It’s been almost exactly two years since state officials suspended indoor dining in Illinois, forcing the industry to start taking COVID seriously. The industry has ensure record unemployment figures, a barrage of closings, and various stages of consumer confidence as restaurant operators figure a way to keep their staff safe and their businesses solvent.
Projects have been canceled and postponed. But spring 2022 has seen a shift from pandemic to endemic with governments rescinding mask and vaccine mandates. That’s provided hope to a return to normalcy with new and exciting restaurant openings for customers to explore.
Read on below to find Eater Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant opening for the spring.
Address: 831 N. State Street, River North
Key Players: Alpana Singh, chef Juan Chavez
When Alpana Singh, the master sommelier and former host of Check, Please!, was planning her fourth restaurant (Boarding House, Seven Lions — Terra & Vine remains in Evanston) she made a list of everything she wanted it to be. When she finished, she realized the list was “me on a page.” Alpana — a Hindi name that means “decorative” (Singh specifies her mother named her after a singer) — takes over the former LYFE Kitchen space in River North as a reflection of its owner and namesake. The food menu, developed in collaboration with chef Juan Chavez, will include appetizers, pasta, and entrees like roast chicken with aji verde and pan-seared sea bass with a bouillabaisse reduction, The food, of course, is designed to pop with wine. The wine cellar itself will feature producers who are making special efforts to address climate change. The decor, Singh says, will be full of jungle prints and golden light “like the Garden of Eden if Eve never had to leave.” The interiors will feature framed pictures of women she admires, plus Keanu Reeves, whom she jokingly calls “the patron male saint of restaurants.” The restaurant is slated to open March 21.
Address: 4420 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, Bronzeville
Key Players: Eric Williams, Cecilia Cuff, Anika Ellison
This project continues to tease South Siders looking for a cozy space to sip wine (there simply are no wine bars in the area, though Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery backs up into a forest preserve). Bronzeville Winery, from a crew that includes Eric Williams of Silver Room fame, promises to give Bronzeville something a little bit more elegant. There aren’t any major announcement in recent weeks except that all-star sommelier Derrick Westbrook has come on to oversee the wine program. Williams says they’re shooting for a late April opening.
Address: 847 N. State Street, River North
Key Players: What If Syndicate, chef Danny Grant
Danny Grant (Maple & Ash) says he’s excited to open all-day cafes across the country featuring wood-burning ovens that pump out bread, breakfast sandwiches, and items cooked on coquettes. This European-style cafe will have an outdoor patio with an interior design that makes it feel comfy, like it’s been around for years, Grant says. Look for an opening the first week of April. Grant says another location could open in Texas six months later.
Key Players: Owner Jodi Fyfe, partner and chief culinary officer Devon Quinn, executive chef Miles Schaefer
Address: 2734 W Roscoe Street, Avondale
Helmed by Paramount Group, this restaurant and event space is off the Chicago River in Avondale, an expanded relocation of the West Loop restaurant. There’s plenty to be excited about, including a greenhouse that will grow ingredients for meals, a special brew for the restaurant made with Great Central Brewing, and a 3,800-square-foot space with two private dining spaces. There’s also an outdoor patio for 30 within a 25,000-square-foot complex housing the new headquarters of the Paramount Group,
Key Players: Mindy Segal
Address: 1623 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Bucktown
James Beard Award winner Mindy Segal and team are in the homestretch for opening their new bakery. They’ve shut down operations at their longtime Damen Avenue HotChocolate location as they prepare the full-scale move around the corner to the former Red Hen Bakery. Mindy’s Bakery will stock all the bagels, cookies, babka, and sweet treats that customers have enjoyed during the pandemic. Segal tells Eater Chicago she’s gearing for a early- to mid-April opening.
Key Players: Parker Hospitality, chef Avgeria Stapaki
Address: 802 W. Randolph Street, West Loop
Nisos will take up a prime piece of real estate along Randolph Restaurant Row, inside the former Bad Hunter space. Nisos also marks a change in philosophy for Parker Hospitality, which is moving away from the beachy “rosé all day” vibe of its flagship Hampton Social chain. CEO Brad Parker first met chef Avgeria Stapaki at Principote Mykonos, a beach club on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he was impressed by her ability to turn out 2,400 covers in one five-hour shift without sacrificing quality. Nisos will have the same high volume — the two-story space can seat 300. Nisos is planned for a late May opening.
Key Players: Oliver and Nicolas Poilevey
Address: 700 N. Sedgwick Street, River North
Brothers Oliver and Nicholas Poilevey inherited a beautiful River North space when they took over the former Entente. They’ve been running one of the city’s premier French bistros, Le Bouchon, for years. They plan to venture a little beyond tradition with Obelix, serving French food as seen through a lens of a chef who grew up in Chicago. Customers will still find gooey French onion soup and other staples, but expect a new energy at Obelix. It’s looking like an April opening.
Address: 401 N. Morgan Street, West Loop
Key Players: Atomic Hospitality, executive chef Saúl Román
For all the success of their West Loop outdoor beverage juggernaut, Recess, Atomic wants its customers to know that they know food. Tabu is a 160-seat pan Latin restaurant with a menu from Saúl Román (Zocalo, Artango Steakhouse). There’s a focus on the late-night crowd with tacos and and a large selection of agave spirits. Ownership says its tacos will be like pieces of art. The owners of Untitled Supper Club and Morgan MFG also plan on unveiling a rooftop bar later this summer. The main restaurant will open before with a May target.
Address: 942 W. Randolph Street, West Loop
Key Players: Michael Bisbee and Tim Hendricks
It’s been a long wait for this Tex-Mex West Loop project, originally announced in 2017. Now, after many delays, the owners of the much-maligned Parlor Pizza Bar plan on debuting Texan Taco Bar later this spring. There will be chips and salsa on the tables, meat on the grill, country music on the sound system, and, on the walls, many, many longhorns. There’s also a rooftop bar. Ownership has remained tight-lipped about details, not wanting to dredge up negative publicity surrounding Parlor, as all three locations were shut down after raids last fall by Internal Revenue Service agents. A few weeks later, a lengthy expose by Block Club Chicago alleged racist and sexist behavior toward customers and workers and a disregard for COVID-19 protocols. Co-owner Mike Bisbee declined comment.