Where to Eat in Chicago Right Now
Don’t call it a comeback.
This year, the notion of a spring awakening has never rung truer in the hungry hearts and minds of Chicago’s dining scene. As more people get vaccinated and the city moves at a paced speed toward fully reopening, restaurants from Rogers Park to South Shore have begun welcoming back guests with resoundingly open arms. In addition to old favorites returning, a number of new spots continue to debut, much to the delight of Chicagoans eager to stretch their legs and feast on dishes prepared outside their own tired kitchens.
Whether you’re looking to explore modern Greek, high-quality yet affordable tacos, or Michelin-caliber tasting menus all over the city, going out to eat has never been more of a thrill. Note: Reservations may be harder to come by than in the beforetimes, staff shortages are a real thing, and masks are still required in many establishments. So be patient, be kind, mask up, and, as always, tip big.
The gist: Sushi chef Otto Phan, the mastermind behind the acclaimed omakase restaurant Kyoten, returns with this bi-level, dual concept spot featuring a casual first-floor walk-in izakaya abutting a reservation-only omakase upstairs.
The food: Downstairs, expect a modern take on Japanese street fare like butter shoyu chicken, shrimp and pork gyoza with shiitake XO sauce and gochujang, and soy braised short rib, among other shareables. Upstairs, Phan offers one 6 pm seating per night (two on Saturday) of a 15-course, 90-minute Edomae-style sushi omakase, with each component spanning different aging and marinating techniques.
The cost: Izakaya dishes $6 - $14, omakase $125 - $150 per person, cocktails $14, wine and sake by the glass $10 - $18, wine and sake by the bottle $45 - $120.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.
The gist: Former Spiaggia executive chef and Top Chef champ Joe Flamm’s first restaurant is an homage to Italian and Croatian coastal cuisine—lovingly dubbed “Adriatic drinking food.” Named after his two grandmothers, Rose Mary’s inviting space sparkles thanks to glossy azure tilework and the bustling open kitchen’s eye-catching charcoal hearth.
The food: The seasonally-driven menu showcases Flamm’s mastery with pasta (think: tagliatelle with duck sausage, cavatelli cacio e pepe). But that hearth also churns out stunning roasted vegetables like coal roasted beets with honey and pistachio, not to mention show-stopping seafood dishes (OMG grilled clams with ramp butter!). Don’t skip the squid-ink crni risotto with lobster brodo or the pork ribs doused in a sweet-sticky chile agrodolce. Wine director Sarah Traynor knocks it out of the park with her well-curated Mediterranean-heavy wine list featuring a healthy selection of Croatian wines—even an entire section dedicated to pet-nats.
The cost: Shareables and mains $10 - $72, cocktails $15, wine by the glass $11 - $20; wine by the bottle $35 - $415.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.
Verve Wine & Provisions
The gist: The third outpost of a New York and San Francisco wine bar and bottle shop mini-chain (there’s seriously great juice, here), this edition marks the first with a full kitchen and features the culinary stylings of chef Ryan Epp (Roister, Per Se). The expansive, gorgeously designed setting in the middle of upscale Lincoln Commons allows for a beautiful patio set back off the busy street.
The food: From bites to mains, the vibe is Spanish tapas bar meets French bistro. The currently smallish menu featuring shareable enticements like jamon Iberico, Hewn Bakery baguette with cultured butter, Island Creek oysters, P.E.I. mussels with Calabrian chili, foie gras torchon, and callot de boeuf au poivre with crispy potato.
The cost: Sharables and mains $5 - $28, wines by the glass $9 - $20, beer $8 - $12, cocktails $15.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served bar seating or reserve via Resy.
The gist: This modest Western Avenue taco joint debuted mid-pandemic under the helm of Le Bouchon owner Oliver Poilevey alongside chefs Sotero Gallego and Marcos Ascencio. What sets it apart? An upscale approach to Mexican street tacos with a focus on unctuous al pastor (and even a vegetarian version).
The food: These may be some of the best tacos served in Chicago right now—and that’s saying a lot. From al pastor and duck carnitas to cochinita pibil and meat-free options like campechano with crispy Oaxacan cheese and fried artichoke with olive tapenade aioli, you can go back every day and never get bored. Don’t skip the quesadilla apps or the tres leches cake for dessert.
The cost: Tacos $4.50 - $6, appetizers $5 - $9, desserts $6.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order take-out via Toast.
Life On Marz Community Club
The gist: The folks behind Bridgeport-based Marz Community Brewing Co. have ventured north to set up shop on the edge of Logan Square and Bucktown. Inspired by VFW halls, the aptly-titled project aims to foster community within a whimsical space festooned with bright colors and clean design.
The food: While it’s all about Marz beers, CBD seltzers, nitro coffees, and canned ‘booch, you can also snack on Makowski’s sausages and hot dogs, housemade seven-spice nori snack mix, flavored jerky, meat sticks, and more.
The cost: Snacks $5 - $11, drinks $4 - $6.
How to book: Stop by for counter service.
The gist: After splitting from his partnership in the RPM restaurants (he was the P), chef-owner Doug Psaltis teamed with his pastry chef wife, Hsing Chen (French Laundry, Manresa), and restaurateur Ryan O’Donnell (Coda di Volpe, Gemini) to bring modern Greek cuisine to Logan Square. The nightly supper and weekend brunch menus pay homage to his roots growing up around his grandfather’s Greek diner in Queens, N.Y., with added sophistication and attention to seasonal details.
The food: Of course you’ll get gyros off the spit with hand-stretched pita cooked in the wood oven, but forget about the theatrics often associated with Greek American spots. Here, it’s more about the fresh flavors of the Mediterranean: spicy whipped feta, tzatziki, chicken souvlaki, creamy taramasalata (a fish roe dip to make you say wow), grilled octopus, lamb chops, and garlic chicken. Chen shines with an array of flaky, sweet, and savory pastries at brunch—and don’t skip the tart froyo topped with drizzled crumbles of baklava. It’s tasty enough to prompt a vigorous “Opa!” (but do us all a favor and just don’t).
The cost: Brunch: $9 - $22, dinner starters and mains $5 - $46, cocktails $12 - $14, wine by the glass $12 - $18.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.
The gist: After enjoying huge success with the Piemonte-inspired Osteria Langhe, owner Aldo Zanninoto set his focus on Rome. Testaccio, which quietly opened last summer, evokes the essence of a classic Roman neighborhood in a lively environment with a patio perfectly set up for social distancing. Watch for Soif, a subterranean wine lounge, to debut soon.
The food: Chef Jacob Solomon has a lot of fun with the wood-burning oven in the middle of the bar. Case and point? Dishes like whole Greek sea bass or salt-cured chicken with roasted cauliflower and farro tabbouleh. Get your carb fix with a trio of crispy crust pizzas and some of the best pasta in the city, including his perfectly balanced orecchiette cacio e pepe. The bar delights with classic Italian cocktails and refined spirit-free drinks (try the balanced Apium with some mezcal) and, of course, wine expert Zanninoto has compiled a fantastic list of mostly Italians alongside Mediterranean surprises from Turkey to Greece to Israel.
The cost: Brunch $9 - $19, dinner starters and mains $4 - $29, cocktails $12, wine by the glass $11 - $17
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out online.
The gist: Chef-owner Niquenya Collins’ sweet and spicy Afro-Caribbean soul fare at this catering and take-out restaurant (set inside The Hatchery in Garfield Park) might bring people to the table, but it’s her two decades working as a business and life coach that gets folks talking during her Table Talk Series to help support the West Side community.
The food: Transport your taste buds across the globe with flavorful dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken with Collins’ own jerk sauce, Senegalese poulet yassa (AKA tender chicken stewed in onions, lemon, and seasonings), spicy-mango salsa atop seared salmon, Creole gumbo, and, of course, the namesake cocoa chili made with chili con carne and a signature spice blend.
The cost: Starters and mains $3 - $15.
How to book: Order take-out and delivery via Toast.
The gist: After moving to its new brewing facility just south of the Motor Row District, Moody Tongue wisely tapped Michelin-starred chef Jared Wentworth (Longman & Eagle, Dusek’s) to help hone a culinary experience on par with the chef-driven beers they’ve been crafting for years. The result? A sexy space casual enough for elevated bar fare on one end and a newly adorned two-Michelin-starred finer dining restaurant on the other.
The food: Wentworth offers a seasonal 12-course tasting menu in the dining room with dishes like Hudson Valley foie gras with pickled peach and pistachio streusel while toro hamachi with cardinal prawn and smoked shoyu get paired with beers like juiced lychee IPA and pressed Asian pear Saison. At the bar, you can find smoked beet tartare with whipped pine-infused ricotta, confit Berkshire pork belly with English pea and morel mushrooms, and an insanely indulgent 12-layer German chocolate cake.
The cost: Bar dishes $15 - $42, beer prices vary, cocktails $16, wine by the glass $11 - $18, tasting menu with drink pairings $265 per person.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.
The gist: After undergoing a redesign to brighten up the space, chef Ben Truesdell (Pacific Standard Time) has officially taken the reins at this Pilsen landmark. Truesdell harnesses his love of seasonal vegetables and seafood to add even more levity to the menu, morphing this once-dimly lit tavern to a lighter dining destination where many dishes kiss the flames of the wood-fired grill.
The food: Enjoy veggie-forward creations like a hearty English pea salad with feta, walnuts, mint, and farro and wood-roasted asparagus atop horseradish-cheddar sauce, as well as super-fresh wood-roasted Mt. Lassen trout and heftier meat-focused items like crispy pork schnitzel and dry-aged ribeye in a beef jus. And don’t skip pastry chef Ashley Robinson’s aptly-named Kentucky butter cake.
The cost: Mains and starters $7 - $70, cocktails $8 - $13, beer on draft $5 - $8, wine by the glass $9 - $14, wine by the bottle $30 - $56.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.
The food: Modern-day interpretations of American classics and age-old family recipes alike, from blackened catfish with BBQ carrots to chicken gumbo with andouille sausage (and, of course, cornbread with honey butter).
The cost: Starters $11, mains $26, sides $7, desserts $9, cocktails $12.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out and delivery via Toast.
Pizza Friendly Pizza
The gist: Fine dining rubs shoulders with rock-and-roll vibes thanks to chefs Noah Sandoval (Oriole) and Ruben Villalobos, who spin out high-caliber pies in the back alley of indie music haven The Empty Bottle.
The food: Sicilian-style pan pizzas available by the slice or the sheet, with combinations like Ezzo’s cup and char pepperoni, burrata, and fresh basil or rapini, chévre, lemon, and garlic. Try them alongside The Pizzaberry Tonic, a spirit-free concoction of fennel, black peppercorns, and Tasmanian pepperberries from acclaimed bartender Julia Momose (Kumiko).
The cost: Slices $4.50, whole pies $33, sandwiches $12, salads $10.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, order take-out via Upserve and Tock, or get delivery via GrubHub.
The gist: Fun French-American pastries and contemporary Filipino fare from Genie Kwon and Tim Flores—two Chicago chefs with an impressive culinary CV (i.e., Oriole’s opening pastry chef and chef de cuisine, respectively). The space—formerly occupied by the late-great Winchester—is both sleek and inviting with an open kitchen, custom tilework, and spacious twin patios for socially-distanced snacking.
The food: Expect big flavors in every direction, from a house-made Filipino sausage with garlic rice, fried egg, and pickled papaya to off-the-cob corn with asparagus, charred scallion mayo, and wasabi tobiko. Top it off with one of Kwon’s game-changing sweets—namely the ube and huckleberry Basque cake or the apple butter and raclette fondue croissant.
The cost: Pastries $3 - $7, mains $15 - $25, canned wine and beer $5 - $9, wine by the bottle $24 - $55.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, order take-out via Toast, and get delivery via Tock.
The gist: Newly minted with two Michelin stars, chef Curtis Duffy and business partner Michael Muser create a whimsical prix-fixe that reflects Duffy’s refined, seasonally-driven approach in a gorgeously designed room filled with playful energy that bucks expectations in the best way possible.
The food: Now that the dining room has reopened, the Ever Experience comprises eight to 10 (sometimes more) courses featuring colorful compositions like scallop with hon-shimeji mushrooms and ramps, hamachi with finger limes and ginger, and Miyazaki beef with kohlrabi and anchovy. As the seasons change, so do the dishes, so you’re likely to enjoy new preparations and surprises whenever you dine.
The cost: Tasting menus $285 per person.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.
Smyth and the Loyalist
The gist: Two Michelin-starred husband-and-wife team John Shields and Karen Urie Shields peddle two different dining experiences out of their multi-level West Loop locale, each serving a winning combination of generous hospitality and high-quality ingredients sourced directly from nearby farms.
The food: The Loyalist features casual French fare (with a drool-worthy burger and impressive sundae, complete with kombu ice cream and caramel). Big sister Smyth is the spot for upscale eats, offering intricate tasting menus spanning multiple refined courses and loaded with local gems.
The cost: Smyth tasting menu $225 with optional wine pairings $125-$335, “Smyth at Home” packages from $125 per person, The Loyalist a la carte sides and appetizers from $5, entrees from $19, cocktails from $11, wine by the glass from $14.
How to book: Reserve via Tock (Smyth, The Loyalist) or order take-out and delivery via Tock and Caviar.
Mi Tocaya Antojería
The gist: Chef Diana Davila’s neighborhood restaurant pays tribute to her upbringing and travels through Mexico via a progression of lesser-known, regional specialties.
The food: Journey through the menu with small, medium, and large plates, such as braised beef tongue with peanut salsa, Yucatan-style slow roasted pork in banana leaves, and fish con mole verde featuring a frequently rotating selection of fresh catches.
The cost: Antojitos $5 - 16, antojos $13 - 20, familiares $19 - 48, cocktails $12.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.
The gist: Farm-to-table fare is at its best at this bright, perennially hip Logan Square fixture, where chef Jason Hammel and team adhere to a constantly rotating bill of fare acutely dictated by the season.
The food: Always fresh and always changing, with some recent interpretations like tomato and lobster salad (with red quinoa and Thai basil), Rushing Waters trout (with Genesis Farm cucumbers, black garlic, and poppy seed), and challah French toast (with butterscotch, Klug Farm peaches, and creme fraiche).
The cost: Brunch and lunch starters $14, mains $20, cocktails $12, three-course prix-fixe $34.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, order take-out via Upserve, and delivery via Tock.
Dr. Murphy's Food Hall
The gist: The latest to join Chicago’s food hall lineup, this 10,000-square-foot space features eats from 11 vendors, largely spotlighting minority and women-owned businesses.
The food: Taste the world in one sitting here, thanks to Mississippi red hot tamales from Lil’ Delta, Nepalese dumplings from Kathmandu, samosas from Maharani, and chicken banh mi sandwiches from Viet Nom Nom.
The cost: Starters $7 - $9, mains $9 - $11, cocktails $12.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and delivery via DoorDash and Caviar.