The New Restaurant Rows
In terms of "restaurant rows," everyone knows the West Loop stretch of Randolph Street is a Mecca for dining and drinking. Even Fulton Market a couple blocks north has filled in nicely, and continues to do so. But throughout Chicago, different stretches of streets are filling in with new restaurants and bars, forming all new "restaurant rows" in varying neighborhoods. Here are some to hit up now or keep an eye on:
Diversey Avenue: After the core of Logan Square got popularized with spots like Longman & Eagle, Reno, and Jam, businesses eventually starting shifting northward towards the Avondale border. The stretch of Diversey Avenue between Kedzie and California has since filled in nicely with some serious dining destinations, one of which has emerged as one of the hottest restaurants in the country. That spot is Fat Rice, a restaurant hinged on the wholly unique concept of Macanese cuisine, exemplified with handy dexterity by chef Abe Conlon in dishes like sambal eggplant, house-cured salt cod spread, Portuguese chicken, cured Chinese sausage, and some of the best potstickers anywhere. East a few blocks is L'Patron, an unassuming taqueria that has grown to double its space and become known as one of the best spots in town for tacos and burritos. Right nearby is Masa Azul, a more modern Mexican spot, complete with a serious tequila and mezcal program. One of the newest additions to the Diversey stretch is Son of a Butcher, a meaty tavern with an engaging menu rife with duck heart, bone marrow, lamb tartare, beef tongue, chicken confit, hog Wellington, and more. In terms of drinking, the crown jewel of Diversey is now Lost Lake, a tiki bar helmed by superstar mixologist Paul McGee and Land and Sea Dept. These are some of the mightiest tiki tipples in all the land, featuring a dynamic menu of bracing beverages served in a beachy, tropical, and outright transportive cavern of a space.
Augusta Boulevard: Far from any train station, it's a curious thing that the nexus of California and Augusta in Humboldt Park has emerged as one of the most up-and-coming dining and drinking nooks in Chicago. The lack of public transit certainly hasn't hindered development though, because the stretch of Augusta from that intersection to Western has absolutely erupted with action. Rootstock is one of the original forebears of the changing tide, serving up wine, craft beer, and exceptional "bar food" and plates for years now on California. What's newer is what has happened on opposing sides of that intersection. Haywood Tavern brought burgers, lobster rolls, and European-inspired fare to the other side of California. Acclaimed restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff took over the esteemed California Clipper cocktail bar and re-opened it last year, complete with a mammoth cocktail book and periodic variety shows on a small stage. Around the corner from the Clipper, Sodikoff opened C.C. Ferns, a kitchy coffee bar accentuated by a cigar wall, wine, boozy steamers, and couches and paraphernalia that looked like they were plucked from the set of That '70's Show. And I mean that in a very good way. Sodikoff is also rumored to be planning a new restaurant in a former auto-body shop across Augusta from C.C. Ferns. At the very corner of California and Augusta, sandwiched between the bar and the cafe, is Spinning J, an old fashioned soda fountain and bakery I recently extolled for all its beautiful cookies, pies, and housemade sodas. Still to come at this intersection is Calaugusta Cafe and Grocer, a cafe/bistro/grocery concept going into the former Knockbox space from a former Rootstock chef. Further east down Augusta, you'll see a slew of other spots at the Western intersection, including French-German steakhouse Boeufhaus, sustainable chicken sandwich spot Leghorn, and beloved cocktail bar Sportsman's Club.
Wabash Avenue: In the downtown area, Wabash has long fallen into the shadows along its more popular sibling streets Michigan and State. But thanks to a flurry of activity in recent months, the street under the El tracks is stepping into the spotlight. The Virgin Hotel, the first and currently only Virgin Hotel in the world, had a lot to do with that. Poised at Wabash and Lake, the cheeky and contemporary hotel brought with it a handful of cool new dining and drinking options, like Miss Ricky's diner, Two Zero Three coffee bar/wine bar, The Commons Club restaurant, and a chic rooftop bar on the 26th floor. Further down Wabash, you'll find Chicago's first location of Good Stuff Eatery, the D.C.-based burger concept from Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn. Across the street is The Goddess and Baker, a new bakery-driven concept from the successful Goddess and Grocer collective, as well as a new Protein Bar.
Armitage Avenue: Back towards Logan Square, new restaurants and bars are swarming all over Armitage Avenue, especially the portion that runs from California westward to Kedzie and beyond. Starting at the eastern terminus, esteemed chef and Topolobampo alum Brian Enyart is just about ready to launch his highly anticipated Mexican-inspired restaurant, Dos Urban Cantina. Parson's Chicken & Fish, situated at the corner of Armitage and Humboldt, is still one of the most popular spots in the city, adored for its Negroni slushies, its fried chicken, and its sprawling patio. Towards Armitage and Kedzie, you have Scofflaw cocktail bar, along with sister spot, Sink|Swim, the first restaurant-focused concept from the folks behind Scofflaw. Cemitas Puebla just opened a pop-up location across the street on Armitage, and the Scofflaw peeps are even planning a new bar there as well.