sThe more distance Chicago puts between March 2020, the more confident restaurant owners feel. That’s not to say challenges — including navigating the city’s new administration and policies, like the abolishment of the tipped minimum wage — don’t exist. But four years after the pandemic, a new normal has risen.
Judging by the comments from those opening new restaurants in 2024, they want to do more than just survive. They want to flourish and feel this year is going to be a great year for Chicago’s restaurants. The optimism is contagious, but the following roster of 19 promising openings shows hope.
When steakhouses and red-sauce Italian restaurants open, it’s a sign of folks playing it safe. And there’s a feeling that with economic uncertainty coming out of the pandemic the industry had to stow its ambition.
For 2024, there are some big swings; if Carmy Berzatto can do it, so can real-life operators. That’s the obligatory reference to that show. Incidentally, the industry will also be eagerly awaiting Season 3 of that show. Perhaps one of the dynamic restaurants slated to open this year will be featured. There’s a lot to pick from including tasting menu restaurants to diners to bars and reborn hot dog stands. 2024 has a little bit of everything for Chicago, so come join Eater Chicago in previewing the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year.
Key players: Lawrence Letrero, Raquel Quadreny
Address: 1820 W. Montrose Avenue, Ravenswood
By the time most will read this, the wife-and-husband team of GM Raquel Quadreny and chef Lawrence Letrero will have already converted their casual Cuban-Filipino restaurant to a more fine dining vibe with a five-course tasting menu. But Ravenswood shouldn’t lament over the loss of Cuban sandwiches and lumpia. The team is going about 100 feet away to open a diner that will feature the casual fare at their original restaurant and more. Bayan Ko Diner will serve beer, wine, cocktails, and an assortment of Cuban and Filipino food in the same vein as the greasy spoon it takes over. Glenn’s Diner was a community pillar for 17 years. Quadreny and Letrero are aiming to create an accessible space for all. Look for a mid-February opening.
Key player: John Manion
Address: 1709 W. Chicago Avenue, West Town
The Homecoming King has returned to a different world. Chef John Manion lived in West Town for years and ran Más, a Spanish-influenced restaurant a few blocks away in Wicker Park. He’s back, taking over the Funkenhausen space that’s been nearly gutted. Manion is refining his love for Brazilian food (a Detroit native, his family moved there when he was 8). The chicken will be one of the stars, but the menu will blend techniques and ingredients. Vietnamese fish sauce might be used to amp up the flavor of black-eyed peas. Of course, the grill is the star of the show — Manion is a chef who loves to play with fire. Brasero has multiple meanings in Spanish, referring to the metal box to hold the coals, a stove, or a grill. Manion’s interests are in the latter, and when he uses wood doesn’t use cherry or apple, he’s just focusing on showing off the flavors of the meat he’s serving. There’s also plenty of seafood, which is the unsung hero at El Che Steakhouse in West Loop. The restaurant will be open seven days a week for dinner, which is enough time for Manion to get reacquainted with an area that’s exploded in recent years. Also, look for a large selection of affordable South American wines — 100 bottles each under $100. An opening could happen in February.
Key players: Chef Erick Williams, Jesus Garcia, Paul McGee
Address: 5230 S. Harper Avenue, Hyde Park
There’s no name for James Beard award winner Erick Williams’ fifth project under his new banner, Virtue Hospitality Group. The acclaimed chef hopes this bar, located around the corner from Virtue, will provide the Mexican community the same sense of home that Virtue for for the Black community. That means tying food, art, music, and design together in a comforting and thought-provoking manner. He’s giving partner Jesus Garcia the keys to this ride. Garcia, who Williams calls the face of Virtue’s front of the house, will help mold the new space. They’ve also brought in Paul McGee, the ace bartender who opened Whistler, Lost Lake, Three Dots & a Dash, and more. McGee is a consultant who will help the project through its opening menu. Look for a fall to early winter debut inside the former Launder Koin.
Key player: Jacob Potashnick
Address: 2018 W. Chicago Avenue, West Town
Yes, Feld appeared on the 2023 version of this list. Chicago native Jacob Potashnick insists his tasting menu restaurant is back on schedule in West Town. They’ve more or less obliterated the insides of the former Whisk to transform the space into something more modern. Construction has been ongoing since November, as Potashnick says the delay was more of a creative choice — they wanted to nail down all the fine details. Of course, the city of Chicago’s permitting process played a strong role. They’ve had more time to rethink the layout. Potashnick wanted more direct interaction with his customers, wanting to create an experience like diners enjoyed when he worked at an omakase restaurant in Berlin. SPACE Architects and Variant Collaborative suggested creating two long banquettes on each side of the room, creating a theater-like environment where every guest will face the middle of the room with eyes on two islands where staff will prep and plate. An open kitchen remains attached to the back wall. Potashnick, a prolific TikTok poster, continues to document the restaurant’s progress in his dream to create a unique fine dining experience by establishing close relationships with local purveyors. May is the opening target.
Key players: Chef Zach Engel, GM Andrés Clavero
Address: 2431 N. Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln Park
It’s been teased for some time, but chef Zach Engel and partner Andrés Clavero are cooking up something new a few doors down from Galit, their Michelin-starred Lincoln Park restaurant. There’s no name yet for this project, with reps only disclosing that “the decision to open a second restaurant provides the team with an opportunity to express new inspirations and to meet rising demand.” Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? But the dream team of Engel and Clavero has earned trust, so whatever materializes inside the two-story building with a basement should be a positive for Chicago’s dining scene. Siren Betty Design and Michael Mohr Architecture are handling design duties. The target opening date is late 2024.
Key players: Chef Joe Flamm, Day Off Group
Address: 1045 W. Fulton Market, Fulton Market
Chicago native Joe Flamm has enjoyed success since he made a name for himself at Spiaggia. The Top Chef champion is now branching out, showing folks he can cook more than Italian. He isn’t saying much about his new project with his recently renamed hospitality company, Day Off Group. But he’s promising to give Fulton Market a fun neighborhood vibe with a sidewalk patio where diners can enjoy a meal and do some quality people-watching. There’s no name for this project, but it’s a full-service restaurant and should open in late summer or early fall.
Key Players: Mona Sang, Sarom Sieng
Address: Rogers Park
A rare Chicago restaurant where traditional Cambodian food is the star, Khmai Fine Dining made a major splash in 2022, with chef and owner Mona Sang racking up accolades, including recognition as one of Eater’s 15 Best New Restaurants in America. An ode to Sang’s mother, Sarom Sieng, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide and a fixture in Khmai’s kitchen, the restaurant drew hoards of diners to Rogers Park for the rich, deep, and concentrated flavors that characterize Khmer cuisine. In late November, Sang closed the original location ahead of a move to a new space in the same neighborhood. Now on the cusp of signing a lease, she isn’t ready to reveal the street address but is happy to reassure fans that she’ll remain in Rogers Park, albeit with a few changes including a more upscale atmosphere and expanded dessert menu. The new location is slated for a mid-March opening, though it could debut as late as April. Sang says she’s eager to accelerate the timeline as Sieng, now age 80, is champing at the bit to get back to business.
Key players: Anthony Pagliuca, Angela Villanueva, Carol Chavez
Address: 636 N. Ashland Avenue, West Town
Duk’s Red Hots was a humble hot dog stand in West Town that stood for 70 years. The food isn’t remarkable — it’s standard street food fare with the traditional dragged-through-the-garden Chicago hot dog featured. In late December, the hot dog stand closed after an ownership change. The new owners have already put up signage for Modern Relish and have applied for liquor licenses — one to sell drinks and another for an outdoor patio. It’s a big change for one of the declining number of hot dog stands; real estate prices make it hard for them to operate with a small footprint in a large parcel. While some may scoff at the changes, the alternative is losing Duk’s for a residential development, and that’s no way to satisfy anyone’s hunger. Duk’s manager Carol Chavez is on board and will bring some continuity.
Key Players: Will Beckett, Huw Gott
Address: 500 N. LaSalle Street
It takes a certain kind of absurd courage, or perhaps confidence, for an out-of-town restaurant group to take on Chicago’s famous steak scene. Those are qualities that Will Beckett and Huw Gott, the co-founders of celebrated British steakhouse chain Hawksmoor, must have in spades as they prepare to enter the Windy City market with a three-story, 16,500-square-foot space in River North that dates back 1887. It’s a building that housed Gino’s East, LaSalle Power Co., and Michael Jordan’s Restaurant. The group’s largest location to date (Hawksmoor made its U.S. debut two years ago in New York), the Chicago restaurant will primarily source its meat from Midwestern family-owned farms and serve it sliced in hot cast-iron skillets. The founders are hoping to open in the summer.
Key players: Lotte Group, chef Andrew Lim, GM Thomas Oh
Address: 225 N. Wabash Avenue, The Loop
Outsiders love to carelessly label Chicago as a steak city. Meat and potatoes and Midwest is comically cliched when underestimating the city’s restaurant scene. Chicago’s Korean culture is something that also doesn’t receive as much respect. So why not use the steakhouse as a vessel to celebrate it all? The team from Perilla, a popular Korean American restaurant in River West has teamed up with Lotte Group on a new restaurant to serve customers at the company’s upcoming downtown hotel. Lotte is one of the largest companies in the world, and Perilla’s owners are proud to collaborate with such a well-known name. Look for a spring debut.
Key players: Stephen Gillanders, Israel Idonije, Tatum Sinclair, Jelena Prodan
Addresses: Lincoln Park, South Loop, West Town, Wicker Park, and unknown
SKY chef Stephen Gillanders will be busy in 2024 with five new restaurants. Three have been announced: He’s moving Valhalla, his fine dining restaurant that opened in September 2022 inside Time Out Market, to the two-floor former home of Mirai Sushi in Wicker Park. That’s pegged to open in February. He’s also partnering with former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije on a sports bar, called Signature, 1312 S. Wabash Avenue in the South Loop. It’s slated for a January 20 opening. The details began to get murky about the remaining three projects. Longtime SKY pastry chef Tatum Sinclair promised something the city has never seen before with a new dessert cafe called Haven in West Town. Sinclair isn’t ready to share details. A liquor license application has popped up for a new restaurant from Gillanders on the first floor of the Belden-Stratford building. That’s a building that housed Intro Chicago, the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant with rotating chefs that Gillanders would eventually oversee. It also housed Ambria, an influential French restaurant that closed in 2009. Lettuce and the Alinea Group in October 2019 announced they would collaborate to bring back the restaurant but COVID helped cancel those plans. So that accounts for four out of the five projects Gillanders mentioned. Perhaps the chef will eventually share more about his intentions sometime soon.
Key players: Aaron Steingold, Cara Peterson
Address: 3630 N. Clark Street
American Jewish communities have long enjoyed a love affair with baseball, which makes it seem like beshert (Yiddish for “inevitable” or “pre-ordained”) that Steingold’s of Chicago is at work on a new location across from Wrigley Field. Chef and owner Aaron Steingold, a self-professed “baseball historian” who originally founded his eponymous modern Jewish deli in 2017, will bring his popular bagels, deli sandwiches, and a few new items (think latke-tot poutine and everything bagel-dogs on sticks) to the former home of West Town Bakery inside the Hotel Zachary. Culinary director Cara Peterson also promises special soft-serve ice cream in flavors like baklava with honey and salted caramel. The team is aiming to launch by Opening Day, on Thursday, March 28.
Key player: Billy Dec
Address: 333 N. Green Street, Fulton Market
Though it’s been 15 years since Sunda opened in River North, Billy Dec’s Southeast Asian restaurant has found new life recently, finding a niche thanks to the surge of Filipino restaurants like Kasama. Dec, the native Chicagoan nightlife magnate, has decided to open a second location in Chicago and his team boasts that it might be the most beautiful restaurant in Fulton Market. The menu will be filled with dishes influenced by the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Japan. A rep says diners will find sushi, twists on dim sum, noodles, rice dishes, and specialty cocktails, sake, Japanese whiskies, and more. Studio K is designing the space. Look for a February opening.
Key Players: Three Floyds Brewing, Fifty/50 Restaurant Group
Address: 9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster, Indiana
Three Floyds is a big part of Chicago’s beer culture. Though available readily in Chicago’s bars and stores, locals love crossing the border to visit the brewpub or to attend the legendary craziness that is Dark Lord Day. But the pandemic, in part, led to the closing of the brewpub. Three Floyds has since announced a revival and has enlisted Chicago’s Fifty/50 Restaurant Group to help with menus and cocktails. They’ll have a revamped outdoor area with games, more space, and a menu that compliments the beer and respects the brewery’s roots. Expect a bigger update later in the year, but they’re hoping for a spring opening.
Key Players: Chef Evan Funke, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Address: St. Regis Chicago, 401 E. Wacker Drive, Lakeshore East
Chicago’s largest restaurant group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, will complete its two-restaurant project inside the flashy St. Regis skyscraper this winter with the debut of Tre Dita, featuring regional Tuscan cuisine. Though a rep promises “a properly cut bistecca Fiorentina,” there’s more of an emphasis on “cucina Toscana.” That means items from open-hearth wood-fired grill, along with handmade pastas.
A partnership with noteworthy LA chef Evan Funke (Felix), Tre Dita will also house a pasta lab where the team can highlight the traditional pasta shapes of Tuscany. It’s scheduled to open in late January or early February, according to a rep.