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2016 brought us a gazillion great new restaurants (and the discovery of poké—thank God), which means that even though the year is coming to end, we have a lot of work to do. And by “work” we mean “food,” and by “do” we mean “eat.” The point is: We’re hungry. So here are our 20 favorite new restaurants from this year. May your 2017 calendar be filled with reservations.
Featuring only the best of Chicago’s local food scene, it’s a great way to quickly sample all those buzzed-about restaurants you haven’t yet hit—Aloha Poke, anyone?
125 S. Clark St.; 773-999-9411 or revivalfoodhall.com
Sepia’s Charles Welch and his new Mediterranean-inspired food served in a swanky skylit barroom. Yes, please.
111 W. Lake St.; 312-877-5929 or honeyschicago.com
C.J. Jacobson, a former Top Chef, is bringing Cali vibes to River North. We’re talking kabobs, small plates and hummus that puts that tub of Trader Joe’s to shame.
74 W. Illinois St.; 312-527-5586 or emachicago.com
The Alinea team comes down to earth (a little bit) with a more casual concept than their other endeavors. The chicken, served three ways, is some of the crunchiest, juiciest bird we’ve ever had.
951 W. Fulton Market; roisterrestaurant.com
This tiny restaurant in Logan Square serves seasonal, simple dishes that champion our beloved Midwestern tastes. Plus, house-made pasta. Sold.
3209 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-252-0997 or giantrestaurant.com
Charlie McKenna wants to show you another side of the South at this new Bucktown restaurant. Here, don’t miss the upscale takes on country classics such as succotash and shrimp purloo.
1952 N. Damen Ave.; 773-688-4466 or dixiechicago.com
It’s Rick Bayless, so do we really need to say anything else? All you need to know is that this is a Baja seafood-inspired restaurant slash mezcal bar. Enjoy.
900 W. Randolph St.; 312-733-1975 or rickbayless.com
This is a fancy one: It's serving an eight-course tasting centered on New American and Scandinavian cuisine.
1350 W. Randolph St.; elskerestaurant.com
Vegetarians, this one’s for you. Seasonal vegetables, sippable cocktails and a very Instagrammable environment.
802 W. Randolph St.; badhunter.com
Start with a base of rice; then add your toppings like seaweed, avocado and pineapple. The cherry on top is actually Hawaiian-style, cubed tuna.
131 N. Clinton St.; 312-575-0306 or frenchmarketchicago.com
You may have walked right by this hidden gem, which serves cold-pressed juices, superfood smoothies and acai bowls that are almost too pretty to eat.
160 W. Kinzie St.; 312-724-8423 or hi-vibe.com
The nautical spot serves up perfectly beachy treats. Oysters are definitely on the menu and you need to try that lobster roll, so you might have to come back a couple times.
326 N. Morgan St.; 312-973-1336 or smack-shack.com
The new Chinese concept from chef Stephanie Izard is kind of geeking us out right now with things like goat-belly lo mein on the menu.
857 W. Fulton Market; 312-902-3825 or duckduckgoatchicago.com
This River North beauty lets you peep into the kitchen as chefs prep hand-pulled noodles. But your eyes will be focused on the gorgeous dumplings.
6 W. Hubbard St.; 312-595-9440 or imperial-lamian.com
The cafeteria-style eatery is unpretentious with a healthy dose of hipster, and it specializes in “meat and three” combos served on cafeteria-style trays.
664 W. Lake St.; 312-600-0600 or saintlouschicago.com
Homemade pasta is the name of the game here. The restaurant churns out classic Italian dishes and a few with a modern twist.
1020 W. Madison St.; 312-888-3041 or monteverdechicago.com
You’ll find oysters, stuffed clams and a dish called “Wicked Calamari.” Attire: Red Sox cap preferred.
1962 N. Halsted St.; 773-248-3000 or oysterbah.com
Upstairs you'll find things like this (egg yolk cured in salted black licorice, Swiss meringue, yogurt, blueberries and farro). And downstairs is more casual. We suggest both.
77 N. Ada St.; 773-913-3773 or smythandtheloyalist.com
On the menu: nigiri, sashimi, Japanese main plates and a list of cocktails labeled as “sushi friendly.”
2300 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-868-0002 or naoki-sushi.com
At this restaurant within a restaurant (it’s housed inside Swift & Sons), you might try a grilled walleye sandwich with spicy peppers or skip straight to dessert.
1000 W. Fulton Market; 312-638-6268 or coldstoragechicago.com
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