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 9/10): Etta, Good Measure, Frunchroom
Wicker Park doesn’t have that many places where you can bring everyone from a toddler to a group of coworkers, and also eat some really good food. But now there’s Etta. This place serves delicious housemade pastas and pizzas, plus other dishes (like vegetables and pork shoulder) made in a wood-fired hearth. Inside, there are lots of booths and round tables that are perfect for groups, and overall it’s great for a special weeknight dinner - even one that happens to involve a high chair.
Good Measure feels different from all the big, tourist-filled spots in River North where DJs blast music all night - it’s a kind-of-divey bar with rockabilly skeletons and neon red lights instead of disco balls. But the atmosphere isn’t the only thing that makes this place stand out. There’s also an interesting menu of great bar food, ranging from Nashville hot fried duck livers to sunflower hummus to a fantastic cheeseburger with foie gras sauteed onions. This is the kind of spot that will make you immediately forget about the five bachelorette parties you passed by on your way here.
If you live near Portage Park, you’re lucky, because you’re that much closer to Frunchroom - a small, counter-service spot serving a variety of different types of comfort food. The menu has everything from pasta to matzo ball soup to smoked chicken to hummus with housemade pita bread, and it all tastes like it was put together by a friend who really loves to cook and also happens to be very good at it. So it’s the perfect place to catch up with that other friend who is a terrible cook but still likes to eat delicious food. And FYI, it’s BYOB.
Bakeries don’t often appear on our Hit List, but Lost Larson in Andersonville more than deserves this spot. The bread here (made with house-milled grain) is fantastic, as are the pastries, and you can also sit down for a quick meal - we particularly like the toasts, including avocado and one with turkey and havarti. It’s a counter-service operation, so place your order and get a seat on their fenced-in patio, which feels like someone’s backyard. Come here for breakfast or lunch, and buy a loaf of bread to take home - or eat in the car.
3 Squares is an upscale diner in Uptown with comfortable booths and a long counter that’s perfect for dining solo. You can get dishes like omelettes, chicken and waffles, and a Chicago pastrami “dog” (a pastrami sandwich dressed like a classic Chicago hot dog). Breakfast is served all day, so if you’re a breakfast-for-dinner person, you’ll be particularly happy here.
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.
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.
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.
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.