Eating/Drinking

Summer’s Most Anticipated Restaurants and Bars in Chicago

Photo courtesy of Moody Tongue Brewing Company

Ah, summer. A time to linger on the Big Star patio, cheer on the baseball team of your choosing, watch movies in the park, and avoid North Avenue Beach at all costs. It’s also when new restaurants and bars open at a rapid clip, making it prime time for foodies in Chicago. This season’s lineup of newcomers is deliciously diverse and exciting, from fine dining in a brewery and a Riviera-inspired pizzeria to a bunch of projects from some of the city’s biggest names in cooking. Here are the most anticipated openings this summer.

Photo by Morgan Scofes/Courtesy of DineAmic Hospitality

Bandit
The former Gideon Sweet space has been a bit of a revolving door on Randolph Street for a while, probably partially due to chef Graham Elliot maintaining only a vague, occasional presence at his former Chicago properties. But the hitmakers behind Bar Siena, Siena Tavern, Barrio, and Prime & Provisions are here to save the day—and finally maximize that gorgeous back courtyard. Aiming to bring a casual neighborhood watering hole vibe to the ritzy hood, Bandit fuses a rustic and vintage-inspired motif with modern elements like splashy neon signs and playfully reinvented American comfort food courtesy of Shane Graybeal.
Location: 841 West Randolph Street, West Loop
Projected opening: June 10

Nahabedian Restaurant
While Chicago foodies twiddle their thumbs waiting for the new iteration of NAHA, its owners, Carrie and Michael Nahabedian, have another trick up their sleeve to keep us all sated in the meantime. This summer, the cousins are opening a restaurant in the Gwen Hotel (name TBD), with a Riviera seafood theme that draws culinary inspiration all the way from the coasts of Portugal to the Black Sea. Considering the duo’s penchant for luxury and Carrie’s years spent cooking in hotels, this venture is a natural extension. As with NAHA and their still-open French restaurant, Brindille, Michael will man the wine list, while his brother, Tom, designs the space. Also: Look for cocktails from acclaimed barkeep Peter Vestinos.
Location: 521 North Rush Street, River North
Projected opening: late summer

Pizzeria Portofino
It seems that the Riviera is having a moment in Chicago, because in addition to the Nahabedian project, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is drawing inspiration from the region for its latest effort, a riverside pizza restaurant called Pizzeria Portofino. Soaked in sun and sporting a 130-foot outdoor terrace, the chic eatery is designed to inspire some serious vacation vibes, with a coastal-heavy wine list, hand-stretched pizzas, and a full-fledged spritz cocktail program that’s sure to take over your Instagram feed for the next few months. The restaurant will mark the first of Lettuce’s planned riverside ventures filling the massive River North space; Portofino is to be followed later this year by a private event space and high-end seafood concept, RPM on the Water.
Location: 317 North Clark Street, River North
Projected opening: June

Photo by Melissa Hom/Courtesy of Pizzeria Portofino

Tales of Carlos Gaytan/Tzuco/Panango
Ever since Carlos Gaytan closed his Michelin-starred Mexique in West Town, locals have been clamoring for what’s next. This summer, we find out. The chef is coming back in a big way this season, opening a trio of concepts in the River North space formerly home to Roy’s. Running the gamut from high-end to grab-and-go pastries, the eateries include an intimate tasting-menu space called Tales of Carlos Gaytan, a small plates–centric restaurant called Tzuco, and a bakery called Panango. As with Mexique, all will feature modern Mexican cooking with French influences.
Location: 720 North State Street, River North
Projected opening: August

François Frankie
If there’s one thing I love more than a cocktail, it’s drinking a cocktail while slowly rotating on a carousel. See: my beloved Carousel Bar in New Orleans. And soon: François Frankie in the Loop. From the team behind Cochon Volant Brasserie and Taureaux Tavern comes another French venture, this time with a revolving bar at the center. Details are scarce on the food, drinks, and the rest of the design, but the menus are being designed by chefs Michael Sheerin and Matt Ayala, so rest assured that your taste buds will be in good hands.
Location: 222 West Randolph Street, Loop
Projected opening: summer TBD

Utopian Tailgate
The prolific Fifty/50 Restaurant Group is another collective making big moves this summer. In addition to another Loop project, Utopian Tailgate is a rooftop eatery that looks to utterly reshape the Old Town dining and drinking scene. Perched atop the legendary Second City building, this place is a whopper—the indoor space spans 3,500 square feet, and the outdoor patio is 6,500 square feet. Expect lots of quaffable drinks and food by Amber Lancaster. Plus, Fifty/50 is opening a new location of its Roots Handmade Pizza in the space right next door.
Location: 210 West North Avenue, Old Town
Projected opening: mid-August

Photo by John Khuu/Courtesy of Tortello

Tortello
Refreshingly, it’s not all big restaurant groups and celeb chefs opening places this summer. One of the loveliest and most interesting new restaurants comes by way of Venice-born Dario Monni and his wife, Jill Gray. The independent restaurateurs look to make their mark on the Wicker Park dining scene with Tortello, which they’re billing as both a restaurant and pastificio, aka fresh pasta shop. This means pastas will be made by hand by dexterous sfloglinas (pasta-makers), as seen through a massive storefront window. In addition to an array of pastas, which will also be sold retail, Tortello will offer cocktails, wine, espresso, beer, and pastries.
Location: 1746 West Division Street, Wicker Park
Projected opening: summer TBD

Dorothy
I’m obsessed with Split-Rail, the friendly neighborhood fried chicken restaurant a few blocks from my old loft. So I’m mightily excited for the restaurant’s upcoming basement bar, Dorothy. Apparently the building formerly housed a sports bar, with a wood bar and marble counter (who knew!), and owners Zoe Schor and Michelle Szot look to breathe new life into the prime space, with an array of casual drink options and snacks. It’s enough to make me regret selling my condo.
Location: 2500 West Chicago Avenue, Ukrainian Village
Projected opening: summer TBD

Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar
Years after opening, Giant is still one of the toughest tables to snag in Chicago. So it makes sense that the new project from team Giant, a Bucktown foray curiously called Chef’s Special Cocktail Car, is likely the most anticipated opening of the summer—if not the year. The handiwork of dream team Jason Vincent, Ben Lustbader, and Josh Perlman, this is undoubtedly a bar-centric endeavor, with food designed to complement. The comfy lounge highlights Perlman’s bar program, featuring everything from natural wines and local beers to crafty cocktails. American-Chinese food is the bill of fare, with riffs on favorites like fried rice, noodles, and lots more. Keeping with that theme, the bar will be open late and also offer delivery and takeout.
Location: 2165 North Western Avenue, Bucktown
Projected opening: summer TBD 

Wherewithall
Parachute has been Chicago’s quintessential neighborhood restaurant since husband-and-wife team Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim opened in Avondale several years ago, so imagine the excitement when the duo announced plans to add another restaurant in the rapidly up-and-coming neighborhood. On the heels of taking home the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes, Clark and Kim keep the momentum going with Wherewithall, a contemporary American spot serving pastries and casual lunch items by day, and a four-course prix fixe menu for dinner. There will also be a leisurely bar, a courtyard, and a private dining space. From the bar area to the come-as-you-are vibe in the main dining room, not to mention its all-day hours, Wherewithall looks to build on Parachute’s welcoming neighborhood-centric ethos, sure to cement Clark and Kim as two of the city’s most beloved—and endlessly talented—chefs.
Location: 3472 North Elston Avenue, Avondale
Projected opening: July

Photo by Jordan Balderas/Courtesy of Moody Tongue Brewing Company

Moody Tongue Brewing Company 
Culinary beers and elegant tasting menus are stepping into the spotlight in a major way this season, as Moody Tongue Brewing Company officially moves from its Pilsen headquarters to a much larger space in the South Loop—this time with a restaurant component and a Michelin-starred chef in tow. In addition to having more capacity to brew more innovative beers, including the culinary-inspired creations that put Moody Tongue on the international map, the expansion opens up room for a 25-seat restaurant, to be helmed by Jared Wentworth. Dubbed the Dining Room at Moody Tongue, it will feature 10-course degustations hinged on seasonal ingredients and opulent items like truffles. Naturally, look for expert beer pairings with dishes, courtesy of president–brewmaster Jared Rouben. There will also be a more casual bar area, with plenty of snacks to choose from, including that fan-favorite German chocolate cake.
Location: 2515 South Wabash Avenue, South Loop
Projected opening: summer TBD