The Chicago Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Chicago
We checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.
The Hit List is where you’ll find our favorite new food and drink experiences in Chicago. We track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of every good new spot, one thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have genuinely checked out.
Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself—inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighborhoods, chefs and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you’re looking for in-person dining, takeout, or delivery, The Hit List is here to help you find a great new spot to support. Read on to find your new favorites.
El Rincon de Fabio
You’re coming to El Rincon for the sole purpose of eating arepas stuffed with sweet plantains and shredded beef, patacones with perfectly crispy tostones, and a cachapa made with thick griddled masa that’s so fluffy a single tear will roll down your cheek. The space is very small, with a handful of card tables and folding chairs. It’s decorated with Venezuelan flags, paintings, and a TV playing various concerts provides the soundtrack. Yes, the juices from the incredible pulled pork might drip out of the little basket it’s precariously served in, but you won’t care. The food is too good and the service too friendly to get upset about anything.
Soule The original Soulé in West Town had the ability to improve our mood, even on the darkest day of winter, after we spent three hours fighting with neighbors over the lawn flamingo we used to call dibs on our parking spot. And we’re happy to report that Soulé 2, their new location in North Lawndale, has that same Feel Good Factor™. This is partly due to the upbeat atmosphere and friendly servers, but also because the menu of delicious soul food (like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and peach cobbler) is identical to the original. What’s different is that the space is much larger, and has a full bar. Whether or not you actually need to be comforted, the comfort food here will get the job done.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
No matter what kind of day you're having, or terrible decision you're on the brink of making, a trip to Dell Rooster in West Town guarantees that you're doing at least one thing right. This isn’t just because this all-day Latin American restaurant has great food (and it really, really does) but because it works for all sorts of situations. The space is decorated in cute chicken murals and plays salsa music at a volume that’s still a vibe but doesn’t force you to scream across the table. The food is affordable (most dishes hover between $15-30) and servers enthusiastically explain the origin of each dish, and offer suggestions. Which is easy to do since everything is a hit. The oxtail sitting on fried sweet plantains is an example of a share plate that shouldn’t be shared, and the cheese-filled Colombian-style sweet corn cake covered in a rich vegetable seems like the culmination of a farmer’s life work.
Tak Korean Bistro
You need to buzz to enter Tak like you have an appointment with an accountant, but don’t let tax phobia prevent you from checking out this Korean restaurant and karaoke bar in the South Loop. Though Tak is located in the basement of an office building, the dimly lit, modern interior will make you forget that there’s a sea of cubicles above you. The menu has a wide variety of dishes, like comforting spicy budae jeongol, tender bossam, and what might be the crispiest kimchi pancake we’ve ever encountered. Just make sure to bring some friends—the servings are large and everything is meant to be eaten family-style. And since Tak has five private karaoke rooms, you all can belt your way through the Mariah Carey catalog after dinner. Just know that these aren’t quite soundproof, so the whole restaurant will hear you attempt that whistle tone from Emotions.
photo credit: Libby Vision
Sushi By Bou
There are Sushi By Bou’s all over the place, and they follow the same down-and-dirty format: a timed omakase experience with tasty, straightforward sushi. The 10-seat Sushi By Bou in the Emily Hotel is no different. You get a choice of either a 60-minute 12-course omakase for $60, or a 17-course for $100—with a chance to add on pieces of nigiri if one unagi wasn’t enough. Along with rapid-fire sushi, a meal here also consists of a lot of ’90s hip hop, and banter with the charming chefs. It’s a fun time, the food is good, and given how expensive Chicago omakase restaurants are, any opportunity to eat a bunch of great sushi without feeling the urge to check your bank account halfway through the meal is worth knowing about.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect from this fast-casual “American falafel shoppe” in Uptown. But after a couple of bites of Ragadan’s food, we wanted to try everything else on the menu. Sandwiches are the main deal here, and there’s a variety of Middle-Eastern ones as well as twists on American classics. The American dishes serve as the ideal canvas for delicious flavor combinations, like layering herby za’atar mayo on their burger or red tahini ranch on a crispy chicken sandwich. But the highlight is their crispy-yet-fluffy falafel, particularly the ones stuffed with sweet caramelized onions and complemented by silky hummus and fresh vegetables in pillowy pita. You’ll find that most people will be coming and going with takeout orders at this small spot, but we recommend grabbing a seat—this is the kind of falafel worth meditating on.
Chesa's Bistro And Bar
“I want to sleep with this under my pillow.” That’s what came out of our mouth halfway through our bowl of savory short rib and creamy grits at Chesa’s Bar and Bistro. The gluten-free, Southern restaurant in Avondale serves the kind of comforting dishes that make us look forward to–or at least not hate—Chicago’s 30-degree days. The menu has the aforementioned short rib and grits (a beefy change of pace from shrimp that we didn’t know we needed), seafood gumbo with an ideal amount of gentle heat, and buttery wagyu sliders on buns that we wouldn’t know were gluten-free if it wasn’t our job to know these things. The space is bright and casual, with a few TVs over the bar and a hip-hop playlist that makes you remember how much you like 2000’s Nelly.
Bereket Turkish Mediterranean Restaurant
Bereket took over a space in the Loop that used to be a counter-service restaurant. And when you walk into the bright yellow dining room with drop ceilings and a now-defunct metal cafeteria station, it will definitely feel like a place you should be visiting during a rushed lunch break. Instead, the attentive owners will make you want to hang out for a while, and the delicious food on the long menu should be savored. Everything is housemade–from the fresh bread that starts your meal to the firm manti topped with marinara and yogurt sauce. The tender döner meat in the iskender pairs wonderfully with its buttery tomato-sauce-soaked croutons, and the flaky baklava will make you wonder “Why don’t I eat more baklava?” And because this place is open all day, seven days a week, there’s really no excuse for you not to.
Indienne, an Indian restaurant in River North, definitely falls into the fine dining category. Its large dining room is full of white tablecloths and staff bustling around in crisp jackets, and the menu’s dishes are plated artistically. Most of the food has some kind of French twist, so you’ll find things like eclair canapes filled with goat cheese and chutney, malai tikka formed into a terrine and sauced tableside, and a cute little potato pave accompanying the perfectly medium rare lamb chop. Right now Indienne is only offering a seven-course tasting menu for $80-$90, which feels very affordable in a neighborhood overrun with valets parking rented Lambos. But eventually the restaurant will serve a separate a la carte menu that can’t wait to go back and try.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
This new bakery and cafe in Avondale is busy all morning long with a line of people picking up pastries, coffee, and sandwiches. And the food at Loaf Lounge fully warrants skipping your 19-step skincare routine so you can fit in a trip before work. Their sausage breakfast sandwich is one of the best we’ve had, with a garlicky patty, a fried egg, herby mayo, melty cheese, and a perfectly soft English muffin that will remind you of the pillow you wish you didn’t have to leave this morning. We also like their flaky croissant sandwich with a sweet and savory mix of spicy capicola and fig mostarda. And make sure to grab some baked goods too—like a cinnamon roll or their fantastic chocolate cake (which, fun fact, starred in The Bear) that avoids being too sweet by having just a hint of saltiness.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
We can’t wait to go back to Daisies in Hyde Park. Not only does this New Orleans-inspired spot have the best po’boys we’ve encountered in Chicago, but it’s also a blast. The spacious counter-service restaurant has a full bar, live music, and makes boozy hurricanes that aren’t too sweet. Along with the aforementioned po’boys (like fried shrimp, fried green tomato, and a peacemaker–fried oyster and roast beef) the menu has other classics. There are boudin balls and a rich seafood gumbo that had a great amount of heat, and a little crab claw poking out of it. We'd like to think it was encouraging us to order more food—which we’ll definitely do when we go back.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Monster Ramen is making some of the best ramen in the city. And though this Logan Square spot looks like a minimalist aesthetic Pinterest board, the flavor in their bowls is very complex. The focused menu only has two types of broth to pair with their housemade noodles: a light chicken shoyu and a robust gyukotsu—but both are delicious, with plenty of added richness from toppings like wagyu chashu or roasted sesame. They also have handmade gyoza, as well as a fantastic mapo-men with spicy mapo tofu. Monster Ramen is walk-in only, but it's pretty easy to grab a table or counter seat without a wait. Of course, that might change after everyone else reads this, so you should probably check this place out soon.
photo credit: Felton Edward Kizer
Sueños x Soho
Pop-ups are a little like restaurant one-night stands, and for that reason we rarely add them to our Hit List. But we're making an exception for Sueños in the West Loop. This great Baja-influenced seafood spot is operating out of Soho House until spring, which means you have plenty of time to make reservations. And you should, because the food is delicious. The menu has plates like perfectly acidic snapper ceviche, smoky octopus skewers, and buttery garlic shrimp that are great for sharing. The busy space is upbeat, with a bass-heavy playlist, couples on dates, and small groups grabbing dinner and drinks in the neighborhood. Plus, they occasionally have a $185 tasting menu.
When you step into this well lit, casual Cambodian spot in Rogers Park, you’re greeted by a shining disco ball like it's a scene from Saturday Night Fever. But the star at Khmai is not a John Travolta impersonator, it’s great Cambodian food—from starters like lemongrass beef skewers with a spicy chili fish sauce to chewy glass noodles to entrees like somlar machu kreoung with a tart tamarind broth. We haven’t had a single miss yet, and the servings are large, making this a great spot for a family-style meal. Also, ask for extra housemade chili fish sauce because you’ll want to put it on every bite.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Obelix is located in a quieter part of River North where, instead of witnessing drunken couples arguing with bouncers, you can enjoy some fantastic upscale French food in relative serenity. This spot is from the same team as Le Bouchon, and while they have delicious staples similar to their longstanding sister restaurant, the most exciting dishes are the fusion-y ones that have an international spin. From their steak tartare with a spicy and pungent shio kombu, to their impressively complex foie gras taco (aka foie-co), the combinations of flavors are interesting and unexpected. Paired with an energetic rotation of hip-hop jams, it makes for an exciting date night or small group dinner full of head-bobbing between savory foie-co bites.