Today marks the first official day of summer. As we think of the beautiful days ahead full of warmth and sunshine, here's a quick look back at some of the notable restaurants that opened this past spring while we were still holed up inside.
One Off Hospitality (Blackbird, avec, The Publican and more) has added yet another restaurant to their roster. The team closed Publican Anker back in March expressly to replace it with this new concept, which was inspired by Paul Kahan and others' travel to Cancale, a small town on the Western coast of Brittany, France. "[It] happens to be one of the biggest oyster ports in Europe," Kahan shares in a press release. "It's often referred to as the 'oyster capital of France'." As such, the offerings include a raw bar along with numerous dishes featuring the best of the sea. The menu is "French-ish" and items include charred leeks with mussel escabeche, walnuts and crema; savory clams with boudin blanc, escargot, chickpeas and ramps; and butter and vermouth poached halibut with celtuce, snap peas and hazelnuts. There's also a weekday happy hour featuring $1 oysters and $7 martinis for those able to get off work a little early.
Chef Kristen Harper ended up in the food industry somewhat by happenstance. It was thanks to the goading of friends who praised her cooking that she first launched Cleo's Southern Cuisine as a catering company. Now there's a brick-and-mortar location in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Named after Harper's late grandmother, the menu changes daily and features an array of Creole-accented Southern fare. Sample dishes from past menus include pan-seared Atlantic salmon, fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese (including one with crab), Creole-spiced shrimp and grits, cornbread dressing, mango habanero salmon sliders and hazelnut bread pudding. Be sure to check your calendar if planning to visit as the restaurant is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Chef Sujan Sarkar, who is behind a restaurant of the same name in San Francisco and New York City's Baar Baar, has embarked on his third spot in the Windy City along with co-owners Vikram and Anu Bhambri, and Rina and Manish Mallick. "Meaning soul or spirit, ROOH brings the spirit of India to Chicago through the restaurant experience," per the restaurant's website. Of the Bay Area location, inspectors note an "innovative menu that fuses the subcontinent’s myriad flavors with modern restaurant staples." This translates into such dishes as tandoor smoked pork belly with pomegranate, ginger, Padrón (aka shishito) peppers and crackling; green pea and goat cheese kulcha with shaved fresh truffle, goat butter and pea shoots; and whole sea bass (patrani macci) with cilantro, poppy seeds and Bengal mustard cream.
Chef Stephanie Izard continues to grow her Chicago restaurant empire, this time in partnership with Boka Restaurant Group. Cabra bills itself as a rooftop Peruvian-inspired restaurant located atop the Hoxton Hotel. "Open daily, the lively dining experience is anchored on shareable plates bold in flavor and bright in taste," per the restaurant's website. One of the main draws is a six-seat ceviche and tiradito (a Peruvian raw fish preparation) bar where diners can get a show with their meal. Menu items include a classic ceviche of bass, golden raisin leche de tigre, pickled shallots, cancha and baby sweet potato slices; duck ceviche with crispy quinoa, pickled mango, gooseberries, pickled cucumber and an herb vinaigrette; aji verde and queso fresco dip with quinoa crackers and quinoa sourdough; goat empanadas with huacatay mayo; and whole snapper with sweet-and-sour bacon. The restaurant is open for lunch, brunch and dinner.
Executive chef Zach Engel (previously of Shaya and Zahav) and general manager Andrés Clavero (an alum of One Off Hospitality Group) have partnered on a modern Middle Eastern restaurant in Lincoln Park. Opened in April, "The menu focuses on a seasonal and localized approach to dishes of the Middle East and Israel’s immigrant cuisines, alongside a unique and forward-thinking beverage program," per the restaurant's website. There's an à la carte menu with an entire section dedicated to hummus (Bubbe's Brisket with smoky cinnamon, tomatoes and braised carrots sounds particularly enticing), salatim (a selection of salads served with pita) and a variety of other dishes, such as smoked lake trout with ramps, labneh, potato and marble rye. Those looking to sample a variety of dishes can also select The Other Menu, a prix fixe option for $65 per person that includes your pick of hummus, salatim, mezze, a selection of dishes to share (Balkan-stuffed cabbages, chicken thighs and celery and lemon verbena pilaf) and dessert.
Hero image courtesy of Café Cancale. Photo by Marcin Cymmer.
Aaron Hutcherson is an editor for the MICHELIN Guide Digital Platform. An accomplished cook, Aaron can most often be found creating dishes in his own kitchen or exploring new restaurants in search of a great meal.