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.
photo credit: Vinod Kalathil
Thattu evokes a sense of nostalgia for South India, even if you’ve never visited. This casual restaurant in Avondale serves comfort food from Kerala, and a few bites of coriander chicken will have you reminiscing about a childhood spent on the Malabar Coast that may or may not have happened. The menu is short, but that just means you can get one of everything, including an order of crispy masala-dusted chaatertots, curry, and the Kerala fried chicken sandwich. Finish with frothy-and-sweet kaapi served in steel cups found in Indian homes, and there's no better low-key meal to linger over. Hours are currently limited to lunch Thursday through Sunday, with plans to expand to dinner soon.
photo credit: John Ringor
Despite the aggressive name, this New American spot in Avondale is very welcoming. It has comfy banquettes and barstools, and chefs drop off dishes at tables while reminding you to stay at your candlelit table for as long as you want. But the food is why you’ll want to stay forever (or at least until they close at 2am). Ramp pasta and miso butter scallops are rich and creamy. Pork shoulder and burgers are aged to juicy perfection. Everything is incredibly refined, but the atmosphere isn’t so stuffy you can’t come here for a casual bite after a night out.
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photo credit: Umamicue
We don’t normally cover pop-ups—but we’d be doing a pretty sh*t job if we stayed silent about Umamicue’s residency at Spilt Milk in Logan Square. This Vietnamese-Chinese-American BBQ operation has some of the best brisket in Chicago. By itself, in an eggroll, in a banh mi—the format doesn’t matter—the meat is so buttery you won’t care. The short menu also has fantastic tangy chuc nuam-infused potato salad, smoked cream cheese crab rangoon, and pork belly with such distinct layers of fat, meat, and crackly skin, each piece looks like a strata diagram. Pair everything with a Mean Bean cocktail, and sit out on the spacious back patio.
photo credit: Sandy Noto
We’re living in an age of reboots, and our excitement for the new iteration of Daisies surpassed the collective enthusiasm for Top Gun: Maverick. After a short closure, this excellent vegetable-centric "Midwestern pasta" spot reopened in a larger space, just a few doors down from the original location in Logan Square. The menu isn’t that different, but there’s a new section for things like lamb shank and salmon collars, and staples like the earthy beet agnolotti topped with creme fraiche and trout roe are (thankfully) still around. And you can enjoy them in a large, busy dining room without feeling like an interloper eavesdropping on the first date happening at the next table. Another welcome change? Daisies is now a coffee shop until 3pm, the perfect spot to camp out with a laptop and a blood orange olive oil cake.
photo credit: Matthew Meschede
After going on hiatus last November, Bridgeport Korean-Polish staple Kimski is finally back in our lives. And though the past five months triggered some separation anxiety even hardcore meditation couldn’t seem to alleviate, the updated, more Korean-focused menu is worth the wait. The best newcomer is the cheesy beef sandwich—sweet and savory bulgogi beef, cheese sauce, tangy gochu mayo, shishitos, and onions. And for long-standing Kimski aficionados, classics like their pierogies or Polish sausage topped with krautchi and soju mustard have stuck around. While the menu has gotten a makeover, the space is still the same. Which means that while hanging inside or on its large patio, you should grab a drink at its connected bar, Maria’s Packaged Goods, to help wash down some spicy rice cakes.
Chicago steakhouses usually follow the same format: Giant spaces with giant booths and giant menus with giant baked potatoes. Asador Bastion is a refreshing change of pace. This Spanish spot is in a 19th-century River North townhouse, with an intimate dining room on the second floor. The menu doesn’t have the standard cuts of beef, here there are six varieties served per pound, and a server who must have a PhD in Boeuf-ology will walk you through everything—like how long the Galincia was aged on the hoof, why, and its hopes and dreams before ending up on your plate. There are potatoes on the menu, but as a bone marrow puree, or in a fluffy tortilla Espanola. This place is elegantly low-key and very expensive—expect to spend at least $100 on the beef alone. But perfect if you're in the market for an impressive dinner featuring a perfectly seasoned ribeye cooked over coals.
photo credit: Emma McGregor
Don Bucio's Taqueria
We’re big fans of Bloom and all its plant-based glory, so it’s not surprising that we’re equally impressed with Don Bucio's, a vegan taqueria in Logan Square from the Bloom team. And at the risk of sounding cliche (or like a liar who’s never eaten real carne asada), the food here is worth seeking out whether or not you’re vegan. The menu focuses primarily on tacos. There are options like al pastor made from legumes and vegetables, barbacoa made with guajillo-braised jackfruit, and fried nopales that mimic a fried fish taco so perfectly it's both delicious and alarming. Each has complex layers of spicy flavor, and are made with either blue or thick, chewy white handmade corn tortillas. The space is fun, casual, and the dining room has a soft, warm glow thanks to primary colors and pink neon lights. Right now they’re BYOB, but their liquor license is on the way, so check before heading over with a 12-pack.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Boonie's Filipino Restaurant
After devastating us last year by closing their stall in Revival Food Hall, Boonies Filipino Restaurant has finally opened a brick-and-mortar in North Center. And, thankfully, the days of eating their garlic rice in an echoey food court are over. Boonies 2.0 sports a cozy, dimly lit dining room, complete with table service and Filipino dishes coursed out in sleek stone bowls. But more importantly, the food is still amazing. Eating new iterations of favorites like sisig, vigan longanisa, and crispy bagnet feels like a reunion with an old CTA buddy who now drives a shiny new Audi. And along with their greatest hits, Boonie's menu has equally delicious newcomers, like trout singang and grilled prawns topped with funky bagoong butter. Since their small plates and entrees are meant to be shared, it’s great for a group meal or date—but don’t be surprised if you get an order of prawns for yourself.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
El Rincon de Fabio
You’re coming to El Rincon for the sole purpose of eating arepas stuffed with sweet plantains and shredded beef, patacones with perfectly crispy tostones, and a cachapa made with thick griddled masa that’s so fluffy a single tear will roll down your cheek. The space is very small, with a handful of card tables and folding chairs. It’s decorated with Venezuelan flags, paintings, and a TV playing various concerts provides the soundtrack. Yes, the juices from the incredible pulled pork might drip out of the little basket it’s precariously served in, but you won’t care. The food is too good and the service too friendly to get upset about anything.
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 za’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.
Bereket Turkish Mediterranean Restaurant
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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
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.