Arguably one of the most brutal months for Chicagoans, February is often wrought with frigid temps paired with futile attempts to undo the diet damage incurred over the holidays. While we can’t say that February 2016 has been much different, we can assert that more than a few restaurants and bars opened, giving you ample reason to get out of the house and treat your tastebuds to a good time. With a suburban barbecue and country music venue, a charming, chef-driven seafood deli and many more in the mix, here are eight new places that'll beat your winter blues.
The caliber of restaurants opening on Madison St as of late indicates that the bustling strip just might be the neighborhood’s new culinary hotbed, and Gina Stefani’s inviting new neighborhood kitchen is no exception. Chef Mariela Bolanos’s eclectic menu offers something for everyone, including a limited nightly supply of MAD Burgers (house-ground wagyu, aged cheddar, pork belly, Cajun-spiced onion strings, MAD mayo, house pickles, and baby arugula on a brioche bun), crispy Brussels sprouts, and a winning churro-pressed waffle stack with chicken breast Milanese, MAD hot sauce, crisp pork belly, and maple syrup.
Decked in industrial chic finishes and equipped with 18 taps locked and loaded with Sublime Ginger, Shady Character, Heavy Petal, and other innovative brews, the long-awaited brewpub from Chicago’s botanic brewing company has finally arrived. Pair a beer or three with the kitchen’s thoughtfully constructed bar fare, which runs the gamut from cranberry bean hummus with pomegranate, parsley, sumac, and grilled sourdough to a malted hanger steak served with a potato pancake, porcini horseradish cream, and black garlic jus.
The folks behind one of the best new bars of 2015 just opened a second cocktail bar -- conveniently right down the hall -- and while you can expect the same level of sophistication when it comes to the sips, the new sultry space keeps the focus on the ingredients, rather than the primary spirit. The opening menu features a selection of spice-inspired cocktails, like the sesame-infused Law-Maker, head bartender Julia Momose’s unique spin on an Old Fashioned. Hungry? Seafood towers and gin-cured gravlax await.
In true Brendan Sodikoff fashion, the esteemed restaurateur has transformed the former Dillmans/Cocello space into a concept that pulls triple duty as a casual eatery, coffee shop, and grab-and-go market, and showcases more than a few favorites from Sodikoff’s other ventures. Expect Small Cheval burgers, resurrected Dillman’s pastrami, CC Ferns coffee, items from Bavette’s bakery, a hot and cold salad bar, and more.
Pull up a chair at this 17-seat deli for a simple yet impactful meal that will satisfy all your fish, tea, and schmear needs at once. The quaint counter service concept is the brainchild of chefs Bill Montagne and Jennifer Kim, and spotlights cured fish like swordfish pancetta and trout lox, creamy schmears that come in flavors like butternut squash, kimchi, and black lime nori, and Rare Tea Cellar tea.
Score authentic Japanese ramen at this sleek new spot on Milwaukee, where the brand’s (formerly Kukai Ramen & Izayaka) first Midwest outpost resides. The eatery touts customizable, made-to-order ramen, but also offers some 20 small plates, such as Japanese pork buns, chicken wings, and prawn cutlets, that are ready to get washed down with Japanese whiskey and sake.
Logan Square’s thriving stretch of Milwaukee Ave has gained a new lager-focused brewery that offers an experience prime for hipsters, beer geeks (OK, redundant), and casual drinkers alike. The 99-seat taproom is well lit, packed with communal tables that encourage lively conversation, and as of now, only serves beer. The opening brew lineup includes a couple lagers, a couple IPAs, and a saison.
Lettuce Entertain You’s beloved Southern fried resto joins forces with Chicago’s most legendary country music venue to open a twofer in the former Toby Keith space in the northwest ‘burbs. Expect the same down home eats as the Chicago outpost, a barrage of whiskeys, and musical acts like opening night performer Frankie Ballard, Chris Janson, and Eli Young Band.
1. MAD Social1140 W Madison St, Chicago
2. Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery1746 W Chicago Ave, Chicago
3. Annex at GreenRiver259 E Erie St, Fl 18th, Chicago
4. 3 Greens Market354 W Hubbard St, Chicago
5. Snaggletooth2819 N Southport Ave, Chicago
6. Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya1480 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
7. Hopewell Brewing Company2760 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
8. Bub City435 N Clark St, Chicago
9. Joe's Live Rosemont5441 Park Place, Rosemont
If you're looking for a restaurant to impress friends, get drinks with co-workers, or take a hot date, West Loop's Mad Social should be at the top of your list. The menu features a serious selection of cured meats and cheeses, so assemble your charcuterie plate and settle into one of the leather banquettes with a vodka cocktail. The real stunner is the burger, stacked high with crispy onion rings and served with deliciously greasy fries because honestly, why choose one side?
This West Town brewpub is Chicago's first botanic brewery. Its 18 taps are loaded with the four house flagship beers -- Forbidden Root, Sublime Ginger, Wildflower Pale Ale, and Shady Character -- plus seasonal brews. The industrial chic restaurant space includes a center bar and plenty of banquette seating, and the food menu is a mix of upscale bar food plates like crispy duck leg and pork schnitzel. Tours of the brewery are offered once a week, and there's Sunday brunch.
Everybit the underground counterpart to its bright, 18th floor cousin GreenRiver, Annex is a small, swanky cocktail lounge with a limited seafood menu for people looking to indulge in something totally new. Along with head bartender Julia Momose’s favorite Japanese whiskey, Annex features a larger selection of spirits and surprising cocktails that you won’t find at GreenRiver or anywhere else. You can expect to find season and ingredient-inspired cocktails like Chorus Girls, made with Feni (Indian cashew liqueur), Italian herbal liqueur, Ambre vermouth, amchur (mango powder), turmeric, lemon, pineapple, and vanilla. The food menu includes options like seafood towers, artisanal cheese, and gin-cured gravlax. For the real VIP experience, Annex also offers champagne service … oh la la.
Everything you could ever need or want is probably inside the 3 Greens Market. It is part causal eatery, part coffee shop, and part grab-and-go market. Whether you are looking for a place to sit during your lunch break or grab a cup of coffee during your day, 3 Greens Market has everything that you need to get through the day.
We are willing to bet that Snaggletooth is the fanciest deli that you could ever step into. Instead of your usual deli fare, here you can find various fish and vegetable dishes to enjoy with a nice cup of tea. You could even bring a date to this deli and not look totally cheap.
This Japanese ramen spot has only about 20 dishes available, and each one is as delicious as the next. The main selling point for this place is that they can make customizable, made-to-order ramen bowls for interested customers.
This taproom has something for every type of beer drinker imaginable, whether you are a casual drinker, a beer geek, or anything in-between. Inside you'll find a series of communal tables that encourage lively conversation and a variety of beer on tap to sample.
Nashville comes to River North through the doors at Lettuce Entertain You’s Bub City, whose award-winning barbecue, 100-plus whiskey labels, and live music can make you forget about that deep Chicago chill. The all-American bar brings the heat from down South with dishes like barbecued brisket (get the burnt ends), fried chicken sandwiches (the Original 8 Buck Cluck is best served with a side of those aforementioned burnt ends), spoonbread, and baby back mac & cheese. To drink, you can sip on anything from a can of Bud to a pour of Pappy Van Winkle himself. Enjoy live country music multiple nights a week, and be prepared for a rowdy dance party.
Joe's Live is the best place to see live entertainment near Chicago, and now they've gotten even better. Now combined with Bub City, you can get your favorite southern comfort foods and whiskey drinks before enjoying some live music.