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Industry Experts Name the Top Restaurant Newcomers of 2016

As 2016 fades into 2017, Eater surveyed a group of critics, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them eight questions: from Top Standbys to Top Newcomers, from Best Meals to Saddest Closures. All answers will be revealed—cut, pasted, unedited and unadulterated—by the time we pop the cork on 2017.

Giant made nearly everyone's list
Giant made nearly everyone's list
Marc Much

What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2016?

Penny Pollack, Chicago magazine: The Barn. Let me count the ways: The entrance to this former stable is in the alley—because that's where it really is. There is not a single TV screen in the joint. I loved the liver and onions.

Elizabeth Atkinson, Time Out ChicagoMoody Tongue Brewery, Smyth and The Loyalist, Bad Hunter, Cafe Marie-Jeanne, The Budlong.

Chris LaMorte, UrbanDaddy: First, I'd like to say 2016 offered the most frenetic pace of new, high-profile openings I've witnessed in the past 10 years. While I'm going to bashfully admit I didn't get to all of the newbies, I went to enough that it made me think that we're really are in the midst of a great age of dining. But I feel a shakeout will be coming in 2017. Service has not been able to keep pace with culinary ambition, prices are becoming somewhat comical, and I'm not sure how many restaurants we can sustain in the long-term.

That said: top on my list: Roister, Giant, Lena Brava/Cruz Blanca, and while Monteverde opened toward the end of 2015, I'll add it to the list since I didn't get to until this year! They seem to be firing on all cylinders.

Michael Gebert, Fooditor: Oriole and Smyth & The Loyalist at the high end, Giant in the middle, Snaggletooth for breakfast and Hanbun out in the burbs somewhere.

Lisa Shames, CSOriole, El Che Bar, Monteverde, Smyth, Roister, Giant, Bad Hunter, Animale, Lena Brava, GT Prime ... Can I keep going?

Michael Nagrant, RedEye: Snaggletooth, Naoki, KimskiImperial Lamian, Duck Duck Goat, Leña Brava, Honey’s, Giant, GT Prime, Entente.

Anthony Todd, Chicagoist: My biggest newcomers of the year included the awesome sushi at Naoki, the beautifully small steaks at GT Prime and the totally predictable perfection of Giant.

Chandra Ram, Plate: Oriole, Smyth & The Loyalist, Giant, Duck Duck Goat, El Che Bar, Monteverde—Chicago kind of killed it this year with great restaurants opening.

Matt Kirouac, Zagat: Giant, Oriole, El Che Bar.

Morgan Olsen, RedEye: If I had to narrow it down to just three, they’d be Naoki Sushi, Roister, and Honey’s.

Duck Duck Goat

857 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 902-3825 Visit Website

The Loyalist

177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3774 Visit Website


177 North Ada Street, , IL 60607 (773) 913-3773 Visit Website

GT Prime

707 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654 (312) 600-6305 Visit Website

Cafe Marie-Jeanne

1001 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (773) 904-7660

Naoki Sushi

2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 868-0002 Visit Website


2819 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 773-715-4790


661 West Walnut Street, , IL 60661 (312) 877-5899 Visit Website


1020 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 888-3041


951 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 789-4896

Cruz Blanca

904 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 733-1975 Visit Website

Bad Hunter

802 West Randolph Street, , IL 60607 (312) 265-1745 Visit Website


700 North Sedgwick Street, , IL 60654 (312) 285-2247 Visit Website

The Barn

1016 Church St, Evanston, IL 60201 (847) 868-8041

Moody Tongue Brewery

2136 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60608 (312) 600-5111 Visit Website

Imperial Lamian

6 West Hubbard Street, , IL 60654 (312) 595-9440 Visit Website


954-960 West 31st Street, , IL 60608 (773) 823-7336

El Che Bar

845 West Washington Boulevard, , IL 60607 (312) 265-1130 Visit Website


665 Pasquinelli Drive, , IL 60559 (630) 948-3383 Visit Website

Lena Brava

900 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 733-1975


3209 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 252-0997 Visit Website


1904 western, Chicago, IL 60647 (872) 315-3912