Stuck in a rut when it comes to eating out? Good thing the Chicago restaurant scene gets an injection of new life almost every week. Whether you want to know where to go tonight or what opening to mark on your calendar, our guide to fresh feasting spots has all the details you crave.
Have you visited a new restaurant lately? Tell us what you think. Looking for somewhere to wash it all down? Check out our list of brand-new bars.
Ready to Digest
Vincent goes Dutch
This quaint and cozy bistro is named for the one-eared painter who called the Netherlands home, and who may have eaten similar food to what is served here. Unlike other European cuisine, like French and Italian, Dutch fare still seems foreign to the average American diner. But even if you're not quite up for trying the pickled herring — a sardine-like fish served with a shot of genever gin, onion and pickle to chase — plenty of other dishes at Vincent will please any discerning palate.
BomBon Cake Gallery gets you more of the sweets you love
Mexican baker/starlet Laura Cid Perea is well known in Pilsen for her bunuelos and silky tres leches treats. She used her tenure as an executive pastry chef under Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo and Frontera Grill to launch the original BomBon. And now she seeks to poach the downtown specialty cake set at this Ogilvie Transportation Center outpost of her BomBon line.
Upscale Vietnamese at Sawtooth Restaurant and Lounge
It's hard not to think of Argyle Street when sitting in the three-tiered, white leather glow of Sawtooth's Randolph row digs (the old Salthaus spot). Chicagoans used to pho in battered ceramic bowls, not ergonomic porcelain, will get a pleasant surprise.
Owen & Engine: An urban countryside
Find English pub favorites at this gastropub from the owners of Fat Willy's Rib Shack. From the farm-to-table eats to the velvet damask wallpaper, no detail goes unattended at this faux English countryside retreat, aside from the irony of the Burger King, movie theatre, funeral home and massive highway that surround it.
Donatella Mediterranean Bistro
Donatella Majore, owner of the now-closed La Cucina di Donatella, is back for more, opening this Mediterranean-inspired spot in Evanston. With soft lighting, ornamental tiles and hanging plants, it's a welcoming destination for a date night or just a dinner with friends.
The Brits are on to something at Pret a Manger
The lunch-hour Loop crowd might think a chain imported from England with a French name would be a stuffy, sit-down affair. But Pret A Manger means "ready to eat," and the fast-food speed with natural-leaning foods have won over many Brits. Offering a fast food-style layout with a Trader Joe's-like branding of everything they sell in the store, Pret is a simple take on high-end fast food.
Chikurin Sushi is a cut above
Wicker Park, with sushi joints on every corner, seems risky real estate for a beginner biz, but Chikurin (which translates to Bamboo Grove) one-ups the competition in all departments. Choose from sushi, Thai and other Asian specials in a small Wicker Park strip mall location.
Say 'Oui oui' to Henri
Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan cooks up French-inspired dishes at this South Loop spot, named for building designer Louis Henri Sullivan.
Eatt like a king
Brought to you by the people behind Rosebud, Eatt is a classic diner with a River North twist. The huge corner space — which features red leather booths, dark wood floors and a decorative tile ceiling — is somehow comforting and classy at the same time, a sensibility that also shines through on the large, eclectic menu.
Lillie's Q takes barbecue up a notch
Chef Charlie McKenna has made his name in high class establishments like Avenues and Tru, but Lilie's Q speaks to a part of his cooking arsenal developed long before those endeavors. Taking his family's BBQ tradition from the competition circuit into his own restaurant, the venue features some inventive peach-wood fired smokers that McKenna himself has helped adjust for exacting results.
Deca Restaurant + Bar
Dark wooden tables are well-spaced out and topped with white tablecloths at the Deca Restaurant and Bar, which is on the 12th floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel behind the Water Tower Place. Salads, soups, sandwiches and entrees fill the lunch menu, costing $9-$23. Light dance music pulses gently throughout the large room, which offers a view of the John Hancock building as well as a large, flowing water fountain in the middle of the room.
Kosher rules at Chalavi
This kosher spot serves up honest, home-cooked food to West Rogers Parkers. The space is set-up like a diner, catering in particular to families and offering up sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and seafood. The place also delivers and caters.
Go Hollywood at Sprinkles Cupcakes
Fatten up during your shopping spree at this Beverly Hills-based dessert shop taking a spot just off the Mag Mile. Choose from a dozen or so flavors of 'cakes, which change regularly. Or grab a quick frosting shot to go.
Black Dog Gelato pushes the dessert envelope
essie Oloroso might have had a who's who of hip restaurant clients for her gelato, but she always wanted to have her own storefront. Now that she does, she's trying to push the limits of what you can expect from a place that only serves gelato-based treats. The flavors vary and change with the season, but a cup of gelato is $3.35, and a large is $4.75. The contents of that cup could be something standard like the Mexican hot chocolate or the orange cream. Then again, you might go out on a limb and get the avocado cinnamon or the red plum moscato sorbet.
Meditate on some fine food at Arami
In many ways, Arami is an exercise in contradiction – sleek and earthy, gourmet and traditional, upscale and affordable. But while the Zen-like decor might give you the urge to meditate on these distinctions, instead just happily accept the authentic Japanese food in front of you.
Hot Off the Grill
The second floor of the Art Institute's Modern Wing gets a new restaurant, taking the place of Balcony Cafe. Salads, sandwiches and paninis dominate the menu, run by the folks at Terzo Piano.
Upscale California steak chain opens in River North.
Diverse American cuisine and craft beers in a new Andersonville brewpub.
Barbecue tacos dominate the menu of this casual (and cheap!) Lincoln Park spot, specializing in Korean street food.
Laguardia's Cuban Bistro
The sister restaurant of Bucktown's Cafe Laguardia serves up authentic Cuban cuisine in an environment meant to resemble old Havana.
Chicago Cut Steakhouse
This high-end riverfront steakhouse caters to the Loop business dinner crowd.
The owners of Marilyn's in Morton Grove take over this friendly diner that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in the former Maple Tree spot in Oak Park.
The folks behind M. Henry open this sister spot in Edgewater, adding a dinner menu to the options.
This Logan Square bakery serves up several types of bread, crepes and French pastries.
This Korean cafe in north Lakeview serves up classic dishes like bi bim bop.
The folks behind Mia Francesca open this spot right across the street in Little Italy. Expect a more toned-down (read: affordable) menu and a large Italian wine list.
M Burger (River North)
The popular burger joint opens up a new location, serving up a simple menu of burgers, chicken and a veggie sandwich called the "Nurse Betty."
Sushi and sake on Division in the former Fuel space in Wicker Park.
Casual dining outside the Omni Chicago Hotel.
Ukai Japanese Restaurant
Find traditional sushi rolls alongside local concoctions, like the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and Sox rolls at this Lakeview BYOB.
Find extra-large specialty sushi rolls at this North Center BYOB, which also serves nigiri and assorted Thai dishes.
Mac and Min's
Find New Orleans-style cuisine from the owners of Jerry's at this West Loop cafe.
Scoop it yourself at this frozen yogurt spot in Wicker Park.
Breakfast (and lunch) is served at this Little Italy diner.
Famed local chef Graham Elliot Bowles opens his new project, a casual sandwich shop in River North, sometime this fall.
Deseo Mexican Cantina
The owners of Andersonville's La Donna are behind this Edgewater Mexican spot, set to open this fall.
Zapatista (Lincoln Park)
The popular South Loop Mexican spot plans a foray into Lincoln Park, in the former Emilio's, later this month
Argentine street food in West Town, coming this fall.
The owners of Sultan's Market open this Logan Square Middle Eastern sit-down eatery later this year.
Nick's Fishmarket Grill & Bar
The newest outpost of upscale seafoodery Nick's Fishmarket takes over the old Bluprint location in the Merchandise Mart in October.
The Vietnamese favorite plans to re-open after a three-year hiatus sometime in 2010.
The former Sola opens as this new Asian/Hawaiian spot in North Center sometime in November.
Lincoln Park pizza spot Bricks plans to open a bigger location, with pit barbecue options, in North Center in late 2010.
Ed Debevic's (Water Tower Place)
The popular diner known for its intentionally rude waitstaff plans to open a third area location in Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue in November 2010.
The latest project from Alinea's Grant Achatz, which will offer quarterly menus based on specific places and times, will open sometime in 2010. We think.