As 2013 winds down we look back at the restaurants that made the most impact upon opening over the past 12 months. Certainly some of these were anticipated from the moment they were announced (Eataly), while others seemed to sneak up on everyone (Smalls).
Gene Kato moved from Japonais to open Sumi Robata Bar, the stunningly designed tri-level robatayaki concept in River North. Mike Sula of Chicago Reader called the space "intimate and welcoming" and despite the fact that Chicago has been "inundated with a surplus of nominal Japanese restaurants...Sumi sits at the top of that list."
Billy Dec took over Martini Ranch, opening ¡Ay Chiwowa! in its place. Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani headlined the unsurprisingly popular Siena Tavern. And Kuma's Too raged forth at 666 W. Diversey, the most ridiculously perfect address for the heavy metal-themed burger spot.
David Dworshak's deft hands made Takito Kitchen stand out despite Wicker Park already having two upscale taco restaurants. Kendal Duque brought respectability to the menu at American Junkie, a sports bar/restaurant/club hybrid, which hopes to spin itself off across the country.
Shin Thompson's Kabocha has been more of a grower than a shower, as the restaurant recently nabbed high marks from Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune. Some guests have experienced sticker shock at Brindille, but reviews have been strong for Carrie Nahabedian's latest venture.
Jason Chan and B.K. Park's Juno has been a hit since opening, garnering a loyal fan base and critical accolades. If 2013 was the year of fried chicken, then Parson's Chicken & Fish was the first batch out of the fryer. Parson's got some temporary assistance from Mike Sheerin and Negroni slushies became the drink of the summer.
Fifty/50's The Berkshire Room inside the ACME Hotel was one of the standout lounges of 2013. Smalls, Smoke Shack & More opened quietly but soon had tongues, like the Reader's Sula, wagging. Beatrix has managed to surprise many critics, all the while garnering a devoted fan base. Mott Street distinguished itself from older brother Ruxbin with a shaggy charm. Endgrain became the new go-to place for doughnuts and biscuits. Oh yeah, and OON opened...but we know how that ended.
Tiki came back with a vengeance with Paul McGee heading up Three Dots and a Dash, a paradisaical wonderland at the bottom of Bub City. Michael Kornick and David Morton brought their brand of BBQ to Little Italy with County Barbecue.
Gaston Acurio stepped up to the plate and hit that sucker right out of the park when he opened Tanta, a nearly unanimous fact around town. CH Distillery brought a different level of fun to going out for drinks, offering guests the chance to view the on-premises distillery. Critics might be split on Travelle, but Tim Graham's menu is a hit with guests. Dillman's had a bit of an identity issue at first, but has found solid ground as the go-to place for workers nearby to enjoy lunch.
Dusek's Board and Beer as well as Punch House inside historic Thalia Hall have made quite the impact in Pilsen since opening. Meanwhile, Honey Butter Fried Chicken took their neighborhood by storm, causing fried chicken pandemonium and ridiculously long lines.
Losing its starting head chef a month in has done little to dampen the love for The Dawson, Billy Lawless' sprawling new West Town eatery. Chop Shop is the place to get "a piece of meat, flawlessly prepared, without resorting to bankruptcy or starvation," according to the Reader's Sula. Azzurra EnoTavola is laying the groundwork for an incredible 2014, generating positive word of mouth slowly but surely.
Matthias Merges has started the call for more restaurants to open in Hyde Park with A10, his Alps-inspired new restaurant. Summer House Santa Monica couldn't have opened at a better time for those seeking a little bit of California in this dreary Chicago winter. LYFE Kitchen, another bright spot, opened in River North with a health-focused menu by Art Smith. For those waiting for a table at either Little Goat diner or Au Cheval, the opening of Lone Wolf is an absolute oasis, and a pretty respectable place to grab a drink regardless.
Starting out with the massive food emporium of Eataly and a couple of weeks later its fine dining restaurant Baffo, Mario Batali and company dominated headlines (and will continue to into 2014, no doubt).
Two other big Italian restaurants opened up around Eataly, Nico Osteria (which RedEye's Michael Nagrant gushes over) and Cicchetti, the cool Venetian spot headed up by Mike Sheerin.
German food gets an update from Nathan Sears and Adam Hebert at The Radler. Don Sritong's Coppervine, pairing each dish with a choice of either a cocktail, beer or wine, is a stunner. Humboldt Park got an exceptionally beautiful cocktail bar in Sportsman's Club. And Logan Square's Analogue, from former Violet Hour bartenders Robby Haynes and Henry Predergast, opened with the promise "to take the pretentiousness out of the craft cocktail scene."
· All Opening Reports and Opening Alerts [~ECHI~]
· All Year in Eater 2013 Coverage [-ECHI-]