The 15 Best New Restaurants in Chicago You May Have Missed
As we, like the 17-year cicadas, slowly reemerge back into society, chances are we’re all headed in the same direction: toward a good meal. Amid the pandemic’s lockdowns and the constraints of restaurants’ delivery zones, we’re willing to bet that there are plenty of new (or new-ish) restaurants in Chicago you haven’t tried yet, which is why we’ve rounded up 15 spots to check out ASAP. How are we defining “new”? If it opened in early 2020, during the pandemic, or sometime this year, that’s new enough for us—after everything the past year or so has thrown our way, we won’t take visiting any restaurant for granted again.
Reminder: Some restaurants are reopening indoor dining options at a different pace than others. Check their websites to see what your delivery, pick-up, and outdoor/indoor dining options are before you go.
1. Big Kids
Major sandwiches—in both flavor and size—abound at Big Kids, a collaboration between Chicago’s Ryan Pfeiffer (formerly of Blackbird) and New Orleans’ lauded sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf. Proudly off-the-wall in its creativity, Big Kids dishes out sandwiches like the Space Torpedo, which layers turkey, pastrami, pasta salad, shredded lettuce, cheese and onions on a hoagie. A ‘90s-kid theme adds to the fun of it all—think waitstaff in aprons with the All That logo and the chartreuse-forward Ecto Cooler cocktail.
2545 N Kedzie Blvd.; (773) 687-8385 or bigkidschicago.com
2. The Tamale Guy
Who among us hasn’t experienced the pure joy of hearing local celebrity Claudio Velez shout “tamales, tamales!” in a crowded bar? Whether the contents of his famous red cooler have quelled your late-night hanger in the past or if this is your first encounter with his food, you’re in for a treat now that Velez has opened a brick-and-mortar location in Ukranian Village. Drizzle your choice of three house-made salsas over chicken, pork, or cheese and pepper tamales, or try the oxtail birria tacos instead (served with pickled vegetables, consomme for dipping, and technically-optional-but-why-skip-it Oaxacan queso).
2018 W Chicago Ave.; tamaleguychicago.com
3. Big Mouth Steak and Subs
Big Mouth began as an instantly popular food truck in 2020, and this month they opened up a brick-and-mortar location in Logan Square. Try their signature steak subs with plenty of onions and melted white American cheese on top or opt for a plate of cheesesteak fries instead. Not so into steak? The Fancy Grilled Cheese, which features broccoli and other vegetables, has you covered.
2903 W Diversey Ave.; 773-954-3519 or bigmouthsteaks.com
4. Semilla’s Latin Kitchen and Wine Bar
This new Rogers Park spot, founded by a husband-and-wife team (and alumni of Pump Room and Amaru), brings fresh Latin fusion flavors to Sheridan Avenue. Pair a caipirinha with a huitlacoche quesadilla or a shareable plate of yucca fries—or hold out for Taco Tuesday, when you can take your pick of veggie, al pastor, carne asada or salmon.
6764 N Sheridan Road; (773) 516-4411 or semillaslatinkitchenwinebar.com
5. Hinoki Sushiko
Hinoki Sushiko offers two distinct experiences: snag a spot in the sleek first-floor Izakaya-style lounge to try new twists on Japanese street food between sips of craft sake. On the other hand, you could reserve a spot upstairs for an Omakase experience, where the chef presents you with 18 pieces of traditionally prepared sushi. (Hop on that reservation, though—there’s only one Omakase seating per night, with limited availability.)
1465 W Willow St.; (773) 687-8898 or hinokisushiko.com
6. Rose Mary
Chef Joe Flamm serves what he calls “Adriatic drinking food” at Rose Mary, which is the cuisine we didn’t know we needed until right now. Croatian and Italian influences abound in dishes like tortellini djuvec, which mingles the pasta shape you know with the Balkan rice dish you may not. As for that drinking we mentioned: take your pick from a trio of spritzes, spirit-free cocktails, or a cold, refreshing Italian or Croatian beer.
932 W Fulton St.; (872) 260-3921 or rosemarychicago.com
7. Taqueria Chingon
Calling all fans of al pastor: it just so happens to be Taqueria Chingon’s specialty. Available with both traditional pork or vegetarian-friendly marinated portobellos, the taqueria’s ode to one of Mexico City’s favorite street foods is not to be missed. But the menu isn't strictly traditional, either—don’t miss the fried artichoke taco with olive tapenade, or the ramp and raclette quesadilla.
2234 N Western Ave.; (773) 687-9408 or taqueriachingon.com
Here’s your chance to visit a nyonya restaurant to eat dishes from the Peranakan culture of Malaysia for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Greet the day with a Malaysian BBQ pork jerky sandwich (they had us at “pork floss”), grab deep-fried fish ball skewers for lunch or top a fried bun with savory-sweet chili shrimp at dinnertime. And don’t forget dessert: the cendol—an icy confection with green rice flour jelly, coconut milk, and palm sugar syrup—won’t eat itself.
2142 N Clybourn Ave.; (773) 661-2281 or kapitanchicago.com
9. Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream
These are a few of our favorite things: Pies from Eat Free Pizza, Kimski’s fried chicken and dessert from Pretty Cool Ice Cream are now served beneath the same Bridgeport roof. Choose your own adventure: perhaps you’ll go for a sausage and giardiniera pizza on thin cracker crust, some chicken tenders with buffalo ranch, followed by a rainbow chip ice cream pop? But our list of favorite things doesn’t end there, as you’re welcome to take your food next door to the patio at Maria’s Packaged Goods to grab a cocktail to complement your hearty meal.
964 W 31st St.; (773) 565-4192 or pfcic.com
Apolonia’s menu collects flavors from Europe and the Mediterranean, from grilled branzino with olives and fennel to delicate scallop tagliatelle (with pasta made in-house, of course). This South Loop spot also brings a thoughtful approach to its bar stocked with more than 75 wines, a selection of vermouths by the glass, and showstopping cocktails, such as the creme de violette-tinged Fight or Flight, whose coupe is rimmed with beautiful edible flowers.
11. Chef’s Special
Possibly the most picturesque restaurant on the list, Chef’s Special is done up in shades of dusty coral, mint, and cheeky pops of plaid. But you’ll forget all about this feast for the eyes as soon as the actual feast arrives, such as kung pao tofu, walnut shrimp and other American Chinese dishes. (Psst: Don’t skip a selfie moment in the bathroom, which is also seriously stylish.)
2165 N Western Ave.; (773) 666-5143 or chefsspecialbar.com
12. The Hot Dog Box
You’re probably ready for a hot dog, but are you also ready for an adorable story to go with it? The Hot Dog Box was co-founded by Bobby Morelli and his nine-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. And just like this isn’t any old restaurateur team, this isn’t any old hot dog stand, either: You’re in for a gourmet sausage experience, such as the Bronzeville Bourbon Steak Dog, whose filet mignon frank is topped with veggies, bacon, bourbon barbeque sauce and sport peppers.
332 E 51st St.; thehotdogbox.com
13. Pizza Friendly Pizza
The successor to the late Bite Cafe, Pizza Friendly Pizza is the latest restaurant adjacent to Empty Bottle (famously home of Music Friendly Dancing). Here you’ll find thick, crusty Detroit-style pies like the Fig and Pig (pork confit and, you guessed it, figs)—all the better for pregaming before your next night out at an Empty Bottle show.
14. Flippin Flavors
As its name suggests, the chefs at Flippin Flavors are focused on the herbs, spices and other seasonings that bring each dish to life. A zesty house-made raspberry vinaigrette tops the Flippin Berry Explosion Salad, whose savory-sweet bites include greens, feta, pecans and strawberries. Another flavorful pick is the Flippin Hot-N-Spicy Turkey Hoagy, whose finishing touches of giardiniera and Flippin Spicy Hoagy Oil bring the heat.
1848 W 95th St.; (773) 253-2680 or flippinflavors.com
Each night at Ever, Michelin-starred chef Curtis Duffy serves a creative, high-concept and undoubtedly delicious array of eight to ten tasting courses. Those courses change frequently—all you’ll know going in is to expect a “[focus] on proteins from the land and sea, and seasonal vegetables complemented with fruits, grains, seeds and nuts”—but they’re all works of art in their own way. (Imagine, per a dish reported in the New York Times last year, caviar and king crab set atop a cucumber gel, in which the restaurant’s logo has been inlaid in the form of coconut pudding.)
1340 W Fulton St.; ever-restaurant.com
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