s rooftop apiary in some of its cocktails, like the Becky With The Good Berries, which mixes it with vodka, blueberry, rosemary and lemonade.
Must-order: What once was Trenchermen has re-emerged as Trench, with acclaimed chef Jared Wentworth at the helm. The chef exhibits his penchant for contemporary American tavern fare with unabashedly decadent dishes like Kentucky-fried quail with bone marrow cornbread and a plate of meltingly tender confit pork jowl with maple-bacon caramel.
Insider tip: Wentworth helped make a name for himself at Longman & Eagle with his offal dishes and off cuts of meat. True to form, he’s brought some of that over to Trench with pastrami-spiced pig’s head and buffalo-sauced sweetbreads.
Must-order: With chef Iliana Regan at the helm, you can rest assured that Kitsune’s Japanese food is far from typical. Indeed, some of the most exciting dishes on the menu skew contemporary and novel. The burnt miso vegan ramen is a good example of that, a jet-black noodle dish that gets its color by infusing ashes made from burnt vegetables and miso.
Insider tip: Remember those doughnuts you fell in love with at the short-lived and dearly missed Bunny the Micro Bakery? They get new life at Kitsune, with a Japanese whiskey glaze no less.
Must-order: The West Loop’s rum-splashed newcomer is best enjoyed with a group, so that you can all dig into shareable dishes from Ronero’s “El Gran Show” section. The pescado frito is especially tempting — a whole fried red snapper with coconut-cola rice and fried plantains. It’s got it all: crispy-crunchy, sweet, nutty and, of course, tropical.
Insider tip: The bi-level restaurant and bar has a new upstairs space, quirkily dubbed Esco Bar. It’s got its own speakeasy-style entrance, its own menus, live entertainment and a roving cocktail cart.
Must-order: Go French at one of Wicker Park’s most beautiful new additions. This modern bistro does a great job with classics like its crispy duck confit, which gets cassoulet-inspired accompaniments of braised pork belly, beans and garlicky breadcrumbs.
Insider tip: You’d be wise to try and snag a reservation at the city’s hippest new rooftop bar, Up & Up, set 13 stories above Cafe Robey. Call 872-315-3082 to make it happen.
Must-order: Edgewater’s dreamy new wine-focused arrival draws inspiration from Spain, France, Italy and Germany for its cosmopolitan food menu. Your best bet is to sample something from each section and mix and match with friends. Pan con tomate (aka juicy tomato-strewn saffron toast) is a standout, as are the fried spinach dumplings with ricotta and brown butter.
Insider tip: The wine list is really something special here. With 15 options by the glass and 70 by the bottle, customers can opt for varietals from classic regions like Burgundy or less familiar areas like Saar and Chinon.
Must-order: It’s hard to go wrong with any of the riveting veggie-centric dishes at this brand-new locale. Come hungry for market radishes with nori butter, new potatoes roasted in embers, fry bread with sorrel and burrata, and chocolate crémeux with porcini ice cream and frozen grapes.
Insider tip: In a neighborhood renowned for the best burgers in the city, Bad Hunter is throwing its hat into the ring with its namesake veggie burger, bolstered with cheddar, tomato jam, onion, mustard aïoli and a brioche bun. Get it with fries or carrot kohlrabi slaw.
Must-order: When you're at the nexus of the frenzied Six Corners in Wicker Park, street food is the perfect choice, either for on-the-go or a late-night snack between bars. Try the braised lamb pita sandwich or some chicken kebabs.
Insider tip: There's a small selection of cocktails on tap, great for accompanying a casual dinner or passing the time as you wait for food.
Must-order: While the Pub burger at this Wicker Park hot spot has been getting a lot of deserved buzz, save it for a subsequent visit. Stomach space is important here, and you need to try the fried eggplant with hearty halloumi cheese and the crunchy grilled cucumbers with whipped ricotta and zhoug, a pungent chile sauce. Among larger plates, the trout is a star. Flaky and lightly smoky, it’s served with a tart, spicy medley of dandelion greens, tangerine and serrano chile.
Insider tip: The dining room and bar area fill up fast in the evening, but the restaurant’s earlier opening time (3:30 PM) makes it easily accessible if you’re looking for a late lunch, early dinner or makeshift happy hour.