A's List: Get Ready for These Hot New Summer Destinations
By Audarshia Townsend
This summer promises a steady stream of dining and drinking newcomers all over Chicago. There’s also no shortage of creativity as these concepts aim to wow guests with offbeat features, unconventional fare—and finally—a return to exceptional service. Here’s what we’re craving this season.
Bandit (West Loop)
DineAmic Hospitality (Prime & Provisions, Siena Bar, Siena Tavern, others) partners Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson go back to their roots, in a sense, with this project in the West Loop neighborhood. Bandit, a casual, yet fashionable American eatery and sports lounge, is decorated with a slew of vintage paraphernalia and cranks out modern comfort food. Executive Chef Shane Graybeal, who previously worked at Sable Kitchen & Bar in the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Chicago, features a playful menu that takes seasonal ingredients seriously. Highlights on this inventive menu include crispy tater tots topped with sturgeon caviar and French onion crema as well as Nashville hot chicken tenders with Japanese pancakes and "disco" waffle fries topped with braised short rib. There is ample seating in the front and back of restaurant.
Barton G. the Restaurant (River North)
This quirky new attraction, with locations in Miami Beach and Los Angeles, describes its concept as a "comfort-food menu of neo-classic American cuisine." Barton G. literally showcases signature, Instagram-worthy dishes, including BBQ of bones (12-hour beef ribs, lamb riblets, long-bone chicken wings, an elfin corn-wild mushroom skillet with minted yogurt, house BBQ and scallion chimichurri); kobe meatloaf with house-made ketchup, whipped yukon golds and quick fire green beans; and lobster “pop tarts.” Part of the thrill of Barton G. is that it's one half dinner theater and the other half is all about the creative menu. Most of the dishes are interactive on part of the servers, so be prepared for them to add the finishing touches at your table. From torching a dessert to "smoking" a cocktail to firing up a lawnmower for an outrageous presentation, these dishes are truly out of the ordinary.
Cafe Cancale (Bucktown/Wicker Park)
Located at the nexus of Bucktown/Wicker Park--at the Six Corners--Cafe Cancale was inspired by One Off Hospitality partner/executive chef Paul Kahan's visit to Brittany, France, a famed oyster town. The restaurant specializes in seafood, offering more than 35 different oyster varieties, plus entrees like trout almondine with brown butter, truffle peach olives and radish as well as whole grilled lobster with yuzo kosho butter. The grande seafood tower showcases oysters as well as mussels, clams, shrimp and beef tartare. Non-seafood favorites include roast chicken, steak frites and duck terrine.
Hoxton Chicago: Cabra/Cira/Lazy Bird (Fulton Market District)
Newly minted James Beard Award winner Boka Restaurant Group is behind the three restaurant and bar concepts at Hoxton Chicago. Famed chef Stephanie Izard has teamed up again with them for a Peruvian-inspired rooftop eatery called Cabra. It’s the result of Izard's numerous expeditions to Peru, and ceviche is one of the specialties. All-day restaurant Cira is situated on the hotel’s lobby level and features chef Chris Pandel's interpretation of Mediterranean fare. And Lazy Bird is a subterranean cocktail lounge. Its specialty? It's all laid out in an intricately designed menu that advertises 52 classic cocktails--one for every week of the year.
Joe's Imports (Fulton Market District)
Joe Fiely, operating partner and wine director for Francesca’s Restaurant Group, has traded doughnuts for fine wines at this space once occupied by his Glazed & Infused pastry shop. His namesake restaurant in the Fulton Market District showcases his passion for vino and globally influenced fare. The menu is inventive and fun, with offbeat dishes like fried parmesan puffs, foie gras deviled eggs, snow crab Benedict and a pepper stuffed with Aquarello rice, Thai basil, parmesan, bread crumbs and pomodorini.
Le Colonial (Gold Coast)
Many long-time, loyal Le Colonial diners were understandably apprehensive about the new location because people had grown to love the lived-in setting of the original Chicago venue. And while the new Le Colonial is slick and modern, the owners were smart to bring over some of those classic art pieces and other memorabilia that made it feel like a home away from home. The main dining room is less formal than it was in its previous home. Gone are the white tablecloths, offering the room a more casual vibe. The terrace is yearround, and during the summer, the floor-to-ceiling windows open to the street. Wildly popular dishes like the crispy whole red snapper, roasted half duck and spicy beef carpaccio salad are still on the menu.
Machine: Engineered Dining & Drink (Wicker Park)
Located on the bustling Division Street strip in Wicker Park, Machine showcases the refined, yet home-styled cuisine of Executive Chef Trevor Hoyte. His signature style blends classic French technique with global flavors and accents from his rich, Caribbean heritage. You’ll see it in dishes like shrimp "risotto" in coconut milk, gnocchi with braised oxtails, and a share-able braised pigtails dish with toasted hazelnuts, cauliflower purée, grapes and citrus-braised endives. What sets Machine apart from the many outstanding eateries around town is its unique, in-house floral program. There's an actual staff of professionals that helps guests select the perfect presentation for their tables.
Maddon's Post (Wrigleyville)
What happens when a James Beard Award winning/Michelin-starred chef collaborates with a World Series champion winning manager on a restaurant project? The end result in Chicago is Maddon's Post--named for Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and cheffed by the venerable chef Tony Mantuano of Levy Restaurants (Cafe Spiaggia, River Roast, Spiaggia, Terzo Piano). Highlights on the all-day menu include lasagna rolls, wood-fired pork ribs, a grilled polish and Italian sausage platter and oysters (wood fired or served raw). Dessert consists of chocolate paczkis accompanied by strawberry jam.
Offshore (Navy Pier)
Chicago's highly competitive rooftop scene hit a new high in 2019 with the arrival of Offshore at Navy Pier. The cocktail bar and restaurant, located at the base of the historic site, boasts 36,000 square feet as well as unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the city's skyline. What sets Offshore apart from most of its competitors is that it's a yearround venue--and built for all weather conditions. There are also several fire pits, an entertainment and gaming area, and regular live performances. Food mostly consists of a seafood-forward menu with shareable dishes like Maine lobster deviled eggs, oyster shooters and Ahi tuna tartare.
One Eleven Food Hall (Historic Pullman District)
Majani soulful vegan cuisine, Exquisite to Go catering and Laine's Bake Shop make up the dining choices inside One Eleven Food Hall, Chicago's only African American-focused food hall. Located in the Historic Pullman District, the project also features communal dining, a small outdoor patio and regular pop-up events. Exquisite To Go and Laine's feature all-day dining, while Majani only serves lunch and dinner. Menus for all stalls change on a regular basis.
Parson’s Chicken & Fish (Lincoln Park)
The second Parson's Chicken & Fish (the first location is in Logan Square) should be particularly busy during summer when its spacious patio is filled with neighborhood types clamoring for picnic-style, communal seats. Wait times can be painful, so Parson's has given guests a few options to occupy their time. They can 1) settle in at the bar and sip frozen Negroni cocktails, 2) play Ping-Pong on one of three tables or 3) hang out on the stadium seats and watch everyone doing all of the above.
ROOH (West Loop)
Headed up by Chef Sujan Sakar (Times’ Chef of the Year in India), ROOH aims to present “progressive Indian” cuisine, which means he wants it to represent a step in the continuing evolution of the Indian cooking tradition, with dishes that contain many of the ingredients and flavors of the Indian food we know…but with a difference. Think butter chicken with red pepper makhani and butter powder; beef short ribs curry; homemade chutneys and lamb ribs with apricot and chili marmalade. The restaurant is on three levels, which contain different color schemes in vivid colors. There is also an ambitious cocktail program that pairs traditional Indian spices with premium spirits.
See previous A's List columns right here.