The Most Exciting Dinner Spots In Chicago Right Now
A night out at one of these places—whether it’s for a catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night—feels overwhelmingly of the moment.
For anyone wondering which sit-down restaurants are currently hot in Chicago right this second, you have arrived at the right figurative Internet place. What does “hot” mean, you ask? Well it’s safe to say that we put on relatively cute outfits to dine at each restaurant below (possibly even eye makeup and our “good deodorant”). A night out at one of these places—whether it’s for a casual catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night—feels overwhelmingly of the current moment.
And, as always, we wouldn’t be recommending any of these restaurants simply for having a memorable scene. We’ve been to each and every spot and loved the food they serve—so you can plan your dinner confidently.
photo credit: Shoo Loong Kan
Shoo Loong Kan Hotpot
This Chinatown hot pot restaurant is part of a popular international chain, and considering it takes an hour and a half to grab a table, that popularity has followed it to Chicago. Shoo Loong Kan’s space is immersive, with decorative touches like ornate wooden lattice and red lanterns, plus large stone tables perfect for groups. They have a long list of premium ingredients, from A5 wagyu and lobster, to harder-to-find options like goose intestines and geoduck. There are four broths to choose from (the best is the house chili) and each table can order up to three. They all start out tasting mild but develop complexity throughout the meal from cooking the meat, seafood, and vegetables. Access to the robust dipping sauce station costs $1.99, but there you’ll also find things like beef tripe in chili oil and some refreshing fruit.
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. But the restaurant doesn’t feel too formal. It’s energetic and busy, and the South Asian EDM playlist won’t make you feel like you’re eating in a library. 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 offers an a la carte option and a seven-course tasting menu for $80-$90, which feels very affordable in a neighborhood overrun with valets parking rented Lambos.
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photo credit: Maddie Cox
We don’t normally find chain restaurants exciting, but damn it, Planta Queen (which has locations in New York, Miami, and Toronto) is. This Asian-fusion vegan spot is the rare plant-based restaurant where the food really good and enough of a scene to earn its downtown address. The space is sleek, has a thump-y music playlist that may briefly make you consider going clubbing afterward, and the long menu is full of dishes that are objectively tasty—whether you’re vegan or not. There’s spicy tuna nigiri made with spicy dehydrated watermelon, jackfruit chicken wings that somehow mimic crispy skin, and firm udon noodles swimming in an unbelievably silky truffle mushroom cream sauce. The large space has plenty of seats for couples, but also enough big booths for a group of friends.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Mini Mott, the sibling restaurant to Mott St, has undergone an extreme makeover and transformed into Second Generation. It’s evolved from a counter-service Logan Square burger spot to a busy sit-down restaurant with a retro-modern look and some great Asian-inspired small plates. They’ve kept the delicious burger around, but there are plenty of other newcomers on the menu worth getting to know. We like their charred octopus with fermented black bean sauce, but their meaty misoyaki eggplant topped with rich hoisin, miso butter, and a gooey onsen egg is also a must-order. The intimate space and candlelit tables make for a great dinner date, but the friendly service paired with an upbeat Motown soundtrack create a relaxed, fun atmosphere.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
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: Felton Edward Kizer
Sueños x Soho
Soho House in the West Loop is known as an exclusive clubhouse for people posing as creatives, but you don’t have to pay a membership fee while pretending to produce an album in order to eat at their pop-up, Sueños X Soho. This great Baja-influenced seafood spot is open to the public, but like that exchange student you had a brief-but-exciting affair with, it's leaving in January. So you need to take advantage. The dark dining space is fun, full of upbeat bass-heavy music and squiggly abstract art. And the food is delicious—from the tart and nutty snapper ceviche to the immaculately cooked pulpo skewers. But it’s the garlicky shrimp drenched in butter that will have you licking your lips constantly, not because you need chapstick, but to savor the robust flavor. And if you need a place to have an exciting celebratory dinner, they occasionally have a $185 tasting menu.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Bronzeville Winery’s groovy soul and funk playlist will make you want to bust out the moves that you picked up from that ill-fated Groupon dance class. But though there’s not enough room to showcase your skill (and embarrass whoever you’ve brought to dinner), this sleek upscale spot still has plenty of energy, along with great service and delicious food. Their juicy filet mignon is perfectly seasoned, and the fluffy gnocchi with shrimp and scallops is covered in a spicy tomato sauce. They also have lots of vegetarian options. Like a savory watermelon steak that’s a major upgrade from the pre-cut stuff you brought to the picnic because your friends (rightly) didn’t trust your ability to carve a whole one. Perfect for date night or a celebratory end-of-the-week glass of wine, the lively music and fantastic food will give you enough energy and motivation to find a real dance floor afterward.
One of our favorite Chicago restaurants reopening after two years is cause for excitement. The fact that it opened with a new menu and a revamped space—that’s very exciting too, but also a little nerve-wracking. Will it be just as good? And for God’s sake, what about the baked potato bing bread? We’re delighted to report that the food at this Korean American restaurant is still incredible. And while the baked potato bing bread is sadly no more, we forgot about it after our first bite of delicate haemul pajun teeming with scallions, shrimp, and calamari. The pork bossam has perfectly rendered belly and tender pork collar, and a spread of banchan is worth making the trip here on its own. The small space is as charming as ever, with a little more room between tables, an open kitchen so you can keep an eye on your twe gim tempura, and an eclectic soundtrack playing everything from Diana Ross to Oasis.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Obelix is an upscale French restaurant that follows in the footsteps of its older sibling, Le Bouchon, but also breaks family tradition by giving its French menu its own flair. And while you can still order classics like French onion soup or poulet roti, you want to come here for their fusion-y dishes that have an international spin. The combinations of flavors and ingredients are interesting and unexpected, like the steak tartare with a spicy and pungent shio kombu or their impressively complex foie gras taco (a.k.a. foie-co). The dining room has paneled walls and slanted wooden ceilings, and makes you feel like you’re eating in a modern chalet. Come for a fun date night or a small group dinner, and listen to an energetic hip-hop soundtrack that will probably encourage some mid-bite head bobbing.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Hard-to-book restaurants in unique locations are by nature pretty exciting, so The Coach House had an advantage even before we even sat down for our meal. 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 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.
The X Pot is a futuristic hot pot restaurant that recently opened in the South Loop. What makes it futuristic? Robot servers, along with elaborate light projections and thematic soundscapes. And if robots don’t sound exciting to you, well, we disagree. But maybe tableside noodle dances or appetizers with smoky dry ice does—both of which also happen here. So yes, this place is a rather absurd production, but it's also fun and the hot pot is good. The pots are served individually (each seat has its own burner) and you get your choice of soup. We like the medium spicy Szechuan, which has a nice amount of spice and goes great with the wagyu ribeye, lamb shoulder, and ox aorta. While the robots might bring you your selection of ingredients, humans are on hand to take orders. And, presumably, to rescue you from the robots should they gain sentience and revolt.
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. They also have some Indian-inspired dishes (like a pretty boring tikka masala) but don’t let those distract you. Stick with the stuff they do best—which usually involves bone marrow—and plan on dragging your meal out for as long as possible until you need to go back into the real world.
We first met Kasama in 2020, the Year Of Takeout, when this casual Filipino restaurant in Ukrainian Village was only open for carryout and delivery. Now they’re open for indoor dining, and we’re here to talk about their incredible dinner. Thursdays through Sunday the cafe lights a few candles and transforms into a special occasion-worthy restaurant. The 13-course Filipino menu is $185 per person, and it’s a rare fine dining menu that unequivocally feels worth the price. The menu changes regularly, but you can expect to find delicious things like squid ink pancit topped with serrano ham, lamb belly kare kare—no matter what hits the table, each course is balanced, perfectly executed, and flows seamlessly into the next. Despite the price and attention to detail, this place is still pretty casual, making it a great option for a special occasion dinner when you want impressive food, but don’t want to stress about what to wear.
A parade of new Italian restaurants have marched into Chicago recently. But we’re putting Segnatore at the top of this list, because the excellent food at this casual Humboldt Park spot actually stands out in the sea of pasta and chicken parm newcomers. Every dish has some kind of creative twist that makes it interesting. Like meatballs filled with melted scamorza, offering the benefits of a Juicy Lucy without the risk of third-degree burns. Their “lasagna” is deconstructed–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 vibe of a European cafe (which makes sense, it’s in the former Cafe Marie Jeanne space), and is busy with couples on dates, small groups catching up, and people laughing at the bar drinking wine and having oysters—all of whom are probably pretending they’re on vacation.
Provaré is a fun, brightly lit Creole and Italian spot in West Town. The busy space has an R&B playlist that will make you realize how much you enjoy 90s Usher, and you’ll get complimentary shots of one of their house cocktails as soon as you sit down. The menu is short (just a few appetizers and mains), but really good. Standout dishes include cheesy spinach and artichoke dip filled with shrimp and crawfish, shrimp Hennessy scampi, and bone-in lamb chops with corn maque choux. Oh, and they have a couple of vegan options, too - like Impossible Meat bolognese and brussels sprouts topped with vegan parmesan.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
This guide exists specifically for places like Alla Vita—and let us count the ways. This new West Loop Italian spot is already incredibly busy and popular. It’s in the former Bellemore space (which is huge) and it’s decorated with hanging plants and a large overhead installation that looks a little like wavy gills. 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 wood-fired crust, and the chicken parmesan stays crispy even while sitting in a rich tomato sauce. 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.
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 you 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.
We’re not going to lie to you: Adalina is a sh*tshow. This busy upscale Italian spot walks the line between fancy and overly formal—you’ll find white tablecloths and servers in jackets. But because of the friendly service, and the fact that it’s busy and loud, you won’t feel like you’re eating in a library. Plus, the food is good. The menu has dishes like gnocco fritto with prosciutto, whipped ricotta, and honey (a fantastic starter) housemade pastas like ravioli with corn, truffle, and balsamic drizzle, and entrees like a tender bone-in veal parmigiana. So if you’re looking for a celebratory meal but still want the chance to make a joke with the drunk people at the table next to you, come here.