Award-winning chefs, Chicago’s largest restaurant company, and one of the city’s essential breweries all have projects lined up to debut this summer. The spring saw Boka Restaurant Group open its two hotly-anticipated Fulton Market restaurants inside the Hoxton Hotel, as well as a South Side food hall. A James Beard winner brought a touch of sophistication to Lincoln Park by opening Galit. The year’s not letting up with eight new restaurants to make summer worth enduring 50-degree June days. A quick word on restaurants that didn’t make the cut: Time Out Market and its 18 vendors are now targeting a fall opening, and so is chef Carlos Gaytan’s three River North restaurants. There will be more on those projects in the coming weeks. For now, get excited for the summer with these alphabetically listed previews.
Address: 2165 N. Western Avenue, Bucktown
Key Players: Jason Vincent, Josh Perlman, Ben Lustbader, Chase Bracamontes, Tom Scodari, Aaron Kabot
The team behind Logan Square’s knockout hit Giant are opening their second restaurant, a throwback to their years growing up eating Chinese-American food in the Cleveland area. Jason Vincent and company have been previewing Chef’s Special’s food at Giant and were at Aspen Food & Wine Fest over the weekend to give people a taste of what to expect. A spokesperson said they’re excited to work with Edgewater’s own Phoenix Bean Tofu who will supply tofu for some unique American-Chinese dishes. Boone Interiors, the firm behind projects including Elske in West Loop and the Dawson in West Town, is creating a large bar and lounge area for the space. They’re gunning for a late summer opening.
Address: 950 W. Lake Street, West Loop
Key Player: Paul Virant
Chef Paul Virant is one of Chicago’s most beloved chefs, having a five-year tenure at Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park before Boka Restaurant Group closed the restaurant in 2016. His suburban restaurant, Vie, continues to hum along in Western Springs. Now Virant ventures to the West Loop in a cultural departure for him. Gaijin will focus on okonomiyaki, the Japanese comfort food that resembles a griddled pancake. He’ll serve a few versions of the savory food, perhaps integrating a few non-traditional American ingredients. Virant is aiming for a September opening.
Address: 2515 S. Wabash Avenue, Near South Side
Key Players: Jeremy Cohn, Jared Rouben, chef Jared Wentworth
Earlier this year, Moody Tongue announced the closure of its Pilsen tasting room, one of the prettiest places to enjoy a beer in Chicago. This was in preparation for their move across town into the former Baderbrau space near McCormick Place. Brewer Jared Rouben takes a chef’s approach to making beer, but they didn’t serve a full menu in Pilsen, only oysters and chocolate cake. That’s not the case at their new digs. Not only will Moody Tongue open a beer tasting room in their new space, but ownership also plans a fine-dining restaurant with Chicago industry vet Jared Wentworth (Longman & Eagle, Mordecai) as chef. They’re looking at a late summer opening.
Address: 521 N. Rush Street, River North
Key Players: Carrie and Michael Nahabedian
This restaurant from chef Carrie Nahabedian and cousin Michael Nahabedian isn’t meant to be a substitute for Naha, their iconic River North restaurant that closed in March 2018 after 18 years. Reps haven’t released the name or much about the restaurant other than they’re shooting for a late-summer opening on the fifth floor of the Gwen: A Luxury Collection Hotel. Chef Nahabedian is a James Beard Award winner.
Address: 317 N. Clark Street, River North
Key Players: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Doug Psaltis, Bill and Giuliana Rancic
As the city of Chicago continues to revamp the downtown riverfront, trying to make it an alternative to those who can’t find property along Lake Shore Drive, LEYE is working on a multi-level space with a pizzeria, upscale seafood restaurant, and private dining space. Pizzeria Portofino should open in the first week of July with hand-stretched pizza that’s supposed to be reminiscent of restaurants on the Italian Riviera. There’s also floor-to-ceiling windows that will open up to the Chicago Riverwalk. Other menu items to look forward to are charcoal-grilled cold-water red prawns and Mediterranean dorade. RPM on the Water (the seafood restaurant) is looking like a November opening. LEYE is Chicago’s largest restaurant company.
Address: 3059 W. Diversey Parkway, Logan Square
Key Players: Zeeshan Shah, Yoshi Yamada, Jason Hammel
Early July is the target for this eagerly anticipated restaurant that’s eager to flip the narrative of what an Indian restaurant can be in Chicago. For example, there’s no tandoor; its chefs will use a pizza oven (which will also bake pizzas). Yamada studied street food in India on a Fulbright scholarship. Hammel, the chef/owner at Lula Cafe in Logan Square, is serving as his friends’s spirit guide, showing them how to run a restaurant. The enclosed courtyard in back will be a hot ticket this summer.
Address: On the roof of Second City, 1616 N. Wells Street, Old Town
Key Players: Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner, chef Amber Lancaster, beverage director Dylan Seo
Fifty/50, which started as a Wicker Park sports bar 11 years ago, continues to stretch its wings with a variety of projects including this rooftop bar on top of Second City, the world-famous comedy club. The space is meant to celebrate the tailgate, the ritual of parking lot imbibing before a concert or sporting event. Dylan Seo, the drink director at the Sixth, the Fifty/50’s cocktail lounge in Lincoln Square, is creating a special batch of drinks for the bar. They’re shooting for a mid-August opening.
Address: 3472 N. Elston Avenue, Avondale
Key Players: Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim
The team behind Parachute won their first James Beard Award in May, and soon after Kim gave birth to the couple’s third child. So to keep busy, Kim and Clark have decided to open their second restaurant this summer, just a few doors down from their first spot. Wherewithall is community oriented, a casual spot for breakfast and lunch. Evenings will feature a multi-coursed dinner that’s a bit more buttoned up. The chefs describe the menu as modern Chicagoan, which will give them liberties to dip into the diversity of the city’s neighborhoods. Kim and Clark are also promising a fun bar scene. They’re targeting a late summer opening.