July was hot, but the surge of new restaurants hitting the Chicago dining scene was even hotter (literally -- some of them involve smokers and open flames). From a lobster pierogi place to a couple of food trucks-turned-restaurants, here are the nine best that opened this past month.
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Bridgeport If food trucks expanding to brick-and-mortar locations is trending right now, consider Husky Hog BBQ on trend. One of our favorite rolling barbecue purveyors' new shop on W 31st St is now the permanent home base for its famous juicy ribs and pulled pork, as well as deep-fried Oreos and smoked corn on the cob that's so good, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered eating corn any other way.
Hyde Park After years of anticipation, the team behind Longman & Eagle and Dusek’s has launched The Promontory, a part-restaurant, part-bar, part-music venue inspired by nearby Promontory Point’s fire pits. Chef Jared Wentworth’s “hearth-to-table” cuisine centers around cooking over an open flame, and includes everything from navarin of lamb to cornbread panzanella with hearth-roasted tomato and charred romaine. In case you missed it, here's an in-depth look at the fire-fueled menu.
Logan Square We’re guessing you’re probably familiar with Emporium’s Wicker Park location (and have the gnarled, NBA Jam fingers to prove it). Well, we’re here to let you know that the arcade bar 2.0 is even bigger than the original. Video games are a given, but the new space also now comes equipped with an indoor food truck that's slingin’ sammies, plus there's vintage pinball, bubble hockey, pool, 40+ varieties of canned beer, and Nintendo fever dream murals decking the walls.
River North This fresh, new concept is an ode to Bohemian culture in all its manifestations, with rustic-meets-glam décor and eclectic fare that’s rooted in Central Europe. The menu, created and executed by Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, features small plates like salt and vinegar chips and knackwurst in a blanket, large plates like spaetzle and skirt steak, and unforgettable plates like caramelized plum Kolacky and an inventive take on coffee and donuts with hazelnut brittle. Also, check out the craft cocktails. Oh, and drink them, too.
Gold Coast This seafood concept is the latest entry in Mercadito Hospitality’s ever-expanding roster of Chicago restaurants, and promises an abundance of crustaceans, bivalves, and other morsels of seafaring lore. Noteworthy preparations include refreshing sliced hamachi crudo with miso, shiso, and fried shallots, and a tuna tataki club sandwich drizzled in ginger-wasabi dressing. Not a seafood fan? Also a communist? There are a couple of great chicken and beef options for you, too, comrade.
Wicker Park Chicago’s one-and-only lucha libre-themed restaurant on wheels is parking it permanently at a storefront with 12 indoor seats and 24 outdoor seats. The Station boasts the same theme and signature tamales as the Spaceship, and also includes an expanded menu loaded with tacos, new tamale varieties, Mexican Coke, and Jarritos sodas.
River North On the heels of Spiaggia’s major makeover, Tony Mantuano has opened his first non-Italian restaurant: an English-inspired concept featuring roasts, veggies, and a variety of small plates ranging from Scotch eggs and country-fried rabbit to Yorkshire pudding and “slow ravioli” with snails. Extra perk? It inhabits a primo slice of real estate on the North bank of the river, so expect killer views in addition to killer roast beef.
Lincoln Square After “ironing out a few kinks”, it’s all-systems-/taps-go at the fully rebuilt Red Lion Pub. The interior is something straight off the streets of London, complete with dark, exposed beams, three stone fireplaces, bookshelf-lined walls, and strategically placed British photographs and artwork from the WWII era. The menu echoes the space, and includes traditional pub fare like shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and a variety of British brews.
Mount Prospect, IL Qulinarnia proves that Polish fare is about so much more than pierogis and kielbasa, with modern interpretations of traditional Polish dishes like beef tenderloin tartare, cream of pickle soup, and lamb chops with beets. And if you’re going to go the pierogi route, we’ll fully support your decision to stuff your face with the roasted spinach and lobster one.
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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.