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 February 21: Say goodbye to some spots that are good but need to go in order to make room like Blue Door Kitchen, Ema, and Honey's, and say hello to some newcomers like WonFun Chinese, Kitsune, and Entente.
Kitsune is a Midwest-inspired version of a Japanese izakaya from the same people behind Bunny The Micro Bakery (RIP), which was one of our favorite places to eat during the short time it was open. Unlike Bunny, this is a full-on restaurant, where you can have dinner and drinks. Everything on the menu at Kitsune looks and sounds Japanese, but with a twist. Think sashimi with rice and miso sauce, but the rice is Carolina gold rice, which is noticeably different than the stuff that came with your California roll the other night. Kitsune is small, fun, and different.
Entente is in Lakeview and it’s a partnership between the owner of Arami and the old chef of Schwa. The waitstaff at Entente won't get drunk and light off fireworks like Schwa has been known to do, but you definitely notice some elements of Schwa going on here. That means there's a steady dose of loud music including everything from rap to rock, and the food is cool and interesting. Dishes like pork chop and chicken might sound boring, but they're presented in creative ways you've never seen before, not to mention taste really good. Make sure to order the carolina gold, which is basically a risotto with a lot of parmesan, truffle, and a duck egg. And get a table in the brick-walled back room by the kitchen over the front one that can be awkward at times.
Income Tax is a casual restaurant and wine bar in Edgewater that's particularly great in this part of town. You could stroll in and hang out at the bar over a glass of wine and some cheese and call it a night. But you can also make a reservation for a table and treat this as dinner. It's a versatile place where you'll be happy to sit and hang. The menu is small and split into different sections - Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. So you can get a coq au vin with a glass of Bordeaux or some pasta chitarra with your Barolo. Or get wild and get a Spanish wine with some German food because you live life in the fast line.
That new West Loop hotness. Elske is a little more upscale, evidenced by a menu full of things like grilled octopus with treviso and beurre rouge. Good news is beurre rouge is just a fancy term for red wine butter sauce, and we can always get down with food cooked in butter.
We're wondering who has all the money in this town that fancy tasting menu restaurants can keep opening and stay in business. But you can add Temporis to the list, a small, 20 seat restaurant in West Town with an 8-course tasting menu that will run you $110 (+$95 wine pairing). It's worth a try if you're into these sort of things.
WonFun is a cool and high-end Chinese restaurant in the West Loop. The narrow rectangular shape is strange for a restaurant, but it makes each booth feel like its one private little space. The food leans heavy on Sichuan classics, which means you should expect things like pork wontons and spicy dan dan noodles. Speaking of spice, most things here bring a lot of heat, so you’re going to want a beer to wash it all down. And when you’re finished eating, head to the upstairs bar 2Fun Chinese to hang over more drinks.
Steak. Bacon. Burgers. Truffle. Truffle-bacon-wrapped-steak-burgers. These are the types of things we normally expect at exciting new Chicago restaurants. But carrots, radishes, and beet tartare? Not so much. And that’s what makes Bad Hunter great - a veggie-heavy menu that makes vegetables exciting. You’ll be happy to eat more plants and less meat in the cool West Loop space. There’s even an excellent veggie burger with the option to add bacon for the best of both worlds.
No surprise that the newest 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 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.
El Che Bar was basically destined to be in the space it now inhabits. It's located in the former Checker Taxi building that still has the old sign out front, but only three letters remain lit up today: CHE. The atmosphere at this West Loop Argentinian spot is fun but not over-the-top, so you’ll actually enjoy hanging out here. And the food is always delicious. Lean heavy on the meats that come from the huge flame grill, and round out your other meal with other great dishes like roasted oysters or gnocchi.