10 Hot New Chicago Restaurants That Opened During COVID-19

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At Nobu Japanese restaurant in the West Loop, food and beverage manager James Frazey learned that 10 degrees was the cutoff for people eating out. The gourmet restaurant Ever, which was recently awarded two Michelin stars, has come up with take-out options and started serving burgers after the indoor dining ban last fall.

But now the operators of these new restaurants are seeing the reservation slots fill up quickly. In 2020, 184 restaurants opened in Chicago, up from 262 in 2019, according to RestaurantData.com. So far this year 86 have opened. Here’s a look at some of the new dining venues:

Andros Tavern
2542 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Chef Doug Psaltis was fed up with the “Disneyland version” of Greece described by many restaurants. Psaltis and his wife, pastry chef Hsing Chen, have teamed up with Andros, a restaurant he says “screams from today’s Athens.” “I feel like we’re ready for the real story,” he says. Psaltis, who is of Greek descent, has already worked with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises for almost 10 years (he is the P of RPM). To accompany dishes such as spicy whipped feta and phyllo spanakopita, Andros Taverna also serves an extensive Greek wine list.

Apolonia
2201 S. Michigan Ave.

The South Loop Restaurant opened in mid-April in a newly built space serving coastal European and Mediterranean cuisine. Chef and owner Stephen Gillanders is from critically acclaimed SKY, and Managing Director Marta Suchocka was most recently at Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat.

Never
1340 Fulton Street West

The gourmet restaurant from Chef Curtis Duffy and co-owner Michael Muser has just been awarded two Michelin stars. Ever serves diners eight to 10 courses over approximately 2.5 hours. The price per person is $ 285, excluding tips and drinks. Gastronomy has been one of the restaurant categories most devastated by the pandemic. Never opened during the summer, then launched take-out options when indoor dining closed last fall. He’s also started selling burgers from a nearby window dubbed Reve Burger, which Muser says will remain open. Never started to seat diners again in February and is open Tuesday through Saturday. Menus change frequently.

Hinoki Sushiko
1465 W. Willow St.

On the first floor of this two-story restaurant down the hallway of Elston Avenue, a 50-seat lounge serves Chef Otto Phan’s version of traditional Japanese street food, as well as beer, wine, and sake. The second level is a 40-person omakase sushi bar that only serves one seat per night and serves chef-prepared courses. Phan is known for Kyoten Sushi Restaurant, which like other omakase bars in town is smaller. Hinoki Sushiko is made to serve larger crowds.

Nobu
854 W. Randolph St.

The Japanese restaurant opened on the ground floor of the long-awaited and Robert De Niro-backed Nobu Hotel in October and offered take-out and served hotel guests to their rooms throughout. ‘winter. Being located in a hotel turned out to be a huge plus during the almost three months that restaurants were closed inside, said James Frazey, director of food and beverage. Now, diners can eat in the sushi bar or restaurant dining room, or head to the rooftop of the Nobu Hotel Chicago. The rooftop has a more lounge vibe, with shared plates and cocktails.

Robert and son
4229 N. Lincoln Ave.

The French restaurant in the Center Nord district has recently been launched with a fixed take-out menu. Once its patio opens in mid-May, that menu will expand, says owner and chef Rob Shaner. Think heavy appetizers, cold cuts and cheeses, mussels and more. Shaner, who spent his final year of high school in Paris, wants his restaurant to recall the French dishes he shared with his family in the 1990s, with fewer dishes and larger portions. “I wanted a place that was from another era and had the kind of food I ate when I was there,” says Shaner, who named the restaurant after her late father. Shaner was previously Executive Chef at Royal Grocer & Co. and The Kennison. Robert et Fils replaced the Japanese-inspired restaurant Kitsune. Shaner hopes to launch indoor dining in mid-June.

Rosemary
932 Fulton Street West

Joe Flamm, former executive chef of Michelin-starred Spiaggia, opened his first Rose Mary restaurant at the end of April. Although it was a year late with the COVID delays, Flamm had dreamed of opening his own restaurant since the age of 16. “It’s a big problem in general” to open his own restaurant, he says. “But especially now. We were able to weather this storm, and it didn’t sink us.” The Adriatic restaurant serves Italian and Croatian cuisine. (Flamm’s wife has a Croatian heritage.) Reservations at Rose Mary are quick; try to grab seats at the bar before the dinner rush. Soon the terrace.

Testaccio
2456 N. California Ave.

Testaccio owes its name to a district of Rome which, according to the owner, Aldo Zaninotto, reminds it of Logan Square. “There is a connection,” he says, noting the food-focused scenes in both locations and other similarities. Testaccio focuses on Roman-style cuisine, much of it cooked in a wood-fired oven. It complements Zaninotto’s other restaurant, the popular Osteria Langhe, which serves northern Italian cuisine about one mile on Armitage Avenue. When Testaccio opened last summer, there was only dining on the terrace. It relaunched in February with limited indoor meals. The executive chef is Jacob Solomon, who helped open Dusek’s Board & Beer and is a veteran of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants.

Windy
230 N. Michigan Ave.

The French brasserie is slated to open in the Carbide & Carbon Building on Michigan Avenue in mid-May. At the helm, chef Donald Young, who won a Michelin star at Temporis in Noble Square. Young trained for six months in France while pursuing a culinary art diploma. Venteux will serve iconic French cuisine such as steak frites, whole duck and oysters, as well as take-out lunch options. Venteux will be on the first floor of the Pendry Chicago hotel and will replace the former tenant Free Rein.

Verve Wine + Provisions
2349 N. Lincoln Ave.

Verve comes to Lincoln Park through sister bottle stores in New York and San Francisco; this place adds a restaurant with a small bistro inspired menu. The chef is Ryan Epp, whose resume includes stints at Roister, Alinea, Per Se in New York and at the two Michelin star restaurant Miramar on Spain’s Costa Brava.

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