When we think of Chicago, we tend to think of deep dish pizza. And while we agree that the ooey-gooey cheesy classic deserves praise, there’s a whole lot more cookin’ in the City by the Lake than meets the pie.
Chicago restaurateurs are stepping outside of the box and seeking new ways to engage customers and show off their creativity. Check out the top three restaurant trends blowing into the Windy City in 2017.
1. Food Halls of the Future
The food court has been reinvented. No longer a windowless atrium in the belly of a shopping mall, the new food hall welcomes vendors from all over, but with more style, better eats, and a lot more class.
Mario Batali’s Eataly, an Italian food market, arrived in Chicago at the end of 2013 to the delight of food-lovers all over the city. Now, Revival Food Hall, a 24,000 square foot marketplace is open in the business district. Featuring fifteen fast-casual vendors in a restored historic building, the space is beautifully designed and includes grab-and-go counters from some of Chicago’s most popular restaurants.
2. Here Comes the Neighborhood
Long lines out the door? A wait list even for the bar? It’s okay, send the overflow next door. That’s right, it’s easy to recommend the neighborhood bar and taqueria when it’s your newest location. Restaurateurs in Chi-Town are stamping their name all over a neighborhood, standing in as their own competition.
Named ‘Best New Restaurant in America’ by Saveur Magazine, the always-tough-to-get-a-reso hotspot Girl & the Goat opened Little Goat across the street. The follow up venue features a bakery, coffee shop, rooftop terrace, and area for cooking lessons. Can’t get in at G&TG? That’s alright, there’s plenty to experience next door.
In the same vein, Rick Bayless’s Baja-inspired Leña Brava restaurant and Cerveceria Cruz Blanca brewery and tasting room, opened right beside each other on Randolph Row. Operating as two separate venues, the massive spaces were four years in the making, but opened to much acclaim.
3. Technology Takeover
Restaurant apps have been popping up on tablets and smartphones everywhere, and Chicago is no exception. Actually, Chicago is the exception. Many of the apps created for restaurants are made by Chicagoan restaurateurs. From takeout and delivery apps to reservation systems and leftover food donation, restaurant tech is booming.
Tock, a reservation system that takes pre-paid deposits for tables, was created by Chicago’s very own Nick Kokonas, co-founder of famed Chicago restaurant, Alinea. Providing both diners and restaurant owners with a better reservation experience, the app lets customers put down a deposit to secure their table, and reduces the number of no-shows a restaurant usually sees. Now in over 80 countries, Tock is the premier choice for booking a table at the most sought-after spots on the planet.
On the other side of restaurant tech, Zero Percent bills itself as “The safest, easiest, most reliable way to donate surplus food”. The app works to move the estimated 30-50% of surplus food from restaurant waste and distribute it throughout the city to nonprofits that feed the hungry.
Chicago is a foodie city, and the culture and innovation surrounding the restaurant scene is blowing up. 2017 will bring with it more opportunity and more creativity from chefs and restaurateurs in the restaurant world.
About the Author
Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.More Content by Andrea Victory