InsideHook | Amanda Topper | February 28, 2020

Ever wonder what a bar from the Cards Against Humanity crew would look like?

To keep tabs on every Chicago restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Bon appétit.


Sam & Gertie’s
Uptown – 1309 W. Wilson Ave.

You’re here because: The words “vegan” and “Jewish deli” aren’t typically found in the same sentence.

You’re dining on: This casual counter service spot opened in the former Longacre space in Uptown and is serving vegans and non-vegans alike. Try vegan versions of standard deli fare, from pastrami and smoked whitefish salad to babkas and black-and-white cookies. Standouts include The Levin (pastrami, sauerkraut, 1000 island and melted Swiss) and bagel sandwiches like the Goldie’s Laks (cold-cured laks, tomato, red onion, cucumber, dill and pickled cream cheese).


Hayden Hall
Loop – 333 S. Wabash Ave.

You’re here because: You haven’t had enough of Chicago’s food hall craze.

You’re dining on: Twelve different dining options, from fried chicken sandwiches at 10Q to Italian comfort-food classics at Victory Italian to vegetarian fare from Mana Food Bar to hand rolls at Anaba Handroll Bar. The impressive space’s design is inspired by the Chicago’s World’s Fair and features whimsical murals and light fixtures and floor-to-ceiling windows. Those looking for a quick Loop lunch can grab hot and cold food from the self-serve salad bar, while a new outpost of Ada St. provides a full service dining option. Ample seating, outlets and free wifi make Hayden Hall an ideal remote work location as much as a suitable lunch or dinner hangout.


Lincoln Park – 1935 N. Lincoln Park West

You’re here because: You’re a fan of Ross Henke, the chef from now-closed Quiote.

You’re dining on: Globally influenced plates in the old The Blanchard space. Start with snacks like savory churros with Manchego or celery root crab fritters with smoked aioli and celery salad. Larger shared plates include the Dan Dan Noodles with lamb chorizo, chile morita, garlic, sesame, broccoli rabe, “mexiracha” peanuts, and a sirloin with charred cabbage Bearnaise and pickled tomatillos. Mundano’s beverage program highlights Latin American spirits and natural wines. Enjoy a meal in the capacious dining room festooned with brass light fixtures and a white marble chef’s counter.


Ukrainian Village – 2500 W. Chicago Ave.

You’re here because: You want a cocktail before or after dining at Chef Zoe Schor’s Split-Rail.

You’re dining on: The basement lounge below Split-Rail excels in boozy drinks meant to be savored in the relaxing environment. Think plush couches and funky retro decor, plus bleacher-like seating for larger groups. Cocktails include the “Celestials, Too” with earl grey crema-infused vodka, grapefruit, lemon and mace, plus plenty of beers on draft, including a Pilot Project Brewing custom brew.


Chicago Board Game Cafe
Bucktown – 1965 N. Milwaukee Ave.

You’re here because: You want a game night out with friends (including 300+ board games and two escape rooms) from the team behind the popular Cards Against Humanity.

You’re dining on: Asian plates from executive chef Aaron McKay of Schwa in between games at the 14,000-square-foot cafe. The space is set up like a town square, with various rooms and seating ideal for group gaming. Snack on popcorn tossed with coconut oil, chicken skin, pho spice, lime and chile, or pineapple skewers seasoned with Li Hing, a salty dried plum powder from Hawaii. Larger options include huaraches, masa cakes with Chihuahua cheese and salsa topped with braised pork collar or mushrooms, while dessert includes a Turkish Coffee Affogato featuring cardamom frozen custard.


Sushi Suite 202
Lincoln Park – 1816 N. Clark St.

You’re here because: You love fine dining but not the stuffiness that can sometimes accompany it.

You’re dining on: If you’re always on the hunt for the most unique dining experiences, you’re in for a treat at Sushi Suite. The restaurant is housed inside a second-floor hotel suite at Hotel Lincoln. While some sushi experiences can feel pretentious, Sushi Suite gives off a sexy but casual lounge vibe. The permanent restaurant concept features a 17-course omakase experience at a six-seat sushi bar, with each course prepared in front of you. Pair your sushi adventure with a rotating house cocktail or belly up to the self-serve sake machine. The tucked-away location, carefully calibrated hospitality and fantastic nigiri make it quite the memorable dining experience.


Old Town – 1551 N. Wells St.

You’re here because: You want to see if this Neapolitan-style pizza stands up to the rest of the city’s best pizza purveyors.

You’re dining on: Red and white pies from Gianni Gallucci, a member of the U.S. Pizza Team (yes, thing). Gaullucci’s signature pizza is the Tartufata with prosciutto, mozzarella and black truffle cream while the Calabrese, a red pizza with San Marzano tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, spicy salametti and calabrian chili honey is another popular choice. Four pasta options, a pair of salads and ample wines by the glass and bottle round out the menu.