2023 is so big that for the first time, there’s an honorable mention list
Chicago isn’t exactly back at square one as inflation and labor have snarled recovery efforts four years into the pandemic. For those who were imagining sunnier skies and a return to pre-COVID life, the previous year may have felt like a step back as new challenges emerged along with pressing worries about the economy.
If anything, 2022 gave chefs and operators a chance to better sketch out what they wanted to create. Several projects planned for 2022 were bumped to 2023 while operators announced new initiatives. This year will be jammed packed if schedules hold. There’s so much good stuff for Chicago that for the first time, Eater Chicago is including an “honorable mention” section for its most anticipated list.
So buckle up, and read on below to find Eater Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings for 2023.
This year, there’s so much to look forward to that Eater Chicago’s also compiled a list of honorable mentions: Casa Indigo, Costera, Guinness Brewpub, Hell’s Kitchen, Metric Coffee Avondale. the Soul and Smoke Evanston expansion, and Tamu.
Address: 4835 N. Western Avenue, Lincoln Square
Key players: Tim Lacey, mystery chef
Atelier owner Tim Lacey says he’s not ready to reveal the chef at his new restaurant, which will replace Iliana Regan’s famed Elizabeth. Lacey took over the business during the pandemic, but with a chef change, he feels it’s time for a clean break so he can tackle the next frontier. A chef should soon be in place and Lacey says the tasting menu restaurant will open in February.
Address: 4337 N. Western Avenue, Lincoln Square
Key player: Joe Fontelera
The next chapter for Boonie Foods will unfold in Lincoln Square as Joe Fontelera (who left Arami at the end of 2020) plans to graduate from his food stall at Revival Food hall in the Loop. Now called Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant, Fontelera says the restaurant will build on the foundation he laid at Revival, but he’ll amp up the offerings inside the former Crab Pad. He hopes to debut at the end of January or early February.
Address: 2375 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Logan Square
Key players: Joe Frillman, Leigh Omilinsky
In the first year of the pandemic, Joe Frillman — the owner of Daisies, Logan Square’s nearly six-year-old neighborhood haven for pasta and top-notch Midwestern cooking — converted his restaurant into a gourmet weekend market. The switch to retail wasn’t unusual at the time for restaurateurs in need of a revenue stream at the time, but nearly three years later, as many return to business as usual, Frillman is doubling down on the market’s improbable success and will in 2023 bestow a new Daisies upon the city with a full-time market. Located just a few blocks away from the original, the 5,500-square-foot space will include a dining room, espresso bar, pastry counter, and grab-and-go section. The team aims to throw open the new doors in late February or early March.
Address: 2764 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Logan Square
Key players: Rodolfo Cuadros, Don Bucio
James Beard Award-nominated chef Rodolfo Cuadros, owner of pan-Latin restaurant Amaru and vegan mega-hit Bloom Plant Based Kitchen, will venture further down the garden path of meat- and dairy-free cuisine in 2023 with the launch of Don Bucio’s Taqueria — or DBT — a “humble Mexican restaurant that just happens to serve vegan food.” Cuadros, a Colombian native who immigrated to Chicago nine years ago, named the restaurant after a loyal kitchen prep worker he’s known throughout that time. Bucio is originally from Mexico and has spent nearly three decades in the Windy City, and in recent years has followed Cuadros from Carnivale to his other restaurants. Patrons can expect a rotating taco selection with options such as vegan al pastor. The taqueria is slated to open in early February.
Address: 2018 W. Chicago Avenue, Ukrainian Village
Key player: Jacob Potashnick
Few chefs are as enthusiastic as Feld’s Jacob Potashnick, a native Chicagoan who’s traveled internationally to work at some of the world’s best restaurants. Feld, when it opens in late 2023 in Ukrainian Village, will take a refreshing approach to a farm-to-table tasting menu experience. Potashnick has cultivated relationships with Midwestern farmers and others across the country. He’s determined to show patrons a different side of fine dining, one where customers can clearly celebrate where their food comes from, and one tailored for a new generation — especially those on TikTok, a platform where Potashnick has built a following.
Address: 3325 N. Southport Avenue, Lakeview
Key players: Gene Kato, Stephanie Izard, Lee Wolen, Boka Restaurant Group
After a relatively quiet 2022, James Beard award-winning hospitality group Boka is poised to come roaring back with a number of ambitious projects, including a three-restaurant hub in Lakeview in the former home of the historic bar and bowling alley Southport Lanes. The first will be chef Lee Wolen’s GG’s Chicken Shop, a family-friendly spot with a walk-up counter, dining room, and outdoor seating, as well as a wall of spinning rotisserie chickens ready for feasting. Itoko (“cousin” in Japanese), an intimate new restaurant from chef Gene Kato (Momotaro), will follow with a freewheeling approach to sushi, hand rolls, and items roasted on a custom robata grill. Finally, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard will open the new location for Little Goat, her adorable all-day diner that originally debuted in 2012 on Randolph Street. The opening timelines remain in flux. Boka’s hopeful to debut Itoko in early- or mid-February, followed by GG’s by later that month. The reborn Little Goat should open in March.
Address: 954-960 W. 31st Street, Bridgeport
Key player: Won Kim
Won Kim wants Chicago to know that his sabbatical isn’t permanent at Kimski. The Chicago native has a clear idea of what the new menu will look like when he returns to the restaurant inside Maria’s Community Bar. This Korean American is through playing around. He’s cooking for himself, and he previewed his vision in December at Monday Night Foodball, the pop-up series curated by the Reader’s Mike Sula. The days of Korean Polish food have waned and Kim’s going more traditional with kalbi, rice cakes, and chap chae. He may find a way to incorporate smoked meats on occasion. The bottom line: Bridgeport’s Korean food is about to get a huge upgrade, and North Siders too scared to venture south will be suckers for missing out.
Address: Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive, the Loop
Key players: Jonathon Sawyer, Fifty/50 Restaurant Group
The tower that previously housed the Sears headquarters hasn’t had a lot of food and beverage buzz during the building’s 50-year history, but developers have come to realize that downtown needs amenities. One of them will come from Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, which has developed a live-fire concept with James Beard Award winner Jonathon Sawyer helming the kitchen. The goal is to give tourists and locals a show, a restaurant with a little theater, and something that friends will drop their plans for and make new ones when they have an opportunity to dine. The restaurant is eyeing a Tuesday, January 24, opening for lunch, and a Tuesday, January 31, dinner debut.
Address: 504 N. Wells Street, River North
Key players: Daniel Rose, Boka Restaurant Group
As promised, Boka Restaurant Group is keeping busy this year with the eagerly awaited debut of Le Select, the cavernous French brasserie created in partnership with internationally accomplished suburban Chicago native-turned-chef New York’s Le Coucou, Daniel Rose. In direct contrast with its infamous, clubby predecessor Bottled Blonde, Le Select is designed to exude classical French elegance and style, both in aesthetics — think spacious red leather booths and decorative trees — and cuisine. The noteworthy team also includes Cara Sandoval, co-founder and general manager of two-Michelin-starred Oriole, who has taken on a leadership role of service director. Le Select is slated to debut in late January.
Address: St. Regis Chicago, 363 E. Wacker Drive, Lake Shore East
Key players: Hisanobu Osaka, Evan Funke, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Opportunities like the ones presented by St. Regis Chicago, a flashy $1 billion skyscraper that overlooks Navy Pier, don’t happen often. After a deal with Alinea Group fell through, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises seized the location and has revealed plans for an all-day restaurant that will serve sushi, plus an Italian restaurant featuring notable LA chef Evan Funke. Funke has plans for a pasta lab at Tre Dita, taking inspiration from Felix, his Venice, California, restaurant. The chef promises to serve a diverse selection of regional Tuscan cooking. In a statement, he says he’s “delighted that we’ve found room in this extraordinary project for a pasta lab where the traditional pasta shapes of Tuscany can be produced on display.”
At Miru, LEYE has tabbed veteran chef Hisanobu Osaka to create a Japanese restaurant to serve hotel tenants and residents. The menu will feature izakaya-style items, and there are also two outdoor terraces promising unique skyline views. Miru should open this spring on the 11th floor, with Tre Dita following later this year.
Address: 3310 N. Elston Avenue, Avondale
Key player: Barry Sorkin
Barbecue fans understand patience is a virtue — the best meat is cooked slowly under a low temperature. They’re hoping their patience will soon be rewarded when Smoque Steak opens. Barry Sorkin and company’s philosophy is to create a neighborhood steakhouse employing a mix of sous vide and smoking techniques. When applied right, this method can take less expensive cuts of meat and make them taste like prized tenderloins. Smoque is one of the best barbecue restaurants in the country, so the sequel had better live up to the name. Construction is wrapping up and a spokesperson is hopeful that the team will release a new opening timeline in the coming weeks.
Address: 3118 N. Rockwell Street, Avondale
Key players: Margaret Pak, Vinod Kalathil
The pandemic has left a void for South Indian cuisine in Chicago, specifically food from Kerala, the appams, and egg and beef curries that Thattu specialized in when it was just a small stall at Politan Row in West Loop. With that food hall on ice, chefs Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil spent part of the time wandering (perhaps channeling a bit of Kung Fu’s David Carradine), including making visits to Kalathil’s family in India. They’ve picked a few tricks in preparing to open a new full-service restaurant that has the trappings of a destination and to prove that yes, Indian restaurants can flourish away from Devon or whatever suburban pocket that’s hot right now.