Over the last year, Chicago has seen plenty of big restaurant openings. Now that 2014 is over let's look back over the most memorable.
Masaharu Morimoto joined up with the Japonais team for the Iron Chef's first restaurant presence in middle America with Japonais by Morimoto in February.
From chefs Tony Manutano (Spiaggia) and John Hogan (Keefer's), River Roast hit the ground running in July at the former Fulton's on the River spot (you can even take a boat ride to get there).
Bohemian House took many in the city by surprise, bringing a modern spin on Czech food to an area of the city few could have predicted would hit with a chef, Jimmy Papadopoulos, even fewer had heard of before. Papadopoulos' food grabbed enough food writers' heartstrings for them to gush about it in Eater's year end recaps.
The dance party hit of the year was undoubtedly Slippery Slope, which sprang up in Logan Square on that hot stretch of Milwaukee Avenue. While dancing is the space's main claim to fame, its bar menu gets raves and it even has three skee ball machines to add to the fun.
Rockit Ranch Productions brought in acclaimed chef Kevin Hickey to become their director of food and operations and partner after he consulted and opened Bottlefork to wide applause back in February. Hickey's Bridgeport project, The Duck Inn (another major opening of 2014), was subsequently folded into Rockit's roster of restaurants.
It's hard to point to a restaurant opening that managed to "wow" across the board more than Momotaro. The Boka Group's Japanese crown jewel spans 11,500 square feet over three floors (including a lower-level izakaya bar) and includes seating for around 300 people total.
RPM Steak, the new project from Lettuce Entertain You, Bill and Giuliana Rancic with chef Doug Psaltis, was a big one, jumping off smoldering hot and only getting hotter. On top of the critical acclaim, the steak joint boasted an impressive list of celebrity visits (President Obama, Robert Smith of The Cure, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and more).
Billy Lawless transformed French Henri into Italian Acanto and didn't seem to miss a beat. Headed up by chef Chris Gawronski and general manager/sommelier Jon McDaniel, Acanto was dubbed "one of the best restaurants on Michigan Avenue" by Red Eye's Michael Nagrant.
Joining A10 and Yusho in the restaurant revitalization of Hyde Park, The Promontory grabbed hold of people with its "hearth-to-table" concept.
Focusing specifically on the Piemonte region of Italy, Osteria Langhe's no-frills decor combined with its refined menu in the former home of a barbecue joint was another pleasant surprise of the year.
Mixing a combination of charcuterie as well as small and large plates, TÊTE Charcuterie, the Parisian-style boucherie, impressed a great many in 2014.
Celeste was shrouded in mystery for a long time before opening in February. With the addition of superstar barman Michael Simon in October, as well as winning the Eater award for Stone Cold Stunner, it was a big year for the swanky space.
Seemingly coining the term "Mexican soul food," Dove's Luncheonette moved in next door to its sister restaurant Big Star and instantly became a hit with the neighborhood and critics.
Two out-of-town burger joints landed in Chicago, but one, Shake Shack, loomed the largest. The East Coast institution debuted to a line of 120 people and continues to make an impact since opening in November. Umami Burger also opened in Wicker Park.
42 Grams took the fine dining world by storm when it opened back in January in the former home of a fried chicken joint. Chef Jake Bickelhaupt's passion for his work resulted in two Michelin stars right out of the gate.
The restaurant that got the most love in 2014 had to be Lakeview's mfk. Husband-and-wife duo Scott Worsham and Sari Zernich Worsham (along with chef Nick LaCasse) have been showered with praise since opening in July as the type of restaurant that hardcore foodies and cooks flock to that also inspires visits from the casual eater.