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Only duck eggs will do the trick for Acanto’s rich, creamy spaghetti.

This past year has graced Chicago with a wealth of new restaurants and bars, proving that the Second City only continues to gain culinary steam. A Portuguese chicken emporium from South Africa, a lobster shack from NYC, an upbeat hostel-housed cocktail concept from Miami: All of these spots have landed in Chicago for good — or, in the case of #4, for at least a couple of months.

1. Acanto
Billy Lawless and his team gave South Michigan exactly what it needed years ago with gastropub the Gage, and they have done it again for the Italian-inclined with this neighboring restaurant. Start at the small but mighty bar with a round of the Amaro- and vermouth-heavy #9 before moving on to mains from chef Chris Gawronski, such as duck egg spaghetti with pork sugo (see above) or roasted whole branzino. Whatever you go with, save room for the chocolate tartufo, a Black Forest upgrade of cocoa-covered chocolate gelato replete with candied cherries and surrounded by tonka bean sauce18 S. Michigan Ave.; acantochicago.com

Luke's Lobster_Jessica Lin
Luke’s Lobster has perfected the classic Maine lobster roll, now available in Chicago. Photo: Jessica Lin.

2. Luke’s Lobster
Chicago welcomes yet another NYC-based concept with the arrival of Luke’s Lobster, which settled into the Loop this May. No matter how many locations sprout up, the order of choice remains the same: the lobster roll, packing a quarter pound of lobster with mayo, lemon butter and house seasoning in a buttered, toasted split-top bun. While East Coast fare is the focus — they source all their lobster from Maine and take pride in tracing every order back to the harbor in which it was caught — the Chicago location boasts local flair by way of Bang Bang Pies and Revolution Brewing. 134 N. LaSalle St., lukeslobster.com

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The dining room at Salero, complete with candles and horns. Romantic, no? Photo: Neil Burger.
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Chorizo-stuffed quail with spinach, garlic, raisins, pine nuts and piquillo pepper sauce at Salero.

3. Salero
Chef and partner Ashlee Aubin is behind the Spanish cuisine at this West Loop newcomer. Menu items like chorizo-stuffed quail and grilled lobster with bomba rice reflect the rusticity of Spanish fare while also showcasing the refined techniques Aubin honed during previous posts at Alinea and Zealous. Spanish-style gin and tonics dominate the drinks menu in sheer size and variety, with flavor pairings like dry gin and lemongrass, and ginger gin and star anise. The Spanish focus transitions seamlessly to dessert, when wine director Christopher Fisher pairs sherry with the house favorite: fresh cheese flan topped with a bright layer of blood orange gel. 621 W. Randolph St., salerochicago.com

4. Intro
Built upon a vision for a restaurant that changes chefs every two to three months, this Lincoln Park destination opened in February with chef CJ Jacobson and is already seeing its second talent: Erik Anderson, formerly of Nashville’s Catbird Seat. The James Beard-nominated chef will be cooking through July, boasting menu items like a preserved foie gras tart with salted strawberries and hazelnut milk, and pike boudin with ramps, egg yolk and smoked lamb’s tongue. The cocktail list was curated for Anderson’s menu by local bitters makers (and friends) Bittercube, featuring their takes on the classics. 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, introchicago.com

5. Sink | Swim
The guys behind Scofflaw have collaborated on another west-side venue that opened this March. Coastal seafood shacks serve as the inspiration throughout chef Matt Danko’s menu, but it’s inventive spins like monkfish liver torchon and barbecued fish collars with miso and kimchi that provide the meal’s most memorable moments. Turf gets its time, too, with dishes like the malt chip-accompanied oyster and beef tartare, or the pastrami-cured shrimp with dill and black bread. 3213 W. Armitage Ave., sinkswimchicago.com

6. Presidio
The culinary philosophies and traditions of San Francisco served as inspiration for this Bucktown bar. First-timers will be tempted by every section of Alex Renshaw’s drinks menu, thanks to house originals like the sherry-based Banana Cobbler and “classics from the Bay,” including Irish coffee and pisco punch. Renshaw also made room for fun, straightforward alternatives, such as a large-format beer list and a “shot of the house” — Fernet of your choice with a Fever Tree ginger ale back. After a few of those, a dish or two from chef Shaun Connolly never sounded like a better idea — best to make it the burrata with honeycomb. 1749 N. Damen Ave., presidiochicago.com

Nando's
The best spicy flame-grilled chicken outside of Portugal is at Nando’s Peri-Peri.

7. Nando’s Peri-Peri
What started as a basted chicken dinner between two friends at a Portuguese restaurant in South Africa quickly turned into Nando’s, a global chain now thriving in 23 nations with 1,200 restaurants, including Chicago’s West Loop addition this May (with two more on the way in 2015). The restaurant is best known for its peri-peri chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours, flame-grilled and basted to the diner’s desired flavor and spice. Those whose palates crave a challenge can opt for the spicy version, made possible by the kitchen’s generous use of bird’s-eye chili peppers. 953 W. Randolph St., nandosperiperi.com

8. Broken Shaker
Chicago saw the second opening of this Miami-based cocktail bar, located in the Freehand Hostel in the city’s otherwise luxury-hotel-outfitted River North neighborhood. Sister bar favorites like the Cocoa Puff Old Fashioned and Banana Rum Manhattan make menu appearances alongside new originals, such as the Chicago Politics, with spiced coconut cream, Fino sherry and Absolut Elyx vodka. Choosing between snacks like house Wagyu beef jerky, pickles and papas bravas can be tough, so go ahead and spring for the “pick-nick service” — a more innocuous-sounding bottle service that will land you bites, booze and a picnic basket. 19 E. Ohio St., thefreehand.com

9. Bom Bolla
The team behind Pops for Champagne and Watershed have headed west for their latest concept, a Spanish cava bar that landed in Wicker Park just one week ago. In addition to a bountiful cava selection, the corner spot boasts an impressive array of sherries, vermouths and, of course, Barcelona-style gin and tonics. Chef Matt Lair is helming the kitchen and serving a variety of Spanish small plates, including potato croquetas, fried squid bocadillos and housemade botifarra. 1501 N. Milwaukee Ave., bombollabar.com

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Tartare at the seasonal Japanese restaurant Momotaro.

10. Momotaro
As if the West Loop needed another reason to lure urban and suburban dwellers alike, in October it received Momotaro, the latest from the BOKA restaurant group. Executive chef Mark Hellyar and sushi chef Jeff Ramsey serve a widely encompassing seasonal Japanese menu divided into six sections, paying heavy attention to sushi and their wood-fired robata grill (think chicken hearts and Wagyu beef tongue). Throughout the menu the chefs are dedicated to showcasing rare fish from around the world, like halfbeak needlefish and conger eel whitebait. 820 W. Lake St., momotarochicago.com

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