Escape to a breezy hideaway in the Greek islands or a sophisticated Japanese dining bar. Chicago’s newest restaurants offer far-flung tastes, just steps from the expressway.
Alla Vita (West Loop)
The Italian jewel in the BOKA Group (BOKA, Girl & the Goat, Momotaro) crown remains one of the hottest tables to snag in Chicago since it opened its doors in September. Alla Vita is a stunner, from the breathtaking dining room — featuring fabric waves flowing across the ceiling and arched wood trellises dripping in greenery — to the hearty food. Chef Lee Wolen designed a shareable menu that can be dressed up or down, depending on your mood. Looking to splurge? Order the kampachi crudo and wild mushroom and fontina lasagna. Or keep it casual by splitting the soppressata pizza.
Pigtail (River North)
Fancy cocktails and Iberico pork may sound like unlikely couples, but whatever humanitarian chef José Andrés says, goes. His new speakeasy-style bar, which debuted in October, sits below Jaleo, his blockbuster tapas spot. Drinks here range from the light and refreshing to the spirit-forward and bold, featuring concoctions such as the nitro-frozen pomada (gin, lemon soda, and bergamot) and the consomé cocktail (pork consomé, palo cortado and amontillado sherries, and egg foam). Pigtail also offers a more immersive cocktail experience — six courses of pork-heavy food and drink pairings — which will leave you more than satisfied.
Friends Station (Mag Mile)
For the novelty factor alone, Friends Station, which opened in January, is worth a visit. It claims the title of Chicago’s first rotary hot pot spot, and every seat here is the best. Pull up a stool in front of one of the hot pots, kick off your meal with fruit smoothies and edamame, then watch your soon-to-be entree travel around the conveyor belt. Fill your hot pot with pork belly, beef ribeye, eggs, vegetables, and more. Living up to its name, Friends Station is definitely a restaurant worth visiting with pals.
Lýra (West Loop)
The newest member of the DineAmic Hospitality family (Bandit, Prime & Provisions, Siena Tavern), which debuted in late January, doesn’t serve your yia yia’s dolmades. Instead, the team tapped two chefs straight from Mykonos to bring a taste of contemporary Greek cuisine to Chicago. Inside the island-inspired space, pair deconstructed gyros — slow-roasted lamb shoulder with housemade pita and cultured yogurt tzatziki — with olive oil-washed vodka martinis. The Greek influence doesn’t stop there: the team assembled a wine list heavy on the Santorini whites as well as a playlist filled with tunes by Greek musicians and DJs. It’s a trip to the islands, sans jetlag.
Kōmo (West Loop)
Japanese kaiseki and omakase dining are the twin focuses at Kōmo, a new restaurant from chef Macku Chan (Macku). The restaurant, which opened in October, combines Japanese artistry with Latin American flair, and the results include inventive creations like bluefin tuna nigiri topped with mushrooms in black pepper paste or lobster croquettes in Japanese curry, all served in a sleek and minimalist dining room. Upstairs, Esco, a clandestine cocktail lounge, invites you in to choose from an extensive rum list and enjoy live music after your meal.
Aikana (West Loop)
The third time might just be the charm for the former home of three MICHELIN-starred Grace. After closing in 2017, the lauded restaurant became short-lived Yugen. Now, the owners are back with a new concept, centered on Pan-American dining and heavy on the glam. When it opens on February 11, Aikana will showcase Central and South American cuisine on an a la carte menu alongside cocktails by Benjamin Schiller. The restaurant’s namesake beverage, a blend of three rums with starfruit and dehydrated watermelon, is the drink to sip in this sexy and sophisticated dining room. When it comes to the food, expect hiramasa, or yellowtail kingfish, with tomato elixir and tomato caviar, as well as whole catch of the day over maitake mushrooms and charred baby corn.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.