Winter may have kept Chicago in a merciless chokehold this month, but these eight restaurants and bars used Krav Maga to escape the chokehold, punch winter in the face, and then kick it in the groin repeatedly. From a rolling donut shop to an American clubhouse across from the Art Institute, here’s the scoop on February’s best openings.

Labriola Ristorante

Labriola Ristorante & Café

Streeterville
The latest from acclaimed baker Rich Labriola (Labriola Bakery & Café, Stan’s Donuts), this three-pronged concept is simultaneously a full-service Italian restaurant, a bar, and a casual bakery café. Executive Chef John Caputo (formerly of Bin 36) oversees the restaurant, which keeps the focus on handmade pastas, thin crust pizzas, and modern dishes like grilled head-on Patagonian prawn, while the bake shop offers everything from sandwiches and salads to Labriola Bread and pastries. As for the bar? Choose from a broad selection of cocktails (the Ruby Red Daisy with CH vodka is actually pretty good) and plenty of craft beers and wines. Or don't choose and instead just have them all.

firecakes

Firecakes Donut Truck

Various locations
River North’s popular donut shop hits the road with a fully restored 1968 Citroen truck (hey now) with a menu emblazoned on the right side panel. Follow the truck’s location via @FirecakesDonuts on Twitter if you want La Colombe coffee and fresh-baked staples like honey glazed, vanilla iced, classic jelly, and Valrhona chocolate iced. (FYI: you want.)

taus authentic

Taus Authentic

Wicker Park
Charlie Trotter protégé and longtime Zealous owner Michael Taus forgoes fine dining for a globally inspired concept in the former Prasino space. The decidedly neighborhood-y spot offers everything from raw seafood, charcuterie, and cheese, to a seared foie gras club sandwich (wut) and veal cheek pot-au-feu, plus a swath of creative desserts like the Bohemian Rhapsody (lemon and goat cheese-filled kolachky, a fruit dumpling, and poppy seed ice cream... duh).

intro

Intro

Lincoln Park
Allow us to intro you to, uh, Intro. A little more than a month after closing double-Michelin-starred L2O, the Lettuce Entertain You folks transformed the space into an exciting new concept built around a roster of “chefs-in-residence” who will rotate out every few months, bringing a completely new menu, focus, and experience to the table during each rotation. California-based chef (and Top Chef Duel champ!) CJ Jacobson is the restaurant’s inaugural chef and has crafted a unique menu spotlighting foraged and locally sourced ingredients in dishes such as potato with seaweed, chicken skin, and mugwort.

furious spoon

Furious Spoon

Wicker Park
The ramen trend maintains its momentum as this traditional Japanese shop from Shin Thompson lands at Six Corners. The counter service space is outfitted almost entirely with wood, featuring a long, rustic ramen bar and a smattering of vibrant art. Pull up a seat and order the signature Furious Ramen, which comes brimming with spicy miso, beef brisket, cha-sui, toroniku, a poached egg, marinated mushroom, and garlic relish. Then cap things off with an ice-cold 25oz can of Kirin. Because... why the hell not?

tapworks

Tapworks

Greektown
Have your beer and drink it too at this new tavern from Rachel Dennis (Randolph Tavern). In addition to a brew menu that runs some 100 beers deep (including 48 on tap!), the loft-like space offers suds-infused eats like a Beer Burger smothered in beer cheddar sauce, a pulled pork corn cake with milk stout BBQ sauce, and ice cream with bock caramel.

velvet taco

Velvet Taco

Gold Coast
Slinging more than a dozen modern and traditional varieties, this Texas-based taco shop planted its first non-Texas outpost right in the Viagra Triangle. Try the Indian-inspired crisp tikka chicken (spicy pepper sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, and Thai basil), the American-inspired bacon burger (served on a flour tortilla, of course), and a side of elote-style rotisserie corn with a famous red velvet cake for dessert.

seven lions

Seven Lions

Loop
Elegant yet approachable, this new American clubhouse concept from Master Sommelier Alpana Singh (The Boarding House) is exactly what its Michigan Ave space called for. Chef Chris Curren’s menu is equal parts accessible and inspired, with starters ranging from fried chicken skins and pickles paired with Sriracha mustard to Brussels sprout and burrata toast. Entrees run the gamut from comforting short ribs to perfectly flaky black cod with acorn squash, ricotta gnocchi, and maitake mushrooms. And don't worry, there's alcohol, starting with Singh’s curated list of all-American wines.

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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Labriola Ristorante & Café 535 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 (Streeterville)

This three-pronged Streeterville concept is simultaneously a full-service Italian restaurant, a bar, and a casual bakery café. The resto focuses on handmade pastas, thin crust pizzas, and modern dishes, while the bar features a broad selection of cocktails and plenty of craft beers and wines.

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2. Taus Authentic 1846 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

Chef Michael Taus' Wicker Park eatery is the kind of upscale neighborhood place that draws you in and begs you to stay a while. Everything about Taus, from the menu to the rustic dining room, is inviting. The dinner menu features cheese and charcuterie, shareable starters, and standout comfort plates like fried chicken and a burger with havarti cheese. Sunday brunch is equally heavy on comfort food, serving up steak & eggs and fresh-baked pastries.

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3. Intro 2300 N Lincoln Park W, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Intro has a roster of "chefs-in-residence" that rotates every few months, bringing a completely new menu, focus, and experience to the table each rotation.

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4. Furious Spoon 1571 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

Shin Thompson's small-but-mighty Furious Spoon in Wicker Park stands well above the rest of Chicago's ramen shops for its bowls of handmade noodle soups. The menu features a few kinds of ramen with suggested toppings, like the house apple chili sauce. The signature Furious Ramen, a soul-warming blend of tonkotsu broth and spicy miso, pairs well with a Surly Furious Beer. The restaurant is sleek and narrow with a minimalist, artsy vibe that fits in perfectly with the trendy neighborhood.

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5. Tapworks 820 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607 (Greektown)

Have your beer and drink it too at this tavern, which in addition to a brew menu that runs some 100 beers deep (including 48 on tap!), the loft-like space offers suds-infused eats like a Beer Burger smothered in beer cheddar sauce, a pulled pork corn cake with milk stout BBQ sauce, and ice cream with Bock caramel.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Velvet Taco 1110 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610 (Gold Coast)

Slinging more than a dozen modern and traditional varieties, this Texas-based taco shop planted its first non-Texas outpost right in the Viagra Triangle. Try the Indian-inspired crisp tikka chicken (spicy pepper sauce, buttered cilantro basmati rice, raita crema, and Thai basil), the American-inspired bacon burger (served on a flour tortilla, of course), and a side of elote-style rotisserie corn with the famous red-velvet cake for dessert.

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7. Seven Lions 130 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 (Loop)

Elegant yet approachable, this new American clubhouse concept from Master Sommelier Alpana Singh (The Boarding House) is exactly what its Michigan Ave space called for. Chef Chris Curren’s menu is equal parts accessible and inspired, with starters ranging from fried chicken skins and pickles paired with sriracha mustard to Brussels sprout and burrata toast. Entrées run the gamut from comforting short ribs to perfectly flaky black cod with acorn squash, ricotta gnocchi, and Maitake mushrooms. And don't worry, there's alcohol, starting with Singh’s curated list of all-American wines.

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