Readers and friends of The Infatuation often ask for one very specific request: they want to know about the city’s best new restaurants before we review them. We get it, it’s the age of instant information. But that wasn’t information we gave you, until now. We’re happy to present The Infatuation Hit List, a regularly updated guide to the new Chicago restaurants we think are worth your time.
On this list, you’ll find new places we’ve recently reviewed and places we’ve enjoyed and will likely have good things to say about in the future.
One thing you can always rely on: we’ll only put places on this list that we have genuinely vetted. That means every brand new opening doesn’t automatically make a restaurant worthy, nor does a team of ten publicists and an army of Instagrammers who insist it's good. We don’t care if Oprah endorses it, we’ll only add it to the list if we think it’s actually a place you should spend your time and money in search of new favorite things.
Here's our update for August 24: It's been too long since a Hit List update - our bad, that's on us. But we're here to make it up to you. With the exception of Roister, which is awesome and you should eat at, we have a complete Hit List makeover today. Say goodbye to a couple casual spots that are good but no longer new like Aloha Poke, Snaggletooth, and St. Lou's Assembly, and say hello to some newcomers like Giant, The Bakery At Fat Rice, and Ēma. Check it out, then get out there and try something new.
No surprise that the new restaurant from the Alinea squad is pretty awesome. Roister is their "casual" restaurant to rival the formalities at Alinea, but casual is a relative term. It's not casual compared to most other places, but it is a lot of fun. Feel free to go for the set menu starting at $85 or order a la carte, just make sure to get the chicken and a foie gras candy bar either way.
We were sad when we heard Table 52 was going to reconcept from buttery Southern food to something a little more health conscious. That's no fun. But we're happy to report that the new version, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, is still pretty great. The food offers a number of good healthy-ish options while still letting you eat a fried chicken sandwich the size of your face. The restaurant itself is basically a Gold Coast house with a beautiful patio. So if you don't own a multi-million dollar mansion, this is a good way to have a meal on the patio of one.
We f*cking love Giant. And we're going to keep telling everyone we know. We love that there's no specific theme, no shtick, and no crazy cooking methods and ingredients we need to Google. It's a cool place great for any small group to eat at whether that means date night, dinner with a few friends, or even taking parents or co-workers out. Order everything from the veggies, to the pastas, to a classic order of ribs because there's never anything wrong with getting tasty sauce on your hands.
Ēma is the new Mediterranean spot from the Lettuce Entertain You crew, and it's basically a showcase of what they do best. It's a pretty space in River North with a friendly menu and excellent service. Keep it simple with things like hummus, olives and feta, and lamb kefta and you won't be mad. Convince yourself to get a glass of wine too because everything about the place will make you want a glass of wine.
In River North, finding casual lunch options that serve something in between disgusting fast food and dry pieces of lettuce can be a challenge. But Rotisserie Ēma fills the void. It's a lunch spot meant to grab things to-go, and it's partially inside of Ēma and partially its own place. Mix and match different styles of hummus and side salads with chicken or falafel for a filling, cheap, and not too unhealthy meal. They also serve frozen Greek yogurt with olive oil and sea salt, which you should get too.
We're fans of the Brazilian inspired food at La Sirena Clandestina, and El Che Bar is the new spot from the same crew. This time they're doing Argentinian food, so, while a bit different, they're sticking to a similar theme. Go with a couple others so you can try the large dishes like beef short ribs or ribeye, and plan on having a caipirinha or three.
Honey's might be sitting unmarked on Lake Street under the dirty tracks of the L, but the inside is an impressive space. You'll feel like you're eating in some sort of secret dining club where they serve pretty plates full of everything from lamb tartare, to a buckwheat pasta, to larger entrees like a pork chop or rainbow trout. It's expensive, but Honey's makes for a nice date or special night out.
Fat Rice has turned their former waiting room next door into a day-time bakery serving both sweet and savory things. Do you want a ridiculous mash-up of a sweet Chinese bun and a Chicago style hot dog? Yes, you do. You also want Chinese style egg-tarts, coconut mochi, and curry chicken buns.
Kimski is attached to Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar in Bridgeport, and it's the kind of casual restaurant and bar you can hang at all night. The food is a mix of Korean and Polish things in bar food form, which means kimchi poutine, sausages with kimchi, and something called a potski (potsticker + pierogi). Get some food, grab some drinks, grab some more drinks, and, if it's nice out, hang on the patio in back.