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The Ten Most Anticipated Restaurants of 2021 in Chicago

2021 brings hopes that dreams deferred from 2020 can be fulfilled

Projecting a restaurant opening is not an exact science and the pandemic has only made matters tougher. Eight out of 14 members of Eater Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings of 2020 have yet to debut, and one that managed to open — Mundano — has permanently closed. Another, Brochu’s, is in limbo in search of a new home.

While 2021 brings hope in the form of vaccinations, the economic landscape is far from clear. Indoor dining has remained suspended since October in Chicago, and there’s no feel for when health metrics will satisfy government officials.

The efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and consumer confidence in indoor dining are two of many variables that the restaurant industry cannot account for, and with that in mind, here’s Eater Chicago’s Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings for 2021. These updates provide much needed positive vibes for diners, but it’s important to stay grounded. If Chicago didn’t learn from 2020, it’s time to once again reiterate that opening dates are subject to change.

The restaurants are listed alphabetically.

Alinea Group’s New Projects

Address: 363 E. Wacker Drive, Lakeshore East

Alinea Group (Nick Kokonas, Grant Achatz), Magellan Group

Work continues on the 101-story St. Regis Chicago (nee Vista Tower), a $1 billion skyscraper the overlooks the Chicago River. Apparently, Alinea Group had been in negotiations for years in hopes of finding space inside the luxury tower which is scheduled to open in late 2021. There aren’t many details beyond that Alinea will operate a fine dining restaurant on the 18th floor and an all-day restaurant on the second floor. Names haven’t been been shared. Alinea is also working with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to revive Ambria in Lincoln Park. An LEYE rep had no update on the project.

Alinea plans for this new skyscraper as depicted in this rendering.
Magellan Development Group [Official Rendering]

Esme

Address: 2220 N. Clark Street, Lincoln Park

Key Players: Jenner Tomaska, Katrina Bravo

The husband-and-wife team of Jenner Tomaska and Katrina Bravo are leaning into the spirit of community, hoping to weave an appreciation for the arts with Tomaska’s fine dining experience into a neighborhood restaurant. Esme appears on track for a spring debut. Tomaska, who worked at Alinea Group’s Next Restaurant, has been hard at work fund raising, but not for his project. He says within 24 hours his team raised $13,000 for workers at Virtue in Hyde Park (Chef Erick Williams is a mentor), and the first responders at University of Chicago hospital. There’s no update on the menu, as Tomaska and Bravo are preaching patience.

A man in an apron posing next to shelving.
Jenner Tomaska is ready to roll.
Esme [Official Photo]

The Exchange

Address: 224 S. Michigan Avenue, Loop

Key Players: DMK Restaurant Group, Chef Brian Huston

DMK Restaurant Group had a bold idea for 2020: To bring Chicago a Japanese listening bar, fusing music with food — and allowing customers to listen to a curated collection of vinyl. They brought on Huston, a 2015 James Beard Foundation award nominee who worked at the Publican and Boltwood in suburban Evanston. Expect a bigger update on the project later this year, but the news right now is the additions of two new members of the kitchen staff. Matt Pontarelli (Publican Quality Bread) is the head baker, and Gabby Sanchez is the head pastry chef. Sanchez is worked at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California, and competed on Food Network’s Chopped Sweets. There’s no ETA for an opening just yet.

An old photo of the space where the Exchange will open.
DMK Restaurants [Official Photo]

José Andrés Restaurants

Address: 110 N. Wacker Drive, West Loop

Key Players: José Andrés, Gibsons Restaurant Group

Andrés has continued his humanitarian efforts during the pandemic as the famous chef works to feed the needy by partnering with local restaurants across the nation. In 2020, there was buzz the Andrés was ready to bring his tapas restaurant, Jaleo, to River North. There’s no update on that, but Andrés made another announcement: He’s teaming up with Chicago’s respected Gibsons Restaurant Group to provide the food and beverage inside 110 N. Wacker Drive, a skyscraper that will eventually house Bank of America’s Chicago office. Bank staff are still keeping out of their cubicles, something that could last throughout 2021. Andrés and Gibsons are hoping for a more substantial update soon.

A computer rendering of a riverfront skyscraper at night.
José Andrés and Gibsons Restaurant Group hope to have a bigger update on this project soon.
Goettsch Partners [Official Rendering]

Lardon

Address: 2202 N. California Avenue, Logan Square

Key Players: Chef Christopher Thompson, Steve Lewis (Meadowlark Hospitality)

The former Township space has been long vacant in Logan Square, and two restaurant vets — who are also neighborhood residents — have big plans. Lardon will feature cured meats, artisanal cheese, sandwiches, coffee, and a retail market. Chef Thompson, formerly of Coda di Volpe in Lakeview (and best known for his work at A16 in San Francisco), will have a curing cave to create charcuterie and salumi. He’s working with Lewis who in 2017 opened Centennial Crafted Beer & Eatery in River North. They’re gearing for an “early 2021” opening, with plans to expand in the adjacent spaces later in the year.

A brick facade
Lardon should soon open in Logan Square.
Lardon [Official Photo]

Reunion

Address: Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Avenue, Streeterville

Key Players: Chef Art Smith, George and Manolis Alpogianis of ADM Restaurant Group

It’s been 25 years since Bubba Gump Shrimp debuted on Navy Pier, and Art Smith believes Chicago deserves better than a chain. Smith is Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef, and has made a name for himself with his southern cooking, including fried chicken that became popular at the former Table Fifty-Two in Gold Coast. As Navy Pier hopes to attract more locals in a world where tourism isn’t reliable, Smith is teaming up with the group behind America’s Dog to open inside a high-volume space near the pier’s entrance. Smith says he’s been playing with CBD, so expect some new twists. Reuion is slated for a spring opening.

Versace x Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation
Art Smith is ready for Navy Pier.
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Versace

Rose Mary

Address: 932 W. Fulton Market, Fulton Market

Key Players: Chef Joe Flamm, Sancerre Hospitality

At this time in 2020, there was no name for Flamm’s upcoming Croatian-Italian restaurant, but the former Top Chef champion and the owners of BLVD planned to open soon. The new opening date is April 1, and Flamm laughs it off that the joke was that they were supposed to debut on April’s Fool’s Day 2020. The playbook hasn’t changed for Rose Mary, a tribute to Flamm and his wife’s roots, giving the chef another chance to use the pasta skills he honed with chef Tony Muntuano over at Spiaggia.

Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen - Season 15
Chicago’s own Joe Flamm is gearing up for an April opening.
Photo by: Rob Kim/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Three House

Address: 1450 W. Chicago Avenue, Wicker Park

Key Players: Chef and partner Tyler Nickson, Tyler LeBlanc, Co-owners Chris Russow, George Oliveros, Samuel LeBlanc

The story of Three House maybe a reoccurring one in 2021, as this new team is taking over the space belonging to Bar Biscay — MFK’s sibling restaurant that did not survive the pandemic. Nickson’s family owns Wishbone — the beloved West Loop breakfast and lunch spot. LeBlanc comes over from Schwa, the Michelin-starred Bucktown restaurant. Russow owns Round Two, a boutique in Wicker Park, while Sam LeBlanc founded the Half Evil streetwear brand. The team wants to bring an element of cool to the area with fried chicken biscuits, smoked salmon and butter baguettes, cafe con leche French toast, and a smash burger. For year, Schwa has pushed the envelope for fine dining, and diners will be able to trace the lineage at Three House. Expect a March opening.

Venteux

Address: Carbide and Carbon Building, 230 N. Michigan Avenue.

Key Players: Chef Donald Young, Clique Hospitality,

The former Free Rein space inside the Carbide and Carbon Building along Michigan Avenue gets a makeover with Venteux, while Clique — a company known for its Vegas venues — and Chicago-area native chef Donald Young hope crowds return downtown when deemed safe. Young has worked at notable French restaurants Les Nomades and Henri, and is bringing a fun and elevated approach to bistro cuisine. Young helped Temporis, a fine dining restaurant in West Town, attain Michelin-star status. They hope for a spring opening, and there’s a 25-seat sidewalk patio if indoor dining remains suspended.

Open House Chicago 2019
The Carbide and Carbon Building will soon welcome a new restaurant tenant.
Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The X Pot

Address: Roosevelt Collection, 150 W. Roosevelt Road, South Loop

Key Players: David Zhao, robotic servers

The X Pot was supposed to bring robots serving Chinese food to Chicago in 2020, inside the Roosevelt Collection shopping and residential development in South Loop. But the future didn’t arrive on time adding to the pile of frustrations caused by the pandemic. The concept is a port over of a popular Las Vegas restaurant. The good news is there’s a targeted opening day of April 5, pending city inspections and other obstacles.

Five robots that will serve as food runners for X Pot in Chicago. They have blue eyes and are friendly.
These robots will serve Chicagoans food.
The X Pot [Official Photo]

Next Restaurant

953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 312 226 0858 Visit Website

Virtue

1462 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL

Les Nomades

222 East Ontario Street, , IL 60611 (312) 649-9010 Visit Website

Roosevelt Collection

150 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60605 Visit Website

Wishbone

161 N. Jefferson Street, Chicago, IL 60661 Visit Website

Alinea

1723 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 Visit Website

Henri

18 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605 312 578 0763 Visit Website

Boltwood

804 Davis St., Evanston, IL 60201 (847) 859-2880 Visit Website

Township

2200 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 384-1865 Visit Website

Spiaggia

980 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 280-2750 Visit Website

Free Rein

224 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60601 (312) 334-6700 Visit Website

Rose Mary

932 West Fulton Street, , IL 60607 (872) 260-3921 Visit Website

Coda di Volpe

3335 North Southport Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 687-8568 Visit Website

Table Fifty-Two

52 W Elm Street, Chicago, IL 60610 312 573 4000 Visit Website

Publican Quality Bread

808 West Lake Street, , IL 60607 (312) 605-1618 Visit Website

Ambria

2300 N Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

Temporis

933 North Ashland Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 697-4961 Visit Website

BLVD

817 West Lake Street, , IL 60607 (312) 526-3116 Visit Website

Mundano

1935 North Lincoln Park West, , IL 60614 (773) 312-7040 Visit Website

The Publican

837 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 (312) 733-9555 Visit Website

Lettuce Entertain You

5419 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640

Centennial Crafted Beer & Eatery

733 N La Salle Dr, Chicago, IL (312) 284-5353 Visit Website

Bar Biscay

1450 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60642 (312) 455-8900 Visit Website
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