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 email@example.com
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.
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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
One step into Bronzeville Winery and the groovy soul and funk playlist will make you wish their sleek interior had a dance floor. But though there’s not a space for you to whip out your 2022 interpretation of the Dougie, this upscale place has plenty of energy, fantastic service, and delicious food. Their tender filet mignon is seasoned perfectly and the pillowy gnocchi with shrimp and scallops is covered in a spicy creamy tomato sauce. Vegetarians and vegans have plenty of options as well, like a juicy watermelon steak paired with a zesty romesco that proves that the fruit has delicious utility beyond summer nights and Sour Patch gummies. Perfect for a celebratory end-of-the-week glass of wine or for date night, Bronzeville Winery is worth retrieving your button-up and taking the ironing board out of retirement.
Three Sauce Hainam Chicken Rice is a new stall in the Richland Center food court in Chinatown, located in the basement of the shopping mall. And this place is really worth a visit—and not only to enjoy their wonderful hip hop playlist. The real reason to come is for their specialty: excellent Hainan chicken rice. The poached chicken is soft and chewy perfection, served atop rich rice that’s been flavored with chicken fat. It comes with three tasty sauces (chili, soy, and garlic) that should be used liberally, and a light chicken broth. We can’t think of a more comforting (or satisfying) way to spend $12.
Complex salsas, handmade corn and flour tortillas, rich flavors, and some of the best palomas we’ve ever had are just a few of the reasons why we’re fans of Con Todo. This Mexican restaurant in Logan Square started out earlier this year as a delivery and takeout-only spot, and now they’re open for dine-in with a menu of small plates, tortas (the “pamburgesa” is a fun hybrid of a spicy pambazo and a smashburger), and dinners like the tamal frito: a corn panisse with sweet roasted squash, savory mushrooms, and a rich pipian verde that had us asking our server the other dishes that have it so we could order them immediately. The answer is none, but there are plenty of other impressive salsas to go around, like the smoky tatemada with fresh chips. Con Todo’s bright space has an open kitchen, lots of tables for small groups and couples, and a large bar that’s perfect for a solo meal after a long, paloma-needing kind of day.
Union is a bar where you can get a fantastic dinner to go with your drinks. It’s the sister restaurant of Lardon (one of our Best New Restaurants Of 2021), and while Lardon is a salumeria specializing in meat and cheese boards, Union really wants to feed you. The dishes here all have little twists that make them stand out from the usual pub food suspects— like lightly breaded fried olives filled with mortadella, or juicy lamb and pistachio meatballs swimming in a caper salsa verde. We’re also huge fans of their wonderful burger: a thick brisket and chuck patty topped with crispy onions, bone marrow aioli, and thinly sliced pickles to cut through the richness. To remind us that this is a bar, they have a long whiskey list, which they use to make a variety of creative Old Fashioneds.
This new 25-seat tasting-menu spot, which, yes, is in a 100-year-old coach house, is hidden in the courtyard behind Wazwan, the casual South Asian restaurant in Wicker Park that's from the same team. The Coach House serves an incredible $150 eight-course meal with dishes like momos filled with crab kulambu in a spicy black garlic sauce, chewy fara dumplings swimming in clarified beet butter, and chettinad fish topped with eggplant and crispy shallots. Every dish has a story (like that the duck numidian was inspired from a cookbook titled “Recipes From Medieval Islam” read during quarantine), or that the fara is an homage to the chef’s street-food-loving uncle. And while this place is expensive, it feels relaxed. It’s casual, BYOB, you’ll be eating to a chill playlist filled with South Asian pop and hip hop. It’s only open Thursdays through Saturdays (with just two seatings a night), so once your dinner ends you’ll be scheming to book your next ticket.
Owen & Engine
We couldn’t be happier to write the following sentence: After being closed for two years, Owen & Engine has reopened. This British pub in Logan Square is (was?) one of our favorite spots for a casual dinner, and we’re delighted to report that it’s still great—especially their incredible burger. The menu is similar to how it was before, which means bar food like fish and chips intermingling with small plates like a caviar-and-uni-topped potato pave and venison tartare tossed in a blood vinaigrette that makes us want to register for a hunting license. (Calm down, not really). Thankfully, that wonderful burger is back too, with its thick brisket, short rib, and chuck patty topped with caramelized onions. We’ve returned it to its rightful place on our list of Chicago’s Best Burgers, much like you should return to Owen & Engine.
Dinner at Aikana in the West loop might make you forget that we live in a city that necessitates owning a floor-length puffer coat. This upscale Latin American restaurant is filled with hanging basket lights and tropical plants, and the menu focuses on food from Central and South America. You’ll find dishes like lime-cured wagyu on top of a crispy rice cake, mote and chorizo mixed with an incredible poblano salsa, and the $148 bandeja, which includes pork, prawns, morcilla, and a whole bunch of other meats and sides that will inspire you to make new friends just so you can share it with a group.
It’s not often we enthusiastically recommend a restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But Roux, a counter-service New Orleans-inspired spot in Hyde Park, is a great choice for all three meals. The restaurant is large, bright, and perfect for getting some work done over coffee and beignets, a Sunday brunch filled with fluffy biscuits and gravy, or a weeknight dinner of shrimp and creamy grits. The entire menu is available all day long, and there’s a pastry case up front full of incredible baked goods, like a gigantic cinnamon roll where each bite somehow tastes like the gooey center—which everyone knows is the best part.
Good luck walking away with less than six sandwiches per person from Tribecca’s. The new takeout-only sandwich spot in Logan Square has…Ok, maybe that’s just us. But the menu has nine to choose from, each one we’ve tried has been unique and delicious, and it’s simply too hard to make a decision. Their flavorful version of a Cubano is made with mojo pork, ham, chipotle aioli and mustard butter on pressed ciabatta. The horseshoe—an open-faced sandwich on Pullman bread topped with two beef patties, cheese sauce, and fries—will obliterate any hangover. And they have a sloppy and perfect “Maidwrong” made with steak sauce aioli. The sandwiches are all filling enough to qualify as a three-course meal on their own, but don’t ignore the excellent sides. Particularly the creamy mac and cheese and loaded baked potato-nut, which is a Tubers donut fried in clarified butter and topped with sour cream, bacon, cotija, and chives. You know, a light snack.
Signs you’re at a restaurant from the Bavette’s team: 1920s jazz, a dim dining room that feels like the Clue mansion, fantastic service, and great food. You’ll find all of the above at Armitage Alehouse, the team’s newest restaurant in Lincoln Park. Like its predecessors, this place has the ability to suck you in and magically makes you forget the world is spinning outside. The menu is filled with pub-inspired dishes like steak tartare with anchovy aioli, a wonderful wagyu smashburger, and a selection of incredible rotating pot pies–like pheasant and foie gras, or steak and ale. Order as much as will fit on your table, and drag your meal out for as long as possible until you need to go back into the real world.
Chicago’s lust for pizza can never be sated. So we welcome Zazas with open arms. It’s a casual New York-style pizza shop in Lakeview, and the pies here are very good. The crust is thin and chewy, glistens with olive oil, and is a wonderful vehicle for Zazas’ long list of toppings. You can order by the slice or pie, with options like a sweet and spicy bacon jam, or soppressata with hot honey. For the New York-style purists, there’s also a great pepperoni (with the cute little grease cups) and a white pie topped with fluffy dollops of ricotta. The restaurant is BYOB, and luckily there’s a Binny’s right across the street. So who knows, maybe this place will sate your lust after all.
The food at this casual Italian restaurant in Humboldt Park stands out in Chicago’s pasta and chicken parmesan landscape, because every dish has some kind of creative twist. The meatballs are filled with melted scamorza, offering the benefits of a Juicy Lucy without the risk of third-degree burns. The deconstructed lasagna is a pile of handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and a mushroom bolognese that would win in a steel cage death match against any meat version. The restaurant has the relaxed vibe of a European cafe, and is busy with couples on dates, small groups catching up, and people at the bar drinking wine and having oysters—all of whom are probably pretending they’re on vacation.
Dave’s began as a food truck in Pilsen, and now has a brick and mortar location in Humboldt Park. And not only is the Mexican food here delicious, but the new Dave’s is also a low-key bar great for hanging out with friends, watching a game, or dining solo. Like the original, the menu is mainly tacos, burritos, and tortas, with a variety of filling options. Our favorite dishes are the spicy guajillo shrimp taco, carne asada burrito (perfectly constructed with an ideal ratio of meat to beans and cheese) and the mole de pollo dinner—which is rich, sweet, and comes with creamy refried black beans, rice, and tortillas so you can make your own tacos.
This South Asian restaurant began as a pop-up, moved into Politan Row, then was in a virtual kitchen, and now finally has a permanent location in Wicker Park. We hope it’s their forever home, because this little counter-service spot is incredible. The nihari momos are delicately wrapped packages of beefy love, the mushroom korma is rich and savory, and the chettinad masala has the perfect amount of heat and unbelievably tender pieces of chicken. Wazwan is very casual, but they also have a tasting menu concept in the same space called The Coach House. It’s only available on Friday and Saturday, and checking it out is next on our list.
This new West Loop Italian spot is already incredibly busy. It’s from the same chef as Boka, which means the food is great. And while the menu isn’t going to blow your mind with creativity (it’s mainly pizza, pasta, and a handful of entrees) it is delicious. The cacio e pepe ricotta dumplings are now our reigning definition of “decadent.” The pizza has a chewy crust, and the chicken parmesan stays crispy even while sitting in a rich tomato sauce. It’s in the former Bellemore space (which is huge) and it’s decorated with hanging plants and a very cool fabric wave ceiling. The bar is full of people dining solo, and the restaurant is buzzing with staff and everyone from couples to large groups. Right now reservations are few and far between, so plan on booking a month or so in advance, or snagging a seat at the bar right when they open.
This casual Mexican spot in Humboldt Park has birria that we can only describe as transcendent. While we ate it time stopped and the restaurant dissolved around us like pixels in The Matrix and nothing existed besides the truth of braised meat and flavorful red consomé. It’s served with some incredibly pliable handmade tortillas that stand up to the juicy meat without disintegrating - a fact that we put to the test with the delicious quesabirria, too. Birria is (obviously) the specialty, but the menu also includes things like fajitas and chilaquiles (which we’ll be trying on our next visit), and a short beer list. Plus, it’s decorated with a fun mural that was colorful enough to pull us back into reality - though we’re not holding that against it.
Look, we’re not telling you to just run out and spend $200 on a 12-15 course tasting menu. But if you’re in the market to do so, we highly recommend doing it at Esme. This new fine-dining spot in Lincoln Park has everything we look for in a fancy-ass meal. The three-hour meal never drags, courses flow together seamlessly, and (most importantly) the food is incredible. Plus, the magician that did the restaurant’s lighting made sure everyone looks airbrushed and like they belong in an art gallery. The food is fun without being too whimsical, with dishes like charred ribs topped with banana caramel and wrapped around a ceramic “bone” you eat like a Flintstone. There’s also savory sweet potato ice cream topped with caviar, and a canapé that tastes like a Cheeto from the future. So if you’re looking for a very upscale place to celebrate a special occasion, you can confidently book a table here.
The Listening Room is a bar and listening cafe in the Loop. What’s a listening cafe, you ask? Taken from their website, it’s “a clubby dining experience with a state-of-the-art audio experience.” And while “clubby Loop restaurant” is not something we generally find on our Hit List, it turns out it’s not very clubby - it’s more of an upscale cafe that works for a casual date night. Plus, the food is delicious. The menu has dishes like tender chicken thighs with crispy skin, mac and cheese that gets melted raclette poured over it tableside, and some very interesting roasted carrots served with a fluffy coconut mousse and topped with peanuts. The “listening” part really just means that the sound quality is really good, and the music genre changes, so check their Instagram to see what they’re playing before you visit.
Amaru in Wicker Park has an amazing vegan tacu tacu. So when we heard that the same chef opened Bloom, a vegan restaurant in Wicker Park, we were excited. And our instincts were correct - the long menu is full of hits. Like the squash blossom-filled tamal topped with a rich mole, a tomato pizza with sweet tamarind saba and a cauliflower crust, and some truly wonderful mushroom asada tacos. And a lot of the dishes on the menu are also gluten-free and raw, so this place works well for a variety of dietary needs. The space keeps with the theme - it’s filled with plants and is bright enough that you won’t worry that said plants aren’t getting enough light. It's ideal for a casual date night, or a small group dinner with some vegetable-loving friends.
The Lardon is a salumeria, so the menu is full of lots of salumi, cheese, and various meats they cure in-house. And when we came here, we sat out on their patio and ordered a meat and cheese spread (which came with housemade accouterments like onion jam) along with a couple of sandwiches - including an incredible Rueben made with what might be the best pastrami in Chicago. Also, Lardon just extended their hours and menu, so you can come here for dinner and get things like steak frites or mussels.
You’ll find this upscale steakhouse at 88 Marketplace, a very large shopping complex just west of Chinatown. Inspired by Korean BBQ, each table at Holu has a grill where the server (or you, if you like throwing caution to the wind and/or are a control freak) cooks your steak. And the main reason this place is on our Hit List is the incredible quality of the meat. Most of it is aged in-house (you can say hi to the impressive selection displayed in the window while you have a drink at the bar), with everything from ribeye and zabuton, to wagyu tongue and A5 Japanese Kobe. It’s ordered by the ounce, and our suggestion is to get the $75 meat paradise. That allows you to try a portion of everything, along with some banchan-style sides and dessert. Come here with a friend who loves meat, or for a group dinner where everyone at the table digs the idea of having a personal chef for the night.
The original Dr. Bird’s opened in Buffalo in 1981 (fun fact, Griselda named a song after it) and thankfully this counter-service Caribbean spot has a second location in Wicker Park. Their specialty are Jamaican patties, which are filled with either chicken, beef, or spinach. Those are great (our favorite is the spicy beef) but the menu also has tender jerk chicken and creamy rasta pasta with Gruyere, rosemary, and roasted tomatoes. The sides are outstanding too - including must-order coco rice that’s sweet and savory, fluffy coco bread that’s perfect for enfolding your patty, and festivals that are a perfect complement to the smoky jerk seasoning. Bird’s also has a long list of fresh juices, rum cocktails, and incredibly friendly service. In other words, if you like being in a good mood, head here immediately.
We became fans of this Vietnamese restaurant in Lakeview after eating here on a 90-degree day. Sochi’s refreshing seared duck salad was exactly what we needed - the gỏi vịt was topped with tender breast underneath crispy skin, pickled daikon and carrots, and a perfect amount of mint, sweet and spicy ginger fish dressing. The delicious bánh mì (which had an excellent ratio of pâté and pork loaf to crunchy bread) - made us want to go on a picnic, especially since we were sitting next to the restaurant’s large garage-style windows. The menu also has bigger entrees like phở and cơm chiên, which we’ll certainly be trying on our next visit. This place works for a catch-up dinner with friends or a casual date night, and they now serve cocktails, wine, and beer.
Rose Mary is a Croatian spot from a Top Chef winner and former Spiaggia chef that just opened in the West Loop. Right now, reservations are tough to get, which isn’t that surprising considering this place is from a popular chef and in a popular neighborhood. But please don’t let that dissuade you from booking a table whenever you can, because this place is great. I ate a very spring-appropriate salad with tomato, farro, and asparagus that was both flavorful and refreshing. There was also a delicious crni rizot that tasted like it was made with stock from the tears of a hundred lobsters (that’s a compliment), and, of course, incredible pastas. Most dishes range from $10-$25, and it works for either a casual date or a fun night out with friends. And even though they recently opened, they’re operating seamlessly. So if you’re looking for a new restaurant where you won’t have to form a search party to find your server, you’ll get it here.
If you’re looking for a leisurely spot where you can commiserate about your former boss, or discuss important topics like Aaron Rodgers’ contract, book a table at Dear Margaret in Lakeview. This charming French-Canadian restaurant in Lakeview has tasty dishes like foie gras terrine with fluffy milk bread, duck breast with lentils, and a friendly team who will leave you alone while you get to the bottom of how Aaron and Shailene met. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place where you will want to take extra time to finish off that wine you brought.