The past two years and change have been a long, hard time for Chicago restaurants, and while most pandemic restrictions have been lifted and diners are eating out again, the troubles continue: there’s still a labor shortage, equipment shipments are still delayed, and the cost of gas and ingredients continues to soar. And so many big restaurant openings that were optimistically planned for summer have been postponed till fall. But there are still quite a few to look forward to, including a new concert venue, an Instagram-friendly museum and ice cream parlor, and a local link on a celebrated international chain. Read on to find out more about the summer’s most anticipated openings.
Bambola and Coquette
Address: 1400 W. Randolph Street, West Loop
Key players: Daniel Alonso and Bonhomme Hospitality
Bonhomme Hospitality, known for its restaurants like Porto and Beatnik that use luxurious design to evoke other times and places, is opening a pair of new restaurants later this summer in the West Loop. Bambola, the larger of the two, is inspired by the travels of Marco Polo and will serve a menu of food found along the Silk Road, from Italy to China and Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Turkey and Persia. The dining room, which will seat 175, will be bookended by a large island bar and an open kitchen with a wood-burning oven, and it will be decorated with a combination of modern furniture and Asian antiquities that Bonhomme’s founder, Daniel Alonso, has been stockpiling for the past 18 months. Coquette will be smaller, seating 46, and, like its name, French and flirtatious. Erwin Mallet, the chef de cuisine at Porto, will present his interpretation of French provincial cuisine cooked over wood and charcoal. The two restaurants will share a building but have separate entrances and kitchens. Alonso anticipates a late summer opening.
Hop Butcher For the World
Address: 4253-4259 N. Lincoln Avenue, North Center
Key Players: Jeremiah Zimmer and Jude LaRose
Hop Butcher For the World, the seven-year-old brewery that took its name from the opening line of Carl Sandburg’s ode to Chicago, will be opening its first taproom sometime this summer in the North Center space vacated in 2020 by Half Acre. This is the first of two facilities Hop Butcher plans to open this year: in February, owners Jeremiah Zimmer and Jude LaRose announced that they had purchased a 25,000-square-foot production facility in suburban Bedford Park from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, which was relocating to Pilsen. The North Center brewery will make more experimental beers, Zimmer and LaRose told the Tribune, while the one in Bedford Park will be used for large-scale production.
Museum of Ice Cream
Address: 435 N. Michigan Avenue, Streeterville
The Museum of Ice Cream, which four years ago kicked off the trend of Instagram-friendly interactive exhibitions, will be opening a Chicago location in Tribune Tower on July 16. In addition to the collection of installations/photo ops (including the sprinkle-filled pool that’s a signature of every MOIC plus a Sprink-L Line train), the Chicago MOIC will feature a Chicago Speakeasy, serving cocktails, mocktails, and actual ice cream treats, one of which will resemble the iconic Chicago hot dog. Visitors can take a 60- or 90-minute tour with opportunities to eat unlimited amounts of ice cream, or they can go straight to the bar. Reservations are already available on the MOIC website.
The Salt Shed
Address: 1357 N. Elston Avenue, Goose Island
Key players: Bruce Finkelman and 16” on Center, Craig Golden and Blue Star Properties
Chicago’s live music scene faced enormous challenges throughout the first two years of the pandemic, but that well-founded anxiety around its future seems to be steadily dissipating. That’s due in part to the impending arrival of the Salt Shed, a massive new venue inside the city’s instantly recognizable Morton Salt warehouse by the Chicago River. The ambitious, multi-step launch from from 16” on Center, the prominent hospitality group led by managing partner Bruce Finkelman, and Blue Star Properties, its partner in many of its endeavors (Thalia Hall, Revival Food Hall), has the potential to reshape the area by drawing locals and tourists with restaurants, bars, and entertainment. The Salt Shed will host its first concert — all outdoors — on August 2 with performances from jazz drummer Makaya McCraven, British jazz group Sons of Kemet, and London-based saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia. The venue’s indoor space won’t open until early 2023.
Truth Be Told
Address: 1227 E. 60th Street, Woodlawn
Key Player: Study Hotels
The Study Hotel chain, which specializes in areas near colleges and universities, has opened its latest outpost in Woodlawn, near the University of Chicago, and, like any good hotel, it will have its own restaurant, Truth Be Told, a British-style pub that caters to guests and the community at large. The menu will include classic dishes like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and roast beef sandwiches, plus oysters and bar snacks. It launches July 25.
Xiaolongkan Hot Pot
Address: 2237 S. Wentworth Avenue, Chinatown
Key player: Tony Hu
Long, long ago in January 2020, Tony Hu — the well-known Chicago restaurateur behind the Lao Sze Chuan empire, known as the unofficial “mayor of Chinatown” — announced his plan to open the city’s first location of the world-renowned Chinese restaurant chain Xiaolongkan Hot Pot. Not only that, but he would bring the brand to one of the neighborhood’s most historic spaces: the former home of Won Kow, a landmark restaurant in the area that closed in 2018 after 90 years. But those grand aspirations were stymied by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting cascade of obstacles that brought the project to a halt. Now, nearly two and a half years later, the wheels are again in motion and Hu tells reporters that at long last, he’s aiming for a summer debut.