Chicago may not always receive the same level hype of its coastal sister cities like New York and Los Angeles. But the Windy City is filled with wonderful places to dine. From iconic hotdogs, deep dish pizza, under-the-radar taquerieas, and gravy-dipped Italian beef sandwiches to buzzy hotspots and Michelin-starred fine dining (think: Grant Achatz, Noah Sandoval, Rick Bayless), there is no shortage of exceptional dining opportunities. Each month, Departures will check in with Chi-town to mine the most exciting new restaurants, chef collaborations, pop-ups, and other culinary events happening across the city. Check back regularly to stay up to date!
One Off Hospitality’s (Blackbird, Avec) seafood-focused restaurant has delighted diners since opening last month. The menu, helmed by chef AJ Walker, includes a bevy of oysters, clams, shrimp, and other raw bar delights. (Brittany’s seafood-rich coast serves as inspiration for much of the menu.)
Fish mains (think: grilled tuna with baby octopus, summer squash, and nicoise olives and butter and vermouth-poached halibut) are joined by turf options like steak frites with escargot bordelaise, and a roasted chicken served with buttermilk mashed potatoes. 1576 N. Milwaukee Ave; 773-904-1121.
Oak Park, which is located immediately west of city limits, recently welcomed a buzzy new brewpub. Housed in a historic bank building, the space is lofty and well-appointed with reclaimed wood tables, vintage photos, and an oversized chandelier glowing with repurposed beer bottles.
Diners can choose from a rotating selection of in-house brewed beers on tap, and also a handful of guest drafts from other breweries. The seasonally-focused menu, meanwhile, changes regularly, including elevated pub fare like caramelized cauliflower dip, a burger topped with tomato jam, butterkase, and fried pickled onions, beer mussels, and chocolate pudding with shortbread. 1 Lake St; 708-434-5232.
Last month, a branch of this popular, all-day eatery (with locations in NY and DC) opened in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The expansive dining room has already become a popular happy hour and dinner spot. The menu, meanwhile, caters to a wide variety of palates offering smoked whitefish tots with jalapeno chutney, bibimbap with shiitake mushrooms and house-made kimchi, and braised short ribs with whipped potatoes and gremolata. 400 N. Clark; 312-312-5100.
In a town known for meat and potatoes, Bad Hunter has made a name for itself since opening in 2017 with its bright, vegetable-forward cooking. The restaurant was forced to close for several months after a fire, but just reopened on June 17. Helmed by executive chef Dan Snowden, the menu continues to focus on innovative vegetable preparations including wood-fired grilling, fermentation, and smoking.
Beloved dishes, like Snowden’s butter dumplings with charred corn, corn crema, and smoked chile peanuts, remain on the menu. They are joined by newcomers like heirloom tomato and watermelon with black shallot and feta, and crispy togarashi carrots with takoyaki sauce, garlic, and sorrels. Large format dishes like grilled trout with dill crema and charred asparagus are also available. 802 W Randolph; 312-265-1745.
The Chicago riverfront is about to welcome a new breezy, Riviera-inspired restaurant by the RPM Restaurants team. The pizzeria’s sun-drenched dining room will be augmented by a 130-foot outdoor patio and terrace. The menu will be casual-but-elegant, featuring hand-stretched pizzas with chewy crusts and well-curated toppings, a variety of vegetable antipasti, house-made pastas, and an exciting selection of spritzes ideal for sipping al fresco. The restaurant is part of a larger riverfront restaurant initiative by RPM. Following on Portofino’s heals will be an events space and a seafood-focused restaurant. 317 N Clark St.