Chicago’s dynamic dining scene is filled with must-have dishes all year long. Settling into cooler weather, though, it’s an apt time to check out the city’s buzzy newcomers, fresh hot spots and vibrant new menu items at old standbys. These are the 23 essential dishes (and drinks!) you need to check out in Chicago right now.

Apple Empanada

Apple empanadas at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
Chicago’s O.G. tapas restaurant has a new chef, and for his first seasonal menu overhaul, Eric Jorgensen’s showing a lot of promise. Case in point: seared sea scallops come with acorn squash puree and candied pumpkin seeds; roasted pumpkin and sweet potato soup gets a dash of pimentón honey; and the clincher: Gala apples are folded into dessert empanadas and glazed with Licor 43 anglaise.

2024 N. Halsted St.; 773-935-5000

Butternut squash pizza

Butternut squash pizza at Stella Barra
Stella Barra greets autumn head-on with a menu addition showcasing one of the season’s signature flavors. The butternut squash pizza sports a balanced mashup of sweet, spicy and herbal notes with candied bacon, Taleggio cheese, Fresno chilis, green onion, parsley and oregano.

1954 N. Halsted St.; 773-634-4101

Baked halloumi

Baked halloumi at Ēma
In addition to the crowd-pleasing pumpkin hummus, which is back on the menu for the season, Ēma is working wonders with cheese for some menu additions. You’ve never tastes baked halloumi like this before, strewn with black plums, toasted almonds, honey, mint and aleppo.

74 W. Illinois St.; 312-527-5586


Steak at Nacional 27
Chicago’s original Latin restaurant has added a new steak-focused menu, with preparations from various Latin countries. Highlights include a Cuban skirt steak with lime-mojo, Peruvian skirt steak with aji-amarillo and Argentine crusted filet medallions with an herbaceous chimichurri.

325 W. Huron St.; 312-664-2727