As winter turns to spring, the weather isn’t the only thing Chicagoans have to look forward to. Get ready for another round of restaurant openings from a star-studded lineup of chefs. If you’ve been a shut-in over the past several months, these soon-to-be hotspots will definitely awaken you from hibernation.
This upcoming season has a little bit of everything. The Sepia team is trading fine dining for a more laid back experience at Proxi, while several talented chefs are making their returns with new restaurants. And on the South Side, Open Outcry Brewing will be a welcome watering hole for craft beerheads.
As the saying goes: The early bird gets the worm. Check back with Eater Chicago for more updates so you can be the first to snag that coveted reservation. These projections are subject to change because delays can, and likely will, happen but in the meantime, read up and start planning.
Address: 565 W. Randolph St.
The Sepia gang is going casual for its much-anticipated follow-up to the Michelin-starred restaurant. Proxi, whose name comes from a Latin word that conveys closeness, will be decidedly less formal and focus on globally-inspired street fare from Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, India, and more. The open kitchen will house a wood charcoal oven and two wood-burning grills, and chef Andrew Zimmerman’s plates will be shareable by design. In keeping with the spirit of the food, the dining room will provide a boisterous environment for guests to revel in.
Address: 2500 W. Chicago Ave.
Comfort comes in many forms and for West Town residents, it will soon be served in Zoe Schor’s cooking. The former Ada St. chef is opening her first restaurant that focuses on “modern-American cooking with roots in classic Americana.” That means refined twists on comfort foods, such as a loaded baked-potato gnocchi dish. Diners can look forward to an accessible menu at a moderate price point that’s suited for both special occasions or a quick bite.
Address: 1800 S. Carpenter St.
The long road back for chef Thai Dang is nearing its end. It’s been an arduous journey but Thai, along with his wife Danielle, are poised to heat up Pilsen—literally and figuratively—with their passion project. The cooking will “pay homage to the past, present, and the future of Vietnamese cuisine” by utilizing authentic techniques like clay pot grilling. House specialties will include Vietnamese BBQ with grilled prawns and charred pork cheeks; whole fish with fresh herbs; and Thai’s signature green papaya salad. Danielle will oversee the beverage program and also designed the space to “reflect the spirit of Vietnam.”
Address: 817 W. Lake St.
Chicagoans will soon be able to glam it up and relive the golden days at this 200-seat West Loop spot. The massive project— which spans 10,000 square feet and includes 2 bars, dining, and private event space—is inspired by the restaurants and lounges along Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard during the ‘50s. Partners Kara Callero, Frank Callero, and Steven Zaleski are bringing throwback vibes and a timeless interior that reflects the style characterized in the Art Deco and Hollywood Regency eras. Chef Ross Mendoza, who previously helmed the kitchen at The Pump Room, will deliver modern American shared plates that highlight classic dishes in reimagined ways.
Otto Mezzo Bar
Address: 311 W. Chicago Ave,
Chef Kevin Hickey helped turn an unassuming Bridgeport restaurant into a dining destination and for an encore, he’s going Italian. Rockit Ranch Productions and Hickey are transforming the Ay Chiwowa space into a late-night Italian cocktail bar. With a liquor license that permits alcohol until 5 a.m. on the weekends and a kitchen that will serve food after 2 a.m., Otto Mezzo is positioning itself to be the spot where guests go to end the night. The décor will be influenced by Italian arts and cinema while the menu will offer pastas, gelato, and large-format cocktails.
Address: 65 W. Kinzie St.
A concept as unique as “Mexican robata bar” requires an equally eclectic chef, and that’s just what DineAmic Group has in store for its next restaurant. They’re teaming up with another former Top Chef contestant, Katsuji Tanabe, to serve food that draws on several influences. Tanabe—who is half Japanese and half Mexican—is fusing flavors of both cuisines to create items like guajillo-glazed pork belly and grilled diver scallop with poblano-uni relish. The broad menu will also offer a standard variety of Mexican and American dishes complemented with mezcal-based cocktails and slushy-spiked horchata. Look for the restaurant to open in the former BlackFinn AmeriPub space soon.
Address: 2800 W. Logan Blvd.
The shuttering of Cantina 1910 was a big disappointment last year, but the short-lived restaurant also served as a coming-out party for chef Diana Dávila. She’s making her return with a new Mexican spot in Logan Square, taking over the Catalpa Kitchen space. The food will embody Dávila’s “Midwest Mexican” cooking style and include the customary selection of tacos, burritos, and family-style entrees like barbacoa and carnitas. On the beverage side, expect to imbibe kegged margaritas and Cuba Libre cocktails.
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s Projects
Address: 660 N. State St.
One of the city’s best mixologists is hitting the Dana Hotel & Spa for his next project. Benjamin Schiller and the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s new bar located on the hotel’s second floor has so far been described as “theatrical,” with “over the top and extravagant” drinks. Elsewhere in the building, the rooftop space that was formerly Vertigo Sky Lounge is being remodeled and will specialize in large, shareable drinks, while a new seafood restaurant on the ground floor will eventually replace the current Freestyle Food + Drink.
Address: 11 E. Walton Pl.
Celebrity chef Michael Mina is making his Chicago debut with a French brasserie inside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The dining experience will be reminiscent of 1920’s Paris and feature an elevated menu that emphasizes locally-sourced ingredients and classic technique. Brent Balika, a former vet of The Dawson, has been named executive chef and will deliver traditional dishes such as frog legs a la trois gros, escargot bordelaise, and dover sole meuniere. The beverage program will offer an extensive wine and spirits collection, as well as a roving Champagne cart for guests to order from.
Open Outcry Brewing Co.
Address: 10934 S. Western Ave.
There’s definitely no shortage of craft breweries in Chicago but you can never have too much of a good thing. Endless amounts of IPAs, stouts, barrel-aged beers, and more will flow at this South Side brewpub courtesy of owner John Brand. It’ll have an “aesthetic and space that you don’t typically see,” and chef Cesar Lopez—previously at Fuller House in Hinsdale—is in charge of pairing the brews with bites that include Neapolitan pizzas, panini, and salads.