Now Playing

The Savory 62

From a luxurious fine dining restaurant cooked up by a former Alinea chef to an ode to food foraging where a wide open kitchen is just part of the charm, the hottest culinary trend in Chicago is, well, there isn’t just one. We’ve found 62 (all of them divine). With so many chefs tapping into their unique passions and talents, the city’s culinary scene is reinvigorating the plate with cutting-edge innovations, well-known favorites, creatively kicky cocktails and sweet-spot desserts. Hopefully, you’ve come hungry.

Grace's Curtis Duffy

Arctic char with crème fraîche and beets from The Lobby

10 MOST EXCITING NEW RESTAURANTS

1.Grace
Just when the food pundits have all but declared haute cuisine and its trimmings—multicourse tasting menus, pristine table linens, customized serving pieces and, yes, a hefty price tag—is on its way out, along comes this gem from award-winning chef Curtis Duffy (Charlie Trotter’s, Trio, Alinea, Avenues) to prove them wrong. Here, inside his serene 64-seat West Loop restaurant, Duffy and his army of chefs create progressive, ingredient-driven cuisine that’s as pretty to look at as it is to eat. Elegant, thought-provoking and delicious, Grace lives up to its name and then some. 652 W. Randolph St., 312.234.9494

2. Fat Rice
Macanese cuisine was never on our culinary radar before chef Abraham Conlon and GM Adrienne Lo opened this Logan Square charmer. Now that they have, we can’t stop thinking about the ginger-lime cauliflower, catfish and tofu stew, and chewy hand-rolled noodles. Memories of the Macau rice crisp dessert still haunt us, too. And judging from the crowds that cram into this tiny spot on a regular basis, we aren’t the only ones. 2957 W. Diversey Ave., 773.661.9170

3. La Sirena Clandestina
For a while there, chef John Manion’s culinary career seemed a bit like “Where’s Waldo?” with a lengthy resume that included places like Goose Island, Old Oak Tap and Branch 27. While we always enjoyed checking out what he was up to, we’re happier now that he’s settled down (fingers crossed) at his own spot. Sexy, hip and full of terrific riffs on traditional Brazilian dishes (Manion spent some time there as a kid), this Fulton Market spot is that restaurant everyone wishes was just around the corner. Welcome home, Manion. 954 W. Fulton Market, 312.226.5300

4. Belly Q
Experimenting with Asian ingredients is nothing new for chef Bill Kim, who’s been doing just that at Urbanbelly and Belly Shack. At his newest venture, the Korean-born Kim blurs the borders even more, to delicious results. His Thai-style fried chicken balances heat and a subtle sourness perfectly while a chilled soba salad refreshes. Tabletop grills mean you can cook your food yourself, but we’d rather save our energy for the late-night karaoke. Hitting the high notes, indeed. 1400 W. Randolph St., 312.563.1010

5. The Lobby
“Soulful” and “comforting” aren’t words typically used to describe fine dining. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at this Peninsula Chicago restaurant, where each beautifully plated dish from chef Lee Wolen is filled with ingredients that are cooked perfectly on their own and are even better when paired together. His now legendary whole roasted chicken with morels, marbled potatoes and brioche crumbs under its impossibly crisp skin is the best bird we’ve ever tasted. Designed for two, our server told us some diners have ordered it just for themselves. We think they’re on to something. 108 E. Superior St., 312.337.2888

6. Trenchermen
This Wicker Park restaurant took its sweet time opening (we imagine the supercreative interior design had something to do with it), but once it did there were plenty of terrific surprises to be found inside. Brothers Mike and Patrick Sheerin combine their unique culinary backgrounds (Blackbird and NYC’s wd-50 for Mike, the Signature Room for Patrick) to create a menu of inventive ingredient combinations and dishes that are playful but still seasonally focused. Their pickle tots appetizer quickly earned cult status, while brunch’s duck pastrami ramen is well on its way. See, good things really do come to those who wait. 2039 W. North Ave., 773.661.1540

7. Carriage House
Whoever said you can never go home again hasn’t been to this Wicker Park restaurant. Inside the streamlined space, chef Mark Steuer channels his days growing up in South Carolina to create a menu of tasty traditional and reimagined Southern favorites. There’s the fried chicken thigh that gets gussied up with a sous vide preparation. That ubiquitous dish of shrimp and grits takes on a deeper flavor here. And the low-country boil is so much more than its simple name suggests. Take that, Thomas Wolfe! 1700 W. Division St., 773.384.9700

8. Elizabeth
I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who didn’t know what to make of this teeny Lincoln Square restaurant when it first opened. After all, it’s from a self-taught chef with no real professional kitchen experience, and it’s pricey to boot. But what Iliana Regan lacks in bona fides, she more than makes up for in originality, which is reflected in the seasonal multicourse menu she offers. Focusing on a food-foraging philosophy, Regan creates dishes that are always eye-opening and, more often than not, delicious, too. 4835 N. Western Ave., 773.681.0651

9. Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
You could go to this beautifully designed steakhouse (from the same owners as Gilt Bar, Maude’s and Au Cheval) and actually order a steak. But it’s the non-red-meat dishes we find the most alluring. The smoked white fish Caesar salad makes the original seem like a waste of romaine; while the roasted half chicken with its crispy rosemary-flecked skin is poultry as it should be. Bavette’s Salad Bar & Poulet, perhaps? 218 W. Kinzie St., 312.624.8154

10. Sumi Robata Bar
We’ve never been truly down with that whole ‘less is more’ mantra. Until we went to this serenely chic River North spot from former Japonais chef Gene Kato. Each dish is prepared with a minimum of add-ons, letting the flavor of the main ingredient shine through, from the robata-grilled salmon with just a kiss of teriyaki sauce to the perfectly rare slices of tea-smoked duck. The small bowl of creamy housemade tofu with salmon roe speaks volumes. Look who’s a believer now. 702 N. Wells St., 312.988.7864

Click here to read more of "The Savory 62" in the digital edition of CS!