Where to Eat in Chicago Right Now

A beloved Southeast Asian pop-up finds a permanent home, Jose Andres expands his empire, and more.

X Pot
Photo courtesy of X Pot

As we forge on through some of the coldest months of the year, Chicago’s dining scene continues to come to our rescue by way of reliable standbys and show-stopping new restaurant openings. What’s more? From Spanish and Southeast Asian to Chinese and Croatian, the variety of cuisines only continues to grow. It serves as a comforting reminder, that even if we’ve been stuck in the Midwest a bit more than we’d like this year, we’re still able to lean into what we love most about traipsing the globe (i.e. the flavors—and the talented teams behind them).

Don your coolest cool-weather garb, grab a dinner date, pocket that vax card, and visit any of these of-the-moment venues to see what the Windy City is all about.

Wazwan

Wicker Park
$$$$

The gist: After building his culinary career at the likes of Pump Room, Napa’s Bouchon, and Bangkok’s Gaggan, chef Zubair Mohajir returned to Chicago for Wazwan, a culinary ode to Southeast Asia. Two different dining experiences exist: More casual street fare at Wazwan or a multi-course tasting menu at The Coach House, situated within one of the only coach houses to withstand the Chicago Fire.
The food: At the Coach House, choose between a five-course vegetarian menu (Thursdays) or an eight-course meat-friendly menu (Fridays and Saturdays), all of which change seasonally alongside the kitchen’s parting gift (right now that’s a small jar of Garam Masala, toasted and blended in-house). At Wazwan, opt for the house signature Tandoori Honey Chicken Sando. After marinating Halal chicken thighs in tandoori spices overnight, the team batters and fries them before stuffing them into a toasted brioche bun with gochujang aioli, house-made Achaari, and spicy honey butter. Pair it all with a bottle of your choosing (for a $5 per person corkage fee), as the spot is BYOB for now.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Bazaar Meat by José Andrés
Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar | Photo by Regan Baroni

The gist: Chef and philanthropist José Andrés, ThinkFoodGroup, and Gibsons Restaurant Group joined forces for these two eagerly anticipated restaurants within the Bank of America Tower. They are the latest debuts from the team, following Café By The River (Andrés’s take on sandwiches, sweets, and coffee), Jaleo (Andrés’s original Spanish outpost), and Pigtail (Jaleo’s subterranean cocktail lounge).
The food: After working at Bazaar Meat in Las Vegas, chef Alex Pitts came to Chicago to oversee the menu at both Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar. Meat is the focus at the former (obviously), with special offerings like Vaca Vieja Ribeye, whole Iberian Suckling Pig, and an impressive Japanese Wagyu program. Share plates provide diners ample opportunities to sample an array of clever compositions (not short of Cotton Candy Foie Gras or Chilled Beet Shots), as do multiple tasting menu experiences inclusive of snacks, carpaccios, and tartares. At Bar Mar, expect just as many surprises: The fish-shaped Everything Bagel Airbread (filled with cream cheese espuma and topped with smoked salmon) or the Not So Po Boy José (a fried oyster with Platinum Malassol caviar in a steamed brioche bun). Snag a bar seat for a bespoke cocktail or post up at the raw bar for oysters or sashimi aplenty.
How to book: Reserve via SevenRooms.

The X Pot
Photo courtesy of X Pot

The X Pot

South Loop
$$$$

The gist: After debuting at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, this upmarket hot pot concept has descended on the Chicago dining scene with a stylish lounge, full sushi bar, VIP space, and epic 5D experience room. While the restaurant draws upon age-old Asian traditions, expect to encounter ultramodern technology throughout, from animated light projections and thematic soundscapes to—that’s right—robot servers.
The food: The team hopes to offer its own, fusion-forward take on American Chinese cuisine with a hands-on experience—plus lots of high-caliber ingredients (think purebred A5 Wagyu beef flown in daily from Japan). Those aforementioned robot servers wait on guests for the entirety of their meal, delivering premium cuts destined for the hot pot pinnacle. If that wasn’t entertainment enough, pop into the 5D Room, where interactive animations are projected onto each guest’s plate in tandem with a 12-course meal.
How to book: Reserve via SevenRooms.

Dear Margaret
Photo courtesy of Dear Margaret

Dear Margaret

Lakeview
$$$$

The gist: Expect to be charmed at this Lakeview newcomer, thanks to warm, welcoming décor and comforting French-Canadian fare from chef Ryan Brosseau. He draws on his Ontario upbringing to inform a menu that is equally rooted in Midwestern sensibilities, made capable through the kitchen team’s close relations with local farmers and purveyors. It goes a long way in the hands of Brosseau, whose previous Chicago posts range from Perennial Virant to Table, Donkey, and Stick.
The food: Prepare for bold, earthy flavors beginning with apps like the Salt-Roasted Beet Salad (with celery root purée, caraway, and smoked trout roe) or Bone Marrow (with pickled smoked beef tongue, sweet farm onion, and toast) and moving onto mains like the Stuffed Saddle of Lamb (with prunes and pommes purée) or the Aged Duck Breast (with radicchio and smoked tea-honey glaze).
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Lardon
Photo courtesy of Lardon

Lardon

Logan Square
$$$$

The gist: Cured meats are central at Lardon, where chef Chris Thompson’s charcuterie program calls upon local farms and a nose-to-tail approach. Housed within a 110-year-old building, the interiors reflect the same patience and dedication modeled everyday here in the kitchen: A two-year buildout reveals exposed brick walls, original wood joists, and antique honeycomb tiled floors in an inviting, sun-washed space.
The food: The spectacle here is the charcuterie cave, a curing room celebrating the likes of Spicy Coppa, Bresaola, Saucisson Sec, Genoa Salame, and ‘Nduja. Guests can build a board of charcuterie or cheese cut to order, then ask the team for drink pairings that would prove apropos (think Aperitivi or Amari).
How to book: Reserve via Toast.

Solazo

West Lawn
$$$$

The gist: After an electrical fire shut down this restaurant in the summer of 2019 (a challenge made trickier by some pandemic-related delays), the team is finally reopening its doors to a refreshed space and menu.
The food: The agave-focused cocktail program handily complements a roster of regionally-inspired Mexican plates. Don’t miss favorites like Flank Steak Tacos or the Enchiladas with Mole Coloradito, washed down with a playful Cucurrucucu Paloma (Bahnez mezcal, toronja-vanilla shrub, grapefruit, Squirt).
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out via Toast.

Claudia
Photo courtesy of Claudia

Claudia

Bucktown
$$$$

The gist: What started as a twice monthly (and highly decorated) pop-up has emerged as Claudia, a tasting menu-driven destination from chef Trevor Teich in the heart of Bucktown. Set within an 1880s-era cottage, the space spotlights rich fabrics, warm lighting, and a neutral palette that perfectly underscores Teich’s colorful plates.
The food: A constantly evolving, 10-course tasting menu greets guests in the main dining room (alongside thoughtful, Old World wine pairings from sommelier Jessica Dennis), while the Bar at Claudia offers a la carte options steeped in finesse and fun (Prime Tenderloin with foie gras; an Individual Lobster Pot Pie with fennel and that iconic flaky crust). The bar team boasts a repertoire of more than 100 different cocktails, including one featuring Burgundy truffles and four types of whisky (“A Tale As Old As Time”—and one worthy of retelling).
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Alla Vita
Photo courtesy of Alla Vita

Alla Vita

West Loop
$$$$

The gist: The Boka team strikes again with this recent arrival, where chef Lee Wolen helms a menu rooted in family-style Italian fare. Kehoe Designs is responsible for the garden-esque décor throughout the space, a (most timely) move on their part to bring the outdoors in with the help of flowing fabrics, hand painted floral floors, and one powerhouse of a pergola.
The food: The menu is divided into six categories: antipasti, salads, homemade pastas, pizza, al forno, and veggies, meaning there’s something for everyone in your party. Don’t miss the cacio e pepe ricotta dumplings or fennel sausage pizza, or, of course, Wolen’s chicken. He’s made a case for the oft-overlooked protein at Boka and GG’s Chicken Shop, and his version here, chicken parmesan with fire roasted tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella, is no exception.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Sushi Boutique
Sushi Boutique | Photo by Barry Brecheisen

Sushi Boutique

Gold Coast
$$$$

The gist: Known for their show-stopping menus at Sushi Suite 202, the team here deploys another opportunity to try their handiwork at this sushi and izakaya destination inside the Claridge House hotel. Move through a menu centered around omakase boxes and bar-inspired small plates, all set to a score of Japanese-driven drinks.
The food: Go big with the Chef’s Kiss Omakase Box (featuring 15 chef-selected courses) or opt for a la carte orders like open-face handrolls and shareable tartars. Either way, cocktails like the seasonally inspired Konjin (Roku gin, strawberry-rhubarb syrup, Cocchi Americano, rhubarb bitters) are an absolute must.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Elina's
Elina's | Photo by Garrett Sweet

Elina's

Fulton Market
$$$$

The gist: After years manning the kitchen at some of Chicago and New York City’s finest restaurants, chefs Ian Rusnak (Bavette’s, NoMI, Blackbird) and Eric Safin (Jean Georges, 4 Charles Prime Rib) teamed up for this BYOB venture, spinning out elevated Italian cuisine on the nightly. Though unassuming in size (the restaurant has just 10 tables) and even in scope (think meatballs and eggplant parm), don’t be fooled—these culinary vets deliver on both precision and downright good cooking.
The food: Calling all of the classics (with a Chicago cheffy twist): Rigatoni alla Vodka, Dover Sole Piccata, Chicken Parmesan, and Baked Clams Casino lead the comforting charge, buttressed by a homey red sauce vibe and Instagram-worthy presentations.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

Travelle
Photo by Marcin Cymmer

Travelle

Loop
$$$$

The gist: Situated on the second floor of the Langham Chicago, this restaurant is equal parts elegant and approachable, complete with on-point hospitality, a solid bar program, and striking views of the city (not to mention the kitchen, thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass paneling).
The food: The team recently launched a new dinner menu featuring a five-course experience from chef Justin Gomes in their wine cellar. Expect the same dedication to seasonal American cuisine as evidenced in a la carte options, with plenty of room for exciting combinations. Case in point? Courses like the Live Diver Scallop (with yuzu kosho and citrus) or the Gindara Black Cod (with Cipollini onions and Yukon gold potatoes).
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

avec River North

River North
$$$$

The gist: Fans of pioneering West Loop wine bar avec were revved up about this latest One Off Hospitality (Big Star, The Publican, Publican Quality Meats) debut, and for good reason. It arrives on the scene with its very own rooftop space—bar avec—where a totally different food and drink menu awaits come the warmer months. Those who’ve a tough time snagging seats at the original, uber cozy location, take comfort: This version stretches over a sprawling 4,750 square feet, outfitted in light and lush interiors spanning white tile, terrazzo, and warm wood paneling.
The food: Expect several standbys and staples, from chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates and salted cod brandade to ‘deluxe’ focaccia with taleggio and truffle oil. There are also plenty of additions in the form of wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas, and seafood-focused hits.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Apolonia

South Loop
$$$$

The gist: The latest from chef-owner Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y.), this South Loop emporium serves up seasonal, coastal European and Mediterranean fare within walking distance of McCormick Place (plus offers private dining rooms for special occasions). A bright, airy space greets diners, as do welcoming hours—daytime and dinner service run seven days a week here.
The food: The kitchen team places an emphasis on the wood-burning oven and grill, with signature plates ranging from black truffle puff bread to scallop tagliatelle and grilled branzino. For dessert, try the banana budino cake with bourbon and granola, and when it comes to drinks, explore the in-house vermouth program, showcased both by the glass and on tap.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.

The Bristol
Photo by Kathleen Robinson

Bristol

Bucktown
$$$$

The gist: Chef Larry Feldmeier (The Albert, Sixteen) recently took the reins at this local gem, where he’s been putting forth seasonally spirited plates and, as of late, a tasting menu that’s made waves as one of the better deals in town (AKA eight courses for $125 with an optional $75 wine pairing).
The food: The menu showcases options like Fazzoletto Pasta with carrot and ricotta, Duck à
la Citron with chestnut and beet, and Chocolate Ganache with crème fraiche and orange. What more do you need?
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Kumiko

West Loop
$$$$

The gist: Kumiko, the Japanese-inspired drinking den from award-winners Julia Momose and Noah Sandoval, reopened its doors a few months ago, ushering in longtime and newfound fans alike for cocktail flights and artful food pairings.
The food: Those yearning for a taste of Sandoval’s fare without the Oriole sticker shock can enjoy Michelin-grade handiwork for wallet-friendly prices in the form of expressions like Karaage with Kanzuri-spiked mayo and charred pickled shishitos, Cod Wings with charred lemon, house ponzu, and yuzu zest, A5 Miyazaki Wagyū Katsu Sandos, and Toasted Koji Ice Cream. Elsewhere, Thrillist 2020 Local Hero Momose makes her cocktail prowess known through expertly crafted concoctions (both boozy and non) as well as a world-class lineup of specialty spirits and sake.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Oriole

West Loop
$$$$

The gist: This Michelin-starred eatery recently reopened with even more space to spread their wings (get it?). Guests can look forward to a larger dining room, a new bar and lounge area, and a kitchen nearly three times its original size. Version 2.0 reflects owners Cara and Noah Sandoval’s passions, from baseball and art-punk music to interior design and cuisine—expect to catch a glimpse of it all, thanks to a pre-meal tour with bites and sips along the way.
The food: The multi-course prix fixe highlights the best ingredients Sandoval and crew can dig up at any given moment. Though bookings begin at 5 pm daily, night owls can spring for the newly launched “Nightcap Seating,” a chance to swing into the lounge at 10 pm or later for cocktails from Julia Momose and an enticing “Ham Sandoval."
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Rose Mary
Rose Mary | Photo by Anthony Tahlier

Rose Mary

Fulton Market
$$$$

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.  
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Verve Wine & Provisions

Lincoln Park
$$$$

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 ultimate escape once summer temps roll in.
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.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served bar seating or reserve via Resy.

Kasama

Ukrainian Village
$$$$

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 (when weather permits).
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.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, order take-out via Toast, and get delivery via Tock.

Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.