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Chicago: Best New Restaurants

New Restaurant Finds in Chicago

by Bob Glaze

Between my many recent trips, I have made it a point to get out and try the new and recommended restaurants here in Chicago. Here is a list of my favorite new spots since my last article last September:

I highly recommend my latest find, Loba Pastry + Coffee at 3600 N. Lincoln Ave. Opened in May 2023 this is the new location of this Latina owned business. Owner Valeria Velazquez Lindsten had worked at Charlie Trotter’s and Blackbird and was able to raise enough money through crowdfunding to open her dream cafe. The focus is on her excellent pastries, bars, scones, muffins and biscuits. I had a very tasty buckwheat and honey scone and a latte. I enjoyed meeting Valeria in the kitchen and congratulated her on their 2024 James Beard Nomination as a Semifinalist for Outstanding Bakery.

Located in Lincoln Park is a new neighborhood restaurant John’s Food & Wine at 2114 N. Halsted. Located in the old Nookies Too space, it is a seasonal American restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner, except on Tuesday. You order at the bar/counter and then you are served at a table. I popped in for lunch  last month on a chilly Saturday. I really enjoyed my fried fish sandwich with a celery root slaw. Their dinner menu looks excellent as well. I enjoyed meeting the two owners, Adam McFarland and Tom Rogers, who met while working at Gramercy Tavern in New York.

After reading about its great reviews, I recently went to Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant at 4337 N. Western Ave. which opened in February 2023. In its first year, Chef Joe Fontelera received a 2024 James Beard nomination as a Semifinalist for Best Chef Midwest. They are also listed in the Michelin Guide in the Bib Gourmand category. I went with a local friend who was born in the Philippines. We were both very impressed with the food. He said it brought back great memories of growing up there.

They have a small menu of Filipino specialties. I recommend that you share starters, entrees, sides and desserts in order to taste any many dishes as you can! We enjoyed the Lumpiang Shanghai or crispy fried pork spring rolls with a sweet and sour sauce along with the Adobong Monok or chicken thighs with an adobo glaze. This was followed by a very tasty Adobong Isde or black cod dish with garlic rice. We topped off the meal with a perfect Turon or plantain wrapped as a spring roll, dusted in brown sugar and deep fried. It is BYOB. I really enjoyed the excellent service and the great energy of this small restaurant. Make sure to make a reservation in advance.

Armitage Ale House has been on my list to try since it opened in 2021 in the former Pan Quotidien space at 1000 W. Armitage Ave. It is listed as one of the hardest spots to get a reservation in town. Now that it is open for lunch and weekend brunch from Wednesday through Sunday, I was finally able to book a lunch reservation and enjoyed the experience. I loved the warm, atmosphere of this old-world gastropub with its “rich, eclectic decor, spacious booths, warm lights and hand-carved woodwork.” It has a large menu of British and Indian food.  I enjoyed the steamed mussels and fries with an aioli sauce. I highly recommend that you try it. They also have outdoor patio seating during the warmer months.

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Another recent opening in Lincoln Park is Argot. Located at Verve Wine in the new Lincoln Common development, at the corner of Lincoln, Halsted and Fullerton, this is the new bar and restaurant in this contemporary wine store at 2349 N Lincoln Ave. In addition to a large selection of wines for purchase, they have weekly wine tastings. Argot opened in late 2023 and features French specialties.

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I went on December 10, 2023, which was the first day that they were open for their weekend brunch. They had a creative menu including quiche, French toast, pancakes, along with a very pleasant team. There is also a large menu of cocktails, beer and wine. I was glad that I chose the smoked trout eggs benedict.  I recommend the experience.

Opened by the New York City-based hospitality brand The Group, is La Grande Boucherie Chicago. Their first day was February 17, 2024. I went the next weekend for Sunday brunch after reading about it on Eater They are also open for lunch and dinner. It is a beautiful Parisian brasserie located at 431 N. Dearborn. I was very impressed with the elegant new facade and the beautiful Belle Époque interior design of this large 10,120 sq. ft. two level space. It reminded me of many of the brasseries that I went to in Paris on my last trip in 2022.

I really enjoyed the staff and the food. The place was packed, and I was impressed with how smoothly everything went after having been opened for a week. They have a full menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees plus desserts and pastries. I had a perfect Norwegian eggs benedict with smoked salmon along with breakfast potatoes and a side salad. I also loved the Paris Brest for dessert which is a traditional French pastry filled with a hazelnut cream. I look forward to going back for lunch or dinner during the week.

Located in Bucktown is Pompette at 1960 N. Damen. This is a new find that I found through Restaurant Week in January 2024.  I went for brunch. I decided not to order the prix fixe menu but had a very tasty tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich which was perfect on a cold Sunday. It is owned by three locals and has a young vibe with great food and service. The menu consists of daily brunch and dinner along with coffee, wine and cocktails. I recommend that you try it.

Last month I went for the first time to Alpana at 831 N. State. It is the newest restaurant owned by restaurateur and sommelier Alpana Singh. I have been to two of her other restaurants in the past which have now closed. I was happy to meet her while there as I used to see her as the host of WTTW’s Check Please show, which reviewed local restaurants. 

It has a menu of Wine Inspired Cuisine. It is open for dinner as well on for brunch on the weekends.  I went for Sunday brunch and was very impressed with the menu choices. I loved the smoked salmon eggs benedict with breakfast potatoes. Our server was excellent.

Make sure to try the Willow Room, at 1800 N. Halsted, in the space formerly occupied by Black Duck Tavern & Grill. I went the first week it opened and enjoyed the food and atmosphere. They reopened in July 2023 after being forced to close for over six months due to damage caused by a water leak.  I was just back before a Steppenwolf Theater play and thought the food was again excellent.  I loved the beet salad, Key Lime Pie and the sea scallops. It was one of the best dishes I have had last year. The restaurant also has outdoor seating during the warmer months.

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Across the street from Pequod’s Pizza is CornerStone Café at 2200 N. Clybourn Ave. Opened for over seven years, I recently went for the first time even though I live a few blocks away.  It is a casual cafe/diner offering breakfast and lunch dishes. The menu is quite extensive including omelettes, eggs benedict. pancakes, Belgian waffles, crepes, sandwiches, wraps, salads and burgers. I really enjoyed the smoked salmon and avocado eggs benedict for brunch. I also enjoyed meeting the owner. They now only have this location, having closed the cafe in Logan Square. I am looking forward to going back and trying their reuben sandwich.

Located at 1856 W. North Ave. is Firewood BBQ. Opened in early 2023, this is a casual, neighborhood sport that has a menu of salads, appetizers, sandwiches, platters and entrees. I went for their weekend brunch on a Saturday and was very pleased that I chose the smoked brisket benedict served on sourdough bread with greens, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce along with roasted potatoes. They also have food and cocktail specials throughout the week. It has a great atmosphere and service. They have three other restaurants, including Ella’s BBQ in Lincoln Park that I have enjoyed in the past.

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Located at 2748 N. Lincoln Ave. is Batter & Berries. This is a Black-owned restaurant that was established in 2012 by Dr. Tanya & Craig Richardson with a goal of supporting the community and local businesses. They have a focus on breakfast, lunch and brunch. I have been wanting to go for a while, but the lines have been very long. I chose to go on a Wednesday for lunch to make sure that I got a table. This is a casual spot with a very friendly staff. I really enjoyed the spinach omelete made with spinach, mushrooms, a sundried tomato and spinach puree and Asiago cheese along with cheese crusted hash brown potatoes. The smoked salmon eggs benedict and the shrimp frittata specials also looked great.

Opened in 2007 is Wilde Bar & Restaurant at 3130 N. Broadway. I had not heard or read about it until a local friend suggested we go for lunch. This is a literary-themed upscale Irish pub in a warm, comfortable setting. They have a large menu of American and Irish dishes including soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches and entrees including fish & chips and shepherd’s pie. They also have a weekend brunch menu and a gluten free menu. I had a great reuben sandwich and really enjoyed the experience.

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I recently found Drew’s on Halsted, which was recommended by local friends.  This is a casual restaurant serving lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends. I went for brunch on a Saturday with other friends and really enjoyed it. The staff was excellent, and the menu had many great choices. I was pleased to have ordered the crab cake eggs benedict and a latte.  They have a full bar menu as well as an outdoor patio in the summer months. I will definitely go back. 3201 N. Halsted at Belmont.

Also in Lakeview is DMK Burger Bar. This is a popular, casual spot that has a large menu of grass-fed burgers, shakes and fries along with beer and cocktails. I was not aware of it until I watched a segment from 2011 on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri. I then met friends there for lunch and tried his recommended bison burger with a blueberry barbecue sauce, goat cheese and marinated onions. It was great as were the sweet potato fries. He also loved the salmon burger with Thai curry mayonnaise and Asian coleslaw. I will try it on my next visit.

Nearby at 3107 N. Broadway is The Bagel Restaurant and Deli. This is a classic Jewish deli/diner, started over 70 years ago, with an extensive menu of traditional favorites from salads, sandwiches, blintzes, soups, burgers, fish dishes, omelettes, breakfast dishes, fountain treats and desserts. Their Old Orchard location recently closed.  According to owner Danny Wolf, “at our Chicago location we will continue our tradition of home-style cooking and hospitality established by my parents and grandparents when they brought their recipes and kitchen skills from Europe.”

I was very pleased to have found it and really enjoyed the diner atmosphere and the avocado toast with lox. It was a perfect choice before a performance at the Timeline Theatre nearby.

Across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art is Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe with two city locations and two suburban locations. This is a budget-friendly restaurant with a large menu of pancakes, breakfast dishes, omelettes, specialty benedicts, skillets, waffles, French toasts, crepes, sandwiches, salads and panini/wraps. I had been wanting to go for a while, so I made a point to go for brunch before a performance of Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse around the corner. I had a great Fresca omelette with sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and avocado along with fruit and toast. The server was so friendly and helpful. It is outside in Water Tower Place at 196 E. Pearson.

Located at 2829 W. Armitage is ‘atta girl. The chef and owner Cafe Marie-Jeanne (which closed in 2020) has teamed up with the owner of Table, Donkey, and Stick on this new restaurant that opened in November 2023 in the former Dos Urban Cantina space. It is fun neighborhood spot with a menu of brunch/lunch items as well as for dinner and happy hour including, sandwiches, seafood burgers, oysters and more.

Another spot that caught my eye was the Frida Room, a breakfast and brunch restaurant at 1454 W 18th St. in Pilsen. On my most recent trip, I made a point to go for brunch after an event at the National Museum of Mexican Art nearby. I really enjoyed my omelette and latte. It has a fun vibe and nice service.  They opened a second location in Lincoln Park at 2423 N. Clark. I had friends who went and enjoyed it also. 

In August 2023 Ballyhoo Hospitality, who owns Gemini and several others in Chicago, opened DeNucci’s, at 503 W. Dickens, in the former Four Farthings Tavern & Grill space. DeNucci’s is an Italian restaurant and pizzeria with a large menu of starters, pastas, salads, pizzas and entrees. I recently went for the first time and really enjoyed the experience. The tomato & buffala mozzarella salad was excellent along with the Maine lobster ravioli and a perfect tiramisu for dessert. They have a lovely outdoor patio during the warmer months.

At the north end of the Southport Corridor is Port & Park Bistro & Bar at 4000 N. Southport. This is a casual bar and restaurant in a vintage tavern setting with a lounge and patio. I was pleased to have found it and went for brunch with a friend who was visiting from Michigan. I loved being on the outside patio on a beautiful fall day. They have a large brunch, lunch and dinner menu along with cocktails. I recommend the California frittata with cheese, tomatoes, spinach and avocado plus breakfast potatoes.

I have lists of new places to try. I will keep you updated as I go and explore.

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