The return of a decorated fine dining chef, the resurrection of a French favorite thanks to a historic collaboration, and a restaurant with robotic servers will provide Chicago’s dining scene with plenty of diverse options in 2020. There’s also tons of star power thanks to a Top Chef champ opening his first restaurant, Robert De Niro finally opening the Nobu location in Chicago, and José Andrés’s full-service Chicago arrival. Dig in below to Eater Chicago’s most anticipated restaurants of the year.
This list is sorted alphabetically.
Address: 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Lincoln Park
Key Players: Alinea Group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
A historic collaboration between two of Chicago’s most successful restaurant groups plans to resurrect a long-dead French icon in 2020. Principals of the Alinea Group and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises are implementing “major renovations” inside the historic Belden-Stratford building in Lincoln Park to turn part of it into Ambria 2020, a reboot of the French classic that closed in 2007 after a 27-year run. Expect legendary chef Grant Achatz to “moderniz[e] the very best classical dishes and ingredients” inside a space that will be “all new, modern, and stunning” with “nods to the original.” It’s currently slated to open around mid-year.
Address: 1523 W. Chicago Avenue, West Town
Key Player: Chef Andrew Brochu
Chef Andrew Brochu, best known for masterminding the food at Alinea Group’s Roister, is bringing his famous fried chicken and more to West Town inside a long-dormant space in an increasingly trendy area for restaurants. While many restaurant owners fear fiscal pressures are leading to the death of independent and neighborhood businesses, Brochu’s aims to be a throwback to mom-and-pop establishments. Expect a casual spot with a fine dining touch, a menu of cheffy Southern comfort food, a robust bar program, and more.
Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar
Address: 2165 N. Western Avenue, Bucktown
Key Players: Chef Jason Vincent, Josh Perlman, Ben Lustbader, Chase Bracamontes, Tom Scodari, Aaron Kabot
Late January is when Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar should start serving a unique brand of American-Chinese food from the team behind Giant, the Eater 38 restaurant in Logan Square helmed by James Beard Award-nominated chef Jason Vincent. Memory inspires Vincent and Ben Lustbader, who are looking back at eating at Chinese-American restaurants while growing up in the Cleveland area. The staff will apply the same philosophy as it does at Giant: producing big flavors with top-notch ingredients and an attention to detail. Construction delays have snarled the project, but it is finally on track to open by the end of the month.
Chicago Board Game Cafe
Address: 1965 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Bucktown
Key Players: Cards Against Humanity, Max Temkin, Chef Aaron McKay
The people behind the very popular card game “Cards Against Humanity” plan to imminently open their first restaurant. Chicago Board Game Cafe promises to be the city’s most extensive gaming restaurant, offering dishes with Vietnamese, Spanish, and Mexican influences, a full bar, “hundreds” of board games, two escape rooms, and more. Opening day on the Bucktown/Logan Square border is slated for January 10 and reservations will soon be available via Tock.
Address: 159 E. Ohio Street, Streeterville
Key Players: Ed Debevic
The legendarily raucous retro diner plans to finally bring its side of sass back to downtown Chicago in 2020. Fans of the ever-popular relic have been waiting for a new location after it closed in River North in 2015 and its home of 31 years was demolished, and those dreams are being realized since ownership confirmed the new off-Mag Mile location in November. They’re being tight-lipped with additional details, but have announced plans to open sometime this year.
Address: 1330 W. Fulton Market, Fulton Market
Key Players: Chef Curtis Duffy, GM Michael Muser
After abruptly leaving Grace and the restaurant’s subsequent closure in December 2017, one of only two restaurant teams to earn three Michelin stars in Chicago is finally prepping to follow that shocking ending with a triumphant return in 2020. Chef Curtis Duffy and GM Michael Muser plan to top Grace at Ever, offering 12- and 15-course seasonal tasting menus — one focusing on seafood and light proteins and the other on vegetables — with dinners that cost between $300 and $500. Diners can also expect a narrow hallway that Muser called a “decompression chamber,” and to be able to pluck little snacks like dried yuzu rind and cotton candy clouds from the ceiling while waiting for their table. Perhaps Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant in some time, Ever is slated to open this spring or summer.
Address: 224 S. Michigan Avenue, Loop
Key Players: DMK Restaurant Group, Chef Brian Huston
Chicago’s first Japanese-style listening bar from restaurateur David Morton and chef Michael Kornick (Ada Street, DMK Burger Bar, County BBQ) is slated for a spring opening. The menu will focus on vegetables served with a compliment of “high-end proteins.” DMK is calling it “analogue cooking in today’s digital age” to go along with the space’s vinyl vibe. The kitchen will feature a German oven for breads and there will be cart service toting around coffee, champagne, and meats table side. A bar and all-day restaurant are part of this intriguing project.
5 Rabbit Cervecería Brewpub
Address: 1901 S. Sangamon Street, Pilsen
Key Players: Andrés Araya, Mila Ramirez
5 Rabbit revealed plans for a Pilsen brewpub in June 2018, but hadn’t announced an update since. Worry not — Mila Ramirez and husband Andrés Araya hope to open it in early fall. The project’s evolved and they’ll launch a crowdfunding campaign later in January. Ramirez’s vision is to complement the beer with a simple range of Latin American street food such as tacos — including arabes — ceviches, and more. Araya is Costa Rican and Ramirez is Peruvian. 5 Rabbit gained notoriety for its beer poking fun of Donald Trump. But the brewpub will showcase much more.
Address: 500 N. Clark Street, River North
Key Players: Chef José Andrés, ThinkFoodGroup
Beloved chef and social justice activist José Andrés plans to open his first full-service restaurant in Chicago in mid-2020. Andrés is bringing Jaleo, his Spanish tapas restaurant, to River North inside the former Naha space. Andrés is known for his charity work, raising money for hurricane victims. The Washington, D.C.-based chef has also built a following with several very popular restaurants. He opened a fast-casual spot in Streeterville in late 2019.
Joe Flamm’s Unnamed Restaurant
Address: 936 W. Fulton Market, Fulton Market
Key Players: Chef Joe Flamm, Sancerre Hospitality
Former Spiaggia chef and Top Chef season 15 winner Joe Flamm is partnering with Sancerre Hospitality on a Croatian-Italian restaurant. Sancerre’s Kara Callero revealed the address, a location around the corner from Time Out Market on Fulton Market. She said construction should start in early 2020. Flamm, a South Side native, is eager to show off more of what he did at Spiaggia, along with some Croatian influences. Expect creative pastas, grilled whole fish, and cevapcici.
Address: 1935 N. Lincoln Park West, Lincoln Park
Key Players: Chef Ross Henke, Trista Baker, Baligh and Moe Abu-Taleb
Quiote, the modern Mexican restaurant in Logan Square where chef Ross Henke gained a following, was one of the Chicago restaurant scene’s biggest losses in 2019. Henke now plans to cook up more than Mexican food at this new Lincoln Park restaurant, gathering influences from across Latin America. Trista Baker’s addition is an intriguing one, as Baker is known for her work with the Restaurant Culture Association, developing workplace policies for restaurant owners to make their atmospheres safer for all staffers. This is a big get for Lincoln Park, which has suddenly become home to trendy restaurants (Galit, Parson’s Chicken & Fish) in recent months. Menu items should include lamb dan dan noodles with fermented kale, “mexiracha,” lime, and peanuts; fried rock shrimp with cheese curds, escabeche/escalivada, mayo, and lime; and delicata squash with salsa roja, labneh, and zaatar. Besides Henke, the management staff is mostly women. That’s unique for Chicago’s restaurants, and also raises questions about the lack of woman-fronted restaurants in the city.
Address: 954 W. Randolph Street, West Loop
Key Players: Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, Meir Teper, and Drew Nieporent
First announced back in 2014 and then delayed because of funding and construction, 2020 appears to finally be Nobu’s year in the West Loop. Chicago may not have as much eye candy as the glitzy sushi dens on the West Coast, but Midwest scenesters should be satisfied with this new hotel, Japanese restaurant, and rooftop bar on Randolph Restaurant Row from celebrated chef Nobu Matsuhisa and actor Robert De Niro. Its website predicts a spring 2020 opening, but Chicagoans have heard dozens of dates announced over the last six years. They’ll believe it when it actually happens.
Address: 640 W. Cermak Road, Pilsen
Key Players: Nick Karounos, Chef Henry Hill
Details are still trickling in about Radius, a new 55,000-square-foot music venue with room for 2,500 to 3,800 people. The project includes a bar and full-service restaurant inside a space called Cermak Hall. Chef Henry Hill, who helped bring nearby Dusek’s Board and Beer a Michelin star, is consulting on the restaurant’s menu. Stay tuned for menu details as they haven’t yet been released. Musicians with concert dates include inaugural act Dillon Francis, who performs on February 29.
The X Pot
Address: Roosevelt Collection, 150 W. Roosevelt Road, South Loop
Key Players: David Zhao, robotic servers
By summer 2020, robots should be swarming Roosevelt Collection. Robotic servers are part of the allure of the X Pot, a new Chinese restaurant that promises a 5D experience for private events. The restaurant, which also has a Las Vegas location, uses video projection to provide customers with an immersive dining experience. Images are projected on plates and walls while patrons eat hot pot and other dishes. Robot servers will complement humans and work together for a unique meal. A spokesperson said customers can also customize their private 5D experience for an additional cost.