See that golden orb in the sky, Chicago? That object is called the sun, and the city is starting to see more of it now as spring approaches. There’s also a diverse lineup of restaurant openings approaching. Arguably the year’s most highly anticipated restaurant headlines the group with the return of an acclaimed fine dining chef. Two New York imports, a downtown Chicago brewery, and a Jewish-style deli should provide plenty of excitement. Finally, a wife-and-husband’s all-day cafe and restaurant will bring some sunshine to Ukrainian Village.
The elephant in the room is how COVID-19 will affect the hospitality industry and if openings could be pushed back. There have been some rumblings of nervous restaurant investors worried that customers may begin staying at home. Conferences, like the International Housewares Association, have already been cancelled. Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas tweeted “the hospitality industry is about to get crushed,” and asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot to intervene by temporarily lowering the city’s sales tax. Translation: the future is uncertain.
With that in mind, read on for Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings of spring. This list is alphabetical.
Address: 600 N. Michigan Avenue, River North
Key Players: Greg Shuff, Pat Sheerin
Construction should be finished by the end of March on this downtown brewpub. Greg Shuff, owner of DryHop, Roebuck, and Corridor brewing in Lakeview, continues to scale up with plans for expansions. They’ve hired chef Pat Sheerin (Trencherman, City Mouse) for creative tacos with tortillas made on site. Crushed by Giants will have a wide-ranging beer list with hop-forward brews and traditional and hazy IPAs. Owners are looking at a mid-April opening.
Address: 1330 W. Fulton Market
Key Players: Curtis Duffy, Michael Muser
Chicago doesn’t see as many fine dining openings, and given Grace’s backstory, folks are eager to see what Michael Muser and Curtis Duffy have to offer in Fulton Market. Muser said they’re in the finishing phases and hope to soon open. Muser, the sommelier at Grace, is once again teaming up with the superstar chef. Duffy hasn’t revealed his menu, except that it will be a two-and-a-half hour dinner and about 12 courses. Expect a luxurious, creative, and pricey experience.
Address: 1024 N. Western Avenue, Ukrainian Village.
Key Player: Ursula Siker
Ursula Siker loves LA’s Kosher-style delis and wants to bring that feeling to Chicago. Siker, the former head baker at Hoosier Mama Pie Co., will showcase her roots in the former Lockdown space. Expect pastrami, brisket, and other traditional favorites. There will also be a full bar. Work continues on the build out, but Siker said they’re still on target for a spring debut.
Address: 1001 N. Winchester Avenue, West Town
Key Players: Genie Kwon, Tim Flores
The husband-and-wife team of chef Tim Flores and pastry chef Genie Kwon worked together at Oriole, one of the finest restaurants in Chicago. They departed to open their own restaurant. They’ll feature Kwon’s croissants and other French pastries during the day, with sandwiches for lunch. Flores will then serve a modern Filipino menu at night. Kasama is in its inspection phase, and could open soon.
Address: 616 N. Rush Street, River North
Key Players: John McDonald, Josh Capon, John Comerford
Lure Fishbar is known for its burger as much as its fish. It will make good money during the afternoons in River North as a power lunch destination. But Lure isn’t always buttoned up, offering “something for everyone,” ownership hopes. There’s variety in the menu with sushi and raw bar options, in addition to that burger. Lure takes over the former David Burke’s spot.
Address: 2943 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Avondale
Key Players: Toby Maloney, Nick Pfannerstill, TJ Lynch, Richard Knap
Mother’s Ruin is a popular bar in Lower Manhattan. This is a low-key spot with fun cocktails; a classy dive, as the cliché goes. The bar’s main room seats 65 and there’s also a patio. It’ll also serve food and has plans on a riff on a Chicago classic: the humble pizza puff. A rep said early April is the latest opening estimate.
Address: 4229 N. Lincoln Avenue, North Center
Key Player: Rob Shaner
Refined French food comes to the former Kitsune space courtesy of Rob Shaner, a decorated chef who’s paying homage to his father. Shaner will feature a tasting menu and reservations will be available via Tock. He recently hired Cati Molnar, who spent the last nine months working for Grace veteran Bobby Schaffer at his Andersonville bakery, Lost Larson. The opening is projected for the first week of May, according to a rep.
Tales of Carlos Gaytán
Address: 720 N. Clark Street, River North
Key Player: Carlos Gaytán
Tzuco has been warmly received by Chicagoans, as Carlos Gaytán and friends opened their modern Mexican restaurant in River North late in 2019. But fans of Gaytán and his hybrid French approach to Mexican cuisine are waiting for Tales of Carlos Gaytán, the chef’s fine dining entry. Gaytán recently opened the restaurant to the public for a one-time collaborative dinner with a pair of his friends, who happen to be acclaimed Mexican chefs. But there’s no formal opening date for the restaurant. Gaytán, ever the tinkerer, said he’s still playing with the tasting menu. He wants to distinguish the offerings compared to what he came up with at Ha in Playa Del Carmen. An opening should happen soon.
Address: 15 W. Washington Boulevard
Key Players: Eldon Scott, Roberta’s Pizza
Now slated for a late April or early May opening, Chicago’s latest food hall is coming to the Loop from a company with tons of operating experience from multiple food halls in New York. This is the first Urbanspace destined for Chicago. A rep said the second — inside the Willis Tower — should open in August. A big draw at both will be Roberta’s pizza, a Brooklyn neo-Neapolitan pie maker with light crusts, gourmet toppings, and stretchy mozzarella. Stay tuned for details on the food hall’s full lineup.