The Chicago Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Chicago   guide image

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The Chicago Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Chicago

We checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.

The Hit List is where you’ll find our favorite new food and drink experiences in Chicago. We track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of every good new spot, one thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have genuinely checked out.

Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself—inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighborhoods, chefs and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at chicago@theinfatuation.com

Whether you’re looking for in-person dining, takeout, or delivery, The Hit List is here to help you find a great new spot to support. Read on to find your new favorites.

THE SPOTS

Ragadan review image

Ragadan

$$$$

4409 N Broadway, Chicago
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

We weren’t exactly sure what to expect from this fast-casual “American falafel shoppe” in Uptown. But after a couple of bites of Ragadan’s food, we wanted to try everything else on the menu. Sandwiches are the main deal here, and there’s a variety of Middle-Eastern ones as well as twists on American classics. The American dishes serve as the ideal canvas for delicious flavor combinations, like layering herby z’atar mayo on their burger or red tahini ranch on a crispy chicken sandwich. But the highlight is their crispy-yet-fluffy falafel, particularly the ones stuffed with sweet caramelized onions and complemented by silky hummus and fresh vegetables in pillowy pita. You’ll find that most people will be coming and going with takeout orders at this small spot, but we recommend grabbing a seat—this is the kind of falafel worth meditating on.

Chesa's Bistro And Bar review image

Chesa's Bistro And Bar

RESERVE A TABLE

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open table

“I want to sleep with this under my pillow.” That’s what came out of our mouth halfway through our bowl of savory short rib and creamy grits at Chesa’s Bar and Bistro. The gluten-free, Southern restaurant in Avondale serves the kind of comforting dishes that make us look forward to–or at least not hate—Chicago’s 30-degree days. The menu has the aforementioned short rib and grits (a beefy change of pace from shrimp that we didn’t know we needed), seafood gumbo with an ideal amount of gentle heat, and buttery wagyu sliders on buns that we wouldn’t know were gluten-free if it wasn’t our job to know these things. The space is bright and casual, with a few TVs over the bar and a hip-hop playlist that makes you remember how much you like 2000’s Nelly.


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Bereket took over a space in the Loop that used to be a counter-service restaurant. And when you walk into the bright yellow dining room with drop ceilings and a now-defunct metal cafeteria station, it will definitely feel like a place you should be visiting during a rushed lunch break. Instead, the attentive owners will make you want to hang out for a while, and the delicious food on the long menu should be savored. Everything is housemade–from the fresh bread that starts your meal to the firm manti topped with marinara and yogurt sauce. The tender döner meat in the iskender pairs wonderfully with its buttery tomato-sauce-soaked croutons, and the flaky baklava will make you wonder “Why don’t I eat more baklava?”  And because this place is open all day, seven days a week, there’s really no excuse for you not to.

Indienne, an Indian restaurant in River North, definitely falls into the fine dining category. Its large dining room is full of white tablecloths and staff bustling around in crisp jackets, and the menu’s dishes are plated artistically. Most of the food has some kind of French twist, so you’ll find things like eclair canapes filled with goat cheese and chutney, malai tikka formed into a terrine and sauced tableside, and a cute little potato pave accompanying the perfectly medium rare lamb chop. Right now Indienne is only offering a seven-course tasting menu for $80-$90, which feels very affordable in a neighborhood overrun with valets parking rented Lambos. But eventually the restaurant will serve a separate a la carte menu that can’t wait to go back and try.

We normally don't put chain restaurants on our Hit List, but damn it, Planta Queen (which has locations in New York, Miami, and Toronto) is great. This Asian-fusion vegan spot is the rare plant-based restaurant where the food really good and enough of a scene to earn its downtown address. The space is sleek, has a thump-y music playlist that may briefly make you consider going clubbing afterward, and the long menu is full of dishes that are objectively tasty—whether you’re vegan or not. There’s spicy tuna nigiri made with spicy dehydrated watermelon, jackfruit chicken wings that somehow mimic crispy skin, and firm udon noodles swimming in an unbelievably silky truffle mushroom cream sauce. The large space has plenty of seats for couples, but also enough big booths for a group of friends.


This new bakery and cafe in Avondale is busy all morning long with a line of people picking up pastries, coffee, and sandwiches. And the food at Loaf Lounge fully warrants skipping your 19-step skincare routine so you can fit in a trip before work. Their sausage breakfast sandwich is one of the best we’ve had, with a garlicky patty, a fried egg, herby mayo, melty cheese, and a perfectly soft English muffin that will remind you of the pillow you wish you didn’t have to leave this morning. We also like their flaky croissant sandwich with a sweet and savory mix of spicy capicola and fig mostarda. And make sure to grab some baked goods too—like a cinnamon roll or their fantastic chocolate cake (which, fun fact, starred in The Bear) that avoids being too sweet by having just a hint of saltiness.


A few things to know about 1308 in Goose Island: they’re not open on the weekends, they close at 9pm, and this is exactly the kind of chill place you want to decompress after forgetting to turn your microphone off during this morning’s company-wide Zoom. This little bar and restaurant calls itself a “speak eatery”, which is kind of cute and spot on. It’s hidden in the courtyard of a small office building, only has about 30 seats, and serves outstanding cocktails and great Southern-inspired food. Standout dishes on the short, delicious menu include crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside hot water cornbread served with blueberry butter and pimento cheese, and an absurdly good plate of grits and sweet roasted carrots topped with crunchy dukkah. If that, an excellent neo soul soundtrack, and a smooth Old Fashioned doesn’t help you forget about that 4pm Friday meeting request your boss just sent, we can’t help you.


We can’t wait to go back to Daisies in Hyde Park. Not only does this New Orleans-inspired spot have the best po’boys we’ve encountered in Chicago, but it’s also a blast. The spacious counter-service restaurant has a full bar, live music, and makes boozy hurricanes that aren’t too sweet. Along with the aforementioned po’boys (like fried shrimp, fried green tomato, and a peacemaker–fried oyster and roast beef) the menu has other classics. There are boudin balls and a rich seafood gumbo that had a great amount of heat, and a little crab claw poking out of it. We'd like to think it was encouraging us to order more food—which we’ll definitely do when we go back.


Monster Ramen is making some of the best ramen in the city. And though this Logan Square spot looks like a minimalist aesthetic Pinterest board, the flavor in their bowls is very complex. The focused menu only has two types of broth to pair with their housemade noodles: a light chicken shoyu and a robust gyukotsu—but both are delicious, with plenty of added richness from toppings like wagyu chashu or roasted sesame. They also have handmade gyoza, as well as a fantastic mapo-men with spicy mapo tofu. Monster Ramen is walk-in only, but it's pretty easy to grab a table or counter seat without a wait. Of course, that might change after everyone else reads this, so you should probably check this place out soon.


Pop-ups are a little like restaurant one-night stands, and for that reason we rarely add them to our Hit List. But we're making an exception for Sueños in the West Loop. This great Baja-influenced seafood spot is operating out of Soho House until January, which means you have plenty of time to make reservations. And you should, because the food is delicious. The menu has plates like perfectly acidic snapper ceviche, smoky octopus skewers, and buttery garlic shrimp that are great for sharing. The busy space is upbeat, with a bass-heavy playlist, couples on dates, and small groups grabbing dinner and drinks in the neighborhood. Plus, they occasionally have a $185 tasting menu, just in case you have something to celebrate between now and January.


When you step into this well lit, casual Cambodian spot in Rogers Park, you’re greeted by a shining disco ball like it's a scene from Saturday Night Fever. But the star at Khmai is not a John Travolta impersonator, it’s great Cambodian food—from starters like lemongrass beef skewers with a spicy chili fish sauce to chewy glass noodles to entrees like somlar machu kreoung with a tart tamarind broth. We haven’t had a single miss yet, and the servings are large, making this a great spot for a family-style meal. Also, ask for extra housemade chili fish sauce because you’ll want to put it on every bite.


Obelix is located in a quieter part of River North where, instead of witnessing drunken couples arguing with bouncers, you can enjoy some fantastic upscale French food in relative serenity. This spot is from the same team as Le Bouchon, and while they have delicious staples similar to their longstanding sister restaurant, the most exciting dishes are the fusion-y ones that have an international spin. From their steak tartare with a spicy and pungent shio kombu, to their impressively complex foie gras taco (aka foie-co), the combinations of flavors are interesting and unexpected. Paired with an energetic rotation of hip-hop jams, it makes for an exciting date night or small group dinner full of head-bobbing between savory foie-co bites.


One step into Bronzeville Winery and the groovy soul and funk playlist will make you wish their sleek interior had a dance floor. But though there’s not a space for you to whip out your 2022 interpretation of the Dougie, this upscale place has plenty of energy, fantastic service, and delicious food. Their tender filet mignon is seasoned perfectly and the pillowy gnocchi with shrimp and scallops is covered in a spicy creamy tomato sauce. Vegetarians and vegans have plenty of options as well, like a juicy watermelon steak paired with a zesty romesco that proves that the fruit has delicious utility beyond summer nights and Sour Patch gummies. Perfect for a celebratory end-of-the-week glass of wine or for date night, Bronzeville Winery is worth retrieving your button-up and taking the ironing board out of retirement.


Three Sauce Hainam Chicken Rice is a new stall in the Richland Center food court in Chinatown, located in the basement of the shopping mall. And this place is really worth a visit—and not only to enjoy their wonderful hip hop playlist. The real reason to come is for their specialty: excellent Hainan chicken rice. The poached chicken is soft and chewy perfection, served atop rich rice that’s been flavored with chicken fat. It comes with three tasty sauces (chili, soy, and garlic) that should be used liberally, and a light chicken broth. We can’t think of a more comforting (or satisfying) way to spend $12.


Union is a bar where you can get a fantastic dinner to go with your drinks. It’s the sister restaurant of Lardon  (one of our Best New Restaurants Of 2021), and while Lardon is a salumeria specializing in meat and cheese boards, Union really wants to feed you. The dishes here all have little twists that make them stand out from the usual pub food suspects— like lightly breaded fried olives filled with mortadella, or juicy lamb and pistachio meatballs swimming in a caper salsa verde. We’re also huge fans of their wonderful burger: a thick brisket and chuck patty topped with crispy onions, bone marrow aioli, and thinly sliced pickles to cut through the richness. To remind us that this is a bar, they have a long whiskey list, which they use to make a variety of creative Old Fashioneds.


This new 25-seat tasting-menu spot, which, yes, is in a 100-year-old coach house, is hidden in the courtyard behind Wazwan, the casual South Asian restaurant in Wicker Park that's from the same team. The Coach House serves an incredible $150 eight-course meal with dishes like momos filled with crab kulambu in a spicy black garlic sauce, chewy fara dumplings swimming in clarified beet butter, and chettinad fish topped with eggplant and crispy shallots. Every dish has a story (like that the duck numidian was inspired from a cookbook titled “Recipes From Medieval Islam” read during quarantine), or that the fara is an homage to the chef’s street-food-loving uncle. And while this place is expensive, it feels relaxed. It’s casual, BYOB, you’ll be eating to a chill playlist filled with South Asian pop and hip hop. It’s only open Thursdays through Saturdays (with just two seatings a night), so once your dinner ends you’ll be scheming to book your next ticket.


Good luck walking away with less than six sandwiches per person from Tribecca’s. This sandwich spot in Avondale has…Ok, maybe that’s just us. But the menu has nine to choose from, each one we’ve tried has been unique and delicious, and it’s simply too hard to make a decision. Their flavorful version of a Cubano is made with mojo pork, ham, chipotle aioli and mustard butter on pressed ciabatta. The horseshoe—an open-faced sandwich on Pullman bread topped with two beef patties, cheese sauce, and fries—will obliterate any hangover. And they have a sloppy and perfect “Maidwrong” made with steak sauce aioli. The sandwiches are all filling enough to qualify as a three-course meal on their own, but don’t ignore the excellent sides. Particularly the creamy mac and cheese and loaded baked potato-nut, which is a Tubers donut fried in clarified butter and topped with sour cream, bacon, cotija, and chives. You know, a light snack.


Signs you’re at a restaurant from the Bavette’s team: 1920s jazz, a dim dining room that feels like the Clue mansion, fantastic service, and great food. You’ll find all of the above at Armitage Alehouse, the team’s newest restaurant in Lincoln Park. Like its predecessors, this place has the ability to suck you in and magically makes you forget the world is spinning outside. The menu is filled with pub-inspired dishes like steak tartare with anchovy aioli, a wonderful wagyu smashburger, and a selection of incredible rotating pot pies–like pheasant and foie gras, or steak and ale. Order as much as will fit on your table, and drag your meal out for as long as possible until you need to go back into the real world.


The food at this casual Italian restaurant in Humboldt Park stands out in Chicago’s pasta and chicken parmesan landscape, because every dish has some kind of creative twist. The meatballs are filled with melted scamorza, offering the benefits of a Juicy Lucy without the risk of third-degree burns. The deconstructed lasagna is a pile of handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and a mushroom bolognese that would win in a steel cage death match against any meat version. The restaurant has the relaxed vibe of a European cafe, and is busy with couples on dates, small groups catching up, and people at the bar drinking wine and having oysters—all of whom are probably pretending they’re on vacation.


This South Asian restaurant began as a pop-up, moved into Politan Row, then was in a virtual kitchen, and now finally has a permanent location in Wicker Park. We hope it’s their forever home, because this little counter-service spot is incredible. The nihari momos are delicately wrapped packages of beefy love, the mushroom korma is rich and savory, and the chettinad masala has the perfect amount of heat and unbelievably tender pieces of chicken. Wazwan is very casual, but they also have a tasting menu concept in the same space called The Coach House.

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