11 Hot Chicago Restaurant Openings in 2015
Feast your eyes on 11 big openings to look forward to in 2015. Or as foodies would call it, the year of big names, big bowls of ramen and big fruity rum cocktails.
1. Rick Bayless Mystery Concept
It’s the empire that tortas built. Rick Bayless has become one of Chicago’s most well known exports, evidenced by the massive lines at Frontera’s O’Hare outpost. TV spots and celeb status aside, Bayless restaurants (including Michelin-starred Topolobampo and Xoco) continue to prove themselves as timeless classics, and it only makes sense for him to hit the West Loop foodie scene, which has officially exploded. All he’s divulged: “It’s a completely new concept that you’ve never seen before” and “super rustic,” including a nanobrewery that could feature some still-under-development Bayless Beer (our name, not his). Opening’s slated for late spring/early summer.
Address: 900 W Randolph St
2. Grant Achatz Mystery Concept
It only makes sense for the superhero Achatz/Kokonas duo (Michelin favorites with Alinea) to plan their next trick next door to Next (get it?) and The Aviary. (It’s the former home of Homaro Cantu’s iNG.) They’ve already elevated Fulton Market so far from its meatpacking roots, and the area will soon benefit from an influx of Googlers when 1K Fulton is completed. What we know from Achatz’s hints: It will be “rustic refined,” with à la carte options, loud music, close-quarters seating and more in-your-face flavors. One name being tossed around is Roister, but Grant’s mum until closer to the opening, which could coincide with the James Beard Awards this May.
Address: 951 W Fulton Market
It’s Chicago’s first rotating restaurant. (Not literally, so you can toss the Dramamine.) In place of now-shuttered L20, Rich Melman’s Lettuce Entertain You will open Intro, a restaurant featuring rotating concepts and rising star chefs. (It’s a “school for entrepreneurs,” Rich says.) It will be a two-to-three month mentorship program of sorts for young chefs (LA-based CJ Jacobson, of Top Chef fame above, will have the first crack in February), who will have the support of Lettuce’s food army while maintaining a partnership stake during their rotation. This should provide LEYE a healthy pipeline of ideas for future restaurant concepts.
Address: 2300 N Lincoln Park West
4. Virgin Hotel
Trendy and convenient dining options have become a prerequisite for any hip hotel, and Virgin’s first-ever hotel will open next week with a wide, well-planned range. There’s The Commons Club, a chill snacking spot with an old school members-only vibe; Miss Ricky’s (slated to open in March), a diner we imagine will get many late night visits after guests come back from River North bars; Two Zero Three, a coffee/wine bar (if you didn’t have enough, or too many, drinks during the daily free cocktail hour); and Rooftop, the ever important space with a view, drinks and Izakaya-type dishes.
Address: 203 N Wabash Ave
Block 37 has been a hotbed of activity since the October groundbreaking on the 690-unit residential tower above the five-story, 275k SF mall. But foodies are most excited for celebrity chef Richard Sandoval’s 28k SF Latinicity food hall, opening on the mall’s third floor in April. Think food stations with everything from empanadas to tacos to ceviche, a sit-down restaurant, cooking classes and hard-to-find Latin American grocery items. Sandoval has to contend with Rick Bayless at his Macy’s Frontera Fresco and Eataly as his immediate competition, but at least 690 new residents on their way seem like a good customer base.
Address: Block 37, 108 N State St
6. Seven Lions
Second acts aren’t easy, and this is the second restaurant of former Check, Please! host Alpana Singh’s second act. (Her first was River North’s Boarding House.) With former Blue 13 chef Chris Curren in the kitchen, Singh (and her partners John Ward and Matt Fisher) plan a classic American menu (Curren will do a Southern twist on a shrimp cocktail) that will cater to the area’s tourists and worker bees alike. But most important to the master sommelier: an All-American wine list arranged by grape variety. The 12k SF “American clubhouse,” opening soon, will hold as many as 500 guests.
Address: 130 S Michigan Ave
7. The Haywood Tavern
Humboldt Park has quickly become a hotbed of development for hip young chefs. Brendan Sodikoff’s two restaurants at the corner of California & Augusta (California Clipper and an unnamed spot going into a former body shop) are about to have another join the mix, as Rodney Staton is set to open his modern neighborhood bar concept. Staton, a seasoned vet of Spiaggia and Longman & Eagle (partnering with the folks behind High Dive and The Rocking Horse on this venture), is drawing his culinary influences from Italy, Spain and France for his menu. Expect first drinks to be poured mid-February.
Address: 2759 W Augusta Blvd
We first experienced Nando’s peri peri chicken goodness in London, and could not be more excited for the South African chain (with more than 1,000 restaurants globally) to open three Chicago locations this year. (Especially given the Chicago fast casual scene’s oversaturation with burger joints.) Flame-grilled peri peri chicken is unlike anything most Midwesterners have ever tasted, but Nando’s US CEO Burton Heiss has said he knows Chicago’s ready given our per-capita consumption of hot sauce. Nando’s has local stores planned in the West Loop, the New City development in Lincoln Park and in Lakeview to test the waters.
Addresses: 945 W Randolph St, 1500 N Clybourn Ave, 670 W Diversey Pkwy
9. Corridor Brewery & Provisions
After an influx of retailers directed at moms and Millennial women (you started it, Anthropologie), it’s about time for the Southport Corridor to get some drinking and dining alternatives. We’re glad this one’s local, the second venture of DryHop Brewers’ Greg Shuff, with a new name and a farmhouse gastropub twist. Some beer names to get excited about before the summer opening: Melon Basil Biere de Garde; Dry Hopped Kettle Sour; Belgian Chocolate; and Lemongrass and Ginger Saison. On the food front, expect sandwiches and flatbreads made from beer-infused dough and baked in a clay oven.
Address: 3446 N Southport Ave
10. Furious Spoon
Shin Thompson’s (Bonsoiree, Kabocha) new ramen joint, a collaboration with Takito Kitchen owners Anshul Mangal and Mario Ponce, wins for best use of Kickstarter. The group raised almost $23k to pay for design elements at the new 1,300 SF restaurant, opening February in the Flat Iron Building in Wicker Park. Expect four types of ramen (veggie, pork, chicken, special) served in the Tokyo style, meaning you have just 10 minutes to slurp to get the maximum taste (hence the “furious” moniker). Shin’s struggled with staying power in the past, but his advantage in this crowded niche will be location and late-night hours.
Address: 1571 N Milwaukee
11. Lost Lake/Thank You
Tiki bar trend alert. Fresh from taking the country by storm at Three Dots and a Dash tiki bar (pictured), Paul McGee has teamed with Land & Sea Dept (and Smugglers Cove’s Martin Cate from San Francisco) to open Lost Lake later his month, yet another tiki bar with 275 different rums on the menu. (Imitations of Paul McGee’s beard have already permeated Logan Square, so it only makes sense that the star bartender rejoin his people.) Next door you’ll find Thank You, a Chinese takeout counter, open until all hours with Gabriel Freeman (Ruxbin, Mott Street) at the helm.
Address: 3152 and 3154 W Diversey Ave