Bacon club at 3 Arts Cafe (Galdones Photography)


Smoked whitefish toast at GreenRiver (Galdones Photography)

Eat This Now: 8 must-try dishes in Chicago right now

It may be freezing out, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant scene has cooled down one bit. New places have been popping up like crazy, and many of them have introduced dishes that are totally unique and new to the city. Here are the eight plates you have to try right now.

Pahk the cah at Oyster Bah and get some stuffies
This new oyster bar from the team behind Shaw’s is darn near perfect. There’s fresh seafood of all kinds and plenty of great beer and cocktails—they even serve awesome fries. But the biggest surprises are the hot clams known as New England stuffies. Giant quahogs are stuffed with chorizo, celery, breadcrumbs, and spices, then baked. It’s the perfect savory winter seafood dish.

What could possible follow your steak at STK? ICE STK
STK is known for its steak—and its sexy club atmosphere—but the real surprise on the menu comes after the shrimp cocktail, steaks, and potatoes are all cleared away. The dessert selection here is outstanding, with the most adorable of the bunch being the ICE STK: a selection of three tiny, individual ice cream and cake cones. Arriving at the table in a rack, they're just begging you to pick them up and munch. The flavors rotate, with cake batter being our favorite.

Can’t get enough bacon? Join the club
Situated inside the gorgeous new Restoration Hardware in the Gold Coast, this is the prettiest new restaurant in Chicago. It also belies the notion that you can’t get good food in a beautiful setting. The bacon club (pictured) is a twist on a BLT made with pickled green tomatoes, thick sweet bacon, avocado, and heirloom little gem lettuce. Sit by the tinkling fountain and munch, and be sure to save room for warm chocolate chip cookies.

Cold Storage is constructing a secret temple of seafood splendor inside Swift & Sons
Swift & Sons was one of the season’s most anticipated new restaurants, but as if that wasn’t enough, the owners have yet another restaurant hidden inside. Tucked away and operating out of it’s own kitchen is the seafood spot Cold Storage, serving up a huge menu of fresh delights. The best thing here is the simplest: their seafood tower, dished out in three sizes. The middle tier is already enormous, and it’s not overpriced, either; for $40 per person, feast on oysters, marinated mussels, shrimp, clams, king crab, scallops, and langoustines. You’ll practically have gills by the time you’re done with this thing.

Straight from Memphis, Gus’s Fried Chicken comes bearing another fried wonder
This Memphis chicken chain just made it to Chicago, and while the “world famous” chicken is pretty astonishingly good, we’re much more excited about the fried pickles. Chicago just doesn’t have enough great fried pickles, and these are definitely ahead of the pack. Gus’s uses big, thick spears instead of tiny rounds, which means you get a substantial bite of juicy, dill-filled awesomeness in each bite. The crisp is perfect, the inside is piping hot, and (unless you burn your tongue) it’s just about the perfect appetizer there is.

This salad at Beatrix Streeterville is at the top of the class
Beatrix, the healthy, witty all day dining spot from Lettuce Entertain You, just opened its second location in Streeterville. The menu is filled with adorable gems (“neatloaf” anyone?), but the Straight "A" Salad is the best. Its name comes from the fact that all of the ingredients start with the letter A, including avocado, arugula, asiago, almonds and (okay, it’s a tiny stretch) Asian pear. Whatever the name, it’s a slightly decadent, deliciously fresh salad that’s sure to earn high marks.

A dish to stand up to the cocktails that made GreenRiver’s rep
This cocktail-driven spot is famous for having an incredibly elaborate bar menu (with an ice program that involves its own elevator), but slowly diners are realizing that the food here is a real highlight. The best dish on the menu? Smoked whitefish toast (pictured), served with thinly sliced radishes, egg, and celery. It’s the closest you can get to having a campfire in your mouth, and because of the fresh, crispy veggies, you can even pretend it’s healthy.

Doner at The Sixth has narrowed down bar snacks to this one essential plate
The Sixth opened right before New Year’s, and is mostly a cocktail bar. It’s dark, cozy, and has quirky drinks like the Spaceman Spiff, in which a cloud of wood smoke slowly clears to reveal a tiny scene at the bottom of the drink. With sips like this, you might not notice that they serve food, but they also have one single dish: doner. This meaty Turkish delight is mixer Ben Schiller’s favorite drinking food, so he put it on the menu, and, when combined with salty duck fat fried frites, is exactly the thing to accompany your night of indulgence.

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