Chicago, like the rest of the world, is asking… what now? Spring and summer provided hope with COVID-19 restrictions lifted and the promise of vaccinations. The city’s restaurants and bars were packed.
Then the other shoe dropped — not enough people protected themselves and the vulnerable. The unvaccinated helped the disease spread with an assist from the more contagious delta variant.
The city backtracked and reinstated its indoor mask mandate in August. That’s affected restaurants with more people staying home. The labor shortage adds more complications. The workforce wants better salaries. Some restaurant owners are listening and upping their benefits. In private, others are hoping for a return to the pre-pandemic world — they’re banking on workers to return to their jobs this fall and winter.
Beyond slower service, restaurants don’t have enough staff to open new projects. Opening dates, always subject to change, have been sliding back with more frequency. The picture is much sunnier than it was in January, but some of the positive momentum from earlier in the year has been slowed.
Still, Chicago’s restaurant scene has several reasons for optimism this season. Restaurant owners want to debut their delayed projects before the holidays, so there’s a new sense of urgency to avoid a winter opening. So put down those pumpkin spice lattes and read Eater Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings for the fall.
Listed in alphabetical order.
Address: 1934 W. Chicago Avenue, Ukrainian Village
Key Player: Zubair Mohajir
Aman is a South Asian restaurant with fast casual and fine dining components from Zubair Mohajir, the chef behind Wazwan food stall and virtual restaurant. Diners can expect American favorites with Indian twists like halal burgers and fried chicken during the day. At night, Mohajir wants to do more composed dishes, reminiscent of his fine dining pop-up series, including a tasty lamb nihari momo. Building delays have pushed the opening back. While Mohajir attempts to get the project back on track, he’s popping up in Wicker Park at the former Mana Food Bar space, 1742 W. Division Street. There’s still hope for Aman’s fall opening date. In the meantime, the Division Street space will also welcome pop-ups from some of Chicago’s more popular chefs. Details will be released at a later date.
Address: 1000 W. Armitage Avenue, Lincoln Park
Key Players: Brendan Sodikoff, Hogsalt Hospitality
The signage is up at the northwest corner of Sheffield and Armitage. Hogsalt hasn’t shared much about this casual gastropub that lies near DePaul University’s main campus. Brendan Sodikoff has said the staffing shortages has delayed the opening. Hogsalt restaurants (Au Cheval, Green Street Smoked Meats, Bavette’s, Trivoli Tavern) have huge followings, so any of their openings are sure to attract interest. Hogsalt is hopeful for Armitage Ale House to open by October, but keep an eye out because the company is known for debuting new restaurants under the radar without fanfare.
Address: 116 W. Hubbard Street, River North
Key Players: Rina and Manish Mallick
The owners and operators of the Chicago location of Rooh, a successful Indian restaurant on Randolph Street, are scaling down a bit with the opening of their second restaurant. Bar Goa, as the name suggests, is more intimate and cocktail focused, with Goan street food adapted to an American bar (items like semolina-crusted fish and chips and green pea hummus with chorizo). The Mallicks took over the former Slurping Turtle space and plan for a September 29 opening. This is more causal than Rooh; music will play a bigger role and there’s a tropical beach vibe. Rina Mallick came up with this concept with the intention of opening other locations. She and her husband may soon have an announcement about a second iteration of Bar Goa in Chicago. Stay tuned.
Address: 4420 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, Bronzeville
Key Players: Eric Williams, Cecilia Cuff, Anika Ellison
Bronzeville continues to generate interest from locals who feel the neighborhood is a good place to build businesses that can serve South Side residents. There’s a particular void for Black-owned ventures, and Bronzeville Winery hopes to help. This is a wine bar and upscale restaurants with a chef’s counter from an ownership group that includes Silver Room owner Eric Williams (not to be confused with Virtue chef Erick Williams). They’re close to naming a new chef for the project and hope to open in mid-October.
Address: 1002 N. California Avenue, 1001 N. California Avenue, Humboldt Park
Key Players: The Orbit Group, Matt Troost, Kristina Magro, Ben Fasman
Chef Matt Troost opened Good Measure in River North and the venerable (and now closed) Three Aces off Taylor Street in Little Italy. He’s now eyeing two spaces that are across the street from one another in Humboldt Park to launch a new restaurant group. The Clipper is a storied dive bar with live music that’s gone through a few ownership changes (most recently Hogsalt). New ownership wants to keep it simple with classic cocktails and a Suntory Toki highball machine. Troost says there will be food served at the bar but has been reticent to share details.
When it comes to the second space, the former Cafe Marie-Jeanne, Troost is turning it in into an Italian restaurant “where you can bring your mom” or a date. Eventually they’ll add weekend brunch service. Replacing CMJ, it has giant shoes to fill. Time will tell if Troost and company can keep the good vibes created by the past tenant, one of the most beloved neighborhood restaurants in Chicago. Both concepts are hiring.
Address: 444 N. Wabash Avenue, River North
Key Players: Kevin Kelley
Kevin Kelley is a businessman and attorney who operates a popular Dallas restaurant. His second location will open in early October in River North. The restaurant promises a hip design where diners will want to be seen and photographed. The menu is centered around comfort food with fun twists, such as Hennessy glazes, a large selection of chicken and waffles, and over-the-top cocktails. Downtown Chicago hasn’t been welcoming to Black-owned businesses, so Kelley’s investment is a big deal. The restaurant could break a glass ceiling in convincing landlords and city officials to remove barriers that block opportunities for Black entrepreneurs. This is the former Benny’s Chop House space and reservations are open for an October debut.
Address: Unknown, Logan Square
Key Players: Jonathan Zaragoza
Jonathan Zaragoza, the chef whose family has run one of the city’s most remarkable restaurants — Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights — has a new project that features tacos and classic Mexico City dishes. This is a solo effort for the chef who had a pop-up in Hyde Park (El Oso). Zaragoza hasn’t shared much about his plans in Logan Square, but now says it will have a “great neighborhood vibe with a focus on all things CDMX” including agave spirits and cocktails. This is one of the more intriguing openings of the season.
Address: 15 W. Washington
- Bhoomi (Indian, had an operation inside the Hatchery, a Garfield Park business incubator)
- Bianca’s BBQ (Chicago-style barbecue, a spinoff of Bianca’s Burgers from Revival Food Hall)
- The Budlong (Nashville hot chicken chain)
- Edzo’s Burger Shop (Evanston’s griddled burger specialists)
- Happy Lobster (Spinoff of the food truck)
- Isla Pilipina (New location for beloved Filipino restaurant that closed in 2020 in Lincoln Square)
- Pita Yeero (Greek and Mediterranean wraps and bowls; a frequent Urbanspace partner)
- Plant Junkie (Salads)
- Roberta’s Pizza (Popular New York Neapolitan pizzeria)
- Spanglish (Burritos, tacos)
- Stan’s Donuts (Famous chain)
- Sushi Dokku (Spinoff of West Loop Japanese restaurant)
Urbanspace is a New York operator of food halls that has plans for two Chicago locations. They’ll import a few food stalls from their East Coast locations (the most notable is Roberta’s Pizza, a hip pizzeria surrounded by shipping containers in Brooklyn with artisan thin crusts). The Chicago location will feature two revivals: Isla Pilipina and Edzo’s, two restaurants that have been without city locations for years. The general manager for both locations is Gabriella Lenzi Littleton (her family owns Gene & Georgetti steakhouse). This is the city’s first new food hall that will open since the pandemic. The stalls will give downtown workers a badly new lunch option as they return to the office towers. There’s also a bar for happy hour, a ritual many observed after work in the times before March 2021. A second Urbanspace location, inside Willis Tower, should open in winter 2022.
Address: 2622 N. Clark Street
Key Players: Ari Levy, Matthew Brewer, Timothy Won, and Evelyn Morris.
Chicago’s most infamous hot dog stand has been dark since December. Then news broke that the hot dog stand would be getting a face lift. For passersby on Clark Street, it’s still business in the front with the familiar facade and signage. The same atmosphere where customers and workers engage in enchanting late-night exchanges with insults will remain intact. However, there’s a party in the back of the venue which is being transformed to include an 800-square-foot patio where alcoholic drinks will be served in a space that once was reserved for cars. The opening has been pushed back due to delta and supply chain problems. Ownership is hoping for a larger update soon. Beyond the classic Chicago char dogs and fries, look for boozy milkshakes and other new items. Early October is the latest ETA.
Address: Roosevelt Collection, 150 W. Roosevelt Road, South Loop
Key Players: David Zhao, robotic servers
The windows are plastered, but this restaurant, a spin-off of a Las Vegas restaurant, is finally coming to Chicago, reps say. This is a mostly Chinese restaurant that promises an immersive experience with art projections, music, and robotic servers that bring out food. The X Pot should open by the end of September. They’ll serve a $155 tasting menu for dinner featuring hot pot selections and A5 wagyu. The lunch option is $68. There’s also an a la carte bar menu that crossed Japanese, Korean, and Sichuan selections. Look for a September 22 opening date on the lakeside of the Roosevelt Collection development.
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