Courtesy of LeƱa Brava

LeƱa Brava

West Loop

One of two long-awaited spots from Rick Bayless, this 75-seater takes a cue from Baja California with its hearth-driven menu, which spans from shrimp albondigas and octopus "carnitas" to a hearty grilled cauliflower steak laden with a brown butter salpicon of raisins, sunflower seeds, olives, arugula, and fresh house-made cheese for the vegetarian set. Oysters, uni, and selection of ceviches will please raw bar enthusiasts, while mezcal comprises the heart and soul of the beverage program.

Galdones Photography

Cruz Blanca CervecerĆ­a

West Loop

While Baylessā€™ sleek new brewpub is right next to LeƱa Brava on Randolph, the two concepts actually operate independently. Choose from six house-made brews, including a Blond Biere de Garde made with Illinois honey; soak it all up with an Oaxacan chorizo taco plate served with grilled gĆ¼ero chiles and knob onions, Oaxacan pasilla and roasted tomatillo salsa, heirloom corn tortillas, and lime.

Kailley Lindman for Arbella

Arbella

River North

New from the team behind Peruvian hotspot Tanta, this vibrant, globally influenced cocktail bar explores the beverage and culinary trends and traditions in six regions across the planet: Europe, the United States, South America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Mexico. Wash down small plates like ahi poke, Korean fried chicken, and short rib bao with inventive sips like the peanut butter and jelly-inspired Old School made with peanut butter vodka, concord grape juice, lime, and a jelly-infused ice cube, the hickory smoked infused Chicago Fire Extinguisher, and the tequila-based China Poblana with shiso, cucumber, and lime.

Matthew Meschede

Kimski

Bridgeport

Korean and Polish fare collide in epic fashion at this street food-heavy expansion of Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar. Mouthwatering eats include meat potskis filled with ground beef and potato, a "Maria's Standard" house-made sausage decked in soju mustard, kraut-chi (a sauerkraut-meets-kimchi mashup), and late-night-only Kimski poutine drenched in kimchi beer gravy and a potato scallion quesadilla -- both of which are only served after 9pm.

Stephen Hamilton

Ocean Cut

River North

After a rough go, polarizing C Chicago has transformed into Ocean Cut, the seafood focused sister resto to Chicago Cut Steakhouse. The re-concept boasts Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan at the helm (formerly of The Gage), a more approachable atmosphere, and a playful menu that promises something for everyone. Unique "Ocean Charcuterie," which features barbecued eel and foie gras terrine, seafood sausage, brandade, and more will appeal to adventurists, whole bass and branzino will satisfy guests looking for a simple, well-executed fish feast, and carnivores can opt for a small selection of dry-aged steaks from Chicago Cut.

Courtesy of Raised Urban Rooftop

Raised An Urban Rooftop Bar

The Loop

Arriving just in time for alfresco dining and drinking season is Raised, a rooftop bar and lounge poised on the third floor of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel that's outfitted with ample seating and fire pits for cool evenings. Take in stunning cityscape and riverside views while sipping local beer and quelling your appetite with grilled corn lollipops, oysters on the half shell, and frozen peanut butter & jelly push pops.

Thrive360 Eatery

Thrive360 Eatery

Loop

The same people who brought you Chicago-based chain Protein Bar are back at it again with a brand new healthful fast-casual spot intended to extend the reach of the original concept's mission to deliver made-to-order dishes packed with nutrient-rich ingredients. In addition to earning bragging rights as the first place in Chicago to offer kombucha on tap, the new restaurant also boasts an Avo-Farro Ensalada topped with Forester Farms chicken, a not-fried falafel wrap, and a kale Caesar prime for a guilt-free lunch on the go.

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1. LeƱa Brava 900 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Rick Bayless' West Loop Mexican restaurant takes a cue from Baja California with its "fire and ice" theme menu. The fire refers to LeƱa Brava's open hearth and wood-burning oven, where everything from octopus and scallops to cauliflower and braised short rib are charred to smoky perfection. The ice section features raw bar options like oysters, uni, and ceviche. Mezcal and tequila cocktails are the heart of the cocktail program. The 75-seat restaurant is right next door to Bayless' accompanying concept, Cruz Blanca Cerveceria brewery.

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2. Cruz Blanca CervecerĆ­a & Taqueria 904 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

One of two neighboring West Loop spots from Rick Bayless, Cruz Blanca Cervecerƭa is a cool Mexican brewery and taqueria. The menu features six house-made brews and a rotating selection of guest beers, plus a few wines. The house taco plates, served with corn tortillas, help soak it all up. If you're looking for harder drinks and fancier food, head next door to sister restaurant LeƱa Brava, where the focus is on mezcal, seafood, and wood-roasted meats.

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3. Arbella 112 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

From the team behind Peruvian hotspot Tanta, Arbella is a cocktail lounge with an around-the-world theme. The menu, which is designed to look like a passport, features drinks from Europe, the US, South America, Asia, and Mexico. There's a small food menu to complement the cocktails with an equally global array of options (poke, Korean fried chicken, mussels, egg rolls, you get the idea).

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4. Kimski 960 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60608 (Bridgeport Sox)

Korean and Polish fare collide in epic fashion at this casual, street food-heavy expansion of Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar. Mouthwatering eats include meat potskis filled with ground beef and potato, a "Maria's Standard" house-made sausage decked in soju mustard, kraut-chi, and late-night-only Kimski poutine drenched in kimchi beer gravy and a potato scallion quesadilla -- both of which are only served after 9pm. And, of course, everything is meant to be enjoyed in the company of a nice cold beer.

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5. Ocean Cut Chicago 20 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

What was once C Chicago is now Ocean Cut, the seafood-focused sister restaurant to Chicago Cut Steakhouse. Aside from shellfish towers, oysters, and crudo, the menu features a unique "Ocean Charcuterie" platter for true seafood fans. There's also a small selection a Chicago Cut steaks and a few poultry entrees. The bi-level River North space resembles a cruise ship with its nautical theme and center staircase.

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6. Raised: An Urban Rooftop Bar 1 W Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

What was once an unused meeting space in downtown's Renaissance Chicago Hotel is now an indoor/outdoor rooftop bar. The third-floor lounge serves bar snacks and shareable plates alongside cocktails, tap or bottled wine, and local Chicago beers. Raised offers impressive views of the Chicago River, and the outdoor space is equipped for chilly nights with space heaters and fire pits.

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7. Thrive360 Eatery 37 S La Salle St, Chicago, IL 60603 (Loop)

From the team behind The Protein Bar, Thrive360 Eatery is a fast-casual spot that's all about healthy food. The all-day menu includes nutrient-packed salads, grain bowls, wraps, and soups, as well as a make-your-own option built around the protein of your choice. It also serves drinks from the Protein Bar, Stumptown coffee, and kombucha on tap.

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