Food & Drink

The Thrillist Awards: Chicago's Best New Food & Drink of 2015

Published On 12/21/2015 Published On 12/21/2015
Courtesy of Nonna’s

Best new sandwich

Nonna’s

Address and Info

West Loop

The counter-service sibling to Formento’s (one of the best new restaurants of 2015), Nonna’s has quickly become Randolph Row’s go-to for made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches, and while we can’t say a bad thing about anything in the lineup, the signature meatball sub is the real stunner here. The jaw-unhinging handheld contains colossal house-made meatballs blanketed in marinara, velvety mozzarella, and giardiniera with a supremely crusty baguette.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Best new BYOB

The Angry Crab

Address and Info

West Rogers Park

Grab some pals, a six-pack of your favorite local suds, and head to this chill seafood emporium for a good time and Cajun-inspired shellfish by the pound. Each bag (yes, bag) is tossed to order, which means that you get to dictate the heat level; team your crustaceans with sides like corn, andouille sausage, and garlic fries for a balanced feast.

Anthony Tahlier/Corridor Brewery & Provisions

Best new brewpub

Corridor Brewery & Provisions

Address and Info

Lakeview

New from the crew at DryHop, this twofer sports a full-fledged brewery setup on one side and a dining space -- complete with rustic wood, exposed brick, and a wall-mounted bicycle -- on the other. Go for the Lyonnaise pizza (pancetta, caramelized onion, frisee, runny egg) to accompany a pint of Wizard Fight, a creamy nitro lactose IPA.

Eric Kleinberg

Best new brunch

Balena

Address and Info

Lincoln Park

After a few incredibly successful years in the biz as a dinner destination, Lincoln Park’s sought-after modern Italian spot finally launched a weekend brunch program. The playful menu crafted by Chef Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Swift & Sons) errs on the savory side, with dishes like an everything bagel-inspired pizza stacked with smoked salmon and crème fraiche and a giardiniera-infused frittata, while the sweet crespelle with mascarpone and roasted grapes will satisfy a sweet tooth.

Galdones Photography/Courtesy of Green River

Best new cocktail bar

GreenRiver

Address and Info

Streeterville

With Instagram-worthy skyline views, simple yet sophisticated bar fare, and a cocktail menu that's organized by key ingredient (think agave, corn, and juniper) and inspired by Chicago with hints of the Irish, this cocktail oasis promises a next-level drinking experience -- literally, it sits 18 stories high. Raise a "Lincoln Park" -- Glenlivet, Laphroaig, Cappelletti Aperitivo, jasmine, Coco Lopez, and pineapple --  to that.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Best new burger

Johnny’s Grill

Address and Info

Logan Square

Forget exotic cheeses and other gourmet accoutrements, 2015 was the year of back-to-basic burgers in Chicago, and the simple, expertly executed number at Johnny’s led the pack. Two juicy patties provide just enough meaty resistance with each bite, while melted sharp cheddar, tangy Dijonnaise, pickles, and onion amp up the flavor factor.

Dane Tashima

Best new lunch spot

Wyler Road

Address and Info

Logan Square

From "Fernet Cows" (Letherbee fernet, mint, house-made fernet ice cream, and Coke) and a predominantly Midwestern draft beer list to the Sunbutter Sandwich (sunflower seed butter, honey jam, and toasted sunflower seeds on whole wheat) and a veal heart Philly  with Cheez Whiz mayo and sautéed onions, this hipster-approved concept has the answer to all your lunchtime needs.

Oak + Char

Best new wings

Oak + Char

Address and Info

River North

Don’t let its eyebrow-raising name fool you, Oak + Char’s highly addictive "MSG Wings" actually take their name from the major ingredients in their lip-smacking glaze (maple, sherry, and gochujang chili). A smoked-cilantro yogurt sauce served beneath the wings imparts a cooling effect that tempers the sweet heat of the wings, and proves that sometimes, the key to superior wings is synergy.

Bar Siena

Best new pizza

Bar Siena

Address and Info

West Loop

Siena Tavern's casual and decidedly more trendy bi-level spinoff has been consistently packing the house since day one, and given the caliber of its wood-fired pizzas and glorious early-morning-to-late-night BomboBar, you probably shouldn't expect the hype to fade any time soon. Don't miss the prosciutto fig pie with taleggio, spiced pistachio, and local honey.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Best new donut

Pub Royale

Address and Info

Wicker Park

There are many donuts in Chicago, but none like Pub Royale’s unusual take. The sweet and spicy creation is made with twisted bits of deep-fried naan dough, and comes drenched in chai spice-infused dulce de leche glaze.

Intro

Best new concept

Intro

Address and Info

Lincoln Park

Little did we know that when we lost Michelin-rated L2O last year, we would gain something even greater. That “something” is Lettuce Entertain You’s Intro, an outside-the-box concept that centers on the idea that the only constant is change. Every few months, the restaurant introduces a new “chef-in-residence” who completely transforms the dining experience. Recent chefs include inaugural chef CJ Jacobson and current chef Stephen Gillanders.

Good Stuff Eatery

Best new cool treat

Good Stuff Eatery

Address and Info

Loop

It’s no secret that celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn’s sustainability driven burgers are great, but when it comes to milkshakes, let’s just say his burger joint’s toasted marshmallow confection is bringing everyone to the yard (sorry, we had to). The hand-spun shake is a veritable campfire in a cup, and is one of the best drinkable treats we’ve ever had in Chicago, let alone this year.

Furious Spoon

Best new ramen

Furious Spoon

Address and Info

Wicker Park

Chicago’s ramen boom struck in 2014 and steamrolled on through to 2015, bringing with it Chef Shin Thompson’s scratch-made noodle-slurping shop and his signature blazing hot “Furious Ramen.” The fiery bowl of tonkotsu broth-based comfort gets its kick from spicy miso, white pepper chicken, and house Fury sauce, and is rounded out with chashu pork belly, a poached egg, marinated mushrooms, and garlic relish.

El Carrito Tacos

Best new taco

El Carrito

Address and Info

West Rogers Park

Eat great on the cheap at this Mexican street food purveyor on the Northwest side, where the taco offerings range from al pastor with onions, cilantro, and grilled pineapple to a surprisingly satisfying veggie number bursting with fresh herbs, squash, zucchini, carrots, and more. And no outside-sourced tortillas here: each taco comes swaddled in a fresh tortilla made in-house.