The recession may have put some of the South Loop's development in a holding pattern, but this steadily growing neighborhood is back in the game when it comes to fresh dining and nightlife. Over the past year, a new crop of hangouts have steadily taken up residence, from new restaurants along South Michigan Avenue to a destination-worthy music lounge in the Motor Row district. Whether you live, work or go to school in the neighborhood or are just looking for somewhere to grab a drink after a trip to a nearby museum or theater, you've got a ton of new options—and more coming soon.
1301 S. Michigan Ave. 312-922-0601
Opened in: April
In addition to Nepalese classics such as chicken momo ($8.95), tasty little dumplings stuffed with minced chicken and herbs, this restaurant also serves popular Indian dishes such as samosas ($4.95) stuffed with peas, potatoes and coriander leaves and chicken tikka masala ($13.95) served with cream sauce and basmati rice.
Chicago Oyster House
1933 S. Indiana Ave. 312-225-8833
Opened in: May
At the start of last summer, Triad Sushi changed its name and re-emerged as an oyster bar. Dine early (5-6:30 p.m. daily) to take advantage of 10 different varieties of oysters priced at $1.50 each. Sushi fans still have plenty of options, such as the lobster supreme roll ($18), which features steamed lobster on the inside and torched lobster on the outside.
Kurah Mediterranean Tapas
1355 S. Michigan Ave. 312-624-8611
Opened in: August
The owner of Bridgeport's Zaytune designed the menu at this Mediterranean restaurant, which means you can expect vegetarian-friendly options as well as meaty dishes such as bacon-wrapped dates ($9) and braised lamb shank ($29). The restaurant also offers signature cocktails such as a blood orange manhattan ($9), plus plenty of local craft beers and wines from around the world. A lunch menu and 30-seat patio are in the works for this summer.
75 E. 16th St. 312-888-3156
Opened in: November
This pint-sized tavern from the owner of Crave Cafe & Lounge has room for a few dozen thirsty revelers, with plush chairs providing a place to kick back with a single-malt scotch or a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel ale and chat, watch the game or just take advantage of the free wifi. A menu of breads, cheeses and other small bites is in the works, but for now, management caters buffets for big sports games--and you're welcome order delivery from a nearby restaurant.
Riff Music Lounge
2239 S. Michigan Ave. 312-965-4488
Opened in: November
While it's currently driven by DJs spinning R&B, hip hop and dance music, Riff's management wants to focus on live music by bringing in bands working at Pressure Point Recording Studios, the lounge's upstairs neighbor. Six oversized booths are available bottle service if that's your scene.
1315 S. Wabash Ave. 312-662-1100
Opened in: December
The owners of Hot Woks Cool Sushi are behind this two-month-old restaurant, where china cabinets, chalkboards and burlap-covered booths give the space a rustic, homey vibe. Much of the menu is inspired by the owners' family recipes, with dishes including barbecue ribs ($16.95-$22.95), curry-seasoned quinoa ($3.95) and New York strip steak with garlic-oyster sauce ($18.95).
1340 S. Michigan Ave. 312-842-1100
Opened in: January
The iconic pizza chain opened its 41st restaurant just in time for a frigid winter that makes staying home and ordering deep-dish plenty appealing. If you do venture out, you'll find plenty of room for a pizza party with seating for 100 and space for 25 more at the horseshoe-shaped bar. Though fancy cocktails aren't the first thing you'd think to order at a pizzeria, Italian-tinged drinks such as a classic Aperol spritz definitely deliver.
767 S. State St. 312-583-9100
Opened in: January
This hot dog joint's second location offers plenty of items you won't find at the original in Lincoln Park, including a milkshake menu featuring flavors such as caramel-salty pretzel and Hawaiian pineapple ($4.99 each) and five new dishes including the Seoul Dawg, a quarter-pound spicy hot dog topped with kimchi and shoyu mustard ($4.75) and the Elvis, a steak burger with cheese, peanut butter, applewood-smoked bacon and sriracha sauce.
2333 S. Michigan Ave. 312-624-8759
Opened in: January
Located in the South Loop's Motor Row district, Fleetwood takes its name from the Cadillac dealership that once occupied its space. It aims to channel that same luxury with two crystal chandeliers, royal purple hues and a menu of luxe American fare such as lobster ravioli ($12.95), salmon croquette sliders ($13.95) and prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($14.95).
730 S. Clark St.
Located across the street from its former location, the second coming of this beer bar has expanded in both size—it will seat approximately 120 people—and ambition. Owners have added a larger food menu, a wine list and craft cocktails as well as a beer cooler that offers two different temperature zones to ensure that each of the 40 draft offerings will be served at its proper level of coolness.
888 S. Michigan Ave.
ETA: Late March or early April
After closing their River North restaurant Red Violet last spring, the owners of Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge in Streeterville decided to take over Oysy's former Michigan Avenue space, where they'll soon be serving Asian fusion small plates, sushi and some favorites from Niu. This space is significantly smaller than the original Niu, so expect a much smaller menu to match. They're also ditching Oysy's colorful palette in favor of darker hues for a more lounge-like vibe.
Vice District Brewing
1454 S. Michigan Ave.
ETA: Early June
When it opens this summer, this 7-barrel-capacity brewery will also feature a taproom with 10 draft lines pouring mostly made-on-premise beers, including a black IPA, cream stout, IPA, Belgian blonde, extra special bitter, chocolate porter and an American blonde. The taproom's building, which has landmark status, was one of the city's first automobile showrooms. Co-owner and brewer Curtis J. Tarver III said he plans to keep the large windows and add communal tables and a few TVs. Read more about the brewery at redeyechicago.com/vicedistrict.
649 S. Clark St. 312-461-1062
The craft beer-focused spot located in the former Villains space aims to pour a range of styles via 64 draft lines, with more than 100 other options in bottles. Bourbon and scotch also are on the menu with approximately 80 varieties to choose from. Individual TVs in booths, as well as 25 TVs around the bar, speak to the bar's sports focus. The 2,500-square-foot space will also have a comfort food menu that includes personal pizzas, bar snacks and charcuterie.
Additional reporting by Kate Bernot, Lisa Arnett and RedEye special contributor Gwendolyn Purdom. firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyeeatdrink