Coming off such a sterling year of restaurant and bar openings in Chicago, 2015 will be hard to top. But the forecast looks pretty strong for 2016, as some of the city's biggest heavy-hitters plan new concepts, re-imagined hotels prepare for a new era, and neighborhood gems expand with bars and eateries. Here are some of the upcoming spots we're most looking forward to this year:
GT Prime: Without question, 2015 was the year of the steakhouse. Chicago saw a slew of new entries that served to up the ante and innovate in a market saturated with classic steakhouses. See: Swift & Sons, STK, Prime & Provisions, and Maple & Ash. But the steak parade isn't over yet. One of our most anticipated steakhouses is coming up this year, as Boka Restaurant Group expands its repertoire with meaty GT Prime. The forthcoming River North restaurant is a steak-focused endeavor from namesake Giuseppe Tentori, who also helms nearby GT Fish & Oyster. Not much is known of the menu, but in terms of design, expect for jaws to drop. Karen Herold of Studio K Creative is designing the 5,600 square-foot space, which will seat about 140. Look for GT Prime to open at some point this winter or early spring.
Roister: One of the most famous, acclaimed chefs in the world is getting ready to go casual. Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next notoriety is putting the finishing touches on Roister, set to join the Fulton Market fray very soon. A stark departure from high-end sister spots Achatz operates with Nick Kokonas, Roister promises loud music and close-knit tables, and seeing as it derives its name from an old English word for "boisterous party," diners can expect an upbeat, energetic experience. Andrew Brochu (The Aviary) will man the menus.
Kimski: It's not every day you see Korean and Polish cuisines under one roof. But that'll soon change as a new roof is developed alongside Bridgeport's beloved Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar. The neighborhood tentpole is branching out in a big way this year with an adjoining restaurant called Kimski, which fuses the unlikely combo of Korean and Polish cuisines with imminent dishes like Korean potstickers with pierogi-inspired fillings and Polish sausages strewn with kimchi. Also, bulgogi cheesesteak and bi bim bop with sauerkraut, which all sounds incredible. The space is aptly casual, comprised primarily of standing room, with a patio to come this spring. Kimski should open this winter if construction goes smoothly.
Duck Duck Goat: Ever since word first broke last year that Stephanie Izard, one of the city's most revered chefs, was working on her third restaurant, fans from near and far have been waiting with bated breath. On the heels of her perpetually packed Girl & the Goat and Little Goat, Izard's next venture goes Chinese with Duck Duck Goat. Located a couple blocks north of her other restaurants, Duck Duck Goat marks Izard's entry to the Fulton Market scene, and anticipation couldn't be higher. The prospect of contemporary Chinese cuisine imagined by a Top Chef victor is exciting, to say the least. Novel noodle dishes, fried rice, dumplings, and numerous other creations are in the works for this massive undertaking, which helps solidify Fulton Market as the hottest piece of restaurant real estate in Chicago. The restaurant has been pushed back multiple times, last quoted for an early 2016 opening. Stay tuned.
LondonHouse Hotel: We all marveled at the vibrant success of the reimagined Chicago Athletic Association hotel, a historic downtown property that emerged anew with dining and drinking outlets that made the Michigan Avenue property one of the hottest destinations of 2015. It looks like lightning could strike twice, because just up the street, another upcoming hotel looks to follow a similar formula. The LondonHouse Hotel is taking shape in the historic London Guarantee building, at the corner of Michigan and Wacker. Within its confines will be multiple dining and drinking spots presided over by Executive Chef and Beverage Director Riley Huddleston. Among the options will be a second-floor bar and lounge, a multi-level restaurant on the 21st and 22nd floors, and a private dining area on the 23rd. Look for the entire property to open this spring.
The Ladies Room: Logan Square's red-hot Fat Rice is poised to get a whole lot hotter this year, with the imminent opening of adjoining cocktail bar The Ladies Room. As with everything the Fat Rice innovators touch, this will be far from your average cocktail bar, both in motif and menu. It's a tiny space, with room for 20 seats, rich red colors, vintage Chinese pin-up posters, Chinese antiques, and banquettes. As for the drinks, an impressive housemade bitters program begets ingredients like celtuce bitters, lovage bitters, and chamomile-fenugreek bitters, along with drinks like the "Drink Your Veggies," featuring snap pea-infused vodka, cucumber aqua fresca, jalapeno, dill, and a straw made of lovage. Chef/owner Abe Conlon is also toiling away on his own versions of "Dr. Pepper" and Malort, each spiced with the likes of scorpion peppers and bitter melon. One of Chicago's most exciting new bars of 2016 should debut later this month or next.
Packed: Kimski and Duck Duck Goat aren't the only envelope-pushing dumpling destinations on deck this year. After much delay, Packed is prepared for its eagerly awaited Hyde Park opening. The casual dumpling concept hails from revered chef Mike Sheerin, who is currently doing double-duty as chef at Embeya. Drawing inspiration from across the globe, Packed promises to be a dumpling restaurant like no other, fusing flavors and ingredients in novel new ways. Anything goes on Sheerin's menu, from gyro dumplings and Pekin duck dumplings to soup dumplings reminiscent of French onion. Final details are likely coming together at Packed, which will hopefully open any day now.