clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chicago’s Restaurant Experts Name Their Top Restaurant Newcomers of 2018

Writers were impressed by both the buzziest restaurants and some under the radar newcomers

A wooden board holds a round white plate that contains sliced kalbi and eight smaller dishes that hold various colorful banchan.
Passerotto was a crowd favorite for 2018
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

To continue the tradition of asking Chicago’s food writers and critics to sum up their year in dining for 2018, they named their favorite new restaurants in 2018.

Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago: Bar Biscay, Passerotto, etta, Pacific Standard Time, Aba and Pretty Cool Ice Cream.

Ariel Cheung, CS Magazine: The buzziest ones—Pacific Standard Time, Passerotto and S.K.Y.—fully deserve the recognition they’re getting, but I also was really impressed by Le Sud, Funkenhausen and Free Rein.

Chandra Ram, Plate: I really love Red & White, Bar Biscay and Bar Sotano; they filled gaps in our drinking/dining scene, and became my go-to spots, especially when food writers and chefs came to town. And Pacific Standard Time of course; I haven’t had a single disappointing bite there. I also really enjoyed Passerotto; the menu is super-creative and interesting.

Matt Kirouac, What Should We Do: I’m obsessed with Funkenhausen. Such a fun spot, and the food is incredible. Aba was awesome too.

Titus Ruscitti, ChiBBQKing: The Family House (now Tea Leaf Cafe), Rica Arepa, Xocome Antojeria, S.K.Y, Tata’s Tacos, Tempesta Market, Frunchroom, Passerotto, Old Habits at Ludlow Liquors, Shan Shaan Taste, Virtue, Pretty Cool Ice Cream, Ava’s Italian Ice, Meet Fresh.

Audarshia Townsend, Managing Editor for Restaurant Inc. Magazine; regular contributor for WGN Morning News: From the beginning of the year right down to the final months, there were some pretty stellar newcomers that I believe will be around for awhile. For certain, TAO was the most significant restaurant of the year in Chicago. The grand opening party itself was something Chicago hasn’t seen in more than 20 years. I mean, there had to be more than 5,000 people in attendance at that opening and the owners pulled out all the stops. Since opening in mid-September, it has been the go-to destination for upscale types to celebrate grand occasions. Also significant in 2018: Chef Erick Williams’ Virtue Restaurant (its debut in Hyde Park was much anticipated and celebrated by South Siders, plus President Obama was one of the first guests in the first few days), The Warbler (sister restaurant to Gather in Lincoln Square has one of the best burgers of the year) and Dorian’s (Bucktown/Wicker Park venue is a slick, live music venue, record store selling vinyl and late-night eatery).

Mike Sula, Chicago Reader: Astoria Café, A Place by Damao, Old Habits/Ludlow Liquors, Bellmore, Passerotto, Twain, and many more.

Michael Nagrant, Bellemore, Pacific Standard Time, Ina Mae’s Tavern, Passerotto, S.K.Y.

Michael Gebert, Fooditor: The obvious ones are so obvious, S.K.Y. (tail end of ‘17), Passerotto, Bar Biscay, Pretty Cool-- I’m sure I won’t be the only one saying those names. It’s hard to make me like a bar in River North, and I’ve only been to a preview, but I was pretty impressed by how agreeable Bar Sotano was. Stick roasted veggies with a fork and drag them through mole? Why wouldn’t you do that at every meal?

Less obvious: Finom Coffee is the coffee place with Hungarian food that no one, ever, was waiting for. Sweet, unknown little Munno Pizzeria & Bistro is one from the heart. Lamar Moore and/or Nick Jirasek’s version of Currency Exchange Cafe, gone already, was worth the drive for a soul bowl. Hong Ngu is a new pho place on Argyle that feels like it’s being run by the kids while the parents are away, but its bubbling hot stone bowl pho is cool as hell. (I’m going to stop now before I give away half of The Fooditor 99.)

And sometimes the newcomer is a person, not a business—I didn’t love Band of Bohemia until new chef Ian Davis, but now I recommend it all the time. It’s not like any other place in town—or America.


160 N Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60606 (312) 263-0260 Visit Website


4539 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60625 (773) 506-9300 Visit Website


5420 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website

Free Rein

224 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60601 (312) 334-6700 Visit Website

Pretty Cool Ice Cream

709 West Belden Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 697-4140 Visit Website

Bar Sotano

445 North Clark Street, , IL 60610 (312) 391-5857 Visit Website

Tempesta Market

1372 West Grand Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 929-2551 Visit Website


4042 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60641 (773) 853-2160 Visit Website

Pacific Standard Time

141 West Erie Street, , IL 60654 (312) 736-1778 Visit Website


1840 West North Avenue, , IL 60622 (312) 757-4444 Visit Website


1709 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60622 (312) 929-4727 Visit Website

Le Sud

2301 West Roscoe Street, , IL 60618 (773) 857-1985 Visit Website


2445 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 697-8463 Visit Website


1939 West North Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 687-9824 Visit Website

Best Intentions

3281 West Armitage Avenue, , IL 60647 (312) 818-1254 Visit Website


4600 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60625 (773) 751-1500 Visit Website

The Warbler

4535 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60625 (773) 681-0950 Visit Website

Ludlow Liquors

2959 N. California Avenue, Chicago, IL (773) 754-7492 Visit Website


1239 West 18th Street, , IL 60608 (312) 846-1077 Visit Website

Alla Vita

564 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 667-0104 Visit Website


1011 South Congress Avenue, , TX 78704 (737) 273-0199 Visit Website

Bar Biscay

1450 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 455-8900 Visit Website

Band of Bohemia

4710 North Ravenswood Avenue, , IL 60640 (773) 271-4710 Visit Website


1462 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL