The 18 Best New Restaurants Of 2014
Unless you're a chef with an impeccable pedigree and a recognizable name, opening a restaurant in Chicago is a crapshoot. Will the initial reviews praise a new restaurant's concept and cooking, ensuring some initial early business? Or will an off-night cast just enough doubt with an established food writer (or a picky, self-absorbed Yelper) and ensure the run won't last long? Furthermore, can a new restaurant flush with early success and rave reviews be able to sustain that initial rush and position itself to broaden its business?
A 2012 study showed 70 percent of restaurants that make it past their first year are out of business between Year Three and Year Five. (There are some species of insects with a longer lifespan.) In a food-obsessed city like Chicago, the spotlight on restaurants that shutter is as bright, if not brighter, than when one opens.
And there were scores of new restaurant openings in Chicago this year. The ones we chose for this list are the ones we feel stand out and have the best chance of longterm success. Make your reservations now and, as always, dissect, debate and discuss the selections and offer your choices in the comments.
Dolsot bi bim bop, short rib, pickled ramps, red kale, duck egg and foie gras from Parachute (Photo: L. Stolpman)
The cuisine from Chefs Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark is both imaginative and familiar. This wife and husband duo manages to take a dish you love and improve upon it with textures or unexpected pops of flavor. At times rustic like the bacon and potato bing bread baked in a cast iron pan, served with sour cream butter or the hand torn noodles with lamb sofrito—which get a perfect pairing from Matty Colston, Parachute's sommelier. And at times elegant: the boudin noir's silken texture with the coconut yogurt's tang is beautifully harmonious. The only thing you can predict at Parachute is that you'll leave satisfied. The dolsot bibimbop is ever-changing and I want to dedicate a portion of my stomach to it at each meal. When our server described one of Parachute's desserts as "a black sesame cake with blueberry sorbet, brown butter and lavender", one of my dining companions whispered, "Talk dirty to me." After the first bite, we asked for another one to be brought to the table. It's just that good. — Laura Stolpman
Parachute is located at 3500 N. Elston Ave.
How did this area of the Near North Side suddenly end up with so many good restaurants? Particularly restaurants that sound kind of lame, but turn out to be excellent. Like Bottlefork, Celeste, The Kitchen and now River Roast? I still don’t really know what River Roast is about. Roasting stuff? In the end it doesn’t matter, the menu has so many delicious items you’ll forget you even wondered about it. It’s about pillowly blini with creamy trout, perfectly crisped potatoes, an intensely complex turnip gratin and meat, lots and lots of meat, oozing with fat and meaty juices. —Melissa McEwen
River Roast is located at 315 N. LaSalle Street.
Cellar Door Provisions
A year ago, I attended a class at Little Goat Bread which prompted me to wonder why Chicago was so short on bakeries. In our giant city, we are brimming with cupcake shops but have only a handful of options for fresh bread. This year, Cellar Door Provisions blessed the community with their open doors, welcoming everyone to experience food made with love, patience, and a mindful approach to the environment and civil engagement. The hours are limited: they’re only open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday - Sunday, but they offer something truly special and unique. The ever-rotating menu is lush with seasonal offerings made with heart and soul, like fresh salads and dumplings. The pastries are unbelievable: from the canelé to the croissant- each is a work of art with intricate, flavorful layers. Their bread is the real deal, naturally leavened and fermented, sliced thick and rich with sour tang. Even in the death of winter, I’ll happily make my way up Diversey just to gorge myself on my favorite menu item entitled "staff meal": bread, butter, greens and a soft boiled egg.—Erika Kubick
Cellar Door Provisions is located at 3025 W. Diversey Ave.
When Big Star fans heard Paul Kahan was buying the recently shuttered Cipollina space on Damen Avenue, just North of his beloved taco and whiskey taqueria, many may have thought he was simply setting up shop for another take on Mexican street food. Instead Wicker Park received the cozy and laid-back Dove's Luncheonette. With ample counter seats and a record player that's always spinning, the space's look is greatly inspired by 1960s diners. The menu is small but features modernized versions of classic Tex Mex dishes like Chile Rellenos, Tamal de Elote and a spicy and satisfying Ham and Cheese Torta. In true diner fashion these dishes are served morning, noon and night, and for just a dollar you can top any entree with a fried egg. We'd recommend starting every Dove's meal with the hearty Pepper and Potato Hash (with a fried egg, of course) and finishing the meal on a sweet note with a slice of Hoosier Mama Horchata Pie. —Gina Provenzano
Dove’s Luncheonette is located at 1545 N. Damen Ave.
Three Aces has a cult following for a reason: fatty flavorful food, great drinks, and a welcoming atmosphere. The team has set up shop in West Town at Charlatan, which is a bit fancier than its predecessor with its gorgeous romantically lit Victorian-style interior and a menu featuring beautifully crafted pasta and tons of meat. I’ve had a couple of the pastas here (thankfully they offer half orders) and hands down my favorite is the rabbit casconcelli covered in luscious brown butter and plump raisins. Don’t miss the crispy focaccia laced with plenty of roasted garlic, and yes, more butter.—Melissa McEwen
Charlatan is located at 1329 W. Chicago Ave.
Imagine you have a friend who's a world class chef. And he invites you to an intimate dinner party. While he whips up course after course of amazing food, his wife charms the room with her wit and guides their guests through all the exotic dishes. This is what it's like to dine at 42 Grams. The brainchild of chef Jake Bickelhaupt and his wife Alexa Walsh, 42 Grams grew from an underground dinner series held in their apartment to a cozy, intimate storefront downstairs that opened last January. There are only 18 seats available each night for the tasting menu, with an 8-person early seating at the chef's counter, and a later 10-person seating around a communal table. 42 Grams is BYOB, and they send an email prior to dining with them providing detailed wine pairing recommendations based on the current 15-course menu. When we dined at 42 Grams in late summer, some of the standout dishes includes an asparagus gelato with a smoke-cured tuna, a seafood tribute to Charlie Trotter served on dishes from Trotter's restaurant (where Bickelhaupt once cooked), a dish of crispy grains with charred green onions and sous vide egg yolk, deconstructed pork belly tacos and a decadent Waygu beef with bone marrow power. A number of dishes used techniques of molecular gastronomy to turn liquid flavors like tom kha soup or gin into solid form, while others relied on serving exotic, luxurious ingredients in simple states. While the couples and groups around the communal table kept to themselves at first, as we shared in the experience of exploring Chef Jake's dishes and the wine kept flowing, we all began to mingle. Even after the food ended and the bottles were drained, we ended up hanging out chatting as none of the guests wanted the evening to end. Given the inviting atmosphere and amazing food, we weren’t all that surprised that Michelin awarded 42 Grams two stars in their first year.—Benjy Lipsman
42 Grams is located at 4662 N. Broadway.
I’ll be honest: I would have tried Bohemian House even if the reviews were mean and nasty on account of the blue leather couches, Singer sewing machine atop the bar and Alphonse Mucha painting. Appearances matter, and Bohemian House is a beauty. But the food rewarded me for judging this book by its fetching cover. I’ve returned twice since its opening for two terrific meals of the deviled eggs, beef pierogi and cheese kolacky with a Czech-gria to wash it down. The menu is a slim one, but I promise you’ll kick yourself for not being able to order it all. No, Bohemian House is not quite the flower child of a restaurant you may have thought you wanted. It’s the woman she became when she grew up. —Melissa Wiley
Bohemian House is located at 11 W. Illinois St.
Like the bar at The Allis, Kinmont hasn’t really been hyped up. That’s probably because the concept behind it, sustainable (a nebulous word) seafood, might be too abstract for most diners and when was the last time you thought “sustainable seafood? That sounds delicious"? Never, probably. But this place has excellent cooking, great drinks and you usually don’t have to wade through crowds to get them. Don’t miss the perfectly scrambled creamy eggs on toast with whitefish and juicy salmon roe. Walleye and Rushing Waters trout are fish choices you need to try if you haven’t already. —Melissa McEwen
Kinmont is located at 419 W. Superior St.
Plenty of critics have lamented the barrage of modern Italian joints, but most have also duly noted the individualized intrigue they have injected into a once classic concept. Osteria Langhe stands out for its acute regional concentration in Piedmontese cuisine, and rarely, if ever, steers from that corner of Italy. From a rotating risotto to fine housemade pastas like the plin (ravioli) in a simple but pleasing parmesan-thyme-butter sauce to a daily panna cotta and a clever marshmallow gelato s’more- the menu is focused. But what is a tight menu, well-executed and complemented by solid service, without a matching list of libations? Read: Italian wines, many from Piedmont’s stars: Alba, Asti, and Barolo wines, Italian spirits, including Rhine Hall’s take on grappa, Italian amaros like the bittersweet Rabarbaro Zucca and the wine-based Cardamaro, Italian beers and cocktails. Aside from a daiquiri and coda (the daiquiri’s allspice-d little sister), the cocktails keep traditional Italian. Try an amaro in Menabrea Ambrata birre over ice, or a Negroni your way: Classico, the lighter Americano, the sparkling Sbagliato with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and the bright, floral Cappelletti Aperitivo. Focus: it goes a long way when deciding where to drink and dine, and here Aldo Zaninotto and Chef Cameron Grant combine both beautifully without leaving one to fend for itself. In an era of talked-up concepts and half-witted execution, Osteria Langhe challenges patrons to follow through wholeheartedly with their decision to live the Italian way - for one night anyways. —Kristine Sherred
Osteria Langhe is located at 2824 W. Armitage Ave.
If you’ve recently been to Spain by chance, then you’re craving croquettes. And after some Iberian travels, I left mfk more than satisfied. The subterranean tapas restaurant with only a handful of seats fills its signature iteration with potatoes, speck and manchego cheese, and I could have eaten a hundred. But seafood is what dominates a spread designed to conjure the briny air of the Costa del Sol in the midst of a Chicago chill, and I’m crediting mfk with making me like anchovies. The Basque cake is the only dessert on offer, but trust me: it’s a keeper. And even though this coziest of cozy restaurants only opened last July, it already feels to me like one of those places that make this city home. —Melissa Wiley
mfk is located at 432 W. Diversey Pkwy.
This is the taco place I didn’t even know I needed. It’s right next to the train, which is perfect since there isn’t really much of a place to eat here, except in the warmer seasons when there is a patio. But this is much much nicer than the average bag of takeout tacos. The tortillas are made in house and the aroma of toasted corn fills the air as they make them to order. There are a huge variety of fillings that are simple but diverse ranging from crowd-pleasing steak to huitlacoche (corn smut). Even better, they serve pastries and coffee in the mornings now. This place is a Blue-line riders best friend, but it’s worth making a detour even if you don’t live on the line. —Melissa McEwen
Authentaco is located at 1141 N. Ashland Ave.
With all the doughnut shops popping up near Wicker Park’s six corners, we were excited to see their counterpart Bro Bagel open it’s doors. Right next door to Piece on North Ave (one of the bros, Bill Jacobs, is also part owner of the pizzeria and brewery), this take-out bagel shop serves up some flavors that you won’t see in other bagel shops. How about a beer bagel with garlic confit spread? Or try the Pumpernickel bagel with caramelized onion spread. If you’re daring, go for the sriracha spread. No worries if you’re not that adventurous though, they’ve got more traditional flavors, along with classic breakfast sandwiches and lunch options. —Michelle Meywes
Bro Bagel is located at 1931 W. North Ave.
(Wood-grilled orange soda at Acanto/Photo: Melissa McEwen)
When I heard Henri was re-concepting to become another Italian restaurant, I was less than excited. Little did I know that it would be an excellent destination at a perfect location with a tantalizingly eclectic menu. It’s also quieter than its neighbor The Gage which is also owned by the same restaurant group. But that doesn’t mean it’s stuffy. They have amazing pizza after all, topped with interesting and delicious toppings like shaved fennel or giardiniera. The offerings of pasta are also quite diverse with my favorite being a duck egg spaghetti that is covered in a savory and rich broth-like sauce. The cocktails and cheese are outstanding and you’d be remiss if you didn’t try the pistachio gelato topped with amaro for dessert.—Melissa McEwen
Acanto is located at 18 S. Michigan Ave.
Before you know it, we're going to have a high end burger joint on every Chicago street corner. That's why the ones that truly stand out deserve special attention. It's not just the burgers that make the city's first Umami Burger location special. It's the house made sauces (that ketchup!), the truffle cheese fries and the whiskey options that truly make this a cut above the rest. Let's be honest, cheeseburgers and fries are a dime a dozen. Trade in the traditional for tempura onion rings and patties topped with parmesan frico and massive hunks of bacon lardon. —Katie Karpowicz
Umami Burger is located at 1480 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Husky Hog BBQ
Chicago doesn’t have the most progressive attitude towards food trucks or shared kitchen spaces, so food trucks hoping for longterm, sustained prospects must include opening a brick and mortar restaurant into their business plans. Husky Hog BBQ owner/chef Joe Woodel was able to open a restaurant in Bridgeport in the former Mr. Spanky’s space on 31st Street earlier this year and has slowly built a clientele of locals and fans of his food truck goodies. The restaurant menu builds on Woodel’s food truck menu to include portobello sandwiches and a sampler of pork, beef or chicken, while the sides include some amazingly tender collard greens and smoked garlic mashed potatoes. A highlight of the menu is still the burnt ends, which can be enjoyed on their own or as a sandwich, while a recent renovation allows guests to sit and dine, picnic style, inside. —Chuck Sudo
Husky Hog BBQ is located at 335 W. 31st St.
Too many of Chicago’s Japanese restaurants try to do too many things at once. I worried Momotaro would be one of them when I saw their frankly insanely long menu. And even more so when the waiter explained every single section of it to my table, a process that felt like it took as long as an organic chemistry lecture. But somehow they have managed to do sushi, robata and izakaya and do them all amazingly well. If something looks weird on the menu, order it. That’s how I ended up with the Santa Barbara Uni rice, a risotto-like dish where all the creaminess and fattiness is lent by the uni, which also adds a beautiful oceanic quality and orange color. Good uni is hard to find in the Midwest, but somehow they found it. —Melissa McEwen
Momotaro is located at 820 W. Lake St.
The Roost Carolina Kitchen
It's always nice when you root for the underdogs and get to cheer them on as they rise up and shine. Such is the case with much of the food truck scene in Chicago, a bunch of creative culinary minds fighting against a pretty broken system in our city. Many have fallen but some rose to the top, spinning their delicious wares from trucks to brick and mortar as popularity grows. I've been a longtime fan of The Roost food truck, which dishes up what I believe is the best version of Nashville Hot fried chicken in the city, if not this side north of Nashville. So of course I jumped at the chance to see some behind the scenes action when Roost opened their small storefront up on Irving Park. It was great to see the passion that owner Joe Scroggs has for his business as he taught me how to fry up my favorite biscuit sandwich on the menu. Besides that sandwich, you can grab various plates of chicken in different flavors along with sides. While the hotter the better for me, all of the seasonings I've had offer up a juicy flavorful bird at The Roost. A half bird with two sides will run you just $13, a super delicious meal that won't break the bank. And the restaurant is BYOB, so bring whatever beer you'd like, then settle in for some of the best hot and spicy fried chicken you'll find in Chicago. —Lisa White
The Roost Carolina Kitchen is located at 1467 W. Irving Park Rd.
Parts and Labor
Parts and Labor is located, quite cheekily, across from the McDonald’s on Milwaukee Avenue, where they may boast about their boozy and far superior version of a “happy meal." This Logan Square burger bar opened in late 2013 by the owners of Boiler Room and Simone’s is a delicious and affordable drinking and dining option within an easy-going atmosphere. It is cash only, but the bonus is a free shot with a receipt from their ATM. For $10, diners can opt for the Combo which is a diner-style burger (beef or black bean), a beer or a shot and a side. The sides are perfect companions to the sandwiches or as stand-alone snacks while sipping on their rotating draft selections, a spiked milk shake, or their large can and bottle list, including several budget options. The fried pepper jack cheese, hand-cut fries and fried gianardiara are highlights to this solid diner concept. Recently, too, they have added more sandwich options to the menu, including grilled chicken, tuna, and a grilled cheese. This is a regular neighborhood haunt for me to have a reasonably-priced night out with fast and friendly service, good music, movies and an array of events such as Bartoon Brunch on the weekends featuring a different cartoon each week, and Pabst Heritage Trivia night on Mondays. —Carrie McGath
Parts and Labor is located at 2700 N. Milwaukee Ave.