If Chicagoans blinked, they may have missed summer, but at least there’s plenty of fall restaurants to get excited about. The fall 2019 batch of the city’s most anticipated restaurants includes several homecomings. For example, acclaimed chef Paul Virant is opening his first Chicago restaurant since Perennial Virant closed in 2017. Moody Tongue Brewing is prepping to open a new fine dining location after closing its Pilsen brewpub. Carlos Gaytán, a pioneering Mexican chef, is opening a downtown restaurant after closing Mexique last year in West Town. And just when food hall fatigue has set in, the Time Out Market arrives. The Fulton Market food hall should be Chicago’s fourth food hall to open in 2019.
Check out the fall preview of the most anticipated Chicago restaurants of the season below. Entries are listed alphabetically.
Address: 702 N. Wells Street
Key Players: Louie Alexakis, Lou Canellis
Avli Taverna was only the appetizer for Louie Alexakis, a chef who’s determined to share Greek culture with the rest of Chicago. Taverna continues to draw crowds in Lincoln Park, but as the name suggests, it’s more of a neighborhood bar. Avli River North is where Alexakis can really show off his food skills. Downtown Chicago rarely sees upscale Greek restaurants. He’s joined by investor Lou Canellis, a Chicago sportscaster. There’s two floors, a patio, and dishes like honey & fig saganaki and Kataifi prawns. Expect an opening the first week of October.
Address: 2165 N. Western Avenue, Bucktown
Key Players: Jason Vincent, Josh Perlman, Ben Lustbader, Chase Bracamontes, Tom Scodari, Aaron Kabot
August was a month of construction for the crew behind Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar, an American-Chinese bar and restaurant slated for a fall opening in Bucktown. It’s the follow-up to Giant from chef Jason Vincent and his team in Logan Square. They’re serving up American-Chinese food, opposed to Chinese-American food which are based on items found in China and brought to America. Folks won’t find American-Chinese items like orange chicken and beef broccoli in China, but items like these provide the inspiration for Chef’s Special.
Address: 950 W. Lake Street, West Loop
Key Player: Paul Virant
All’s well in chef Paul Virant’s world, as the four-time Beard Award nominee has continued to run his suburban restaurants, Vie and Vistro, since his Lincoln Park/Old Town restaurant — Perennial Virant — closed in 2017. Virant’s now returning to Chicago with a 60-seat Japanese restaurant in West Loop that focuses on okonomiyaki. The restaurant’s name is supposed to acknowledge Virant’s identity as an outsider when it comes to Japanese culture. Some tables will feature teppan griddles for tableside service. Virant’s team is touting Gaijin as the first okonomiyaki-focused restaurant in Chicago, serving savoy Japanese pancakes. A spokesperson said the opening’s been pushed back to mid-October.
Address: 18 S. Wabash Avenue, the Loop
Key Players: Eric Zhou, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings
September 30 is opening day for JIAO, the casual dumpling restaurant from the owners of one of Chinatown’s most popular spaces. QXY started in 2015 in the Richland Food Court and has since risen from the basement to a storefront on Wentworth. Expect many of the same fillings found there at JIAO. Ownership wants to make Chinese dumplings more of an everyday item in Chicago.
Address: 521 N. Rush Street, River North
Key Players: Carrie and Michael Nahabedian
Cousins Carrie and Michael Nahabedian are working on their third restaurant, the follow-up to Naha and Brindille. Kostali should open on October 1 inside the Gwen Hotel on the fifth floor at the Shops at North Bridge. Chef Carrie Nahabedian still hasn’t shared her menu, but the James Beard Award winner teased that it will be a mix of Southern European and Northern African coastal cuisines.
Address: 2515 S. Wabash Avenue, Near South Side
Key Players: Jeremy Cohn, Jared Rouben, chef Jared Wentworth
When Baderbrau brewery vacated its nearby McCormick Place space, it presented an opportunity for Moody Tongue Brewing. The company desired a bigger home, so Jared Rouben and Jeremy Cohn announced a move. Their Pilsen taproom was one of the most unique spaces to drink a beer in Chicago, and they’ll bring aspects of that modern design to their new home. The Pilsen space didn’t offer full meals, but that will change at the new address. They’ve hired former Longman & Eagle chef Jared Wentworth to open a fine-dining restaurant with tasting menus, a rarity for a brewpub.
Address: 317 N. Clark Street, River North
Key Players: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Doug Psaltis, Bill and Giuliana Rancic
Lettuce Entertain You opened its fancy riverfront property in August when it unveiled Pizzeria Portofino. But pizza alone won’t pay the bills in downtown Chicago. Enter RPM on the Water, the seafood spinoff of RPM Italian and RPM Steak. Those restaurants were collaborations between Lettuce and Bill and Giuliana Rancic (of Apprentice and E! fame). RPM restaurants are a bit of a scene with specials inspired by international food trends. Expect a similar approach to seafood with Chicago River views. The ETA on RPM on the Water is November, according to a rep.
Address: 720 N. State Street, River North
Key Players: Carlos Gaytán
Carlos Gaytán brought Mexique, a French-Mexican restaurant, to Michelin-star status in West Town. Now after a brief sojourn back to Mexico, Gaytán is back with Tales of Carlos Gaytán, a 16-seat tasting menu restaurant to appease fine dining fans. Gaytán is most excited about that aspect, but there are two more components to the space. Tzuco is more casual, and Panango is a bakery with more grab-and-go items. There have been a few friends and family events to taste recipes. A rep said they’re targeting a mid-September opening for Tzuco, October for Panango, and November for Tales of Carlos Gaytán.
Address: 916 W. Fulton Market
Key Players: Didier Souillat, more than 18 reputable Chicago chefs
Time Out Market is looking at a fall opening, which would make it the fourth food hall to open this year in Chicago. It’ll have three levels and a rooftop that offers southern views of the West Loop. Souillat hopes to host chefs from other countries for pop-ups, leveraging Time Out’s international brand — it has a market in Lisbon and plans for more in Dubai, London, and Montreal. The space also features a giant video display where management could blast content from the magazine. That’s how synergy works; all chef vendors needed positive Time Out magazine reviews to be considered for the project. Confirmed restaurants include HaiSous, Entente, Pretty Cool Ice Cream, Split-Rail, Urbanbelly, Purple Pig, Mini Mott, and Art of Pizza. They haven’t announced all 18 vendors as the space is still under construction.