Thirteen Things We’re Looking Forward To This Fall

We haven’t done the usual “here’s what’s opening this fall” piece— one, because everyone does it. And two, because it’s always just the places who have publicists this early in the game— the real finds are still under everybody’s radar. But today all the Grub Street cities are taking a broader look at everything coming in the fall that makes us happy, foodwise. And ours includes a few openings that we haven’t said a lot about yet, but it also includes dishes that will be coming back to menus as the weather changes, ingredients we like to eat this time of year, and even a hint of what’s next for one of Chicago’s most talked-about restaurants. Here are 13 things we look forward to eating now that fall is in the air… and on the plate.

When you’re done here, check out what everyone’s looking forward to in Boston, L.A., New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, too.

The first six menus at Next— Paris, Thailand, Childhood, El Bulli, Sicily and Kyoto— were all on the drawing board when the restaurant opened. Which means when they announce the next season, for the first time they’ll be entering new territory informed not only by the concept, but by the actual experience of running a one-of-a-kind ever-changing chameleon of a restaurant. Where will that take them? Will they continue working their way around the world, or head into more conceptual realms? As we reported yesterday, the word is that Chef Dave Beran knows what the next menu will be already… but he doesn’t know what to call it, which definitely sounds more conceptual than tied to a specific time and place. Whatever the next one will be, with Kyoto ending in December, the announcement of the next three-menu season can’t be far off.
You wouldn’t call most of the people who’ve opened the hot Randolph Street restaurants grizzled veterans, by any means, but even youngish chefs like Jared Van Camp, Stephanie Izard, Graham Elliott or Curtis Duffy have heavy duty track records in prominent previous positions. Matt Eversman is more like the indie filmmaker who gets handed a big summer blockbuster based on one modest-budgeted arthouse hit. (Fitting, then, that he once actually cooked for the Sundance Film Festival.) Saigon Sisters earned Eversman plenty of acclaim, but it’s still a small downtown lunch and dinner spot where he only worked for seven months; OON will be much bigger, a sink or swim opportunity for the young chef. But judging by pictures like this one of duck pho, there will be plenty of flavorful fall-tinged reasons to check it out when it opens (hopefully) this month.
Since Edzo’s opened in Evanston in 2009, there’s been something of a freshly-ground-meat, fresh-cut beef hamburger renaissance in this town once dominated by frozen hockey puck burgers. But Edzo’s is still the standard they’re judged by, because of its classic burger style, Eddie Lakin’s hands-on control of every detail from his perch at the counter, and not least of all, nods to cheffiness in the form of artisanal beef options and farmer’s market-driven specials… which are only going to get more numerous with a Lincoln Park location so close to the Green City Market. Soft opening is due sometime this month.
We were fine with the news that the Telegraph folks were taking over the Ciao Napoli space next door to open a pizza place called Reno. We were suddenly much more excited to hear that they’d be using their wood oven to make Montreal-style bagels. As this picture of Real Bagel in Montreal suggests, it’s the open flame-baking of the boiled dough that especially sets Montreal bagels apart from any other… and soon, any other in Chicago.
We add that last bit because the word is the name may be changing. But the concept is one we can’t wait for, hearty but healthy artisanal Asian food from the X-Marx underground dining pair, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, which we previewed some months back at a Dose Market. (Read our interview with them here.) No word lately on when it will open (in Logan Square), but whenever it is, we’ll be there.
We’ll be excited to see braising and soup-making breaking out all over town as temperatures drop. But perhaps nowhere moreso than at Publican Quality Meats, because of the meats and sausages that will be contributing extraordinary depth of flavor to whatever they make. The cocido, with the house’s own blood sausage among other things in it, is already back on the menu, but maybe the one we’re looking forward to most of all is the ribollita, a vegetable soup (traditionally made from leftover minestrone) which can be vegetarian— but not when PQM starts it with a rich porky broth.
But fall isn’t all about meaty meatiness. We love the unglamorous root vegetables of fall, too, at least when they’re in the hands of our best chefs. One place to really enjoy what turnips can be is Vera, which probably does the best job doing the least to vegetables of anybody since Mado. But we also expect to see hakurei turnips at Perennial Virant, knowing that Paul Virant is a fan; Ryan McCaskey’s deconstructed, cocoa-tinged beet salad is a standout at Acadia… fact is, any chef who shops the farmer’s markets at all will be taking on the root vegetable challenge over the coming months.
Just as savory chefs will be ushering in new ingredients like root vegetables for fall, piemakers will be transitioning to fall flavors, too. Apple pies will be everywhere, and pumpkin pies will turn up in November, but one we always watch for at Hoosier Mama is the persimmon pie, made with a native American fruit that tastes something like pumpkin pie crossed with an orange Dreamsicle. (Read our chat with Paula Haney of Hoosier Mama last year.) On the savory side, Pleasant House Bakery will be bringong on fall flavors like turkey or pork and apple cider pie, and watch for the possible return of last year’s Cock-a-Leekie pie. What fall comfort food is comfier than pie?
Doughnuts, too, will sport new fall colors, especially in our new era of fancy, seasonally-flavored doughnuts. Besides Doughnut Vault’s chestnut doughnut, a perfect fall flavor (though in fact available most of the time), we know they’ll have fall flavors like pumpkin and carrot cake, and we expect others to offer similar ones. Even old-school Dinkel’s, one of whose charms is that it never changes (though they did go into bacon doughnuts recently), busted out the apple cider doughnuts this past weekend. If anything can get us past the pumpkin latte shortage, fall-flavored doughnuts will be it.
When’s the last time you marked Halloween with a sweet treat… that actually came from Transylvania? That’s the chimney cake, a sort of cinnamon roll wrapped around a spindle, whose sole local baker is the small Chimney Cake Island on Devon, run by a couple from Romania who imported a special oven to be able to make their native specialty. Admittedly, in itself it’s no spookier than a jelly doughnut, and people from Transylvania are at most bemused that their homeland is associated by Americans with vampires, reanimated corpses and werewolves, but still, tell us that any Halloween party won’t be improved by your being able to say, “Try one, they’re from Transylvania!”
If there’s any ethnic food Chicago stands out for, yet no one pays that much attention to, it’s Polish food. But it’s hard to eat food as hearty as pierogis, cabbage rolls, or latkes in the summer. Come cooler weather, though, and it’s just the thing, so we’ll be hitting old favorites like Smak Tak, Barbakan (where this picture was taken), Andrzej Grill, Staropolska, and Szalas with its Disney-fantasy forest lodge atmosphere (you can even eat in a sleigh, though after too much Polish food, you may find it a tight squeeze).
Mexican food is often spicy hot, but in the fall and winter it can also be soul-warmingly warm, with soups like the rich, slightly funky meat and bacon broth carne en su jugo (shown here at Taqueria Los Gallos), the tripe soup menudo, hearty goat consomme, or the thick, porridge-like pozole. They’re common all over Mexican neighborhoods or at the Maxwell Street Market. Or if you’re out and about and just want something small to drink to keep you warm, pass on the Starbucks in favor of a styrofoam cup of thick champurrado, chocolate and atole (hominy flour).
Turkey doesn’t get much respect, and sadly, the freakish all-breast beast mainlining chemical butter flavor at Thanksgiving doesn’t necessarily deserve much. But good turkey is as satisfying as any poultry. You can get naturally raised, flavorful modern breeds from farmers like TJ’s at the Green City Market, or you can look for the famous Ho-Ka Farms turkey, raised just west of Chicago in Waterman, Illinois, which regularly turns up in mainstream press articles on finding the best bird. Or for something genuinely different, order one of John Caveny’s heritage Bourbon Reds; they’re smaller and considerably more expensive than a modern supermarket bird, but they have a rich, slightly gamy flavor that reminds you of roast duck or pheasant more than it does the bland white meat in your sandwich.
Thirteen Things We’re Looking Forward To This Fall