In the past, Streeterville was mostly maligned as a tourist hub anchored by Navy Pier and abutted by ceaselessly crowded, anxiety-inducing Michigan Avenue. When it came to dining options, there wasn't much middle ground between high-end vanguard Tru and the silly vittles at the Pier. But thanks to a recent surge in restaurant openings and a continued onslaught, Streeterville is rapidly transforming into Streaterville. Get it?! That pun was made to happen. Here's where to eat in the slick downtown 'hood and what to anticipate in the coming months.
(Wonuts. Photo: Waffles)
For years, quality dining in Streeterville was pretty much limited to Tru. The fine dining restaurant remains a tentpole in the city, but it's not every day Chicagoans can afford to splurge on caviar flights and culinary pomp. One of the biggest gets in recent memory for Streeterville, providing extra impetus for visiting the neighborhood and dodging slow-moving out-of-towners, is Cicchetti. The Italian small plates restaurant came with big names attached to it, including Dan Rosenthal, acclaimed chef Mike Sheerin, and top-tier sous chefs Phil Rubino and Sarah Jordan. The powerhouse team worked together to single-handedly re-imagine and re-define the Streeterville dining scene, giving adjoining River North a run for its money. The menu of Venetian eats toes the line between classic and contemporary, nailing the perfect medium between Sheerin's innate knack for modernity and his time-honed penchant for refined standards. Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, Cicchetti has established itself as destination-worthy dining in Chicago, which is especially impressive considering the city's recent spate of Italian openings.
Streeterville looks to become the new doughnut capital of Chicago, with recent announcements of follow-up locations from both Do-Rite Donuts and Stan's Donuts. First, Do-Rite will open a new outpost adjacent to Northwestern Hospital this summer. This one will expand on the original's breadth of fried dough with the addition of fried chicken sandwiches to the menu. So considering the fried food frenzy here, it's probably for the best that it's locatated alongside the hospital. Following the new Do-Rite will be Chicago's second location of Stan's Donuts. After opening its first wildly successful outpost in Wicker Park, the Los Angeles-based brand will bring its deep-fried delicacies (and gelato) to Streeterville later this year.
Speaking of doughnuts, can we talk about wonuts for a second. And the fact that this national sensation originated in Streeterville. For better or worse. The waffle-doughnut hybrid is the brainchild of Waffles, a dainty breakfast cafe with locations in the South Loop and Lakeview. After opening their third location in Streeterville recently, the restaurant decided to do something whimsical and crafty, capitalizing on the cronut-like hoopla sweeping the country with their own novelty. The result was fried mini waffles in a dizzying array of flavors.
While we're on the subject of doughnuts and breakfast fare, Kanela Breakfast Club is another established local haunt heading to the neighborhood. This will mark its third location when it premieres later this year, following its Wrigleyville original and Old Town sophomore effort.
After successfully slinging Indian-inspired wraps in the Loop, Bombay Wraps next made its mark in Streeterville. A cuisine rooted in low and slow curries is not the obvious idea for fast-casual dining, but Bombay Wraps defies the norm with its menu of spicy, heady on-the-go eats. Plus, this loctation has an impressive retail component stocked with pantry provisions.
Other restaurants new to the neighborhood scene include Blaze Pizza, Current, and mEAT, while more spots in the works in Streeterville include a city outpost of suburban Pinstripes and the first downtown location for Euro-based Julius Meinl cafe.
- Matt Kirouac