Chicago’s Fall Restaurant Preview: Ten Places to Start Salivating Over
Just a few of the big chefs

What can you expect to encounter this fall in Chicago? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it feels to us like every trend of early 2011 has been blown up on a grander scale. If every other opening in January and February served French food, few had the gall to open one as massive as the upcoming Nellcôte, which plans to serve refined European soul food in a setting recalling the villa where the Rolling Stones spent their most debaucherous recording session. You want wine bars? There will be two of those. Steak? Obviously. A new butcher shop? How about one from Paul Kahan. Of course, we still expect the unexpected to grab our attention. (If anyone would have told us that Chicagoans would lose their cool over doughnuts, we would have laughed.) But here are the restaurants to start salivating over right now. And make sure you check out Grub Street’s fall preview coverage in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston, too!

Any new project from the Boka Restaurant Group is immediately worth noting, but toss in the folks from The Bristol and it’s no wonder Balena is one of the most anticipated fall openings. Though lots of chefs picked it out as the one to watch, EL’s Phillip Foss probably said it best: “The collaboration fits as logically as Lebron and Dwayne Wade, though I’m sure there will be fewer guarantees and much better results.” 1633 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Jared Van Camp’s Old Town Social became a destination thanks to an intensive in-house charcuterie program. So, what’s Van Camp going to do for his encore, Nellcôte? For one, he’s going to take the handmade aesthetic to levels Chicago has never experienced before. Sure, he’s going to make all the pasta and pizzas from scratch, but he’s also going to mill his own flour. Also, don’t confuse this for some wholesome project; named for the villa where the Rolling Stones recorded much of Exile on Mainstreet, Nellcôte is aiming for a mix of debauchery and elegance. 833 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Jason Mousseau, the chef de cuisine at Hearty, believes that there is “no way” Paul Kahan’s new butcher shop “can be a bad thing.” He’s probably right. Called Publican Quality Meats, the project will be part traditional butcher shop and part cafe. Featuring lunch and breakfast on weekends, expect a menu heavy on cured pig products. Rumor has it the shop will open by November. Mousseau added, “I will definitely be one of the first people lining up to check it out.” 825 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661
The Butcher & Larder’s owner, Rob Levitt, is “REALLY @#$@ing excited for Uva,” Mark and Liz Mendez’s upcoming wine bar in the West Loop. Unlike Mark’s previous gig at Carnivale, Uva will be small and intimate, with a collection of “affordable” small plates. Just don’t call it tapas: “I don’t know that I want to use that word,” he told us last month, “because it makes you think of goat cheese in tomato sauce and things like that…I want to do things like tripe and morcilla [blood sausage].” 1023 W. Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607
The Pump Room is one of the most storied institutions in Chicago’s culinary history, but how can you inject life into a place best known for serving celebrities in the 1950s?  Well, bringing in legendary chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a good first step, as is keeping the name. But the Pump Room will also be based on ABC Kitchen, Vongerichten’s successful New York-concept, which happened to pick up a James Beard Award for the Best New Restaurant of 2011. That means you can expect a seasonal menu without shockingly high prices. 1301 North State Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610
We were shocked when Ryan Poli decided to leave Perennial back in February. But considering his recent infatuation with Spanish food, his next move made total sense. Poli signed as a chef and partner of Tavernita, which is planning to open soon in River North, and will feature a small plates menu with a genuine focus on vegetables.151 Erie St, Chicago, IL 60654
Tony Mantuano released a book on wine bar food a few years ago, but until now he’s just been content to run one of the most acclaimed Italian fine-dining restaurants in the country. Luckily with the announcement of Bar Toma in the Gold Coast, we can look forward to a Mantuano’s very own version of an Italian wine bar. He’s already released plans for a mozzarella bar and a wood-burning oven for pizza, but also look forward to some serious salads and even house-made pastries.  110 East Pearson Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2078 Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/Huge Galdones/Galdones Photography 2011
Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera is easily the best food you can get before a flight at O’Hare, but now it’s going to be twice as easy to get it. Delayed for months due to construction issues, the next outlet is planning to open in late November in Terminal 3. It will be just another reason to feel okay about that massive three hour delay.  Terminal 3, O’Hare Airport, Chicago, IL
Okay, so it’s already been open since April, but with a concept that completely changes every three months, how could we not include Next? That’s especially true after the announcement that the fall menu would be based on childhood. Vincent’s chef de cuisine, Chrissy Camba, agrees: “Can you imagine what they are going to do for a Childhood menu?” Well, we can conjecture, but we won’t know for sure until the new menu starts on October 15. 953 W Fulton St, Chicago, IL 60607
It’s safe to say that Chicago probably has enough steakhouses. As the home to dozens of legendary joints (Gene and Georgetti, Lawry’s) and several highly rated new ones (Chicago Cut, Mastro’s), we’ve never been starved for a place to chow down on a porterhouse. But we’ll get excited about any new place by restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff. Fresh off the instant success of Maude’s Liquor Bar and the phenomenon that is Doughnut Vault, he announced the coming of Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf. He’s calling it a European-style steakhouse; we’re not sure exactly what the means, but the masses will probably love it all the same. Undisclosed location in River North
Chicago’s Fall Restaurant Preview: Ten Places to Start Salivating Over