Dining

Spring in Your Step

Tasting Table's Chicago spring 2015 preview
2015 Chicago Spring Preview
Illustration: Libby VanderPloeg

It's been a long, cold winter in Chicago, but the promise of spring and all the new openings that come with it has kept us going. Now, we're finally ready to emerge from our self-imposed hibernation to eat and drink the best of what the season has to offer.

From a casual new restaurant from power team Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas to Mindy Segal's all-cookies-all-the-time cookbook, plus a snazzy new cocktail bar and some seriously marquee events (ahem, James Beard Awards), here's everything we're looking forward to this spring.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

Michelin-starred chef and poster child for "New Gatherer cuisine" Iliana Regan (Elizabeth) is planning a mid-April opening for Bunny, the micro bakery. The casual bakery will have about 12 seats and offer a host of treats such as doughnuts, breads, butters and preserves, as well as Bow Truss coffee.

Power duo Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas also leave their fine dining roots behind for Roister, an à la carte concept located next door to Next and The Aviary on Fulton Market, tentatively scheduled to open in May. Early reports state the restaurant is going for a bistro-like vibe, with loud music, bold flavors and a convivial atmosphere that's a far cry from the refinements at Alinea or Next.

Photo: Courtesy of Stan's Donuts

Following the success of Balena, Boka Restaurant Group and B. Hospitality join forces again to bring meat-centric Armour & Swift to West Loop. The 8,000-square-foot space in the forthcoming Google building promises plenty of locally sourced meats prepared by chef Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena) in late spring/early summer.

Boka Restaurant Group is also on board to partner with Stephanie Izard on her latest project, Duck Duck Goat. The Chinese-leaning restaurant is, fittingly, opening in the Year of the Goat, and though details are still under wraps for the late spring/early summer opening, keep an eye out for a festive take on Peking duck.

Further proving that West Loop is Chicago's hotbed for new restaurants, John Manion (La Sirena Clandestina) brings the Argentine-inspired El Che Bar to life in late summer/early fall. The 100-seat restaurant will feature a custom-made hearth designed for charring vegetables and meats.

Miami-based bar The Broken Shaker plans to open its first Chicago location in the former Tokyo Hotel sometime this spring. The craft cocktail bar is known for employing creative ingredients, such as mushroom bitters and root beer reduction, and landed on the James Beard semifinalists list in 2013 and 2014; expect locally sourced ingredients, as well as a selection of small plates, beer and wine.

PROVISIONS

A Lincoln Park outpost is in the works for Stan's Donuts; the Clark Street and Diversey Avenue location will sport a retro-chic aesthetic similar to the Wicker Park and Streeterville shops, and should open in May.

The Goddess and Grocer also plans to expand its reach with two forthcoming Goddess and the Baker locations. One is slated to open at 33 South Wabash in the Loop mid-April, and the other is part of a Navy Pier project and should open in May; both fast-casual locations will serve baked goods, sandwiches and salads.

Lush Wine & Spirits will add an Evanston shop to its roster soon. As with the Roscoe Village and West Town locations, the new storefront will include both a retail shop and a casual wine bar stocked with cheese, charcuterie and other shareable bites. Later this spring, the space will open a backyard wine garden shaded by a 200-year-old oak tree.

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COOKBOOKS

Cookie fiends, rejoice: Chicago's first lady of baked goods, Mindy Segal of Mindy's HotChocolate, is releasing a new cookbook, Cookie Love, on April 7. The cookie-centric work contains 60 recipes, including everything from simple snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies to the more advanced strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel. Preorder your copy ($25) on Amazon now.

Paul Fehribach's The Big Jones Cookbook also lands in April. The book features recipes for some of the restaurant's most popular dishes, such as fried chicken and stewed okra, and is available for preorder through The University of Chicago Press ($30 for hardcover, $18 for e-book).

EVENTS

For the first time ever, the James Beard Awards gala and reception will be held in Chicago. The prestigious event, dubbed "The Oscars of the food world," takes place Monday, May 4, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; tickets go on sale April 1. In the meantime, acquaint yourself with the 2015 semifinalists list, which has a strong Chicago showing.

Baconfest Chicago 2015 kicks off Friday, April 17. The two-day event promises bacon-filled creations from many of the city's hottest chefs, such as Rick Bayless, 7-year veteran Pat Sheerin of Trenchermen and Paul Virant of Perennial Virant. Buy tickets now ($100 general admission, $200 VIP).

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