From massive food halls to anticipated new openings across town, Chicago’s food scene is sizzling this season.
Progressive Indian newcomer Rooh Chicago tempts with ayurveda-inspired cocktails like the Delhi 6 with whiskey and rose shrub. (Photo by Marc Fiorito/courtesy of Rooh Chicago)
The latest restaurant openings in Chicago mash up food and florals, make food hall decisions tougher and explore new territory (hello, upscale Indian!), as represented by the following trendsetters.
Look for katsu udon noodle soup from Urbanbelly at Time Out Market Chicago. (Photo by Uyen Tran/courtesy of Timeout Market Chicago)
Not one, not two, but five new food halls are muscling their way into Chicago’s robust market mix. The parent company of Politan Row (111 N. Aberdeen St.) has done St. Roch Markets in New Orleans and Miami before opening in the West Loop with Indonesian beef rendang and sambal shrimp and grits from Chris Reed of Bumbu Roux; Israeli hummus and salatim from Yosi Alhadif of LaShuk Street Food; pastries from Sandra Hall of Floriole; and, set in a shipping container, Perle beer garden.
In the nearby Fulton Market District, Fulton Galley (1115 W. Fulton) from Pittsburgh-based Galley Group combines a 30-seat bar running the length of the 12,000-square-foot space with five culinary stalls poised to incubate future stand-alone restaurants. Look for roast chicken, papaya salads and other Thai street food at Pink Salt by Palita Sriratana, who has worked at Au Cheval and Nico Osteria; Italianette from Gerad Gobel and Alexis Rorabaugh, who both headed up restaurants at Soho House; and the spit-roast specialist Fairview from Dennis Barnard, former chef de cuisine at The Publican.
A few blocks east, the supersized Time Out Market Chicago (916 W. Fulton) will open later this year with three floors of food (plus a rooftop patio) from the likes of Zoe Schor of Split-Rail and Bill Kim of Urbanbelly. More on the horizon: Urbanspace (15 W. Washington St.), which launched its first food hall in London 40 years ago, is planning two Chicago locations, the first with 20 vendors in the Loop in the fall and the next in Willis Tower in 2020.
Colorful butternut bazhe with walnut cream, marigolds and pomegranate at new Middle Eastern hit Galit. (Photo by Sandy Noto/courtesy of Galit)
Patrons of the Victory Gardens Theater next door who haven’t gotten the reservations-are-a-must memo on the box-office hit Galit (2429 N. Lincoln Ave., 773.360.8755), the Middle Eastern newcomer in Lincoln Park, are commonly rejected on nights as low-key as Tuesdays. Here, chef Zach Engel has fired up a fast following for his creamy hummus, fluffy homemade pita, coal-fired veggies and other piquant dishes spanning the Middle East. The winner of the James Beard Rising Chef Award in 2018, Engel left New Orleans and the highly acclaimed Shaya to open his own spot in Chicago with co-owner Andrés Clavero, an alum of Nico Osteria. The chef encourages diners to “experiment with flavors and textures” among the sharable dishes. For culinary drama precurtain, reserve one of the spots at the L-shaped food bar bracketing the kitchen to watch the coal sparks fly and the pita-puffing oven flame.
A sushi and seafood spread at Ocean Prime. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Prime)
From his base in Ohio, restaurateur Cameron Mitchell has conquered the coasts and a dozen markets in between with his surf-and-turf smash Ocean Prime (87 E. Wacker Drive, 312.428.4344), now a new arrival next to the LondonHouse Chicago. What to order: the butter-poached lobster tail, cabernet-truffle-sauced filet and a river view, of course.
Dhokla with sauteed corn and achaar aioli at Superkhana International (Photo by Belen Aquino/courtesy of Superkhana International)
Devon Street fare gets the gourmet treatment at a pair of newcomers led by Superkhana International (3059 W. Diversey Ave.) in Logan Square from chefs Yoshi Yamada and Zeeshan Shah—of the pop-up Bombay Breakdown—with Jason Hammel of Lula Café. Expect color-saturated dishes like beets with puffed corn and texture-first plates such as Kerala beef with coconut congee in an India-channeling room with an interior courtyard. From San Francisco, chef Sujan Sarkar just opened his second Rooh, Rooh Chicago (736 W. Randolph St.), in the West Loop with bright flavors in dishes like fresh oysters with mango granita and pickled chile and bamboo leaf-wrapped monk fish with curry as well as the Chicago-accented Malabar prawn sausage with kusundi mustard.
Butterfly pea flower extract and luster dust impart a sparkly, brilliant purple tone to Machine’s tequila- and pineapple liqueur-spiked Once Upon a Time cocktail. (Photo by Sophia Mathias/courtesy of Machine)
Romantics, take heart: Two new hot spots double as flower shops for your flirtatious convenience. In Wicker Park, Machine (1846 W. Division St., 773.276.7422) rolls a flower cart tableside for custom bouquets to enjoy over dinner and take home afterward for maximum date-night impact. At The Darling (905 W. Randolph St., 312.285.2609), a wall of flower buckets conceals a door to the cosseting, librarylike speakeasy where drag acts, contortionists and torch singers periodically perform while you sip Darling Buds of May rum cocktails imprinted with a dahlia or other flower.