The Hottest New Restaurants in Chicago, December 2021

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A wooden bowl with rice and pickled cabbage covering beef.
Kasama is Chicago’s only Filipino fine dining spot.
Daija Guy/Eater Chicago

Filipino fine dining, a fun mashup of Nashville hot and Middle Eastern fried chicken, and the city’s largest Thai market end the year with a full stomach

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Kasama is Chicago’s only Filipino fine dining spot.
| Daija Guy/Eater Chicago

The final month of the year serves up some unexpected heat for the December iteration of Eater Chicago’s Restaurant Heatmap. There are five additions to this already impressive lineup: Chicago’s only Filipino tasting-menu restaurant, a cafeteria hidden away in the city’s largest Thai grocer, an Italian restaurant trying to live up to the expectations of the space’s former tenant, a fried chicken spot with a fantastic mix of Middle Eastern and Nashville hot flavors, and an Instagram entrepreneur finding a permanent home. Stay warm and happy dining.

As of August 20, the city has mandated that everyone wear facial coverings while indoors. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1742 W Division St

Chicago, IL 60622

Zubair Mohajir and his crew have been hustling for years with a food hall stall, pop-ups, and a virtual restaurant. Mohajir has worked at fine dining restaurants (like the world-famous Gaggan in Bangkok), and his applied a refined touch to South Asian street food. Find momos, burgers, fried chicken, biryani, and more at Wazwan’s latest incarnation. This is an appetizer for a more formal experience when Mohajir’s West Town restaurant, Aman, opens in time for Diwali.

912 N State St

Chicago, IL 60610

This ritzy Gold Coast Italian restaurant has brought back some sorely needed energy to downtown. Chef Soo Ahn (Band of Bohemia) has created a balanced menu where there’s plenty to feast on for vegetarians and omnivores. Find handmade pastas, decadent steaks befitting a Chicago chop house, and more.

661 W Walnut St

Chicago, IL 60661

One of the country’s best fine dining restaurants, Oriole reopened in July and was quickly booked for the coming months. During the pandemic, Noah and Cara Sandoval, the chef and co-owner, transformed their two-Michelin-starred restaurant, revamping and modernizing the interiors. But the tasting menu format remains. Expect impeccable service and a come-as-you-are environment that allows diners of all backgrounds to enjoy the experience. Reservations are scarce.

444 N Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60611

This is the second location of a Dallas restaurant that combines a trendy dining room with spaces that beg customers to make Instagram posts and upscale comfort food. It’s a genre that modernizes Southern cuisine popularized by Black America. Owner Kevin Kelley wants his new restaurant to complement Chicago’s dining scene, to be a celebratory place where diners nosh on huge chops drizzled with Asian Hennessy glaze and a cornucopia of chicken and waffle options. There’s also creative cocktails and a lounge. Reservations are recommended.

A wide open dining room with wooden floors, a bright mural and a chandelier. Photo was taken at night.
The former Benny’s Chop House is reborn in River North.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

15 W Washington St

Chicago, IL 60602

Food halls aren’t a passing fad, even during a pandemic. Urbanspace is a collection of 12 stalls and a bar (there’s room for 20 restaurants) with a mix of local favorites (Happy Lobster, Edzo’s Burger Shop, Budlong, Isla Pilipina) and imports (Roberta’s Pizza, Plant Junkie, Pita Yeero). Toss in some new concepts (Bianca’s BBQ, Bhoomi) and this is a formidable spot for Loop dining.

A round, thin crust pizza cheese and pepperoni.
Roberta’s Pizza is finally here in Chicago.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

5600 S Pulaski Rd

Chicago, IL 60629

This is the rebirth of a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Archer Heights, near Midway International Airport. Solazo’s ownership learned a few lessons when it opened La Josie along Randolph Restaurant Row in West Loop. They’ve applied those lessons at their original restaurant without sacrificing the neighborhood feel. The tacos, queso, and other items have never tasted better, but now customers can enjoy amped up cocktails.

Two meat tacos on a plate
Solazo’s tacos are back.
Solazo

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564 W Randolph St

Chicago, IL 60661

Boka Restaurant Group strikes again the West Loop with Alla Vita, its jack of all trades Italian restaurant with pastas and pizzas aimed to please a diverse audience of families, couples, and tourists along Randolph Street. The former Bellemore gets a facelift with plants, a wine installation, and a sleeker design. Reservations are recommended.

A large wooden table laid with lots of Italian dishes
Alla Vita is the latest Boka hit.
Alla Vita/Galdones Photography

2342 N Clark St

Chicago, IL 60614

This Spanish all-day restaurant from D.C. native James Martin is a sleeper hit in Lincoln Park. The former A10 chef features a morning menu with coffee and pastries. The all-day menu, ideal for lunch, focuses on bocadillos, the elusive Spanish small sandwiches that haven’t quite caught on in Chicago. Find smoked lamb, fried calamari, and jamon Serrano options. The dinner menu includes heavy hitters like paella and tapas favorites like patatas bravas, and non-traditional items like foie gras with berry and beet jam.

1000 W Armitage Ave

Chicago, IL 60614

Not many in Lincoln Park expected a London-style Anglo-Indian pub from the owners of Au Cheval. But after months of not saying a thing, Hogsalt Hospitality opened Armitage Alehouse featuring British-style curries, savory pot pies, and Guinness and Harp at the bar. English pubs are known for being casual, allowing patrons to drop in and out at their leisure. At the sleek and dark Armitage Alehouse, customers will need luck to grab a reservation.

The exterior of a restaurant with black frames with a window surrounded by green ivy.
Armitage Alehouse
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

159 E Ohio St

Chicago, IL 60611

Chicago can eat at Ed’s once more. After their longtime home in River North was razed to make way for a new development, the sometimes tacky — yet nostalgic — Ed Debevic’s searched for a new home. Owners found one in Streeterville. Find the same faux ‘50s vibe with sassy servers throwing out their retro shtick. Burgers, shakes, and breakfast return for the ride.

blue and white striped diner booths in the foreground in front of a yellow wall with a pink neon sign that reads “Eat at Ed’s”
Ed’s is back.
Aimee Levitt/Eater Chicago

2537 S Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60616

Doubles, a Trini delicacy, are featured at Cafe Trinidad ToGo, the return of a Grand Crossing restaurant that closed in 2016. The island cuisine sees many influence, including African, Syrian, and Indian — all byproducts of colonization and slavery. Powered by a Caribbean version of roti, doubles are filled with chickpeas, potatoes, or goat and lamb curry, a sweeter version than most would expect. Cafe Trinidad’s return gives Chicagoans a delicious option for this vital dish. The Reader’s Mike Sula has more.

3643 N Western Ave

Chicago, IL 60618

Sure, Chicago has dozens of great fried chicken providers. But Dave’s Hot Chicken, just across Lane Tech High School in Roscoe Village, is special. This LA-based fast-casual restaurant serves spicy chicken tenders from no heat to reaper. The tenders are tasty and plump. Students crowd the restaurant until the 10 p.m. shutter and with good reason. For its first location in the city proper, Dave’s and its celeb investors are welcome additions.

1952 N Damen Ave

Chicago, IL 60647

Claudia, the fine dining restaurant in Bucktown from chef Trevor Teich, is the culmination for years of searching for a permanent home for his pop-up. The storied space, where chefs like Stephanie Izard and Takashi Yagihashi cooked, has been revamped. The main dining room is where Teich’s playful tasting menu is served. On the first floor, toward the rear of the building, the bar sits with a range of items from lobster pot pie, dry-aged steak, and a fantastic wine list. While it’s more casual than upstairs, it doesn’t represent compromise.

a marble bar with chairs and bottles of booze
Claudia’s bar has full service.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

1001 N Winchester Ave

Chicago, IL 60622

Chicago’s only Filipino fine dining experience is the hottest table in town as Kasama began dinner service in November. The Ukrainian Village cafe continues morning and afternoon hours, but later in the day the operation shuts down to allow staff to prepare to serve chef Tim Flores’ unique tasting menu. Flores riffs on classic dishes like lumpia and pancit, while offering modern ingredients like A5 wagyu. Pasty chef and co-owner Genie Kwon serves up halo-halo and more surprises for dessert. Kasama is among America’s Best New Restaurants. 

A chef wearing an apron and white shirt, and a black face mask, is plating three ice-filled shallow dishes on a kitchen. Daija Guy/Eater Chicago

5353 N Broadway

Chicago, IL 60640

Talard Thai Asian Market is the largest Thai grocer in Chicago and a wonderland for home cooks. The store opened in 2019, but thanks to COVID-19, business suffered as many Chicagoans were unaware of this special place. Not only does the market carry hard-to-find item, but it also has a cafe with a rotating menu of 20 items from papaya salad, crispy pork belly, and a variety of curries.

A steam table with four compartments filled with curry. The two on the left are reddish while the two on the right are yellow
Talard Asian Market has delicious food for carryout.
Mistey Nguyen/Eater Chicago

1001 N California Ave

Chicago, IL 60622

Segnatore has some huge shoes to fill in Humboldt Park as the Italian restaurant opened in the same space where much loved French restaurant Cafe Marie-Jeanne spent five years on the corner of Augusta and Chicago. The new tenant is from the owners of Good Measure in River North, and an attempt to grow the brand with pastas, whole-fried chicken, and a list of fancy drinks and wines. The owners also plan on reopening the dive across the street, California Clipper, on New Year’s Eve.

An oval dish with fried chicken with hands off screen squirting lemon juice.
Whole fried chicken
Segnatore/Brad Danner

100 W 87th St

Chicago, IL 60620

In Chatham, a former Harold’s Chicken Shack has been replaced with a new fried chicken spot that takes aim at a certain spinach-eating sailor. Hot Chi Chicken & Cones, features the Popeyes Ain’t Shit sandwich, and as the Tribune shares, the restaurant is a fun mix of Nashville hot and Middle Eastern fare. Prepare to wait in long lines.

3220 W Grand Ave

Chicago, IL 60651

As dining rooms closed during the pandemic, carry out and delivery reigned. One of the most popular to-go operations came from Henry Cai, a Chicago native inspired by his father’s exploits working at Chinese restaurants. Cai started selling Chinese-American food via Instagram at 3 Little Pigs. The response to his Cantonese cooking, with his signature three-pork fried rice, noodles, and dumplings was tremendous. He’s now found a home in Humboldt Park where he can make food six days a week (carry out only for now, delivery coming soon). The operation will expand once he gets more kitchen equipment as he’ll bring back his delectable smoked ribs and more. Cai is hopeful to open in a new location with a dining room sometime in 2022.

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Zubair Mohajir and his crew have been hustling for years with a food hall stall, pop-ups, and a virtual restaurant. Mohajir has worked at fine dining restaurants (like the world-famous Gaggan in Bangkok), and his applied a refined touch to South Asian street food. Find momos, burgers, fried chicken, biryani, and more at Wazwan’s latest incarnation. This is an appetizer for a more formal experience when Mohajir’s West Town restaurant, Aman, opens in time for Diwali.

1742 W Division St

Chicago, IL 60622

This ritzy Gold Coast Italian restaurant has brought back some sorely needed energy to downtown. Chef Soo Ahn (Band of Bohemia) has created a balanced menu where there’s plenty to feast on for vegetarians and omnivores. Find handmade pastas, decadent steaks befitting a Chicago chop house, and more.

912 N State St

Chicago, IL 60610

One of the country’s best fine dining restaurants, Oriole reopened in July and was quickly booked for the coming months. During the pandemic, Noah and Cara Sandoval, the chef and co-owner, transformed their two-Michelin-starred restaurant, revamping and modernizing the interiors. But the tasting menu format remains. Expect impeccable service and a come-as-you-are environment that allows diners of all backgrounds to enjoy the experience. Reservations are scarce.

661 W Walnut St

Chicago, IL 60661

A wide open dining room with wooden floors, a bright mural and a chandelier. Photo was taken at night.
The former Benny’s Chop House is reborn in River North.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

This is the second location of a Dallas restaurant that combines a trendy dining room with spaces that beg customers to make Instagram posts and upscale comfort food. It’s a genre that modernizes Southern cuisine popularized by Black America. Owner Kevin Kelley wants his new restaurant to complement Chicago’s dining scene, to be a celebratory place where diners nosh on huge chops drizzled with Asian Hennessy glaze and a cornucopia of chicken and waffle options. There’s also creative cocktails and a lounge. Reservations are recommended.

444 N Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60611

A round, thin crust pizza cheese and pepperoni.
Roberta’s Pizza is finally here in Chicago.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Food halls aren’t a passing fad, even during a pandemic. Urbanspace is a collection of 12 stalls and a bar (there’s room for 20 restaurants) with a mix of local favorites (Happy Lobster, Edzo’s Burger Shop, Budlong, Isla Pilipina) and imports (Roberta’s Pizza, Plant Junkie, Pita Yeero). Toss in some new concepts (Bianca’s BBQ, Bhoomi) and this is a formidable spot for Loop dining.

15 W Washington St

Chicago, IL 60602

Two meat tacos on a plate
Solazo’s tacos are back.
Solazo

This is the rebirth of a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Archer Heights, near Midway International Airport. Solazo’s ownership learned a few lessons when it opened La Josie along Randolph Restaurant Row in West Loop. They’ve applied those lessons at their original restaurant without sacrificing the neighborhood feel. The tacos, queso, and other items have never tasted better, but now customers can enjoy amped up cocktails.

5600 S Pulaski Rd

Chicago, IL 60629

A large wooden table laid with lots of Italian dishes
Alla Vita is the latest Boka hit.
Alla Vita/Galdones Photography

Boka Restaurant Group strikes again the West Loop with Alla Vita, its jack of all trades Italian restaurant with pastas and pizzas aimed to please a diverse audience of families, couples, and tourists along Randolph Street. The former Bellemore gets a facelift with plants, a wine installation, and a sleeker design. Reservations are recommended.

564 W Randolph St

Chicago, IL 60661

This Spanish all-day restaurant from D.C. native James Martin is a sleeper hit in Lincoln Park. The former A10 chef features a morning menu with coffee and pastries. The all-day menu, ideal for lunch, focuses on bocadillos, the elusive Spanish small sandwiches that haven’t quite caught on in Chicago. Find smoked lamb, fried calamari, and jamon Serrano options. The dinner menu includes heavy hitters like paella and tapas favorites like patatas bravas, and non-traditional items like foie gras with berry and beet jam.

2342 N Clark St

Chicago, IL 60614

The exterior of a restaurant with black frames with a window surrounded by green ivy.
Armitage Alehouse
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Not many in Lincoln Park expected a London-style Anglo-Indian pub from the owners of Au Cheval. But after months of not saying a thing, Hogsalt Hospitality opened Armitage Alehouse featuring British-style curries, savory pot pies, and Guinness and Harp at the bar. English pubs are known for being casual, allowing patrons to drop in and out at their leisure. At the sleek and dark Armitage Alehouse, customers will need luck to grab a reservation.

1000 W Armitage Ave

Chicago, IL 60614

blue and white striped diner booths in the foreground in front of a yellow wall with a pink neon sign that reads “Eat at Ed’s”
Ed’s is back.
Aimee Levitt/Eater Chicago

Chicago can eat at Ed’s once more. After their longtime home in River North was razed to make way for a new development, the sometimes tacky — yet nostalgic — Ed Debevic’s searched for a new home. Owners found one in Streeterville. Find the same faux ‘50s vibe with sassy servers throwing out their retro shtick. Burgers, shakes, and breakfast return for the ride.

159 E Ohio St

Chicago, IL 60611

Doubles, a Trini delicacy, are featured at Cafe Trinidad ToGo, the return of a Grand Crossing restaurant that closed in 2016. The island cuisine sees many influence, including African, Syrian, and Indian — all byproducts of colonization and slavery. Powered by a Caribbean version of roti, doubles are filled with chickpeas, potatoes, or goat and lamb curry, a sweeter version than most would expect. Cafe Trinidad’s return gives Chicagoans a delicious option for this vital dish. The Reader’s Mike Sula has more.

2537 S Wabash Ave

Chicago, IL 60616

Sure, Chicago has dozens of great fried chicken providers. But Dave’s Hot Chicken, just across Lane Tech High School in Roscoe Village, is special. This LA-based fast-casual restaurant serves spicy chicken tenders from no heat to reaper. The tenders are tasty and plump. Students crowd the restaurant until the 10 p.m. shutter and with good reason. For its first location in the city proper, Dave’s and its celeb investors are welcome additions.

3643 N Western Ave

Chicago, IL 60618

a marble bar with chairs and bottles of booze
Claudia’s bar has full service.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

Claudia, the fine dining restaurant in Bucktown from chef Trevor Teich, is the culmination for years of searching for a permanent home for his pop-up. The storied space, where chefs like Stephanie Izard and Takashi Yagihashi cooked, has been revamped. The main dining room is where Teich’s playful tasting menu is served. On the first floor, toward the rear of the building, the bar sits with a range of items from lobster pot pie, dry-aged steak, and a fantastic wine list. While it’s more casual than upstairs, it doesn’t represent compromise.

1952 N Damen Ave

Chicago, IL 60647

A chef wearing an apron and white shirt, and a black face mask, is plating three ice-filled shallow dishes on a kitchen. Daija Guy/Eater Chicago

Chicago’s only Filipino fine dining experience is the hottest table in town as Kasama began dinner service in November. The Ukrainian Village cafe continues morning and afternoon hours, but later in the day the operation shuts down to allow staff to prepare to serve chef Tim Flores’ unique tasting menu. Flores riffs on classic dishes like lumpia and pancit, while offering modern ingredients like A5 wagyu. Pasty chef and co-owner Genie Kwon serves up halo-halo and more surprises for dessert. Kasama is among America’s Best New Restaurants. 

1001 N Winchester Ave

Chicago, IL 60622

A steam table with four compartments filled with curry. The two on the left are reddish while the two on the right are yellow
Talard Asian Market has delicious food for carryout.
Mistey Nguyen/Eater Chicago

Talard Thai Asian Market is the largest Thai grocer in Chicago and a wonderland for home cooks. The store opened in 2019, but thanks to COVID-19, business suffered as many Chicagoans were unaware of this special place. Not only does the market carry hard-to-find item, but it also has a cafe with a rotating menu of 20 items from papaya salad, crispy pork belly, and a variety of curries.

5353 N Broadway

Chicago, IL 60640

An oval dish with fried chicken with hands off screen squirting lemon juice.
Whole fried chicken
Segnatore/Brad Danner

Segnatore has some huge shoes to fill in Humboldt Park as the Italian restaurant opened in the same space where much loved French restaurant Cafe Marie-Jeanne spent five years on the corner of Augusta and Chicago. The new tenant is from the owners of Good Measure in River North, and an attempt to grow the brand with pastas, whole-fried chicken, and a list of fancy drinks and wines. The owners also plan on reopening the dive across the street, California Clipper, on New Year’s Eve.

1001 N California Ave

Chicago, IL 60622

In Chatham, a former Harold’s Chicken Shack has been replaced with a new fried chicken spot that takes aim at a certain spinach-eating sailor. Hot Chi Chicken & Cones, features the Popeyes Ain’t Shit sandwich, and as the Tribune shares, the restaurant is a fun mix of Nashville hot and Middle Eastern fare. Prepare to wait in long lines.

100 W 87th St

Chicago, IL 60620

As dining rooms closed during the pandemic, carry out and delivery reigned. One of the most popular to-go operations came from Henry Cai, a Chicago native inspired by his father’s exploits working at Chinese restaurants. Cai started selling Chinese-American food via Instagram at 3 Little Pigs. The response to his Cantonese cooking, with his signature three-pork fried rice, noodles, and dumplings was tremendous. He’s now found a home in Humboldt Park where he can make food six days a week (carry out only for now, delivery coming soon). The operation will expand once he gets more kitchen equipment as he’ll bring back his delectable smoked ribs and more. Cai is hopeful to open in a new location with a dining room sometime in 2022.

3220 W Grand Ave

Chicago, IL 60651

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