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Chicago’s Restaurant Experts Reveal the Biggest Dining Surprises of 2019

Writers mentioned an “explosion” of spirit-free drinks and Carlos Gaytán’s return to Chicago

A large round white bowl with caviar and purple flowers
The omakase trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Kikko [Official Photo]

Chicago’s restaurant writers dish on their biggest surprises of 2019 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.

Jeff Ruby, Chicago: I’m totally in the minority on these, but I thought Flora Fauna had tons of great ideas and flavors, and I thought Good Fortune was a whole lot of nothing. Also, Bruce Sherman leaving North Pond.

Michael Nagrant, Hermosa’s fabulous sandwiches.

Titus Ruscitti, ChiBBQKing: Tie: The return of In-On-Thai. Arguably the city’s best Thai restaurant. Real deal Cuban sandwiches and Sinaloan seafood found in Elk Grove Village (Cubano Bros, El Rodeo Restaurant).

Ji Suk Yi, WGN Radio, Sun-Times: Explosion of spirit-free and non-alcoholic drinks.

Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago: I was blown away by the number of new omakases that nabbed Michelin stars for 2020. We’re so lucky to have intimate, thoughtful dining experiences like Kikko, Mako and Omakase Yume. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Carlos Gaytán’s triumphant return to Chicago with three impressive concepts. (Seriously, have you tried the conchas at Panago?!)

Chandra Ram, Plate: I thought the current administration had fully demonstrated that human cruelty has no bottom, but when a chef who physically abused his wife sues her for talking about the abuse, that’s a new low.

Ariel Cheung, Plate, Chicago, Time Out Chicago, Block Club: It should not have come as a surprise, but I was blown away by the fascinating range of Chicago chefs doing fun, creative, delicious food at Time Out Market. Our food hall scene is oversaturated, but Time Out Market still managed to do something awesome and original.

Time Out Market Chicago

916 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 637-3888 Visit Website


731 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 988-0687 Visit Website

Good Fortune

2528 North California Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 666-5238 Visit Website

Flora Fauna

11 West Illinois Street, , IL 60654 (312) 624-9276 Visit Website

Stone Flower

1952 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL Visit Website


630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website

North Pond

2610 North Cannon Drive, , IL 60614 (773) 477-5845 Visit Website

In-On Thai

4641 North Broadway, , IL 60640 (773) 944-0114 Visit Website


720 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654 Visit Website