From clandestine sushi bars to a legendary Fulton Market pioneer, here’s what opened and shut this month in Chicago.
Naoki Sushi: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises rolled out a clandestine sushi nook nestled behind their acclaimed Intro in Lincoln Park’s Belden-Stratford. Named for sushi chef Naoki Nakashima, the pint-sized dining room features both classic and contemporary sushi creations in the form of stunningly fresh nigiri, sashimi, maki, and composed plates.
2300 Lincoln Park West
Bunny, the Micro Bakery: Fine dining wunderkind Iliana Regan honed in on unique and whimsical baked goods for her adorably named Lakeview bakery. The tiny spot features everything from whiskey-glazed doughnuts to housemade cereal, loaves of bread, mushroom tea, and even foie gras shaped in owl molds for toast.
2928 N. Broadway St.
Loba Pastry + Coffee: Coffee- and pastry-lovers mourned the loss of Bad Wolf Coffee in Lakeview last year, but those sorrows were quickly drowned in Kyoto-style cold-brew coffee in the form of Loba Pastry + Coffee. Aptly translated in Spanish as “she-wolf,” Loba fills the void quite nicely with its thoughtful coffee and tea programs, along with truly special pastries by Val Ballado.
3422 N. Lincoln Ave.
Blackwood BBQ: The third location of this burgeoning local barbecue favorite made its debut in Lakeview. Expect the same tried-and-true formula of well-crafted simplicity that made the Loop and West Loop locations so beloved. Along with brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, the Lakeview location added new menu items like chipotle potato salad, meat platters, and craft beer.
962 W. Belmont Ave.
Pork & Mindy’s: Food Network’s Sandwich King Jeff Mauro officially got into the restaurant business with Pork & Mindy’s in Bucktown, the first of what he plans to become a chain of casual barbecue restaurants. The formula may be fast-casual, but the sandwiches are slow-smoked to meaty perfection, including the Bao to the Pork with hickory-smoked pork shoulder, pickled daikon and carrot, fresh cucumber, Asian plum sauce, and jalapeño relish.
1623 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Nothing Bundt Cakes: This new Lincoln Park bakery features bundt cakes and nothing but. Any questions? They’re available in all sorts of sizes, from tiered cakes to cupcake-like “bundtlets.”
1953 N. Clybourn Ave.
Whiskey Business: Cheeky, retro cocktails are the order of the day at this Wicker Park newcomer. The interior motif resembles that of an arcade with its dim lighting and glowing neon blue, while the menu sports comfort food (much of it fried) and cocktails with names like MacGuyver, Milli Vanilli, and Champagne Supernova.
1367 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Cafe Marie-Jeanne: Humboldt Park just got a whole lot cozier with this all day cafe and bistro. Cheffed by a vet of Rootstock just across the street, Cafe Marie-Jeanne operates as a casual cafe and grab-and-go haven by day, morphing into a dimly lit, rustic American bistro by night.
1001 N. California Ave.
Packed: “Dumplings Re-imagined” is the enticing tagline of this casual Hyde Park. Doughy delicacies come in all shapes and forms, thanks to acclaimed chef Mike Sheerin. The globe-trotting menu covers everything from pastrami dumplings with pumpernickel and violet mustard to butternut squash dumplings in curry wrappers and even rice pudding dumplings. There’s even cinnamon-spiked Meyer lemonade on tap courtesy of Harvest Juicery.
1321 E. 57th St.
3 Greens Market: Powerhouse Hogsalt Hospitality group went big with this multi-tiered concept in River North, where an enormous salad bar and chic lounge area share space with burgers, pastrami, doughnuts, and more, all culled from other dining established under the hit-making Hogsalt umbrella.
354 W. Hubbard St.
Mad Social: The daughter of famed Chicago restaurateur Phil Stefani, Gina Stefani is ready to make a name for herself in the local restaurant scene with her newly opened West Loop venture. Conveniently close to the United Center, the cozy gathering place is dark, comfy, and decidedly rustic with its emphasis on wood, leather, and taxidermy. There’s only a couple TVs here for sports, keeping the focus on the socialization aspect, the sense of community, and of course the eclectic food menu, which sports (no pun intended) something for everyone.
1140 W. Madison St.
Raw Bar & Grill: What’s “old” is new again, as Raw Bar & Grill reopened in Wrigleyville following some months of renovations and on the on-boarding of a new executive chef. Pete McGarritty has helped freshen up the lunch, dinner, and late-night menus, infusing a variety of international flavors into this longtime standby. This includes everything from West African ceviche and blackened ostrich to alligator with mushroom sauce and less outre items like tuna poke tacos, Persian chicken, and fresh oysters.
3720 N. Clark St.
Annex: Located 18 stories up in a Streeterville high-rise, surrounded by hospital buildings on the Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus, Annex isn’t a cocktail bar you’ll just stumble across. You’ve got to seek this newcomer out, and seek out you should. The high-class cocktails at this hidden bar are worth the added effort. They concept hails from Danny Meyer of Union Square Events and Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon of Best Bar in the World, all of whom worked together on GreenRiver, located on the same floor. The cocktail menu is themed after a particular flavor seasonally, like “Spice” for winter.
259 E. Erie St., 18th Floor
Snaggletooth: People love to bemoan the lack of quality bagels and cured fish in Chicago. But now thanks to this Lakeview newcomer, those naysayers are starting to get drowned out. The casual counter-service fish market and eatery is an homage to old-school delis, wherein seafood is at the forefront. Much of it gets cured for use on tartines, griddled bagels, and bialys, along with seafood charcuterie platters, rice bowls, and even savory oatmeal.
2819 N. Southport Ave.
Moto: The biggest loss for Chicago’s restaurant scene is the legendary Moto, which earned acclaim along with shock and awe over its 12-year run on Fulton Market. Led by the late culinary wizard Homaro Cantu, Moto rose to international fame for its boundary-pushing molecular gastronomy and wholly unique presentations. The restaurant sold to Alinea Group, which owns nearby Next, The Aviary, and forthcoming Roister.
945 W. Fulton Market
Paris Club Bistro & Bar: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises pulled the plug on its contemporary French bar and restaurant, opting to re-concept as an eventual Italian restaurant called il Porcellino. Former Intro chef Aaron Martinez has been tapped to helm the kitchen, so that bodes well, and should set the restaurant apart from the miscellany of Italian restaurants saturating the area.
59 W. Hubbard St.
Epic: River North took a bit of a hit this past month with the closing of another juggernaut. The multi-story, multi-tiered Epic called it quits on Hubbard as well. But fear not, the owners of nearby Hubbard Inn have taken over the space, with plans to implement something new.
112 W. Hubbard St.
Bascule: Kudos to their efforts, but Jason Prah and Scott Harney just couldn’t make their wine bar work on Taylor Street. The ambitious and crafty Bascule tried to set itself apart from the red sauce melee in the heavily Italian neighborhood, but closed after one year in business.
1421 W. Taylor St.
Pizza East: Some shifts are happening at Soho House Chicago, where one of the restaurants accessible to the public has closed for re-concepting. The plan is to expand lobby lounge The Allis into the Pizza East space in some capacity. It’ll join existing restaurant Chicken & Farm Shop and cocktail-focused Fox Bar.
113 N. Green St.
The Mexican: The folks behind Taco Joint branched out in 2015 with The Mexican in Lincoln Park, a short-lived experiment focusing more on regional, homey Mexican cuisine. Now, they’ve opted to shutter The Mexican and re-open imminently as BBQ Joint, focusing on Mexican-accented barbecue.
1967 N. Halsted St.
Bee & Tea: The bubble officially burst on this would-be bubble tea franchise. The folks behind Forever Yogurt wanted to open several of these bubble tea-and-bao outlets in Chicago, but instead they’ve closed both their Bucktown and Lincoln Park locations.
818 W. Fullerton Ave.
1843 W. North Ave.
The Brass Monkey: The ’70’s-inspired party is over at The Brass Monkey. This sprawling homage to retro, Liberace-esque Americana has closed in Fulton Market. At least to the dining public, as the restaurant has transitioned into a private events space for now.
401 N. Morgan St.
Quay: This massive, group-friendly restaurant, lounge, and bar in Streeterville quietly closed earlier this month.
465 E. Illinois St.
Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush: It’s the end of an era for one downtown steakhouse, as Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush closed its doors after a 15-year run.
437 N. Rush St.