Summer is the sweet season for restaurants. Fresh produce is abundant, daylight lasts longer and restaurants are busier and bigger (with the addition of outdoor seats) than at any other time of the year.
So once again I'm trotting out my Summer Eating List, a compilation of recently opened and about-to-open restaurants that deserve your attention.
Mimicking the style of the reading lists that hounded the summers of my youth, the Summer Eating List is broken down into categories: "Required eating" (you simply must dine at these places), "Electives" (pick at least four from this group), "Extra credit" (polish your report with these restaurants) and "Field trips" (for overachievers with transportation).
It may be physically impossible to visit every restaurant on the list because, as I've learned, sometimes restaurants that plan on opening in, oh, mid-July don't open until much, much later. Case in point: One of the opening-soon restaurants on the list was an opening-soon restaurant on last year's list.
Key to what's open
N - Open now
TM - Opening this month
LTS - Opening later this summer
N Brindille. Carrie and Michael Nahabedian offer a taste of Paris with this new restaurant, just a block north of their Naha restaurant. Oysters with scrambled eggs and caviar, veal sweetbreads paired with rabbit, Dover sole meuniere — this place would scream elegance if it weren't such a quiet, civilized space. Opened mid-April. 534 N. Clark St., 312-595-1616
N Centro. Alex Dana's Rosebud group reached into its own history to resurrect this Italian concept. The first Centro enjoyed an impressive 10-year run on Wells Street; now brought back with original chef Joe Farina, the restaurant will try for another 10 at the corner of State and Hubbard. Opened in May. 6. W. Hubbard St., 312-988-7775
TM County. The latest from DMK Restaurant Group (David Morton, Michael Kornick) is a chef-driven barbecue spot on the site of the venerable Gennaro's. The menu will be overseen by Erick Williams, executive chef of mk restaurant. Opening in late June. 1352 W. Taylor St., no phone yet
N Endgrain. Chef Enoch Simpson (Scylla, Girl & the Goat, others) joined with his craftsman-carpenter brother, Caleb, to create this Roscoe Village newcomer, anchored by the cult-fame Enoch's Doughnuts (which are on sale from 7 a.m. until they're gone) but also featuring a comfort-food menu and offbeat bar snacks. Opened in June. 1851 W. Addison St., 773-687-8191
N J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar. Steve Chiappetti is back in town with this project, a short distance from his late, lamented Mango restaurant, and veteran foodies know what this means: simple-sounding food with exceptional depth and execution, and friendly prices. Opened in May. 749 N. Clark St., 312-475-0271
N Juno. "This is my proudest restaurant achievement," says restaurateur Jason Chan (Urban Union, Butter), who teamed up with chef B.K. Park (Arami) to open this 80-seat sushi specialist (with plenty of cooked seafood dishes) in Lincoln Park. One of the neat features is an assemble-yourself sushi option. This place has the potential to become the best sushi restaurant in Chicago. Opened May 31. 2638 N. Lincoln Ave., 872-206-8662
N Kabocha. Shin Thompson takes favorite dishes from his former Bonsoiree restaurant, which featured set menus, and turns them loose in an a la carte format. But fans of chef-directed menus can always opt for the 10-course menu at Kabocha's kaiseki table. Opened late April. 952 W. Lake St., 312-666-6214
TM Lao 18. Tony Hu, the unofficial mayor of Chinatown by virtue of his Lao-named restaurants (Lao Sze Chuan, Lao Hunan, etc.), will bring his act to River North with a restaurant that will offer dinner, brunch and dim-sum lunch. And plenty of Asian-inspired cocktails. Opening in June. 18 W. Hubbard St., 312-955-8018
LTS Tanta. Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio is a superstar whose flagship restaurant, Astrid y Gaston, is on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Tanta will be a simpler and more affordable effort, similar to Acurio's La Mer restaurant in San Francisco, which means we can expect plenty of cebiches, anticuchos (skewers) and empanadas, as well as his signature pollo a la brasa. Opening in late July. 118 W. Grand Ave.; no phone yet
TM Tre Soldi Trattoria & Pizzeria. Jack Weiss of Coco Pazzo, one of Chicago's best Italian restaurants for more than 20 years, will debut this Roman-influenced Italian restaurant on June 20. Weiss doesn't open new restaurants on a whim; this is just his fourth in Chicago, counting Coco Pazzo Cafe (still thriving) and Pili Pili (no longer around, but impressive at the time). Expect Tre Soldi to be a solid newcomer. 212 E. Ohio St., 312-664-0212
TM Beatrix. This latest concept by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises will be a restaurant and coffeehouse, adjacent to the new Aloft Hotel (which opens June 20). Opening late June or thereabouts. 519 N. Clark St., no phone yet
TM Bellwether. The former P.J. Clarke's in Streeterville was gutted to create this American-with-international-influences restaurant. Owner Nick Tsoukalas (who also runs his father's restaurant, Athena in Greektown) says the new interiors will be "unrecognizable" to PJC regulars (the entire space has been reconfigured) and will appeal to locals, the pre- and post-movie crowd, and summer tourists. Opening late June. 302 E. Illinois St., no phone yet
N Fat Rice. This Logan Square restaurant isn't as new as the other places on the list; Fat Rice opened in November. But summer is the ideal time to make the pilgrimage to this tiny corner restaurant and its spicy, Portuguese-Chinese hybrid menu because, thanks to its popularity and its no-reservations policy (and no groups larger than six, by the way), significant waits are unavoidable and, save for a separate-entrance (and even tinier) anteroom, there's no room to wait. At least, in summertime, hanging around the sidewalk is comfortable. 2957 W. Diversey Ave., 773-661-9170
N Ferris & Jack. The former Affinia hotel (now the MileNorth Chicago) is where you'll find this uber-comfortable restaurant, which occupies the former C-House restaurant and a lot more. Ferris & Jack, which takes its name from two Chicago originals (the Ferris Wheel and Cracker Jack; I guess Wheel & Cracker would have sounded like a cheese bar), is a combination restaurant, marketplace, lobby bar and barista bar, designed for locals as well as hotel guests. The lobby looks like a very nicely appointed living room, and you can drink and dine here if you wish; the actual dining room features a menu of Midwest-focused classics, from a lunchtime sausage trio to a dinnertime Magnificent Meatloaf, along with a Mason-jar cake of devil's food and cream-cheese frosting. Opened April 22. 166 E. Superior St., 312-787-6000
N Little Goat Bread. Stephanie Izard brings her bakery and specialty-retail concept (part of Little Goat on Randolph Street) to the Chicago French Market, serving bread in the morning, soup and sandwiches at lunch, and coffee all day. Opened June 7. 131 N. Clinton St., 312-575-0306
TM Mott St. Fans of the tiny BYO Ruxbin will be delighted by the latest from chef Edward Kim and family. The brand-new Mott St. is twice the size of Ruxbin, will feature a simpler menu with lower price points and will offer full bar service. Opening in June. 1401 N. Ashland Ave., 773-687-9977
LTS OON. The restaurant's odd name is an acronym for "out of nowhere," a description hung on chef/owner Matt Eversman by a critic who admired the chef's work at Saigon Sisters. But for a while, we were wondering if it stood for "opening, oh, never;" I had this place on my Summer Eating List in 2012. But, we're assured, OON will open sOON, and Eversman can start reminding diners why he was such a hot chef in 2011. Opening (fingers crossed) early July. 802 W. Randolph St., 312-929-2555
N Siena Tavern. Celebrity cheftestant Fabio Viviani also has a restaurant in Los Angeles, but the dearth of Chicago facetime hasn't kept the crowds from this River North Italian, which is getting good notice for its gnocchi in truffle cream, its array of pizzas, pastas and crudos, and an ambitious cocktail program. Opened in April. 51 W. Kinzie St., 312-595-1322
LTS Tippling Hall. Pre-opening publicity calls this Mercadito Hospitality effort a "classic beer hall," albeit with a concrete bar and lots of communal tables. Ryan Poli will oversee the menu, as he does for other Mercadito projects (Tavernita, for instance), and you know the Tippling Bros. are involved in the boozy end of things. Opening in July. 646 N. Franklin St., no phone yet
N Vu Sua. The old Erwin space (sniff) is now home to this refined Vietnamese restaurant (pronounced voo-SWAH) by veteran chef Macku Chan. Beautiful, minimalist presentations define Chan's dishes, along with the occasional burst of creativity, such as the black-cod-in-chocolate-sauce that Chan first rolled out at Kaze restaurant in 2005. BYOB for now. Opened March 22. 2925 N. Halsted St., 773-360-8816
LTS Giordano's Famous Stuffed Pizza. The pizza chain's 41st brick-and-mortar location (Giordano's just unveiled its first cook-on-board food truck too) will be on the ground floor of a historic South Loop building being renovated for residential use. An on-site pizzeria ought to help sell a few units. Opening late summer. 1340 S. Michigan Ave., no phone yet
N Howells & Hood. Nice of someone to open a restaurant I can reach by elevator. At street level of Tribune Tower, named for the architects who designed said tower, Howells & Hood takes up more than 17,000 square feet of space, plus a 300-seat outdoor cafe. The menu is long on pub favorites (the better to go with the 114 beers featured here), but executive chef Scott Walton has plenty of ambitious dishes too. Opened in March. 435 N. Michigan Ave., 312-262-5310
N Great Street. The well-located (corner of State and Wacker) but oft-ignored Great Street, in the Renaissance Chicago Downtown hotel, is back after a $2 million renovation that includes the addition of floor-to-ceiling river-view windows and a new, seasonal- and local-focused menu. Opened June 1. 1 W. Wacker Drive, 312-795-3333
N Parson's Chicken & Fish. The folks behind Longman & Eagle are part of the team that created this rustic Logan Square chicken and fish specialist, with soul-food and coastal-influenced dishes to be washed down with cocktail "slushies." Executive chef Hunter Moore's impressive resume includes work at Lula Cafe, Nightwood, and Girl & the Goat. Opened mid-May. 2952 W. Armitage Ave., 773-384-3333
LTS Porkchop. A clone of Dion Antic's Market-District barbecue specialist is scheduled to open in Hyde Park, which eventually will make Antic a neighbor of Matthias Merges' second Yusho restaurant. Opening late September. 5235 S. Harper Court, no phone yet
TM Three Dots and a Dash. Top mixologist Paul McGee's tiki-bar concept will open underneath Bub City. Can't wait. Opening late June? 435 N. Clark St., no phone yet
LTS Unnamed concept. Red Violet, which closed in early June, will become home to a straight-up sports bar (and sibling of Bellwether). Opening early July. 121 W. Hubbard St., no phone yet.
LTS Ariel's Bar & Restaurant. A "fun and casual" Irish-American restaurant featuring craft beers (28 on tap) and Irish whiskeys, Ariel's menu will offer traditional Irish food along with contemporary dishes such as Moroccan barbecue salmon and coconut-crusted tilapia. Scheduled to open in mid-July. 18401 North Creek Drive, Tinley Park, 708-928-8080
TM 8000 Miles. Former Lettuce honcho Ed Culleeney, along with Shawn Li, Ben Li and Wan Cai Li, are behind this Chinese-Japanese northwest-suburban hybrid, which will offer an entire sushi-bar menu along with Chinese and Japanese traditional dishes and small plates. Opening late June. 107 Main St., Roselle, 630-283-0053
N Guildhall. When Phil Marienthal operated Blue Mesa in Lincoln Park (Boka stands in that space these days), it was one of the coolest restaurants in town. Now he's back at this 150-seat North Shore restaurant, offering locally sourced ingredients with American and European preparations. Opened mid-March. 694 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, 847-835-8100
LTS Lorenzo. You'll need a lot of money to experience Tony Mantuano's latest restaurant, which he describes as a cross between Cafe Spiaggia and Bar Toma. For one thing, there's the airfare to Miami, plus accommodations in South Beach; after that, the food cost will seem unimportant. Lorenzo will be in the as-yet-unopened Redbury Hotel, across the street from Restaurant Michael Schwartz and down the block from Jose Andres' latest Bazaar location. Opening in late September. Miami Beach
LTS Oceanique. What's a 25-plus-year-old restaurant doing on this list? The veteran seafood specialist will close for two weeks at the end of June, reopening with completely overhauled decor, new floor and ceiling treatments, an expanded, refurnished bar and new menu, including a special bar menu. Reopening July 16. 505 Main St., Evanston, 847-864-3435
LTS Sushi +. This arriving-soon restaurant, inside Westfield Fox Valley shopping center, will offer kaiten-zushi, the formal term for conveyor-belt service; customers watch as sushi and other dishes slowly pass by, select what they want and are charged (via color-coded plates) accordingly. Regular waiter service will be available for hot dishes. Opening in July. 4430 Fox Valley Drive, Aurora, 630-820-1666
LTS Unnamed concept. The DMK Restaurant Group plans a chicken-and-biscuits concept in Evanston, near Northwestern University's campus. But it likely won't arrive until fall.
Which will you try first?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us which of these restaurants you are most eager to try. Please include "Summer Eating List" in the subject line, and your answer may be published.