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Best New Bakeries in Chicago

Best New Bakeries in Chicago

Now that those pesky New Year’s resolutions are a distant memory, it’s safe to say that cravings for pastries are back in full-force, and Chicago’s got a slew of recent bakeries and sweet spots to satisfy that itch. From impeccable croissants to pie shop expansions, here’s the low-down on the freshest pastry shops and dessert destinations in town, and what to eat when there.

Maison Marcel: Best New Bakeries

Maison Marcel: Best New Bakeries

Maison Marcel: One of the best new bakeries in recent memory, Maison Marcel is a game-changer for Chicago’s French pastry scene. Applying a French accent to locally sourced ingredients, the Lakeview bakery, cafe and patisserie turns out fragrant loaves, the flakiest croissants, buttery brioche, apple tartes and much more, all courtesy of baker Arnaud Brochard. The space is warm, cozy and sunny, providing the perfect ambience for noshing and lingering over a pain au chocolat and and a cappuccino. There’s also a full-blown cafe menu with wholesome plates like porridge and mushroom omelets, but the spotlight is rightfully on the pastries — Maison Marcel’s bread and butter.

Jennivee’s Bakery: A far cry from your typical bakery, this Lakeview newcomer features a variety of internationally inspired sweets, late-night hours and cakes by the slice. Owned by Jennifer Vailoces, a native of the Philippines and a member of the LGBTQ community, her namesake bakery features a kaleidoscope of cakes and cupcakes in different flavors, from mango cream and tres leches to the stunning “purple velvet,” a sure-to-be signature containing ube chiffon cake, ube mouse and young coconut shavings. The bakery is open until midnight most days of the week, and even until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

La Boulangerie: Another French bakery is making moves in Chicago, though this time it’s a return to roots for La Boulangerie. The bakery originally opened in Logan Square, though closed and moved to Lakeview due to a conflict of croissant interests ( with its coffee shop neighbor. After expanding to Ravenswood, La Boulangerie is now back in its original ‘hood, this time in a new location with ample space and the look and feel of a friendly market. Those famed croissants are back, along with macarons, sandwiches, eclairs, tarts, caneles and madeleines, to name a few.

XO Marshmallow: If you have an Instagram, you’ve likely at least seen pictures of this Rogers Park marshmallow cafe, the cutest, most colorful, most Instagrammable cafe in Chicago. This place is custom-made for the Instagram era, with a kaleidoscopic menu of housemade, fluffy marshmallows in flavors like butterbeer, Champagne, bourbon, green tea, Nutella and salted caramel. You can enjoy any marshmallow as is, put them on hot chocolate, get a warm s’more or try novelties like a donut s’more or even a “s’maco,” a s’more taco folded in waffle taco shells. The pint-sized cafe is just as photogenic, outfitted with bright pinks, yellows, light greens, “X” and “O”-shaped pillows and signage saying “I Love You S’more.”

Hoosier Mama Pie Co.: One of Chicago’s most revered pie shops got bigger and better with a recent expansion to its original West Town bakery that more than doubled its seating space. Even cuter and cozier than before, the shop feels like an old fashioned cottage home, far away from any city, with large window booths, vintage tables and a brand new counter overlooking the baking kitchen. There’s also a steady stream of multiple pies to choose from daily, from sweets like apple and ginger custard to savories like chicken pot pie and frito chili pie.

Firecakes: Lucky for suburban Oak Park, they’ve not got an outpost of one of Chicago’s best donut shops. Firecakes recently debuted its latest, adding fried chicken sandwiches and maple-bacon sliders to its fried dough repertoire. There’s another location slated for Wells St. Market in the Loop this spring.

West Town Bakery & Tap: In other expansion news, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group brought its West Town Bakery brand to Wrigleyville’s hot new Hotel Zachary. Adapting to its bar-filled ‘hood, the casual cafe and eatery has branded itself as West Town Bakery & Tap, offering a mix of imaginative baked goods, cold-brew coffee and a fully loaded bar with beer and cocktails on tap. The most distinctive element here is the cocktails inspired by bakery favorites, like Bloody Marys garnished with chocolate-dipped chicharrones and boozy shakes made with red velvet cake and baking spices. There’s also donuts, cake balls, sundaes and soft-serve ice cream.

Hottest New Brunch in Chicago

Brunch is a booming business in Chicago, with new restaurants and menus emerging seemingly every week. Especially lately, the city has seen a surge in reputable brunches debut, each offering a stylistic and innovative approach to the weekend pastime. From internationally inspired dim sum to morning fare rooted in culinary traditions of France and Spain, here are some of the newest additions to Chicago’s brunch scene.

Tied House, Chicago

Tied House, Chicago

Brunch in Chicago

Tied House: In other hot new restaurant developments, Lakeview’s red-hot Tied House also added brunch to its menu lineup, and if the acclaimed dinner offerings from chef Debbie Gold are any indication, you’re not gonna want to sleep on this. The menu starts with breads and bowls, including babka, sour cream coffee cake, quinoa “trail mix,” whole-grain porridge with orange blossom honey and “corn flakes” with chocolate, banana and brazil nut milk. Then things move on to “brunch-ish,” a standout menu section with the likes of biscuits and gravy with chicken liver; short rib hash with potatoes and farm egg; Dutch-style pancakes with creme fraiche and apple butter; and breakfast ramen with lamb bacon, bok choy and sea beans. Then there’s the “lunch-ish” section, where you’ll find pork jowl pastrami melts, avocado toast with sweet peas and yogurt, rigatoni with guanciale and ricotta salata and a burger with secret sauce, cheddar cheese and pickle. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

Punch Bowl Social: Last but certainly not least, the massive new dining and entertainment complex in the West Loop, Punch Bowl Social, also added brunch to its lengthy lineup of offerings, which also includes lunch, dinner, cocktails, bowling, bocce, karaoke, darts and arcade games. In addition to baked goods and sweets from West Town Bakery, celebrity chef Hugh Acheson outfitted the menu with unique takes on comfort food classics, like a grits breakfast bowl with Tasso ham, sauteed kale, pickled peppers, white cheddar and poached eggs; ricotta cheese pancakes with blueberry jam and fresh lemon curd, and monkey bread French toast with salted caramel, candied walnuts and bacon. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Fort Willow: Borrowing inspiration from Chinese-style dim sum, wherein a parade of small plates and snacks rove around the dining room and fill up tables, Bucktown’s new Fort Willow is offering something new for the weekend set. The clandestine, whimsically designed restaurant and bar, which features a makeshift tree and swing right in the middle of the room, keeps with its eclectic, international food theme for its brand new weekend brunch. In lieu of typical dim sum items like dumplings and buns, Fort Willow features bites like egg rolls with chorizo, potato and cheese; Benedict with ham, poached eggs and harissa hollandaise; and housemade Fritos with salsa verde, cheese and a fried egg. To drink, there’s a French 75 with gin, blueberries, lemon and Cava; Irish coffee made with demerara, Dark Matter coffee, Irish whisky and fresh cream; and a Bloody Mary with vodka, fresh-squeezed tomatoes, jalapeño and basil.

Bar Biscay: One of the hottest new restaurants in town just added brunch to its repertoire, providing more opportunity to sample the goods at this West Town sensation. Similar to the dinner menu, which draws upon flavors from the Bay of Biscay with ingredients from Spain and France, Bar Biscay’s new Sunday brunch menu. Look for dishes like asparagus with jamon Serrano, greens, a soft egg and chervil emulsion; tortilla española topped with fried squid; Basque sausage “bun” with espelette pepper maple syrup; and a savory porridge with wild mushrooms, wheat berries, poached egg and greens. Crepes are a big deal as well, featured on their own menu section with fillings both sweet and savory. Drinks follow a similar tune, adapting a European accent to staples like a Bloody Mary with vermouth and cachaca, Cava mimosas and a Biscay 75 with Cava, Cognac, bitters and Maraschino liqueur. Brunch is served on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

The Perfect Day of Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

In Chicago, dining and drinking is a full-fledged tourist attraction in and of itself,  Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

Right up there with other world-famous institutions like the Bean, the Willis Tower and Navy Pier. Eating in Chicago’s West Loop Considering this, strategy is important when planning out a day of dining in the big city, as coordinated restaurant and bar stops are pivotal. One nifty way to break it all down and simplify things is by divvying your days into neighborhoods, honing on on specific areas in order to really dig into local flavors and get a taste for what Chicago’s neighborhoods are all about. And when it comes to prioritizing which neighborhood to start eating in, it’s hard to beat the restaurant-packed West Loop. With more celebrity chefs and crowded dining rooms than any other part of the city, the West Loop is ground zero for some of the best dining not only in Chicago, but the country at large. If you’ve got 24 hours to spare in the city, here’s how to make the most of it in the West Loop:

"Sawada" Chicago's West loop

“Sawada” Chicago’s West loop

Breakfast: Start your day with a bang by enjoying a hearty, inventive breakfast at Little Goat. Seeing as this is a diner helmed by Top Chef icon Stephanie Izard, you can rest assured that you won’t find your typical hashes, pancakes and omelettes here. Rather, buckle up and tuck into novelties like “everything” crumpets, sesame cheddar biscuits, sourdough pancakes, French toast topped with crispy chicken and BBQ maple syrup, parathas burritos and bibimbap breakfast bowls studded with cauliflower “rice” and guanciale. This doesn’t even cover the sweet pastries, milkshakes and desserts, but you might want to save that for another time if you’re gonna continue eating around the neighborhood the rest of the day. 

Breakfast: Start your day with a bang by enjoying a hearty, inventive breakfast at Little Goat. Seeing as this is a diner helmed by Top Chef icon Stephanie Izard, you can rest assured that you won’t find your typical hashes, pancakes and omelettes here. Rather, buckle up and tuck into novelties like “everything” crumpets, sesame cheddar biscuits, sourdough pancakes, French toast topped with crispy chicken and BBQ maple syrup, parathas burritos and bibimbap breakfast bowls studded with cauliflower “rice” and guanciale. This doesn’t even cover the sweet pastries, milkshakes and desserts, but you might want to save that for another time if you’re gonna continue eating around the neighborhood the rest of the day. 

Lunch: Come lunch, see what all the fuss is about and follow the lines into Bonci, a pint-sized counter-service pizza spot from one of the world’s most revered pizza-makers. The tiny eatery features an ever-changing lineup of scissor-cut Roman-style slices, priced by weight and cut to customizable sizes. A far cry from your standard pepperoni or sausage, this stuff features seasonal toppings and beautiful, high-quality vegetables and sauces, all layered atop a crisp, airy bread-like crust.

Pick-me-up: At this point, it’s pivotal to keep the party going and stay energized. You can do so by hurling ice-carved shot glasses at a giant bell at Federales. This raucous Mexican bar and eatery features plenty of tequila drinks, shots and snacky items like chips, salsas and tacos to keep fueling your day-long binge. For food, keep it light by sharing some spicy fruit ceviche and maybe some queso fundido. In addition to margaritas aplenty, the cool thing to do here is an ice glass shot. Various tequilas are served in ice-carved shot glasses, which you can throw at a giant bell once you’ve consumed them.

Moneygun Eating in Chicago's West Loop

Moneygun Eating in Chicago’s West Loop


Cocktail hour: Whet your appetite for dinner with a cocktail stop at Moneygun, a dreamy and dark corner bar with a refreshingly simple menu anchored by a bevy of classics. It’s the rare place where you can cozy up to a booth and enjoy a well-made Long Island Iced Tea, a Dark & Stormy, a dirty martini, a piña colada, a Cosmo or a Cuba Libre, all under one roof. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If the weather’s nice, mosey over into the large back patio, which is equipped with a bocce court.


Dinner: At this point, you’ve hopefully made reservations for dinner, as pretty much any restaurant in the neighborhood gets clamorous come 6:00 p.m. And if you’re going to make reservations months in advance, make them at Monteverde. This pasta palace is revered for good reason, with its laudable lineup of fresh, handmade pastas enrobed in rich sauces and tossed with bracing ingredients. Start with the skate schnitzel and smoked fish rillettes before progressing into wok-fried arrabbiata or cacio whey pepe, a bucatini dish with pecorino, ricotta whey and a four-peppercorn blend.

Monteverde Eating in Chicago's West Loop

Monteverde Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

Dessert: The sweets at Monteverde are wonderful and all, but you’re going to want to save room for the can’t-miss confections coming out of the immaculate kitchen at Proxi. Here, star pastry chef Sarah Mispagel shines with desserts inspired by different international cultures and strewn with bright, seasonal accompaniments. Get the silky-smooth avocado mousse with tapioca pearls, pandan leaf, grapefruit, cocoa nibs and coconut, or the tres leches cake with cajeta, mango and meringue. If you’d like to just keep it simple, the mochi ice creams and sorbets are always riveting as well.

Cinco de Mayo Guide, 2018 to Dining and Drinking

Cinco de Mayo:

Where to dine and drink on Mexican cuisine and cocktails for May 5. One of the liveliest and most colorful food- and drink-filled holidays of the year is almost here, and all over Chicago, restaurants and bars are gearing up to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. From cocktail specials to full-blown parties, here’s where to toast the Mexican-inspired holiday in style.
Tuco & Blondie for Cinco de Mayo

Tuco & Blondie for Cinco de Mayo

Libertad: This Skokie staple is an ideal spot for Latin and Mexican flavors any time of year, but especially on Cinco de Mayo, when the kitchen busts out specials like pork ribs with morita-guajillo-pasilla adobo and nopales. To drink, they’ll have shots of Cimarron Blanco y Reposado, and $5 cans of 21st Amendment “El Sully” Mexican lager.

Cantina Laredo: The three “M’s” are all represented at Cantina Laredo’s Cindo de Mayo shindig: music, margaritas and Mexican beers. From 11:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., the River North restaurant will augment its regular festive menu with three special “Fiesta Flip” cocktails, along with $3 Mexican beers like Dos XX Lager, Tecate and Modelo Negra. The cocktails on offer include the 3 G’s Please, made with tequila, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, orange bitters and muddled strawberries topped with a tequila strawberry float. Then there’s the luscious Sunshine Margarita, which has 1800 Silver tequila, Grand Marnier, agave nectar and fresh orange, lemon and lime juices, plus a Grand Marnier-lemon float. To add a little pizzazz, DJ Matt Rochford will be spinning Mexican tunes from noon until 9:00 p.m.

Tuco & Blondie: Tacos and margarita Jell-O shots are on hand at Tuco & Blondie’s holiday celebration this year. Come May 5, the Lakeview restaurant will be serving $3 steak tacos from the patio’s charcoal grill, plus margarita Jell-O shots. The restaurant is open from 10:00 a.m. until midnight.

Lady Gregory’s Old Town: Since Cinco de Mayo falls on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, another popular day for drinking and revelry, Lady Gregory’s Old Town outpost is doubling down with doubly festive “Cindo de Derby” specials. Drinks for the day include the Cinco Paloma made with tequila and Stiegl Radler, the Nube Cinco with tequila, soda and mint, and a Derby Pie Shot, which tastes curiously like pecan pie. For those who really want to crank things up a notch, there’s the Cinco de Derby Sweet Tea, a holiday mashup with tequila, sweet iced tea and mint. All drinks will be $10 and the shot is $6 for the day.

Split-Rail: Another restaurant combining the two celebrations into one conveniently boozy package, Split-Rail is offering both pitchers of margaritas and mint juleps for $40, each serving up to eight people. There will also be food specials like nachos and pimento cheese and Benedictine dip.

The Pony Inn: Two words: “salsa cook-off.” One fun way to mark Cinco de Mayo is with a zesty party at this Lakeview bar, which takes place on Friday, May 4, to kick off the weekend in style. The free event will include salsa tastings, plus specials like $3 tacos, $3.50 Dos Equis, and $5 Dobel. For those who would like to enter the salsa cook-off themselves, email

Weekly Planner: Wheel Wednesdays @ Antique Taco and New Spring Menus

Wheel Wednesdays @ Antique Taco

Wheel Wednesdays @ Antique Taco

Wheel Wednesdays @ Antique Taco

Though spring in Chicago is notoriously finicky and fickle, one good indicator that warm weather is near is the onset of food truck season at Antique Taco. More specifically, the restaurant’s sprawling Bridgeport location is kicking into spring gear with its “Wheel Wednesdays” series, which invites a handful of different food trucks into its parking lot to sling food on the patio and turn it into an al fresco fiesta. The next event takes place May 9, starting at 4:00 p.m., with another one slated for May 23, and more dates to follow.

Parson's has a new beer

Parson’s has a new beer

New Dinner Menu at Cafe Robey

Spring has sprung at Café Robey, which just introduced a vibrant new dinner menu inside The Robey hotel. The modern American restaurant has made a name for itself for its seasonal, contemporary fare, and spring marks the most exciting season for menu development.

Courtesy of chef Kevin McAllister, Cafe Robey’s new dinner dishes serve to elevate seasonal ingredients in everything from small plates and entrees to sides and desserts. Look for items like butter-poached shrimp with tomato confit, chicken jus vinaigrette and beurre monte; diced beef tenderloin tartare with stout gougeres, blue cheese, seared pearl onions, cherry tomato and potato chips; potato gnocchi with chermoula, goat cheese, roasted fennel and honey-candied pistachios; and the springiest dish of them all: pan-roasted lamb chops with snap pea and mint puree, glazed carrots, black rice and aleppo vinaigrette.

The drink list borrows inspiration from the dinner menu with an equally vibrant assortment of new sips. Like the Ford’s Model, a hibiscus-infused gin drink with dry curacao, aloe liqueur, white pine bitters and cucumber; and Sage Advice, a potent blend of tequila, green tea syrup, lime, green chartreuse and sage.

Parson’s Beer

In other fun drinking news, Parson’s Chicken & Fish just introduced its very own custom beer, adding to the lengthy lineup of reasons to swoon over this bustling Logan Square hot spot. The restaurant and bar partnered with Revolution Brewing for the endeavor, which turned out to be a quenching, mellow golden ale that has “summer drinking” basically written all over it. It’s got just the right amount of wheat malt and light hops to go down crisply and smoothly. Doled out in custom red and white cans designed by the LSD Art Dept., the beer is now available exclusively at Parson’s.

Spring Cocktails at The Promontory

In case you’re still thirsty, The Promontory proves its mettle as one of the foremost drinking destinations in Chicago with its latest crop of cocktail creations. Under the tutelage of beverage director Dianna Sanders, the dexterous bar team have introduced 12 new drinks for the season, freshening things up with emphasis on gin, rum, tequila and eau de vie. New drinks include the Smoked Pineapple Daiquiri, which sports pineapple-infused rum, freshly squeezed lime, sugar, orange bitters and pineapple that’s been smoked in The Promontory’s brick hearth. The Fauxjito is a fun, herbal riff on the mojito, made with mint-infused barrel-aged pisco, fresh lemon juice and ginger syrup, while the Living in the Past blends together gin, amaro, demerara, and orange and rhubarb bitters.

Chicago’s Taco Bucket List

Tacos? Considering that Chicago has the largest Mexican population of any city in the U.S. aside from Los Angeles, it’s no surprise that it’s got top-tier Mexican restaurants and the Taco Bucket List. This is certainly true of the city’s taco scene too, from chef-driven creations to simple street eats and everything in between. With Cinco de Mayo upon us, it’s an apt time to highlight some essential tacos.

Lonesome Rose on Chicago's Taco Bucket List

Lonesome Rose on Chicago’s Taco Bucket List

Cruz Blanca: You can’t talk about Chicago tacos without shouting out Rick Bayless, whose empire of world-class Mexican restaurants includes Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO. One of his newest endeavors, Cruz Blanca, is a Mexican brewery and taqueria, heavily inspired by the “smoke alley” at Oaxaca’s Mercado 20 de Noviembre. There, billowing clouds of grill smoke whet appetites for succulent meats stuffed into fresh tortillas. At Cruz Blanca, diners grab a tray and fill it with tortillas and their choice of flank steak, red chile pork, chorizo, chicken or portobello. Opt for the Smoke Alley taco plate, which consists of three to four tacos served with wood-grilled knob onions, peppers, pasilla salsa and grilled nopal cactus.

Birrierria Zaragoza: Goat tacos are the way to go at this family-run Archer Heights mainstay. Birria is what this place is known for — slowly simmered goat consommé served with handmade tortillas for dunking or DIY tacos. Raw onions, cilantro, lime and chiles accompany each order, so you can jazz it up as you like. It’s straightforward, but when food is this honest and high-quality, bells and whistles are unnecessary.

Lonesome Rose: For as saturated as Chicago is with tacos, the city is surprisingly lacking in breakfast tacos. Which is why it was such a huge deal when Lonesome Rose emerged last year, bringing Southwest Tex-Mex vibes and breakfast tacos to Logan Square. Bundled up in warm flour tortillas, each taco comes stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs and additions like crispy potatoes and chorizo verde. Each bite is best when dunked in housemade salsa.

Tallboy Taco: Burgers aren’t the only thing getting the inventive vegan touch ( In partnership with Impossible Foods, which has primarily been popping up around Chicago in the form of meat-free burgers, Tallboy Taco recently added an innovative vegan taco to its lineup using the product that tastes shockingly similar to beef. Served in a housemade hard shell, the crunchy creation contains shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and pungent salsa arbor.

Del Seoul: Chicago’s quintessential Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant features some seriously innovative and offbeat flavors you won’t typically find enrobed in tortillas. The sesame-chili shrimp taco, made with panko-breaded shrimp and a habit-forming sesame-chili aïoli, is a winner, as is the grilled kalbi beef with cilantro-onion relish and toasted sesames.

Cemitas Puebla: The burly cemitas sandwiches may get top billing here, but don’t overlook the tacos. Especially the wholly unique tacos Arabes, unlike anything else you’ll find in a Chicago taqueria. Stuffed with juicy spit-roasted pork and onions and dressed simply with chipotle sauce in a soft flour tortilla, the texture, flavor and technique involved are reminiscent of Middle Eastern shawarma, smoky pork morsels and all.

Big Star: Tacos at Big Star are more than an essential nosh, they’re a rite of passage for Chicagoans. Perpetually packed, Big Star is worth the wait at least once to feast your way through tacos, chips, guacamole and pitchers of tangy margaritas. The al pastor is what it’s best known for tacowise, and rightfully so. Enrobed in warm, freshly pressed tortillas, each taco contains a bundle of spit-roasted pork, grilled pineapple, onions and cilantro.

Antique Taco: When it comes to contemporary Mexican food, Antique Taco reigns supreme in the city. Along with its wall of antiques for sale, the Wicker Park eatery (there’s also a newer location in Bridgeport and an outpost in Revival Food Hall) thinks outside the box with novel tacos, sides, drinks and plates. There’s plenty to choose from, but be sure to try the potato-poblano taco, a mix of queso, smoked paprika, chipotle cream, scallions and crunchy potato skins that altogether tastes like a loaded baked potato.

L’Patron: In recent years, Logan Square’s L’Patron reached a fever pitch of popularity, necessitating a move to larger digs further west. The crowds aren’t wrong either. Served simply with raw onions and cilantro, these are tacos at their purest, especially the smoky carne asada.

Takito Kitchen: One of the most inventive tacos in town can be found at this Wicker Park restaurant and bar, where the modern Mexican food maximizes fresh, local ingredients and incorporates flavors from around the globe. Case in point: The fish taco is as tasty as it is colorful. Wrapped in a purple-hued hibiscus-infused tortilla, it’s made with crispy fish (the variety of fish changes depending on what’s fresh), cabbage slaw, coconut custard, basil and toasted coconut. Altogether, it tastes kind of like coconut shrimp, with added notes of cream and herbs.

Hotel Zachary is the Hottest New Dining Destination in Chicago

We’re living in the golden age of hotel dining in Chicago. Long gone are the days when hotels were stereotypical wastelands of mediocre food pandering to downtown tourists. Nowadays, rather, hotels have become hotbeds of culinary creativity, and havens for locals and out-of-towners alike. Just look at the recent success of perpetually packed crowd-pleasers like the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, the Ace Hotel, The Robey and the Kimpton Gray Hotel, all of which account for hot spots that transcend the bygone hotel stigma, like Cherry Circle RoomCindy’s, and Boleo.

Hotel Zachary

Hotel Zachary

The hottest and biggest hotel dining destination to date just made its grand entry in Wrigleyville of all places, signaling major changes for the north side neighborhood and marking a new era for dining and drinking by historic Wrigley Field. The Hotel Zachary is officially open for business, featuring a dizzying roster of restaurants and bars from some of the city’s finest hospitality pros.

Easily the buzziest dining addition to Hotel Zachary, the neighborhood’s first boutique property, is Big Star. A new location for the Wicker Park original, this is an even bigger Big Star, with two floors and seating for hundreds for indoors and outside. Considering how endlessly crowded and popular the Wicker Park outpost is, renowned as one of the city’s coolest patios and best destinations for tacos and margaritas, this is sure to be a home run for the baseball-loving neighborhood. For the new location, One Off Hospitality went big — the space spans 9,000-sq.-ft., including an 80-seat patio overlooking the ballpark. Inside, decor harkens to the original location, featuring honky-tonk vibes inspired by California taqueria traditions. Upstairs, you’ll find a 20-seat bar and room for private and semi-private events. Both floors boast retractable siding to help meld the outdoors with the interior. Food-wise, it’s safe to expect the same menu of staples that has made the brand such a smash hit with locals and travelers alike. Housemade tortillas lay the framework for tacos like al pastor, Baja fish and panzo. One new menu addition is Big Star’s “hot chips,” a mashup of nachos and chilaquiles, wherein handmade tortilla chips are tossed in arbol salsa and layered with sour cream, radishes, onions and cilantro. Also new to the Wrigleyville spinoff: TVs. Considering its proximity to Wrigley Field, it’s no surprise that sports TV will play a role here, displayed on eight retractable screens during game days.



It isn’t only expansions, though. The most exciting original concept coming to the hotel is a cocktail-focused spot from Folkart Restaurant Management, the group behind hits like Billy Sunday and A10Mordecai is a bi-level bar and restaurant that’s sure to put its own distinct stamp on Wrigleyville’s evolving dining and drinking landscape. Alex Bachman oversees a bar that features one of the country’s largest selections of rare and vintage spirits, drawing inspiration from across the globe for drinks utilizing everything from Scotch and Amaro to all-American whiskey. Most interesting is Mordecai’s food program, which is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Jared Wentworth (nee Longman & EagleRegards to Edith). His menu will be a refined American-inspired one, designed to compliment the Americana vibes of the neighborhood. He’s focusing on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients for a lineup of modern tavern-inspired dishes, snacks and entrees.

Additionally, the hotel is also home to the Alma Room, a private event space and lounge that opens to the public for breakfast, and Dutch & Doc’s, a new venture from Boka Restaurant Group that’ll be housed adjacent to the property with its own address and a menu of steaks, seafood and pasta by the venerable Chris Pandel.

Chicago’s 2018 James Beard Nominees

A’s List: Get a Taste of Chicago’s 2018 James Beard Nominees

Chef Lee Wolen of Boka restaurant

Chef Lee Wolen of Boka

Another year, another class of James Beard nominees from Chicago. Some names you’ll recognize as previous nominees, while others are new in the game. Nevertheless, if you haven’t checked them out by now, it’s time to make a reservation. Here’s our cheat sheet on what to eat and drink at each sweet spot.

Another year, another class of James Beard nominees from Chicago. Some names you’ll recognize as previous nominees, while others are new in the game. Nevertheless, if you haven’t checked them out by now, it’s time to make a reservation. Here’s our cheat sheet on what to eat and drink at each sweet spot.


Why we love it. A world-class restaurant on its own, Boka is situated next door to Alinea in the heart of Lincoln Park’s theater district. Since Lee Wolen’s arrival as executive chef in 2014, the new American-styled eatery’s garnered all sorts of prestigious accolades from the likes of Michelin, Food & Wine and others. For 2018, they’re up for four Beard awards: Chef Wolen for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category; Meg Galus for “outstanding pastry chef”; “outstanding restaurateurs” for BOKA partners Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm; and “outstanding service” for Boka. The last one is particularly notable as a recent diner to the restaurant was so impressed with the food and service that he tipped staffers $2,000 in cash on a more than $700 meal. He tipped $300 to the waitstaff and then handed each kitchen staff member a crisp $100 bill.

What to eat. Boka is best experienced by ordering its nine-course tasting menu. It’s seasonal, at the chefs’ discretion and always full of surprises. Not in the mood for such a fancy feast and over-the-top production? Another top recommendation is the whole-roasted, dry-aged duck for two. It’s dry aged for 21 days, which brings out the best possible flavors, and when it arrives to your table hand carved, it’s accompanied by grilled foie gras sausage, sweet creamed corn, a fresh salad and house-made bread.


Why We Love It. The Poseys are the epitome of a culinary power couple–without the pretension. Though they separately boast a host of high-profile awards (Anna was StarChefs’ Rising Pastry Star for 2015 and David was part of the Blackbird team when the restaurant won a Michelin star in 2014), they couldn’t be humbler. They allow their food to speak for them. The Poseys are up for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category at Beard.

What to eat. Elske offers two menus, tasting and a la carte, and both switch up regularly. Some staples: sweet potato dumplings with braised kale, dill and crispy shallots; lightly grilled lobster terrine with fennel, blood orange and rye bread; and crispy veal sweetbreads.

Elske offers tasting and a la carte menus. (Photo: Elske)

Elske offers tasting and a la carte menus.

Fat Rice

Why We Love It. Husband-and-wife team Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo have created a tiny culinary empire at the corner of Diversey and Sacramento, in Logan Square. Fat Rice, The Bakery at Fat Rice and The Ladies’ Room flow seamlessly into one another. Fat Rice, of course, is the flagship of the three. Its culinary influences range from Portugal to the island nation of Macau. Conlon draws upon his Portuguese heritage and travels to many exotic nations for inspiration. Conlon competes against fellow Chicagoans in the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category at Beard.

What to eat. One of Fat Rice’s specialties is arroz gordo, which literally means “fat rice” in Macanese. Their version features jasmine rice laced with sofrito, chorizo and salted duck. It is then topped with curried thighs, char siu pork, linguiça sausage, prawns, steamed clams, tea eggs, chicken-fat-fried croutons, olives and pickled chillies.


Why We Love It. Lula Cafe chef/owner Jason Hammel takes the reins at Marisol, located in the space formerly occupied by Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. Situated on the first level of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, it’s surrounded by an immersive art environment by artist Chris Ofili. The menu is hyper-seasonal, filled with bright flavors that match perfectly with the artwork. That’s due in part to the talents of Sarah Rinkavage, a James Beard Award “rising star chef of the year” finalist.

What to eat. Dishes that caught our eye this season? White sesame risotto with white asparagus, spring onion and stracchino cheese; shaved Brussels sprouts topped with smoked whitefish; and fried quail with cashew butter and smoked date honey.

Marisol is surrounded by Chris Ofili's artwork.

Marisol is surrounded by Chris Ofili’s artwork.


Why We Love It. The tiny, award-winning 40-seat restaurant serves globally inspired, Korean American fare in Avondale. Parachute’s menu is designed to be shared, and dishes are proportionate to ordering a variety of items for the table. They’re so serious about seasonality that the menu sometimes changes nightly. Owners and wife-and-husband team Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark compete against fellow Chicagoans in the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category at Beard.


What to eat. Always start a meal with the baked potato bing bread that’s been fried in a cast-iron skillet. The Korean specialty snack is always on the menu and arrives to the table pipping hot and filled with scallions and cheddar bacon. But don’t fill up on it because you’ll want to save room for dessert: sourdough beignets stuffed with peanuts and huckleberry jam.


Why We Love It. This is the more price-conscientious effort of Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, as it serves casual fare in a far less intimidating setting than their crown jewel Alinea restaurant. Roister is where guests get to sample their versions of fried chicken sandwiches, steak and eggs, and shrimp ‘n’ grits as alt rock and old-school hip-hop pound the speakers.

What to eat. During dinner is where Roister truly shines as Executive Chef Andrew Brochu—a two-time Beard nominee including this year for the “Best Chef: Great Lakes” category—cranks out a global menu of universal favorites taken to the next level. The highlighted dishes are recommended to be shared between two to six people: the 32-ounce, 30-day, dry-aged Porterhouse; a whole braised, poached and fried chicken; and Rohan duck served with Carolina Gold rice.


Chicago Weekly Planner: Chef’s Dinners, Cocktail Class & Late-night

Chicago Weekly Planner:

Chef's Weekly Planner at Bistro Campagne

Chef’s Weekly Planner at Bistro Campagne

Chef’s Dinners at Bistro Campagne

In case you needed another reason to revisit one of Lincoln Square’s most enduring gems, Bistro Campagne just rolled out a new monthly dinner series that promises to get guests a front-row seat to all the culinary action. Executive chef Luke Creagon and beverage director Alex Uribe have created the “Chef’s Dinner at the Bar” series, taking place on the third Thursday of each month. For each event, the intimate 12-person affair (divvied into two seatings) features a three-course dinner menu with cocktail pairings inspired by France’s influence on dining and culture across the world. As the name suggests, seatings take place at the restaurant’s bar at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The next dinner takes place April 26, so be sure and snag one of the reservations via phone.

Weekly Planner

Cocktail Class at Entente

In other bar news, Lakeview’s Michelin-starred Entente invites guests behind the bar for an intimate cocktail-shaking shindig on April 22. Courtesy of head bartender Ryan Hoffman, the event is a unique opportunity for guests to learn how to mix and shake and muddle some of the restaurant’s cocktails, followed by tastings of three to four drinks. From making their own syrups to learning about bitters, every step of the mixology process will be spotlighted. Seating is very limited and tickets are $75 per person. Reservations can be made by calling Entente, and each guest will leave with a gift bag of mini spirit bottles. The event takes place from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Monday Specials at Waydown

If you’d rather just get right to drinking, Waydown has a new Monday promo that should help take the sting out of the work week. The esteemed cocktail bar, located on the roof of the Ace Hotel, just added a new promo called “$6 Mondays,” wherein drinks are steeply discounted and happy hour runs all day long on items like the Waydown burger and cocktails like daiquiris, gimlets and Manhattans. Also look for more casual drinks like Old Style, Founder’s All Day IPA and Estrella Jalisco.

Late-night Hours at Bar Biscay

There’s a new late-night dining destination in West Town, thanks to the recent arrival of Bar Biscay. The coastal-inspired restaurant, which features a menu of French and Spanish dishes and drinks, just instated late hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 11:00 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays until midnight. Dishes to savor include shareable pintxos like gougeres with garlic aioli, scallop crudo and wild mushrooms with runny eggs. Additionally, if you’re just looking for a nightcap, the bar is open until 1:00 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday., with plenty of cocktails, wines and vermouth on tap.


Weekly Planner: Cooking Classes and New Brunche Locations

The Moonlighter Launches Brunch

One of the newest brunch menus in town can now be savored at Logan Square newcomer The Moonlighter. Available every Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:00 a.m., brunch features inventive comfort fare by chef Mickey Neeley, whose menu boasts the likes of corn flake-crusted bananas Foster French toast with vanilla bean pudding and a country breakfast burger with fried beef patties (!), bacon, American cheese and sausage gravy. This being a bar after all, it’s no surprise that the brunch cocktail game is strong as well. Look for the Winter Shield, a low-ABV option made with Cynar, sherry, lemon and soda water; and the Carthay Boulevardier with High West Double Rye whiskey, Contratto aperitif, Bonal quinquina aperitif wine and Cocchi Torino vermouth.


Cooking Class at Commons Club

Class is always fun when you get to eat your work. And you don’t need to worry about detention. Commons Club is in the midst of a cooking class series titled “Cooked!”, with the next event taking place March 30. The series if designed for both kitchen newbies and culinary pros, inviting attendees into the Virgin Hotels Chicago’s kitchen to cook alongside chef Moosah. Each class includes a themed globally inspired lesson with cooking demonstration and three-course chef’s dinner, a sake shot and a cocktail of your choice, plus an apron and cooking diary to take home. The cost is $85 per person and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant. The next classes take place April 27 and May 25. Brunch


French Toast @ Moonlighter

French Toast @ Moonlighter

Happy Hour at Tack Room

The latest happy hour in town can be found in Pilsen’s historic Thalia Hall, where the saloon-themed Tack Room now features a weekly promo on Fridays from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. During this time, guests can sip on $8 cocktails like Mezcal Corpse Revivers and Mistral Pisco Sours, the latter made with chocolate and espresso pisco, plus allspice liqueur, lemon and egg whites. To further entice, Tack Room’s aptly dubbed “Happiest Hour” also features live Latin music by local bassist Jaime Garza.



New Brunch at Francesca’s on Chestnut

In other brunch news, Francesca’s on Chestnut has upped the ante on the weekend tradition with a new menu all its own. Just in time for the turn of the seasons, fresh menu additions include shrimp and grits with Italian polenta, South Carolina shrimp and tomatoes; arancini Benedict with prosciutto, poached egg and hollandaise; and rigatoni alla Paesana with roasted sausage, wild mushrooms, peas and a light tomato cream sauce.