The 18 most exciting new restaurants in Chicago

A list of brand-new restaurants opening in Chicago? Right now? We didn’t believe it either, until we started tallying up all of the amazing new concepts that are debuting throughout the city despite the odds stacked against them. The best new restaurants in Chicago are dripping in personality and creativity—from a pair of pizzerias and a buzzy food hall to a posh Chicago rooftop bar. Whether you’re feeling thrifty (chicken sandos, anyone?) or you want to go all out at one of the best new fancy restaurants in Chicago, there’s something on this list for every occasion and craving. And because all of these eateries and pop-up dining experiences are just finding their footing, it’s best to call ahead for reservations and carryout options. Mask up and support local when you dine out at the most exciting new restaurants in Chicago.

Best new restaurants in Chicago

1. Pizza Friendly Pizza

Inhabiting the former Bite Cafe space, Pizza Friendly Pizza is a scrappy and hopeful collaboration between friends Noah Sandoval (Oriole, Kumiko, Kikko) and Bruce Finkelman, the managing partner of 16″ on Center (Empty Bottle, Bite Cafe). Like its name suggests, the star of the menu is pizza—more specifically, thick Sicilian-style ‘za available by the slice or the whole pie. There are four varieties to choose from, including pepperoni and basil with aged parmesan as well as mushroom and Calabrian chili with burrata. Fine-dining chef Sandoval says he worked tirelessly on the winning recipe, which requires a four- to five-day cold ferment and a 12-hour rise time in the pan. The final product sports a thick and bubbly crust that’s anchored by crispy, caramelized edges. “It looks like it’s going to be this Chicago deep-dish, gut-bomb thing, but it’s much more like a lightly cooked English muffin,” Sandoval says.

2. Joomak (Cold Storage)

Popping up at Cold Storage in the West Loop this summer is chef Eddie Lee’s Joomak, a Korean spot that’s churning out a parade of colorful, crave-worthy plates—from salmon crudo with miso-yuzu vinaigrette and bibimbap to ssam dinners that are served with brown rice, miso soup, lettuce and banchans. Boka barmaster Lee Zaremba crafted beautiful cocktails to match, like the banana milk daiquiri and the sesame-scented old fashioned.

3. Friend of the Devil (Devil Dawgs)

If you ever dined at Roister in the West Loop, you’ve probably tried Andrew Brochu’s top-notch fried chicken—it’s easily one of the best versions of the dish in the city. After leaving the fine-dining restaurant, Brochu planned to strike out on his own with a new restaurant that was slated to open this year. One global pandemic and a lost lease later, Brochu is instead taking up residence at Devil Dawgs in Wicker Park with one of the best pop-ups we’ve seen this year. He’s serving a lineup of dressed-up dogs, smash burgers and several chicken sandwiches. First-timers should go classic with the World Famous, which finds the buttermilk fried chicken dolled up with chamomile mayo, dill pickles, lettuce and a tangy sunchoke hot sauce on a toasted brioche bun. Take your feast to nearby Wicker Park and picnic on the lawn.

4. The Han Burger

The namesake menu item at the Han Burger is a reimagination of a popular Chinese street food called roujiamo, which is often referred to as a Chinese hamburger. The first time co-owner John Hackett tasted the dish in Nanjing, China, he knew he wanted to replicate the taste experience here in Chicago. After plenty of experimentation and some deviation from tradition, he nailed the recipe and opened the Han Burger with his wife, Arami. The couple’s handheld morsels feature super tender, slow-roasted pork belly and beef brisket, which is stuffed inside a from-scratch bun and topped with chili sauce and cilantro.

5. Takeaway Bagel (Superkhana International)

Every neighborhood deserves a really great bagel shop, and lucky for folks in Avondale and Logan Square, Superkhana International has come to the rescue with a carbo-loaded new concept called Takeaway Bagel. Just swing by the to-go window on Albany Avenue to snag bagels, shmears, jams and cookies; they’ve even got a selection of bagel dogs and breakfast sandos if you get there early enough. The secret sauce? A 28-hour process, a stellar “everything” seasoning and lots of love.

6. Mama Delia

Taking over the Black Bull space in Wicker Park is a smile-inducing restaurant that’s painted a shade of pink that stops you in your tracks and begs you to look at the menu. You’ll be rewarded with Spanish treats made for noshing the day away; the sprawling patio out front doesn’t hurt either. But it’s the bar program that will really seal the deal, with more than 35 selections of sherry from across Spain, phenomenal pours of wine, a lineup of gin and tonics and zero-proof cocktails to boot.

7. Santa Masa Tamaleria

Insiders know to set aside time on Sunday to order tamales from Santa Masa Tamaleria, a new pickup-only shop from Daniel Espinoza (Cantina Laredo). If you’re quick enough, you’ll be able to secure your order through a Google form that’s linked in the restaurant’s Instagram bio. A pack of 12 tamles goes for $15 and can be frozen and reheated throughout the week. The tender, masa-scented pockets come stuffed with chicken in red or green salsa as well as our favorite, rajas con queso with roasted poblanos and cheese. Look out for newfangled menu items, too, like the Italian beef served with housemade giardiniera and jus.

8. Kasama

Taking up residence in the former Winchester space is a modern Filipino-American concept from husband-and-wife team Tim Flores and Genie Kwon (Oriole). Kasama is part savory, part sweet, with a menu that includes dishes like lumpia Shanghai, mushroom adobo and charred corn alongside confections like apple hand pies, chocolate chip cookies and ube-huckleberry Basque cake. Order delivery or grab and go—there’s even a patio for quick alfresco dining on Winchester Avenue.

9. Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

There’s no false advertising happening here: Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream wears its menu on its sleeve. The Sicilian-style pan pies are crafted by Eat Free Pizza, the crispy poultry comes from Kimski chef Won Kim, and the frozen treats are provided by Pretty Cool Ice Cream. Helmed by Ed Marszewski and located next door to Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream boasts a nifty pickup window and hidden patio for alfresco diners. You can even pick up four-packs from Marz Brewing—after all, beer pairs well with just about everything on the menu.

10. Ever

Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser (Grace) plunge back into Chicago’s dining scene with Ever, a fine-dining beacon that offers a prix-fixe menu with eight to 10 courses focused on proteins from land and sea that are whipped into edible masterpieces. Almost as impressive as the fare is the dimly lit, seriously sexy dining room, designed by James Beard Award-winning architects LSA. Dubbed Duffy’s “creative obsession,” Ever promises an unparalleled dining experience that’s refined, ambitious and intense—with a price tag to match.

11. Sir Chicken (Perilla)

This summer, the patio at Perilla in River West has been transformed into a bonafide chicken shop serving crispy dark and white meat on white bread with cooling coleslaw. The birds are broken down in-house and cured before they’re dredged and fried to golden, craggy perfection. But it’s the spice blend that really sets this recipe apart: a satisfying mix of hot and sweet that’s finished off with sesame seeds, toasted seaweed and dehydrated scallions.

12. Robert et Fils

Robert et Fils sends us time-traveling into the depths of chef-owner Rob Shaner’s childhood, when his late father’s job took the family to Paris when Shaner was a teenager. In addition to falling in love with the food and culture, father and son (Bob and Rob) dropped their American names in favor of the more French-sounding Robert. The name of this North Center restaurant translates to “Robert and son,” a heartfelt homage Shaner has been planning for years. Paying tribute to their time in Paris, the tasting menu infuses old-school French gastronomy and American playfulness—with a hit of umami flavors at every turn. Opens August 7

13. The Diver

Inspired by small Mexican beach towns like Tulum and Sayulita, the Diver aims to be a tropical escape for Chicagoans—even when the weather forecast calls for snow. Inside, the intimate dining room promises beachy bites, including several ceviches, loaded guacamole, tuna tostones and tacos served on blue corn tortillas. The cocktail menu summons summery, vacation-ready flavors, with a classic margarita and the more adventurous Pacific Rose, with vodka, wild berry puree, basil, lemon, agave syrup and jasmine bitters.

14. Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall

Feast on banh mi, dumplings, pizza and more at this food hall located at the newly redeveloped Cook County Hospital building in the Illinois Medical District. A venture of chef Akhtar Nawab—most notably behind the Mexican restaurants Alta Calidad in New York and Otra Vez in New Orleans—Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall is named for John B. Murphy, a leading surgeon who worked and taught in the former hospital. The hall’s 10,000-square-foot digs complement the Beaux Arts-style building and include an outdoor patio and bar area in addition to its mix of 11 food stalls.

15. Rooftop at Nobu Hotel

The crown jewel of this luxury hotel in the West Loop is the Rooftop at Nobu, a sprawling outdoor terrace located 11 stories above the street. Complemented by east-facing skyline views, the rooftop’s design is streamlined and minimalistic, with modern Japanese touches that are equally stylish and intimate. The menu includes a selection of shuko, or small snacks, like nori tacos, black cod lettuce wraps and lamb and chicken kushiyaki. Guests will also be able to order the hotel’s signature nigiri, sashimi and maki. On the booze front, expect a menu of wines by the glass and bottle, specialty cocktails and a wide range of sake.

16. Dot’s Dogs (Split-Rail)

Sister spots Split-Rail and downstairs bar Dorothy are teaming up on a meaty pop-up in Dot’s Dogs, a to-go sausage shop that’s donating $1 from every dog sold to a worthy cause, starting with Chicago-based, black- and trans-led LGBTQ+ center Brave Space Alliance. Inspired by Chicago’s own, the Dragged Through the Garden is loaded with relish, pickles, sport peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery salt and yellow mustard on a poppy seed bun. Toss in an order of onion rings and a carryout cocktail, like the Night Circus with gin, lemon, strawberry and creme de violette.

17. Room Service by Pink Salt

When West Loop food hall Fulton Galley closed late last year, we wondered what would become of Pink Salt, a small but mighty stall that specialized in Thai street food. Owner Palita Sriratana has since taken her delicious show on the road, with pop-ups at various venues throughout the city. Most recently, she launched Room Service, a limited-edition series that specializes in one-plate dishes from Thailand, including the vegan-friendly mee krob tohu, with crispy rice noodles, tamarind pulp, pickled garlic, yellow tofu and Chinese chives. Keep an eye on Pink Salt’s Instagram for more information about where they’ll be popping up next.

18. Mundano

Chef Ross Henke breathes new life into a storied dining room that’s located a stone’s throw from Lincoln Park. Rooted in Latin American cooking, the menu still does some globetrotting, with dishes like dan dan noodles with chorizo and pork terrine with “Chicago Polish” onions and toasted white bread. When the weather cooperates, there’s a 70-seat patio that wraps around the north and west sides of the building, though the dining room is nothing to scoff at, with warm lighting and jewel-toned accents throughout.

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