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.
New to The Hit List (as of 3/7): Bar Biscay, Tied House, The Warbler
The food at this West Town brasserie will make you feel like you’re eating on the coast of Spain. There are quality seafood options, like whole prawns, squid sausage and peas, and plenty of things with anchovies - and the non-fish dishes, like chorizo stuffed peppers and pintxos with jamon and manchego, are also really good. The space is casual, with a lot of neon accents and wood, and there’s a busy, crowded atmosphere. This is a good spot to visit with a group, or just a few friends after work. Especially if you’re sad you have no upcoming trips to Spain.
Tied House is an upscale new restaurant attached to Schubas in Lakeview (and owned by the same people). Unlike its neighbor, this place is sleek and modern. Also unlike its neighbor, it serves very good food. Its menu of tasty, high-end American dishes puts a lot of emphasis on presentation - for example, a large duck egg raviolo is served with a dashi broth poured tableside. Come here for an upscale date night, even if you don’t have plans next door.
A Lincoln Square spot from the same people who own Gather. The food here is new American with some Asian influences, and across the board, everything we’ve tried has been good. You’ll find a lot of vegetable dishes (like a ponzu glazed crispy cauliflower), housemade pastas (their whole wheat cacio e pepe in particular is worth ordering), and traditional entrees like roasted chicken and a cheeseburger. Plus, they have a skillet cookie that’s worth a trip on its own, not to mention a large bar area that’s perfect for eating it.
Booth One, in the Ambassador hotel, is trying recapture the era of Frank Sinatra (who sat in “Booth One” at the Pump Room, the hotel’s famous former restaurant). There are well-prepared, fancy dishes like lobster cappuccino (basically a lobster bisque), beef wellington, and “Strawberries Zsa Zsa” (a platter of fresh strawberries with creme fraiche, Grand Marnier, and chocolate). This place succeeds in creating an old-school atmosphere, with giant booths and servers in tuxedo jackets, and in general feels mostly like a Gold Coast version of RPM Steak. That’s not too surprising, since it’s from the same team. It’s worth visiting even if you’re not already in the neighborhood - especially if you actually remember the days of the Rat Pack.
Burgers are the focus at Maillard Tavern in River West. There are a number of different versions, and they all work really well. The classic (with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, and pickles) tastes like what you might imagine a roadside burger from the 1950s to be, but there are also more creative options, like one with foie gras and truffle that’s delicious, if very rich. The space is small, with wooden booths, tables, and a large bar. Come here with a small group, or even just by yourself for a quick weeknight dinner.
Tempesta is a deli/grocery in the West Loop serving fantastic and interesting gourmet sandwiches. Take the Southside Johnny, for example, which has porchetta, cheese, broccolini, pickled fennel, chimichurri, and a rosemary dipping sauce. As contorted as that might sound, no ingredient ends up seeming unnecessary. Since the owners of this place also run an ’nduja company, there’s a lot of that here, too - including an ’nduja gelato (a.k.a. vanilla gelato with pieces of ’nduja) that’s fun, but only worth ordering if you’re a really big fan of the stuff. Come for a quick lunch when you’re in the neighborhood.
It’s hard to definitively classify the food at S.K.Y. (or to know if it’s pronounced “Sky” or “S” “K” “Y” - we’ve heard staff members refer to it as both), but most of it is Asian-fusion-ish, and everything we’ve tried has been excellent. You can expect things like lobster dumplings in a buttery lemongrass broth, foie gras bibimbap, and a fried chicken dish that comes with hot sauce that’s like the core of a nuclear reactor. In that it’s very hot, not toxic. The space has an industrial feel, with exposed ductwork and brick, and plays the kind of low-key indie rock music you’ll want to discreetly Shazam and listen to later. They’re still waiting on their liquor license, so for now it’s BYOB.
A neighborhood sushi spot with low-ish prices and high-quality fish can be hard to find - so we’re excited to say that Raisu fits that description. It’s a small, low-key space in Albany Park, and its fish offerings vary depending on what’s been flown in that day. Order the omakase, which they’ll tailor based on your budget, starting at $50. When we were there they had incredible toro, as well as some of the best scallops we’ve ever eaten. If you’re into rolls, they have a few of those, too (the Omega maki with fried salmon and shrimp tempura is great), but we suggest opting for the nigiri and sashimi.
Pelmeni, or little Russian dumplings, are what you’ll be eating at this place in Lincoln Park. It’s a small counter service operation selling several different dumpling varieties - beef and pork, potato, lamb, and chicken - as well as different dipping sauces to go with them. You can decide if you want your pelmeni boiled, sauteed, or fried, and we recommend opting for the boiled variety. A full order comes with 20+ dumplings in all, so it’s a good thing they’re as delicious and addicting as they are (you can also get two different flavors in the same order, which is a good move). Come here for a quick and cheap lunch, or get takeout and see how many you can fit into your apartment.
Getting dinner in the Gold Coast’s “Viagra Triangle” can feel like being at a speed-dating convention for retired millionaires, so we don’t usually go out of our way to eat around here. But the food at Somerset makes us actually excited to be in the neighborhood. This place serves truly outstanding dishes, like a beet tartare, made of smoked beets with yogurt and gouda cheese, that is so good we were still thinking about it days later. Their housemade pastas, and entrees like venison and halibut, are also 100% worth your time. Spacewise, it definitely has a Gold Coast feel: it’s large, with fancy art deco lighting, nautical touches, and an open kitchen in the back.
Marisol, from the chef/owner of Lula Cafe, just opened in the Museum of Contemporary Art. The menu includes things like sunflower seed hummus, housemade pastas, and a fried quail dish with date honey that tastes like fancy chicken and waffles, and the food is all way better than anything we’re used to eating in a museum cafe. Though the restaurant is located inside the museum, it still feels like it’s a separate thing, and it’s open to the public even when the museum is closed. Come here for dinner with your mom, whether or not either of you is into art.
Bonci is a counter-service pizza spot with a cult following in Rome, and this is their first US location. They serve pizza “al taglio,” or cut when you order and sold by weight. It’s excellent, and there are lots of different topping combinations to try - when we were there, the standouts were potato with rosemary and ’nduja with ricotta. Right now it’s incredibly busy, so go during off-peak hours to avoid the crowds.
Portsmith is a seafood-focused restaurant that just opened in the Dana Hotel, and the food is very good. There’s a lot going on with the menu, which includes fish and chips, a cacio e pepe with uni, and a whole bunch of different breads like Parker House rolls and a nori ciabatta, but it all manages to work together, resulting in a very enjoyable meal. It is worth knowing that the space is a little awkward - it’s small, and full of tables so tiny you have to play Tetris if you want to fit more than one thing on them. You definitely won’t forget you’re in a hotel restaurant, but this place is still worth checking out.