From gastropubs to omakase to a pair of exotic mashups

In 2017, Bon Appétit named Chicago the best restaurant city in America. One year later, we are happy to report that the city is certainly not resting on its laurels — over the last 12 months, a handful of delicious new trends have emerged.

We’ve seen the rise of the omakase, bringing the world’s best sushi to the Midwest by way of luxe tasting menus from acclaimed chefs. We also added a slew of literary-themed restaurants that allow diners to immerse themselves in a book-filled setting.

Elsewhere, booze-focused wine and beer bars proved they could also churn out equally toothsome grub, and we welcomed plenty of California-style digs that’ll keep you (spiritually) warm through the winter. And then there were the hybrids: who knew that Korean/Italian and Southern/Bavarian are two culinary combos sent like manna from heaven?

But enough with the buzz. Below, we present our 10 favorite restaurant openings of 2018.

Dine on and drink well, people.

Aba
The toughest table in Chicago is well worth the wait

Any night of the week is guaranteed to be a busy one at Aba, the sister restaurant to Ema. It’s not only a place to see and be seen, it’s also a Mediterranean powerhouse with a massive menu from chef CJ Jacobson. From the heavenly everything Jerusalem bagel with whipped honey labneh, za’atar and lemon, to the silky smooth hummus and grilled kebabs, whatever you order will pack a serious punch.

www.abarestaurantchicago.com
302 N. Green St. (map)

Bar Ramone
Pintxos and porrons on repeat

It’s hard to believe the Lettuce Entertain You portfolio did not include a wine bar until this year. Bar Ramone is the latest tenant in a revolving door of a space in River North (RIP Bottlefork). But we think this one will stick: How can you go wrong with an endless array of Spanish-inspired small plates? While the marinated goat cheese is one of the simplest and best dishes we’ve eaten all year, it’s the porrons (Spanish for a shareable wine-drinking vessel) and patatas bravas that will keep us coming back.

www.barramone.com
441 N. Clark St.  (map)