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New on the Scene: A quick look at some of Chicago’s hottest new restaurants — and why they’re thriving

This article is courtesy of

By Trent Modglin

The massive, influential Boka Restaurant Group’s latest venture in coordination with celebrity chef Stephanie Izard has easily been one of the hottest openings in Chicago this year. Located on the 12th floor of the Hoxton Hotel, the lively Cabra boasts a Peruvian-inspired menu with bold flavors, sharable plates, dynamite ceviches and a sleek rooftop space. 200 N. Green. 312-761-1717.

This new omakase-dedicated spot in the West Loop comes from a famed sushi chef and features a single menu consisting of up to 25 courses of elaborate sushi presentations and Japanese dishes for $175. The contemporary Mako only has 22 seats at white oak tables and 12 seats at the sushi counter, so make a reservation early. 731 W. Lake. 312-988-0687.

The second location of what began as a fast-casual walk-up eatery idea not only creates some seriously Instagram-worthy desserts, but it also offers a tabletop tap system, allowing guests to pour their own cocktails or wine and pay by the ounce. Enjoy an assortment of savory sandwiches, homemade gelato and some great coffee, along with a small outdoor patio in Old Town. 1529 N. Wells. 312-549-8433.

Ocean Prime Chicago, located in the LondonHouse hotel, overlooks the Chicago River and is ideal for anything from a business lunch to a romantic dinner or pre-show cocktail.

The Smith
The chain’s sixth location (four in NYC, one in D.C.) opened in Chicago’s River North neighborhood in late April with a lively, urban space and menu featuring bistro classics, rotating seasonal fare, a raw bar and craft cocktails. Try to snare a table on their sidewalk patio if the weather is cooperating. 400 N. Clark. 312-312-5100.

Ocean Prime Chicago
Undoubtedly one of the more highly anticipated openings in the city this season is Ocean Prime Chicago, which opened to the public April 3. Located in the Shops at LondonHouse, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, it overlooks the Chicago River and is ideal for anything from a business lunch to a romantic dinner or pre-show cocktail. Aiming for an “unapologetically luxe dining experience” that focuses on using high-quality ingredients and simple and pure flavors, Ocean Prime trots out a menu filled with seafood and steaks. 87 E. Wacker. 312-428-4344.

Foodies throughout Chicago are rejoicing with the opening of Entente’s new location in River North in late March. The Michelin-starred restaurant, which had been in operation since 2016 in Chicago’s north-side Lakeview neighborhood, seized the opportunity to design its own space and offers a modern American menu that includes items like Hudson Valley foie gras, scallops and Long Island duck with sweet potato, as well as Pan-Asian like offerings like bulgogi with sushi rice. 700 N. Sedgwick. 312-285-2247.

Joe’s Imports Wine Bar
The Fulton Market space that previously was home to Glazed and Infused donuts is now a hotspot for wine and pasta. Joe’s Imports, which opened in February, offers more than 250 bottles of wine, including some available to go. The exciting food menu includes small and large entrees to complement the wine, like Iberico ham, snow crab, grilled octopus and Wagyu prime steak. Check out their weekday “flight hour” from 4-6 p.m., where you can get a trio of three-ounce pours — served with olives and breadsticks — for $15. 813 W. Fulton Market. 312-736-1750.

551 Live
Lodge Management Group, owners of such Chicago mainstay nightlife establishments such as the Original Mother’s, Redhead Piano Bar and The Lodge Tavern, recently opened 551 Live, a live music and event space, in the increasingly popular West Town neighborhood. Expect live band karaoke on Thursdays, local bands on Fridays and regional acts on Saturday, as well as trolley rides to major music festivals. 551 N. Ogden.

Maison Marcel
If you’re headed for a stroll in Lincoln Park, a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo or a little shopping in Old Town, start the day off right at Maison Marcel, a French bakery and café, for a variety of coffee drinks, smoothies, pastries and croissants, ordered through a new t-go sliding window on a colorfully painted wall. 2008 N. Halsted, located in the alleyway on Armitage. Maison Marcel’s cafe is at 3114 N. Broadway in Lakeview.