The Hit List: New Chicago Restaurants To Try Right Now guide image


The Hit List: New Chicago Restaurants To Try Right Now

We checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like Vin Diesel at a tank top sale. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List. 

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in Chicago. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy new restaurant with caviar priced by the bump. Or it might be an under-the-radar lunch counter where a few dollars will get something that’ll rattle around in your brain like a loose penny in a dryer.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to the Hit List (9/13): Kyoten Next Door and Provaré


Kyoten Next Door

The chef behind Kyoten, one of Chicago’s best (and most expensive) sushi restaurants, opened a more low-key option next door to the original Logan Square location. Aptly named “Kyoten Next Door,” the 18-course nigiri sushi omakase menu is $159 per person. And yes, considering that the original experience is a three-hour ordeal that costs over $450, Kyoten Next Door is more casual. But there’s nothing casual about the food—a dinner here involves phenomenal nigiri made with high-quality fish, heavily seasoned large-grained rice, and a piece of blowtorched wagyu that puts your favorite steakhouse to shame.

After a few years in West Town, this Creole and Italian restaurant moved into a much larger space down the street. And Provaré 2.0 is a blast. This bright spot has an R&B playlist that will remind you of the greatness that is '90s Usher, a speakeasy hiding behind very convincing shelves, and food that makes you put your hand up to silence the table so you can have a private moment with the housemade pasta. There are standout dishes like fried lobster tails, creamy chicken parmesan that’s the antidote to your scary Apple news feed, and juicy lamb chops that go perfectly with a side of spicy charred corn. The restaurant is busy but never chaotic, and there’s a good chance the chef will come out to drop off plates and make sure you’re having a good time. (You will be.)

You could drive around Chicago for hours looking for transcendent guava butter. Or, you could just go to Marina’s Bistro And Rum Bar, which will welcome you with a bowl of said condiment and a basket of warm plantain chips. This cozy Uptown spot serves fantastic cocktails and Puerto Rican food, like a bowl of pollo al ajillo (the flavor of which will attach itself to your brain with the adhesive strength of a price tag on a gift). And while “Rum Bar” gets second billing, the cocktails are even better than the food—drinks are made with rum, housemade syrups, and fresh fruit purees. They add to the tropical vibe of Marina’s, which feels like it’s on the brink of being a party, even at 5:30pm on a Sunday.

In a neighborhood that’s becoming increasingly more chaotic, Yokocho in the West Loop is blessedly easy. It’s a chill sushi spot next to Oakville and Foxtrot in the courtyard of a gigantic new office building. Unlike most spots in Chicago’s hypiest neighborhood, you can walk right in and grab a little wooden booth or seat at the sushi bar. The short menu has mainly handrolls, a few small plates, and about 10 types of simple nigiri or sashimi, with an option to get a piece of each for $50. Nothing is going to make you rethink everything you’ve ever thought about raw fish—the biggest surprise will be the pops of chili crunch in the scallop handroll—but it's worth a visit just to have a quality sushi moment in the West Loop for under $100.

Just when we thought we couldn’t love pate any more than we already do, the team behind Indienne opened another restaurant in River North. Sifr is a “modern Middle Eastern” spot, and the menu has a wide range of dishes, including the aforementioned chicken liver pate topped with pomegranate molasses and parsley oil we want to rub on our face. But there’s also fava-filled manti in a silky butternut ashta that might be our favorite dumpling in the city. The space looks like a lot of new restaurants these days (full of plants and playing tropical house) but it’s a lovely place to spend a few hours, and the service is attentive. Their rooftop bar is opening soon, and when it does—that’s where you can find us for the rest of summer.

There are already plenty of great kabob places within walking distance of the Kedzie Brown Line—does Albany Park need another one? Helmand answers this with a resounding “Absof*ckinglutely.” This Afghan restaurant is the new king of Kabob Row: every skewer (lamb, chicken, ground beef) is juicy, smoky, and seasoned with peppery spices. But other dishes should also be mandatory at the dinner party—like plump mantu with ground beef drizzled in a spicy tomato sauce, and fall-off-the-bone lamb shank atop kabuli with raisins and caramelized carrots. Currently, Helmand’s spacious dining room is pretty quiet—so now’s your chance to beat the rush.

Tuk Tuk is the type of casual neighborhood restaurant you wish you could live across the street from. And if you live in Lakeview, this might be possible. This small, BYOB spot specializes in Isan Thai dishes, and serves fantastic food (like eight different types of papaya salad, and stir-fried crispy pork belly) packed with chilies and herbs. For the people who tend to overestimate their heat tolerance, there’s fresh coconut water (served in an actual young coconut) on the menu to cool the burn. The restaurant manages to stay low-key even after tables fill up, but you might have to wait a while for dishes to come out as they’re ready. That just provides more time to convince yourself that yes, the table does in fact need to add a fried whole red snapper to the order.

We’re mad that the menu at Čálli isn’t longer. We wish it unfurled like a scroll, rolled down the stairs, and spilled out onto Green Street. Because every dish made us want to order four more. That’s true for the little garnacha topped with carnitas, the enmoladas in a mole that we’ve been ordered to stay 100 feet away from, and also the chocoyotes with chewy masa dumplings that laugh in the face of gluten. Čálli is located in a space inside Soho House most recently occupied by a pop-up. Depending on where you sit you might see people wandering in by accident, but you won’t care when the food is this good.

Thattu evokes a sense of nostalgia for South India, even if you’ve never visited. This casual restaurant in Avondale serves comfort food from Kerala, and a few bites of coriander chicken will have you reminiscing about a childhood spent on the Malabar Coast that may or may not have happened. The menu is short, but that just means you can get one of everything, including an order of crispy masala-dusted chaatertots, curry, and the Kerala fried chicken sandwich. Finish with frothy-and-sweet kaapi served in steel cups found in Indian homes, and there's no better low-key meal to linger over. Hours are currently limited to lunch Thursday through Sunday, with plans to expand to dinner soon.

Despite the aggressive name, this New American spot in Avondale is very welcoming. It has comfy banquettes and barstools, and chefs drop off dishes at tables while reminding you to stay at your candlelit table for as long as you want. But the food is why you’ll want to stay forever (or at least until they close at 2am). Ramp pasta and miso butter scallops are rich and creamy. Pork shoulder and burgers are aged to juicy perfection. Everything is incredibly refined, but the atmosphere isn’t so stuffy you can’t come here for a casual bite after a night out.

This sceney Italian steakhouse on the edge of Fulton Market channels mid-century-era glamour, complete with bartenders in waistcoats and a checkered marble floor. But Fioretta delivers on style and substance. Yes, this is a place where you order negronis poured tableside from miniature gas cans. It’s also a place with excellent steak—like an olive-fed wagyu New York strip so tender you’ll wonder whether that cow had a personal masseuse. A bottle sparkler will make an appearance, and you’ll hear shout-talking from a team dinner across the room. It's loud but it's also fun, and let’s be real—you don’t need to hear an expensive meal to enjoy it.

We’re living in an age of reboots, and our excitement for the new iteration of Daisies surpassed the collective enthusiasm for Top Gun: Maverick. After a short closure, this excellent vegetable-centric "Midwestern pasta" spot reopened in a larger space, just a few doors down from the original location in Logan Square. The menu isn’t that different, but there’s a new section for things like lamb shank and salmon collars, and staples like the earthy beet agnolotti topped with creme fraiche and trout roe are (thankfully) still around. And you can enjoy them in a large, busy dining room without feeling like an interloper eavesdropping on the first date happening at the next table. Another welcome change? Daisies is now a coffee shop until 3pm, the perfect spot to camp out with a laptop and a blood orange olive oil cake.

Chicago steakhouses usually follow the same format: Giant spaces with giant booths and giant menus with giant baked potatoes. Asador Bastion is a refreshing change of pace. This Spanish spot is in a 19th-century River North townhouse, with an intimate dining room on the second floor. The menu doesn’t have the standard cuts of beef, here there are six varieties served per pound, and a server who must have a PhD in Boeuf-ology will walk you through everything—like how long the Galincia was aged on the hoof, why, and its hopes and dreams before ending up on your plate. There are potatoes on the menu, but as a bone marrow puree, or in a fluffy tortilla Espanola. This place is elegantly low-key and very expensive—expect to spend at least $100 on the beef alone. But perfect if you're in the market for an impressive dinner featuring a perfectly seasoned ribeye cooked over coals.

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photo credit: Kyoten Next Door

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