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 6/18): Paserotto, Dutch & Doc’s, Pacific Standard Time
Passerotto is a very likeable Korean restaurant in Andersonville from a former chef at Snaggletooth (which closed last year). The space is charming - small, and decorated with cute prints of French bulldogs and cats - and the service is friendly. The short menu features some small plates of raw fish, a few types of noodles, and two larger-format share dishes (kalbi and clams with tofu), both of which come with banchan. Everything is fresh, delicious, and thoughtfully prepared. In fact, we’re glad the menu is so short, because it makes it easy to order basically all of it and avoid any FOMO.
Wrigleyville is certainly having a moment when it comes to new restaurants. This is mainly because of the Zachary Hotel, and the roughly 76 new spots attached to it. Dutch & Docs, an all-day brasserie from the same people who own the steakhouse Swift & Sons, is one of those spots, and this place serves the same high-quality, well-prepared steaks as its sister restaurant. There are also housemade pastas (like pappardelle with beef and pork ragu) and bar snacks like fried giardiniera. It’s basically an upscale sports bar, and even has a view of the stadium. Come here on game days with a group, or for a casual weeknight dinner in Wrigleyville - something that until recently didn’t seem like a very good idea.
Pacific Standard Time is a Big Chicago Opening - in other words, it’s from a well-known chef (who used to work at Avec and Nico Osteria), it’s in River North, the space is massive, and it’s hard to get a reservation unless you want to eat on a Monday at 5pm. That being said, it’s a good restaurant. There’s a range of broadly “California-inspired” dishes, from salads to wood-fired pizzas to entrees like pork shoulder in a ramen broth. Everything tastes good and is well prepared, and the whole place is enjoyably upbeat. Just know that it can get pretty loud and crowded - so if that doesn’t appeal to you, consider booking that 5pm Monday reservation after all.
On the weekend and on weeknights, The Loop can feel like a deserted scene from I Am Legend, in part because there aren’t a lot of destination restaurants worth sticking around for after work. But Fisk & Co, a new spot in the Hotel Monaco, is changing that. Their specialty is mussels, and you can get them served in a variety of different broths (like white wine or green curry). The rest of their menu is seafood-focused as well, with raw bar selections and entrees like a prosciutto-wrapped bass. It’s a great option for a casual dinner with friends, or a meal by yourself at the bar.
All the things we like most about about the Big Star in Wicker Park - the huge patio, solid tacos, and fun atmosphere - are in full effect at the new location in Wrigleyville. Plus, the new restaurant is twice the size of the original, which means wait times are a lot shorter. The food is the same, with one difference - this location has “hot chips,” a.k.a. nachos where the chips are freshly fried and lightly coated with salsa. These things are delicious, and the main reason we’ll choose this Big Star over the original. Come here with a big group, get the hot chips, and hang outside. Just check the Cubs schedule - it’s right across from the stadium, and will likely be incredibly busy on game day.
Radio Anago is a new sushi restaurant from the team that owns Bavette’s and Au Cheval. Like both of those places, it’s a super dark spot with fantastic food. But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends - this is one time you’re not going to find bone marrow or a burger on the menu. You’re here for sushi rolls, nigiri, and other Japanese dishes like pork buns and gold-flecked fried chicken. Drinks-wise, there are lots of interesting cocktails and even party shots (in addition to sake, wine, and beer). The space is small and they aren’t taking reservations, so you can expect a wait - but it will be worth it.
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.
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.