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Chicago Travel Guide

Chicago’s Best New Restaurants

Neil Burger

The West Loop is undoubtedly Chicago’s culinary capital, a restaurant bubble that simply won’t burst. Just when you think Randolph Street has hit its capacity, another great new restaurant opens and eager diners materialize. That being said, a few new openings outside the West Loop’s magical lure for voracious appetites, like Entente and Animale, are worth traveling for. Amber Gibson

El Che Bar
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El Che Bar

WHERE: 845 W. Washington Blvd, West Loop, Chicago

Francis Mallmann would approve of the hearth cooked meats and wood-fired barbecue that Chef/Owner John Manion is producing at this Argentine asado-inspired restaurant. Whether you’re sitting along a racy russet leather banquette or mesmerized by the roaring fire at the chef’s counter, you won’t soon forget the char on your steak or the flaming chocolate cake and inventive ice creams that cool your palate after a rich meal. Although El Che Bar is a carnivore’s dream, there are plenty of coal-roasted veggies and seafood for those who prefer to skip the meat. Fatty braised lamb ribs that fall off the bone and housemade morcilla blood sausage might persuade you to stray from any dietary restrictions, though.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Cara Sandoval
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WHERE: 661 W. Walnut St, West Loop, Chicago

Enter through a freight elevator door on an empty side street and you’ll find yourself in an unexpected gourmet temple. Chef Noah Sandoval garnered two Michelin stars after being open for just seven months. Here, there are no culinary restrictions and the 15-course menu is better and even more expensive. Sandoval’s lone bite of nigiri features the best sushi rice in town among a parade of small seafood dishes that crescendos to a perfect square of Japanese A5 wagyu beef. But his pièce de résistance is a plate of capellini swimming in yeast butter and topped with freshly shaved truffle. Naturally, the pasta is accompanied with a side of generously buttered house sourdough sprinkled with crunchy popped grains. Gluten, we love you.

Insider Tip: The bathroom here is the best stocked in the city, with bobby pins, floss, dry shampoo, and hand lotion. Pastry Chef Genie Kwon even makes the extra-strength breath mints herself.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Anthony Tahlier
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Bad Hunter

WHERE: 802 W. Randolph St, West Loop, Chicago

Chicago has long been famous for its steakhouses so this light, bright beacon of bold veggie flavor in a sea of steak and charcuterie is long overdue. To be fair, this isn’t a vegetarian restaurant. You can get bacon on your black bean and shiitake mushroom veggie cheeseburger and there are steak skewers and fish on the menu too. But you’ll be so entranced by the meaty maitake mushrooms dressed with ribbons of raw butternut squash, butter dumplings, and grilled broccoli in Emmentaler fondue that even diehard carnivores won’t miss the meat. Both Executive Chef Daniel Snowden and Pastry Chef Emily Spurlin are in leadership roles for the first time and the young culinary stars are killing it at Heisler Hospitality’s newest venture. The wine list is one of the most unique in town too, with a focus on natural and biodynamic producers including pétillant naturel sparkling and orange wines.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Emily Andrews Photography
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WHERE: 120 W. Monroe St, Loop, Chicago

The financial district is no longer a dining wasteland, with this unlikely hotel restaurant leading the charge. Breakfast and lunch are solid but it’s dinner where they pull out all the stops, including a fantastic pre-theatre prix fixe. Charcuterie is all made in-house, and you can see prosciutto and soppressata curing in a glass room next to the kitchen. Chef Chris Davies’ Egyptian spiced mussels and whole roasted dry-aged duck breast with lavender honey glaze are standouts. Save room for beautifully plated desserts by Pastry Chef Chris Teixeira, previously better known for his cakeballs and croissants at West Town Bakery. Here, he’s serving more complex bee pollen parfaits with honey ice cream and a half-dozen textures and flavors of pumpkin composed as a forest floor. From The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, this ambitious departure from pizza and bar fare rises to the occasion.

Insider Tip: Start with a bread basket for the table to share. It’s the most exciting bread in town, accompanied by housemade butters, oils and pickles.

Matthew Meschede
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WHERE: 3056 N. Lincoln Ave, Lakeview, Chicago

“Casual fine dining” may sound like an oxymoron, but you’ll understand what owner Ty Fujimura means after a meal at Entente, where Executive Chef Brian Fisher’s mix of soul food (Carolina gold risotto, parker house rolls with ham and butter) and intricate plates (thinly sliced duck breast with miso yogurt, salted plum, and blackberry hoisin) pair with a rap soundtrack and bare wooden tabletops. Buttermilk biscuits are flakier than a Parisian croissant and both octopus and duck are precisely cooked to juicy, tender perfection and dressed with a colorful array of complementary flavors. Shared tasting menu style courses mean a leisurely dinner, with plates and silverware deftly switched out between each course. Pastry Chef Mari Katsumura gives you a glimpse of her talent with several housemade breads, so even if you’re stuffed to the brim, you must try her profiterole or tres leches cake for dessert.

Insider Tip: There are several housemade sodas, including a fig and mushroom flavor, which can be enjoyed on their own or mixed in a cocktail.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Won Fun Chinese
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Won Fun Chinese

WHERE: 905 W. Randolph Street, West Loop, Chicago

A small, flashing red “Chinese Food” sign is the nondescript entrance to the best Chinese restaurant in the city. Hundreds of silk lanterns line the ceiling and red lights lend a fun if nefarious glow to the dark den serving Sichuan specialties. Owner Austin Baker has only been to China once, but he nails Sichuan’s hallmark mala mouth-numbing spiciness in dishes like chilled vinegar-marinated cucumber, al dente dan dan noodles and tender shredded rabbit dressed in sesame oil. But there are plenty of tasty options even for those who can’t handle the extra hot spice (marked by three chili peppers on the menu) of the mapo tofu and dry chili prawns, like a delicate steamed snapper with ginger and scallions or sweet and sour pork. The menu honors authentic Chinese ingredients and techniques alongside Chinese-American classics (General Tso’s chicken wings) and Baker isn’t afraid to take liberties like adding foie gras to fried rice.

Insider Tip: There are a lot of creative cocktails and local and Chinese beers on tap, and you’ll want a cold beverage handy to offset the tongue-tingling spiciness of your food.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Galdones Photography
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WHERE: 1111 W. Lake St, West Loop, Chicago

Curvy, intimate booths, impeccable service and soigné American-Mediterranean food make Honey’s the sexiest new date night restaurant in town. Singles should enjoy a cocktail or full meal at the bar, underneath the flattering skylight–there’s nowhere more respectable to be husband- or wife-hunting. Executive Chef Charles Welch has a light touch with seafood, marinating swordfish in chermoula and dressing it with vegetable panzanella and cooking halibut en papillote with skordalia and baby beets. Pastry Chef Alison Cates injects spices and savory elements into thoughtful desserts like a Turkish coffee mousse with curry cake and dukkah toffee.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Kailley Lindman
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Where: 1904 N. Western Ave, Logan Square, Chicago

Unusual cuts of meat, housemade pasta and addictive thick-cut fries with savage sauce are the calling cards at this fast-casual Italian spot under the Western Blue Line stop. The same team behind nearby Osteria Langhe, a cozy neighborhood favorite, decided to get a little funky with the menu here, serving bacon-wrapped sweetbreads, beef heart pastrami, tripe, oxtail and lamb tongue. Adventurous eaters will rejoice while skeptics can keep things a little tamer with Piedmontese beef patty burgers, panini and pappardelle, gnocchi or plin with your choice of sauces. This is just the kind of hearty fare that will get you through a harsh Chicago winter.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Galdones Photography
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WHERE: 3209 W. Armitage Ave, Logan Square, Chicago

Chef/Owner Jason Vincent has big aspirations for this cramped neighborhood restaurant and Giant delivers. The food and service here are magnanimous, mirroring the spirit of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Me and My Giant” that hangs prominently on the wall. Fried buttery uni shooters are a memorable first bite and pasta dishes like the tomato “sortallini” – named because it’s “sorta” shaped like tortellini–are housemade and heartwarming. Vegetables like spicy, charred roasted broccoli are sumptuously decadent, generously dressed with savory sauces and topped with a crunchy smattering of nuts and seeds. These heavy, hearty dishes are ideal for a cold winter day.

Insider Tip: Ask for housemade sourdough bread to soak up the rich sauces on pasta and veggie dishes.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide

Matthew Gilson
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WHERE: 951 W. Fulton Market, West Loop, Chicago

From the team behind world-renowned Alinea, Roister is a complete departure from the modernist fine dining that garnered Chef Grant Achatz three Michelin stars. At this boisterous, more casual, messier sister restaurant the food is served family-style and the best dish is fried chicken. Executive Chef Andrew Brochu and his kitchen crew operate in an open kitchen with an enormous brick-lined hearth, serving comfort food with global flavors like fries topped with bonito flakes and dipped in tofu mayonnaise instead of ketchup.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide