You already have the Hit List, our regularly updated guide to the best new spots in Chicago. But based off our recent restaurant experiences, here’s our newest intel. Scroll down to get all the info on the places we’re adding to our Hit Lists, the spots where we’ve been eating recently, and the next round of restaurants that we’ll be checking out.
NEW TO THE HIT LIST:
Delta is a new Southern bar and restaurant in Wicker Park that’s great for casual drinking and snacking. They have a long cocktail menu, and their food specialty is tamales that are simmered in a chile broth instead of steamed. There are a few different kinds, like spicy brisket and a hard-to-imagine-it’s-good version with pastrami, lamb, beef, giardiniera, and lots of cheese. But it is, and it’s pretty perfect drinking food, along with the hushpuppies and “animal” fries that have melted pimento cheese and caramelized onions. The space is small and narrow, with an open kitchen and an awesome back patio.
Bonci Pizzeria is a new counter-service pizza spot in the West Loop, serving pizza “al taglio,” or cut when you order and sold by weight. It’s very busy right now, but the line moves fast, and the pizza is worth it. Bonci’s crust is airy and thick like focaccia, and the pizza doesn’t have very much sauce, so the toppings really are the focus. You’ll see combinations like potato with rosemary, romanesco with hummus, and ’nduja with ricotta, and even if it sounds strange, it works. There are usually around 12-18 rotating varieties, and we advise trying as many kinds as you can.
West Town has a new restaurant and cocktail spot called Beatnik, and they’re doing small plates with a Spanish and Mediterranean influence. The restaurant is big on atmosphere, with areas that will make you feel like you’re in Pan’s Labyrinth or The Darjeeling Limited. You may find yourself having dinner on an ornate daybed from a temple in Bali, which would seem ridiculous if the food wasn’t so good. Somehow, eating rabbit arepa, fried quail, and dumplings manages to make sense in the fun and kind of bizarre space. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re with people who appreciate some strange.
OTHER SPOTS WE’VE RECENTLY CHECKED OUT:
Vegetable-centric restaurants have been popping up all over Chicago, and Clever Rabbit, in Wicker Park, is one of the newest. If there were such a thing as a vegetable-themed nightclub, it would probably look like this: the indoor space is dark, with loud music and dangling lights, and overall, you get the sense that they’re really trying to make eating vegetables cool. Unfortunately, the menu is boring, full of predictable dishes like roasted beets with blue cheese, flash-fried brussels sprouts, and kale salads. But there are a lot of gluten-free and vegan options, and even though the food is basic, it’s satisfying, so it’s a good option if you need a restaurant in the neighborhood for people with dietary restrictions.
Katana is a sceney Japanese restaurant from LA, and they recently opened in River North. The space is massive, with tall ceilings, huge booths, and tons of private dining areas designed for parties and corporate gatherings. The whole space feels like a gigantic hotel lobby, and the huge number of tourists it attracts only adds to this feeling. Their menu has an assortment of hot and cold Japanese dishes, a robata section, and sushi. Everything is fine, but nothing stands out as particularly interesting or inventive. We can’t really think of a reason to come here unless you’re hosting a huge corporate get-together. It’s expensive and just not that interesting.
While doing research for our Lakeview Guide update, one of the best meals we had was at Coda Di Volpe, an Italian spot from the same people who run The Gage downtown. The giant, fairly generic space with large booths feels a little like a chain, but the Neapolitan pies you cut yourself with scissors at the table are excellent - the crust is chewy and crispy in all the right ways. There are also great pasta dishes and mains. It’s in a family-heavy neighborhood, so on any given night you might be eating in a restaurant full of children, or couples desperately trying to squeeze all the value they can out of their babysitter. If you haven’t made it here yet, it’s worth checking out.
Steingold’s of Chicago: A new Jewish deli in North Center doing bagels, sandwiches, and cured meat and fish by the pound. They’re open on weekdays from 7am to 7 pm, and they tend to run out of certain things, so call ahead if there’s something you really want.
Dos Toros: A burrito chain from New York that just opened a location in the Loop. Try it if you’re tired of Chipotle being your best fast casual Mexican option.
Lobo Rey: A new Mexican spot in the South Loop. Expect gourmet tacos, a Mexican cheese board, and stuff cooked on a flattop grill in front of customers.