We checked out these new restaurants—and loved them.Less
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 z’atar mayo on their burger or red tahini ranch on a crispy chicken sandwich.
“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, seafood gumbo with an ideal amount of gentle heat, and buttery wagyu sliders.
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.
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.
We normally don't put chain restaurants on our Hit List, but damn it, Planta Queen (which has locations in New York, Miami, and Toronto) is great. 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.
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.
A few things to know about 1308 in Goose Island: they’re not open on the weekends, they close at 9pm, and this is exactly the kind of chill place you want to decompress after forgetting to turn your microphone off during this morning’s company-wide Zoom. This little bar and restaurant calls itself a “speak eatery”, which is kind of cute and spot on. It’s hidden in the courtyard of a small office building, only has about 30 seats, and serves outstanding cocktails and great Southern-inspired food.
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.
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.
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 January, 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.