To keep tabs on every Chicago restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so).
This month we were treated to a couple new bars from industry vets, including a gin-focused concept from the folks at Lettuce Entertain You, plus a chill bar and patio from the owners of Bangers & Lace, complete with tamales from the Tamale Guy.
Looking for a more upscale night on the town? Head to the financial district for hearth-grilled, meat-heavy and veg-forward entrees from the new restaurant inside the recently opened LaSalle Chicago Hotel. And if you think the city doesn’t have room for another Mediterranean restaurant, you’d be wrong. The latest Restaurant Row tenant transports you to Greece — cheaper than a plane ticket and exceptionally delicious.
Read on for five of Chicago’s most interesting openings this month.
You’re here because: You’re in search of the perfect location for a pre-theater dinner or sophisticated business lunch.
You’re dining on: Classic and contemporary American grill fare on the 21st floor of the LaSalle Chicago Hotel in the Loop. While Grill on 21 has the meats (from a bone-in pork chop to a 32 oz. tomahawk), there are quite a few interesting plant-based options. Take the carrot Wellington with roasted carrots wrapped in a porcini crepe, plus a hearth-fired cauliflower with Calabrian chili vinaigrette, golden raisins and pine nuts. Another standout is their modern take on the classic lobster thermidor with oyster mushrooms and ricotta ravioli. Enjoy some pre-theater theater with a tableside cocktail presentation like the Smoked Woodford Manhattan.
208 S. LaSalle St. (map)
You’re here because: You’re looking for a new patio drinking spot.
dining sipping on: Classic cocktails with a twist. The team behind Bangers & Lace opened Quality Time Bar as a place for everyone to have a quality time (see what they did there?). The rotating cocktail menu features “Quality Classics” and “House Classics” like the Back to Life with two types of rum, chile, ginger, honey and lemon, an all-local draft beer menu, and house wines in (almost) every color (red, white, orange, pink). Enjoy those patio hangs with a six-pack of tamales from the famous “Tamale Guy” who’s set up residency here. On weekends, stick around for a changing lineup of resident DJs.
2934 W. Diversey Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You’re celebrating a special night out with friends at this relaxing (and very Instagrammable) West Loop hotspot.
You’re dining on: Nisos is the latest in a string of new Greek restaurants to open in Chicago, this one bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to the former Bad Hunter space. You’ll find plenty of meat and seafood on Greek chef Avgeria Stapaki’s menu, including a rotating selection of fish. Eye-catching presentations include a sea bass carpaccio with lemon gel, garlic blossoms and beetroot tapioca chips, and a lamb shank with a side of vegetables and jus. Nisos prides itself on its access to unique Greek ingredients, which are delivered to the restaurant every two days. Cocktails are also standouts here with a menu curated by the 7 Jokers Bar in Athens. Try the Mediterranean Mule with basil-infused vodka, pink grapefruit seltzer and Greek honey, or the God of the Sun with grappa, chile, pineapple, bitters and sparkling lemon.
802 W. Randolph St. (map)
You’re here because: You’re a gin aficionado (or want to be).
You’re dining on: A wide selection of 50+ gins from around the world, classic and reimagined gin cocktails, and a menu of small bites from Chef Donny Farrell, all beneath Quality Crab & Oyster Bah. The weekend-only bar’s cocktail lineup includes classic G&Ts and martinis, as well as more creative options, like the Last Word with Death’s Door gin, green chartreuse, Luxardo and lime. Not a gin fan? There’s also nearly 20 wines by the glass, plus draft and bottled beer. Edible drinking companions include grilled and raw oysters, gin-cured salmon with house ricotta, and blue crab beignets.
1962 N. Halsted. (map)
You’re here because: You’re a sucker for Italian sweets.
You’re dining on: Coffee, pastries, panini and pizza from a Piccolo Sogno co-owner. The first of three planned pasticcerie around the city offers an array of fresh pastries including bombolone (Italian doughnuts), crostatas, biscotti and zeppole, paired with a custom blend of Caffe Umbria coffee. Savory options include salads, arancini, pizzette and frittatine (pasta fritters).
2010 W. Pierce. Ave. (map)
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.