Fall Preview: Where and What to Eat

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No amount of ominous economic forecasting seems likely to tamp down this fall's wave of restaurant opening. Admittedly, most of these places have been in the planning stages since before "recession" became a dirty word (fancy-schmancy hotel restaurants like Ria and Pelago don't spring up overnight, foie gras-stocked freezer and all), but even the smaller players aren't letting doomsday forecasters get them down. We're particularly juiced about the return of tacos (Bill Kim's Belly Shack and the Unnamed Paul Kahan Taco Project both look to L.A. for inspiration, while Mercadito Chicago and Deseo aim to amp up classic Mexican fare) and the continuing trend of haute iterations of street food, coming from Rick Bayless and Graham Elliot Bowles. It would almost be more shocking if the list didn't contain plenty of simple food-oriented neighborhood bistros, organic/local concepts, and — of course — burgers, burgers, burgers. Read on for our month-by-month breakdown of the upcoming restaurants to watch.

SEPTEMBER
Xoco
449 N. Clark St.
Concept: churros, tortas, and hearty soups in a counter-only space
Why We're Excited: It's about time Rick Bayless embraced street food in a street food setting — and he's likely to knock it out of the park.
Anticipated open date: September 1 8

Gemini Bistro
2075 N Lincoln Ave
Concept: high-end comfort food from Jason Paskewitz
Why we're excited: Paskewitz was so ambitious with his Jackson Park that it never even opened. This toned-down version seems more intimate and more promising.
Anticipated open date: September 9

Mercadito Chicago
108 W Kinzie St
Concept: Party-friendly Mexican food
Why we're excited: We're been waiting for this first Chicago location of the New York mini-chain to open for months now.
Anticipated open date: early September

State Street Pizza Company
400 N State St
Concept: New York-style pizza by the slice.
Why we're excited: We could use a break from all the Chicago-style versus Neapolitan partisanship.
Anticipated Open Date: Early September

Balsan
11 E Walton St, in the Elysian Hotel
Concept: Casual three-meals-a-day hotel restaurant
Why we're excited: The kitchen was already on point when they handed out samples at Taste of the Nation Chicago. Plus, Hot Chocolate's Mindy Segal is doing the desserts.
Ancicipated open date: mid September

Ria
11 E Walton St, in the Elysian Hotel
Concept: Upscale seafood from Jason McLeod
Why we're excited: Flown-in-daily fish is almost worth the carbon footprint.
Anticipated open date: mid September

Pelago
201 E Delaware Pl, in the Raffaelo Hotel
Concept: High-end hotel dining from New York transplant Mauro Mafrici
Why we're excited: We daydream about eating caviar and dover sole served on superfancy china.
Anticipated Opening Date: mid-September

Deseo
6340 N Clark St
Concept: casual Mexican cantina
Why we're excited: The owners of the soon-to-close La Donna are centering their new restaurant around a margarita bar. We don't say no to more tequila.
Anticipated opening date: late September

OCTOBER
LM Restaurant
4539 Lincoln Ave
Concept: Haute-hipster-friendly European
Why we're excited: Chef Brad Phillips, a Blackbird vet, is already honing his menu in the Tallulah kitchen, which will do a weekend quick-change to reopen as LM.
Anticipated open date: October 1

Belly Shack
1912 N Western Ave
Concept: an Asian-Latin spinoff of Urban Belly from Bill Kim
Why we're excited: The space will be inspired by the L.A. skater scene.
Anticipated open date: October

Smashburger
No address announced
Concept: Smashed burgers
Why we're excited: We always get excited about new fast food. This chain's coming to us from Denver, where it gets rave reviews.
Anticipated open date: mid-October

Orvieto
2200 N Ashland Ave
Concept: Homey Italian
Why we're excited: The old Green Dolphin Street gets reborn with a more accessible menu and price point.
Anticipated open date: late October

LOKaL
1904 North Ave
Concept: Contemporary Eastern European
Why we're excited: The place is run by four young, Polish restaurant-industry newbies running on a dream. Plus, we're pretty sure Eastern European is the next big thing.
Anticipated open date: late October

(K)new
2556 W Fullerton Ave
Concept: Upscale organic/local.
Why we're excited: The folks behind Think Cafe know how to draw a chill crowd. We can't wait to see what they do with a destination restaurant.
Anticipated open date: late October

Unnamed Paul Kahan Taco Project
1531 N Damen Ave
Concept: A beer-and-bourbon bar serving up serious tacos al pastor
Why we're excited: This so-far unnamed location seems likely to do for tacos what The Publican did for pork — or for dirty-south bourbon what The Violet Hour did for refined cocktailry.
Anticipated open date: mid October

NOVEMBER
Hearty
3819 N Broadway
Concept: haute-Southern
Why we're excited: Food Network stars Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith expand their brunch-only setup to daily dinner.
Anticipated open date: November 4

The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave
Concept: Wine-focused gastropub from Heaven on Seven's Jimmy Bannos, Levy Restaurants' Scott Harris, and one more high-profile guy who wants to remain anonymous for now.
Why we're excited: This space, this concept, and these guys seem unlikely to go awry.
Anticipated open date: early November

Leo's Coney Island
No address announced
Concept: Hot dogs with chili on them.
Why we're excited: Hot dogs with chili on them!
Anticipated open date: November

Grahamwich
No address announced
Concept: Casual, creative sandwiches
Why we're excited: Graham Elliot Bowles puts pop rocks on his foie gras and invented the lobster corn dog. Imagine what he'll do with lunch.
Anticipated open date: November

DMK Burger Bar
No address announced
Concept: Eco-friendly burgers
Why we're excited: The "DM" stands for David Morton, and the "MK" stands for Michael Kornick. We sense good things.
Anticipated open date: November

Sandella's Flatbread Cafe
No address announced
Concept: Healthy lunch foods.
Why we're excited: It's not mathematically possible for there to be too many lunch options in the Loop.
Anticipated open date: November

Sprout
1417 W Fullerton Ave
Concept: Organic French-Italian
Why we're excited: The DePaul area could use a classy joint like this.
Anticipated open date: November

Urban Burger and Pizzeria SoNo
1578-1582 N Clybourn Ave
Concept: High-end burgers and high-end pizza
Why we're excited: Adjoining restaurants helps resolve our constant burgers-or-pizza dilemma.
Anticipated open date: November

Primebar
155 N Wacker Dr
Concept: High-end sports bar and steakhouse from the team behind Bar Louie
Why we're excited: The original Denver location's already amassed a loyal following.
Anticipated open date: November

...AND BEYOND
Unnamed Hopleaf Restaurant
5146 N Clark St
Concept: Mediterranean food and a killer old-world wine list.
Why we're excited: Might lessen the crowd crush at Hopleaf. Or, might make it even more intense.
Anticipated open date: late December

The Drunken Goat
809-813 W Randolph St
Concept: Charcuterie and wine from Stephanie Izard
Why we're excited: Izard's been teasing everyone with glimpses of the menu (and descriptions of the signature Drunken Goat wine) for so long we feel like we're already a regular.
Anticipated open date: January 2010

It's Fall Preview season all over the Grub Street Network. Find out what's opening in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.