Ladies and gentlemen, Chicago has officially reached Peak Artisan. Everyone who opened a restaurant around here in the past year seemed to be emphasizing snout-to-tail or farm-to-table, handmade this or craft that. The result: a landscape full of perfectly pleasant but largely interchangeable new joints. Mostly.
As Chicago’s dining critics fanned out across the city and six-county metro area, evaluating every remotely promising place that opened in the 12-month period ending February 28 (all 67 of them), they unearthed 10 true gems that, in different fashions, prove one point: Some chefs and restaurateurs still have the guts to proudly go their own way. Whether in the form of a tiny Spanish charmer inspired by one couple’s sun-drenched Mediterranean vacation (MFK), a $3.4 million Japanese behemoth with multiple chefs and concepts (Momotaro), or an incubator for up- and-coming culinary talent (Intro), each pursues its own unique vision at a time when few others bother to have a vision at all. Follow us for a taste of these intrepid newcomers.