BY ROBERT GLAZE
This month, rather than escape the city limits, why not get up to speed with the many restaurants opening in Chicago?
I always make a conscious effort to support my favorites, while at the same time trying as many new ones as possible. I also like exploring different neighborhoods through different restaurants.
My recent finds, by neighborhood, include:
Dos Urban Cantina (2829 West Armitage) has been featured recently on many of the hot lists of where to eat in Chicago. They feature a contemporary take on Mexican food in a sleek setting. I highly recommend the Sunday brunch served buffet-style. Here you can try a number of dishes like ceviche, pastries, quiche, eggs, tamales, salads, and more.
Across from Dos Urban Cantina is a wonderful Italian restaurant Osteria Langhe (2824 West Armitage). I enjoyed a prix fixe menu with a great pasta appetizer, pork entrée, and lovely panna cotta for dessert. I highly recommend it and will definitely go back. They feature a very creative menu of appetizers, pastas, and entrees.
One of the new hot spots in town is Baker Miller located at 4610 North Western Ave. They source their own grains and mill them into their own flours, baking them into wonderful breads and pastries. They also have a cafe serving breakfast and lunch. You can find grits, oatmeal, a toast bar, a grain bowl, and other items. For lunch, they have wonderful pot pies, sandwiches, sides, and tarts. On my first trip, I enjoyed a vegetarian pot pie with curry, a side of dressed greens, and wonderful pear and cherry tart. On my second visit, I ordered a sandwich on a fresh baguette with roasted beets and goat cheese, plus a perfect piece of blueberry pie. I loved both dishes. Owners Dave and Megan Miller have received two James Beard nominations for Outstanding Baker.
At 4845 North Damen, just east of Lincoln Square, is Ampersand Wine Bar, a great new restaurant featuring refined American comfort food, wines, and cocktails in a rustic, contemporary atmosphere. I had a really great meal and wine. I loved the heirloom tomato salad with couscous and burrata and was equally enamored of the whole roasted game hen with parsnip confit and roasted summer squash. The free-form rustic tart with peaches, toasted granola, and honey caramel yogurt was also great. The service was really excellent.
Our newest neighborhood find in Lakeview is Coda de Volpe (3335 N. Southport). It is a sleek spot featuring Italian pastas, pizzas, and other specialties. I enjoyed dinner with my niece who was moving that week to New York City.
Nearby to the east is one of my newest recommendations, Mortar and Pestle (3108 North Broadway). Opened in the fall of 2015, they offer breakfast, brunch, and lunch. They are doing some pop-ups for dinner and may expand into that arena in the future. My dining partner enjoyed the decadent grilled cheese and I loved the Alaskan king crab benedict with poached egg, sriracha hollandaise, and watercress. I greatly enjoyed visiting with the manager and chef/owner. Thanks to friend, restaurateur, and food columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Ina Pinkney, for this great suggestion.
West Loop/Fulton Market
Next to Blackbird and Avec is Salero (621 West Randolph), from the owners of Wood in Lakeview. This new spot, equal parts sleek, contemporary, and warm in its design, features modern Spanish cuisine and has quickly become a favorite of food critics across the city. They feature excellent Basque pinxtos, starters, and larger main courses. I loved the smoked salmon pinxto with cheese and a honey truffle sauce. The beet salad with frisée, toasted pistachios, and Spanish goat cheese was lovely, and the shrimp was beautifully cooked and presented. Next time, I want to try the scallops—they looked amazing.
My latest find is Fulton Market Kitchen, located at 311 North Sangamon. Billing themselves as part art gallery, part restaurant, and part craft cocktail bar, I had a wonderful meal surrounded by street art, paintings, and eclectic furniture. They have a well-edited menu of large and small plates for sharing and an extensive craft cocktail menu. The restaurant was inspired by the art scene of New York in the 1980s and Wynwood Walls in Miami, which is one of my favorite spots from recent travels. We had great service and enjoyed meeting and visiting with Chef Kyle Petersen. Their décor is among the best in town!
Pleasant House Bakery in Bridgeport has moved north to Pilsen and taken over the former Nightwood restaurant under its new name, Pleasant House Pub (2119 South Halsted). You can stop in for coffee and a pastry or enjoy one of their famed meat or royal pies. I enjoyed a Sunday brunch and loved the chicken balti pie made with fresh-ground curry spices (with tomato and Nigella seeds) along with buttered peas in mint. It is a perfect spot to eat while visiting the National Museum of Mexican Art or one of the galleries nearby.
Recently opened in the former Takashi restaurant at 1952 North Damen is Dixie. This is a hot new restaurant by the chef/owner of Lillie’s Q, featuring a contemporary take on Southern cuisine. The menu consists primarily of small or shared plates. The biscuits with pepper jelly; the shrimp with rice grits, corn, and peas; and the corn custard with crawfish and a tasty bay scallop dish were delightful. Their small cocktail lounge in the back, 1952 ½, features a number of Southern-inspired cocktails and Kentucky bourbons.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to a new restaurant getting rave reviews: Taus Authentic (1846 West Division). Its décor is stylish and modern but nonetheless inviting. I really enjoyed the panzanella kale salad with cherry tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers, dill croutons, and blue cheese in a lemon-caper dressing and the sea trout entrée with spring pea risotto, honey-thyme carrot puree, and baby carrots was spectacular.
The former John’s Place at 1200 West Webster (at Racine) is now the elegant White Oak Tavern & Inn, which features creative farm-to-table fare and craft cocktails and whiskeys. I have been three to four times and always savor my visits there. It is still owned and operated by John Manilow (the “John” in John’s Place). White Oak is open for lunch, dinner, and Saturday and Sunday brunch. The décor is stunning, the staff excellent, and food really exceptional. The small and large plates alike are easily shared. We loved the roasted carrot and cabbage salad and the fall grains salad with brie, mushrooms, cranberries, and apples. The pork collar with sweet potatoes, collard greens, and apples was really excellent. I’d recommend following up your entrée with a great pumpkin tart with crème fraîche, pumpkin seeds, and cocoa nibs. This has quickly become one of my favorite spots in the city. Luckily I live 2 blocks away! Note: they have a four-bedroom apartment above the restaurant available for rent.
Our top new restaurant find in the area is The Duck Inn (2701 South Eleanor). After getting great reviews, I had to go. Located just south of an industrial area, you can go south of Cermak on Loomis across the Chicago River. It has a warm yet contemporary atmosphere in a building that looks like it was a local bar/restaurant for many years. They also have a large patio out back for dining in the warmer months. They are known for their Sunday brunch as well as their rotisserie duck entrée, which you need to pre-order prior to your dinner. It serves two people and comes with a salad of roasted potatoes in duck drippings with fall greens, roasted pears, and apples in a gooseberry vinaigrette. It was a really excellent dish and was perfectly paired with a cocktail called The Don, made with Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur, and Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters. A perfectly and deliciously decadent meal.
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