Best New Restaurants in Chicago 2011

22 great places to eat right now

(page 6 of 6)

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PRICE KEY: ¢ $10 to $19  $ $20 to $29   $$ $30 to $39  $$$ $40 to $49   $$$$ $50-plus
[Cost per person for dinner, excluding wine, tax, or tip]

TOTOPO MEXICAN GRILL (Mexican)
[$]
“The concept is to have different flavors of guacamole,” explains Dudley Nieto, a consulting chef at Totopo. “Different flavors of salsas. Different flavors of tortilla chips.” Warning bells. Sounds like a Mexican chip-dip stand (wrong), and Nieto never stays anywhere for long (immaterial). Totopo is a spiffy, if generic-looking, Mexican grill owned by Ray Maldonado, Nieto’s old friend. Yes, there is the tortilla chip/salsa/guac conceit, and service is fast-casual, but behind the business plan lurks serious talent in the cocina. The black bean soup tastes like soul food, the double-tortilla-wrapped pescado tacos under roasted tomatillo salsa burst with freshness, and the carne Oaxaca—grilled hanger steak with smoky morita salsa—is shockingly juicy and tender. As for Nieto, Shakespeare was right: Don’t shoot the messenger. Oakbrook Promenade, 3041 Butterfield Rd., Oak Brook; 630-573-8686 

VINCENT (Dutch Bistro)
[$$$]
In my travels, I recently came across a real live Dutchman and told him that I had just sampled beer-battered haddock on snert (split pea soup) in Chicago. He nodded in that amused way that only someone who speaks four languages can nod. I suspect he would approve of Vincent, the pleasant Andersonville bistro where his countryman, Joncarl Lachman, schools Chicagoans on the joys of a cuisine to which most have never had reason to give the time of day. Around the cozy room, patrons dig into pork bitterballen (fried meatballs), gamely attempt to order zaansemosterdsoep (mustard soup with crab salad, a cheese called smeerkaas, and tarragon pesto), and chase maatjesharing (pickled herring) with shots of juniper-kissed jenever gin. Lachman hedges his bets with familiar bistro stuff like warm baguettes, onion soup, and five different kinds of moules frites. All well and good, Joncarl, but you had us at snert. 1475 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-7168 

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