The new year is well underway and there’s plenty to look forward to. 2016 saw many stellar openings and 2017 is shaping up to be another wild ride. Chicago’s biggest players and hottest names are planning new restaurants that are bound for great things. From luscious sushi to prime cuts of steak, the following spots are already generating buzz. And while lots of under-the-radar gems will pop up between now and December, these are the hottest ones that we’re anticipating at the moment.
Boka Restaurant Group is leading the charge with two openings that feature prominent chefs at the helm, Lee Wolen and Jimmy Papadopoulos, while Land and Sea Dept. will take the party outside with a rooftop patio bar. Oh, and it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks as Gibsons is opening its first new concept in more than a decade—a modern steakhouse. So take notes on these elite eight and keep your eyes on Eater Chicago for more updates as they get closer to launch.
Address: 1800 S. Carpenter St.
ETA: Early 2017
Good things come to those who wait. Thai and Danielle Dang’s Vietnamese passion project has hit some bumps in the road but is primed to open soon in Pilsen. Thai promises that the food will be a "homage to the past, present, and the future of Vietnamese cuisine," and patrons can look forward to clay-pot cooking and an open-flame rotisserie for suckling pig and roasted whole fish. Danielle is in charge of the beverage program and has also taken on design duties, fashioning a sleek space that will "reflect the spirit of Vietnam."
Address: 2500 W. Chicago Ave.
ETA: Early spring
Zoe Schor helped turn Ada St. into one of Chicago’s best off-the-beaten-path spots but now she’s ready to take the reins of her very own restaurant. Schor says she’ll focus on "modern-American cooking with roots in classic Americana," so expect hearty plates of revamped comfort foods. Among them will be "loaded baked-potato gnocchi"—a dish of potato gnocchi that’s showered with sour cream, bacon, onions and scallions. By offering an accessible menu at a moderate price point, the restaurant is striving to be a place where diners can stop in for a small bite or a special occasion.
Address: 1118 N. State St.
The Boka Restaurant Group train keeps on rolling and one of its next restaurants will land at the upcoming Viceroy Hotel in the Gold Coast. Lee Wolen, who currently leads the kitchen at Boka, will perform double duty and also oversee the new project. Dishes will be simpler in style compared to Wolen’s Michelin star eatery, and he hopes to utilize a wood grill and small rotisserie to put out whole-roasted chicken, suckling pig, whole fish and more. The space itself is divided into three sections, each with a different theme. So far it's been revealed that the downstairs will have a yacht club vibe while upstairs will feel like a country club.
Address: 565 W. Randolph St.
Critically-acclaimed Sepia has been a fine dining stalwart for almost a decade. For its follow-up, the team is embracing a more casual approach and Andrew Zimmerman will offer contemporary American cuisine inspired by global street food. Details are still scarce but the kitchen is focusing on flavors over authenticity and will "take guests on an easygoing ride like jumping on the back of a bicycle in Thailand, walking a beach in Mexico, or hopping the fence in dad's backyard."
Boka Restaurant Group and Jimmy Papadopoulos Project
The star-studded lineup of chefs working with Boka Restaurant Group is about to grow even longer this year. 2015 Eater Chicago Chef of the Year Jimmy Papadopoulos—who left his post at Bohemian House last summer—has joined the team and is trading the schnitzels and goulash for what he calls "bright, bold, beautiful American cuisine." The exact location has yet to be disclosed, although it promises to be in an "exciting" area, and the space will have a "modern, retro, classic American vibe to it." Diners can (hopefully) look for it soon as the group is aggressively working toward a spring opening.
Land and Sea Dept. Project
Address: 2101 N. California Ave.
The cold winter months can be a real drag so the folks at Land and Sea are giving us something to look forward to. They’ve taken over the former building of dive bar Ronny’s and given it a complete overhaul. When it’s finished, the space will house a two-story bar with a roof deck. If the endless flow of frozen negroni slushies at Parson’s Chicken & Fish is any indication, this yet-to-be-named spot will definitely bring the crowds come summertime.
Address: 339 N. Dearborn St.
Hollywood glitz and glam is headed to Chicago in the old Bin 36 space. The popular sushi and robata restaurant from L.A. will expand to just its second U.S. location and hopes to lure in locals with an array of Japanese small plates, sizzling skewers, fresh sashimi and premium sake. River North will never be short on hot scenes, but this import could be the most arresting one yet when it debuts.
Gibsons Restaurant Group Steakhouse
Address: 444 W. Lake St.
Despite the influx of steakhouses over the last few years, it seems Chicagoans’ lust for beef is limitless. That’s why the venerable Gibsons Restaurant Group is opening its first new downtown spot in 12 years inside the under-construction River Point. It’s being billed as a "modern steakhouse with authentic Italian influences," and the menu will feature a variety of seafood, shellfish, veggies, pastas, risotto and, of course, meats. Topping it all off, literally and figuratively, is a retractable roof on the top floor that will help showcase stunning views of the Chicago River and the city’s skyline.