Keeping up with Chicago’s best new restaurants is an impossible task, so think of this latest and greatest list as more of a love letter to the places, pairings, and chefs we’re so happy to have in our lives now and for the long haul.
It makes sense to start with a love story and so we begin with Doug Psaltis, ex-RPM executive chef, and former French Laundry pastry chef Hsing Chen, the husband-and-wife team behind Andros Taverna, which opened in Logan Square in February 2021. The couple, both trained in classic French cooking, have turned out a modern Greek restaurant above all others in a city full of Greek restaurants, one that pays homage to Psaltis’s Greek heritage and elevates it to a level of pure happiness.
Dishes like a gorgeously creamy tzatziki served with wood-fired pitas, grilled Mediterranean octopus, and a slow-roasted pork gyro are made with primo ingredients, simultaneously simple and exceptional. The crown jewels, though, are hidden in Chen’s desserts, most notably a baklava froyo made with frozen Greek yogurt, crunchy pieces of house-made baklava, pistachio sauce, and local Heaven’s Honey.
Opened in April 2021, the debut restaurant of chef Joe Flamm, winner of Top Chef season 15, showcases another unique pairing: Flamm’s Italian heritage and his wife’s Croatian roots. The menu at Rose Mary is a thrill to navigate with surprising dishes: a tuna crudo with shallot and beef fat vinaigrette and veal aioli; a gorgeously plated lamb ragu wrapped in wide, ribbon-shaped mafaldine pasta; and stracciatella with apple mostarda and lepinja (flatbread) alongside warm salted bread.
The wine list is exuberant, too, especially the sparkling wines, like Huber Hugo pinot noir rosé from Austria and Lambrusco di Sorbara by Cleto Chiarli. It sounds intimidating, but Flamm is all about being approachable and casual, and everything from the friendly service to the warm atmosphere drives that home.
Launching a restaurant in July of 2020 was a gamble at best, but chefs and husband-and-wife team Tim Flores and Genie Kwon, formerly of Michelin-starred Oriole, have seen their casual French bakery-meets-Filipino barbecue take off at warp speed and top “best restaurant” lists across the country.
While Kasama has been crushing it as a breakfast and lunch spot with everything from chocolate croissants to longanisa sausage, it’s finally open for dinner. And the hype is real; reservations for the 13-course fine dining, Filipino-inspired tasting menu (from $185)—with plates of Shanghai-inspired lumpia (spring rolls), bistek wagyu, and croissants with black truffle—sold out fast for December.
A philanthropic, unstuffy take on fine dining was front of mind for former Next chef Jenner Tomaska and his wife Katrina Bravo when they opened Esmé in Lincoln Park in August 2021. French for “beloved,” Esmé demonstrates that devotion with a splurge-worthy tasting menu (from $200) that evolves both seasonally and in collaboration with local artists, whose works are for sale on the walls and integrated in fanciful-meets-fun dishes.
Current obsessions include the “mother of pearl” white sweet potato ice cream topped with gold osetra caviar and celery hot sauce, pork ribs served as playful utensils, a housemade take on the “Cheeto” stuffed with corn pudding, and an optional non-alcoholic pairing menu by Tia Barrett (who doesn’t want Moroccan latte and pomegranate-inspired “Nogroni?”). An upcoming 12-course tasting menu inspired by Chicago-based photographer Paul Octavius also has us excited.
Reopened in August 2020, the newly rebranded BLVD Steakhouse is an under-the-radar gem on the Chicago steakhouse scene bringing back the glitz and glam of upscale dining. Stepping into the dimly lit, two-story space off Fulton Market—with its soaring chandeliers, stand-alone circular booths, and illuminated alcoves—feels like walking into a scene from a spy movie.
The menu by chef Johnny Bench matches the mood with old-school steakhouse classics tuned up, like shrimp cocktail with horseradish panna cotta and spicy tomato gastrique, Maine lobster mac and cheese, and a boatload of top-quality steaks ranging from a 4-ounce, A-5 wagyu to a 32-ounce porterhouse. BLVD’s wine program, a three-time Wine Spectator Award winner by Ted Rink, is a must, too.
Bar Goa is tucked into a busy River North street under a small neon sign, but once inside you’ll quickly be transported to lush Goa on India’s beach-clad southwest coast, where Portuguese influences light up traditional Indian cuisine.
Owners Rina and Manish Mallick wanted to create something as carefree and exotic as their vacations to this tropical paradise—and we’re on board. You should go, too, for dishes like prawn and chorizo fried rice and chile garlic potatoes, an amchur-rimmed “Global Nomad” cocktail from the stylish bar, and new live comedy performances on select Thursday nights.
One to watch: Pigtail Cocktail
Opened in October 2021 inside the new-in-July Jaleo, this subterranean speakeasy by chef José Andreas serves fancy snacks that prominently feature Ibérico pork as well as complex, well-made cocktails, like “The Modifier” with cachaça and Montenegro liqueur served under an aromatic cloud of rosemary and cocoa. Make a light meal of it now or wait until mid-December, when a new tasting menu promises a full dining experience—one that will undoubtedly draw a crowd.