Spring is in the air…at least for a day or two. As I write this, it seems the whole country is facing another round of snow, sleet, or rain, which makes this the perfect time to find something to look forward to.
Spring is, usually, a season that begs restaurateurs and chefs to take the plunge and open their latest or first brick-and-mortar. Wrought iron and wicker chairs are leaving their shelters for life on the wide-open patios. Fire pits and porcelain chimineas are providing warmth for a few brave souls.
Fortunately for us, this year seems especially ripe with spring and summer restaurant openings by some of the best and brightest in the industry. If nothing else, this list should inspire you to shake off any remaining winter blues and get ready to enjoy some delectable morsels and drinks in a new and often unusual environment. Here are a few of the almost-here or recently arrived that you’ll want to keep on your radar.
As usual, Chicago will be home to many of these up-and-coming chefs and inspired entrepreneurs. Let’s take a look at the openings you won’t want to miss.
Galit—James Engel, winner of the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award in 2017 due to his modern Israeli cuisine at Shaya in New Orleans, is bringing his top culinary chops to Chicago’s Lincoln Park. He and Andres Clavero will be opening their first restaurant that will feature Middle Eastern dishes in a warm and inviting environment that includes an open kitchen and hearth. This is one of the most anticipated openings of 2019.
Cabra—Stephanie Izard recently, as of April 4th, opened the doors of her fourth Chicago restaurant. This Peruvian-inspired establishment offers panoramic views on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel in Fulton Market. The 8,000 square feet includes a six-seat cerviche and tiradito bar. Other items on the menu include empanadas, whole fish in Japanese curry, hamachi belly, and anticuchos—marinated grilled meats on skewers. Cabra means “goat” in Spanish, so you may want to try one of their namesake dishes, such as the goat empanada…or not.
Rooh—This Indian themed restaurant whose name means “soul or spirit” is the creation of Sujan Sarkar who opened his first establishment in San Francisco in 2016. What can we expect from this chef that worked at Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows? He’ll be bringing his farm-to-table approach and applying it to what he defines as “new-age Indian” cuisine. Some dishes to look forward to include tandoori octopus and tuna bhei puri chaat, a dish that includes raw tuna, puffed black rice, and a rich sauce. I’m especially interested in their unique cocktail program that is inspired by ayurvedic traditions and the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. You’ll find them opening this year on Randolph Street.
Superkhana International—This up-and-coming restaurant features an open-air interior courtyard that will be filled with plants and twinkling lights. Just the place to envision yourself as spring gives way to summer. Located in London Square, you can expect food that reflects both Indian and American flavors.
I had to include this city that was recently appointed the best place to live in America for a third year in a row by U.S. News and World Report. Keep in mind that, in 2018 alone, Austin saw over 75 restaurants bite the dust, some of which had been around for over 60 years. Of course, restauranteurs live by the saying that “cream rises to the top,” holding firm to the belief that there is always room for an eatery that excels in the cornerstones of the restaurant industry: great food, awesome service, and a unique and comfortable ambiance.
Hestia—This restaurant, named after the Greek goddess of the hearth, is bringing their focus to fire. Their meats will be cooked over a 20-foot grill in a building that was once home to Austin Music Hall. They will also be offering a unique concept in terms of service as chefs will not only cook, but also act as servers, offering guests a chance to ask questions and share a conversation with the person responsible for their meal. Two outdoor spaces make this spot the place to visit once the dark clouds break.
High Note—a health-conscious, almost gluten-free, casual eatery opened its doors on South Lamar on April 16th. In addition to a wide selection for vegetarians, it will also appeal to those on the latest dietary trends such as the paleo or keto diets. Most meats and produce are obtained from local Texas farmers with an emphasis on organic. Think edamame hummus, poke wraps, and drinks that combine vegetable and fruit juices with a dash of liquor.
The West Coast
Birdie G’s—Santa Monica is home to some of the top restaurants in California, with several laying claim to celebrity hot spots. One of the most anticipated newbies to enter the field this year is Chef Jeremy Fox’s Birdie G’s. He plans to offer a wide-range of American cuisine with many of the recipes derived from memories of his grandmother’s cooking. A few of these dishes include beef tongue, dill-infused matzo-ball soup, wood-grilled California beef, and daikon piccata. Ultimately, whatever his first offerings are, you can bet that they’ll be one-of-a-kind and made-from-scratch.
Girl & the Goat—Stephanie Izard has been busy this year. Besides Cabra, she’ll be opening yet another Girl & the Goat, this time in the Arts District of Los Angeles. She opened her first restaurant by the same name in the city of Chicago where it was nominated best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011. In addition to its namesake, if anything like her first eatery, you can expect dishes that include duck tongue, grilled pork belly, crispy beef short ribs, and oven roasted pig face which combines fatty pig with potato stix, cilantro, tamarind and a sunny side egg. Her dishes offer unique and flavorful combinations.
There you have it, just a start to the long list of great restaurants coming on the market. We wish those soon to be opening their doors much success.