We think Frank Sinatra was onto something when he sang, “Chicago is my kind of town.” The Windy City, the latest spot in our where to eat city guide series is our kind of town as well.
With over 2.7 million residents, it’s the busiest city in the entire Midwest, but it somehow manages to feel less crowded and overwhelming than some of its other big city counterparts. Buzzing with culture, it’s known for its killer standup comedy (thank you Chi-town for giving us Tina Fey), jazz and blues clubs, and an array of contemporary art galleries. And that’s just half the appeal — Chicago is as beautiful as it is entertaining.
The scenic Chicago River runs right down the middle of the city, boasting stunning views of Lake Michigan, and one heck of a skyline (the first skyscraper in the world was built in Chicago). And you don’t have to venture far to enjoy the beach—there are over 20 beaches to lounge on when you need a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city.
If all that weren’t enough, Chicago is also home to a flourishing food scene, including a slew of diverse ethnic restaurants. From Greektown and Indo-Pak, to the authentic Mexican joints dotting Little Village and Pilsen, to the classic Chicago dog (found on just about any street corner), Chicago is an epicurean’s delight. Da Bears! The Cubbies! Deep-dish pizza! What else do you need?
We recently asked three food bloggers and proud Chicagoans about their favorite food joints in the Second City, and now we’re hungry to hop on a plane!
Ready to pack your bags?! Let’s take a tour of the FoodieCrush Guide to Where to Eat in Chicago.
Monique Volz | Ambitious Kitchen
Monique Volz’s blog is proof that healthy recipes can be thrilling, mouthwatering, and incredibly satisfying. Her recipes have truly inspired us to make better choices in the kitchen, without sacrificing flavor, and for that, we are indebted to her.
Healthy, clean eating is the main focus of Ambitious Kitchen, but she also features vegan and gluten-free recipes, as well as fitness plans and travel recaps that motivate us on all fronts. Yep, we’re hooked.
After Monique traded in her full-time corporate job last year, for the life of a full-time food blogger, she decided it was time to make another big change. She moved from Minneapolis to Chicago, and now she couldn’t be happier. When Monique’s not crafting new recipes, her favorite things to do in the city include running and biking along Lake Michigan, indulging in deep dish pizza and enjoying the kindness of Chicagoans.
I love the breakfast/brunch menu at Beatrix because of its simple, creative and healthy options. Favorites include the quinoa patties, lemon pancakes, honey-cinnamon latte and the grilled avocado toast (!!!). They also have lovely fresh pressed juices to pick from.
Tip: There’s typically at least a half hour wait on the weekends, so grab a coffee while you wait! This is a Chicago staple.
Batter and Berries is a hidden gem. On both the inside and out it doesn’t look like much, but prepared to be blown away by incredible food, terrific service and creative breakfast items. Top picks here are the sweet potato waffles, french toast flight and anything topped with maple butter!
Photo: Crosby’s Kitchen
I think they make one of the best salads in the city is at Crosby’s Kitchen. It’s called the Wrightwood Salad and it’s packed with chicken, greens, cornbread croutons, goat cheese, avocado, almonds and basically everything delicious.
Tip: If you get a chance, try their cornbread skillet because it is AMAZING.
Native Foods Cafe is an amazing vegan restaurant that will satisfy even meat lovers. I truly believe that anyone could go here and find something to enjoy because the options are endless. Also this place is one of my favorites for a nice, casual lunch with a friend.
The Aviary is a great place to enjoy a unique one of a kind cocktail. The presentation is gorgeous but can be a bit on the pricey side. It’s worth it though!
Photo: Frontera Grill
Frontera Grill is one of the absolute best restaurants in the city. It’s Mexican food and from Rick Bayless so you know you can look forward to something delicious and flavorful. The margaritas and chips and salsa are to die for!
Tip: Don’t miss out on the duck nachos, mole poblano enchiladas or the fresh sweet corn tamales!
Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee is one of the best doughnut shops in the city! They also have gluten free doughnuts available.
Intelligentisa Coffee is a wonderful coffee shop based in Chicago and known throughout the country for their incredible coffee. They have several locations throughout the city, and it’s just such a nice quiet place to relax and read a book.
We’ve been fans of Laura Davidson’s blog for some time now and named her one of April’s 5 Food Blogs I’m Following Now. We love her vivid photography and her style of cooking — seasonally-driven, beautifully composed dishes that are completely approachable for home cooks.
Laura is a new to the Windy City. She and her husband made the move from DC to Chicago this past June, and in the few short months she’s lived there, she’s become enamored with the city. She loves the energy there, the friendly people and the amazing food scene.
She most enjoys heading to the beach for the day, walking along the Lakeshore Trail and catching the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, visiting the newly opened Bloomingdale Trail (similar to NYC’s High Line) and grabbing a glass of wine on the River Walk downtown.
If you’re looking to try a Stephanie Izzard restaurant (which is significantly easier to reserve a table at than Girl and the Goat), try Little Goat across the street. It is one of my favorite neighborhood breakfast spots! I love this place because it has classics, as well as incredibly creative breakfast dishes, such as “Little Pig Went to China”, a breakfast dish consisting of a cheddar-scallion biscuit, perfectly cooked sunny-side eggs, Szechuan pork sausage, chili garlic chive sauce, and blackberries.
Tip: Ask to hear about the “Blue Plate” special of the day or order a side of crispy hash browns!
River Roast is a super fun place to make a reservation for brunch on the weekends, as has outdoor tables looking out on the Chicago River! They are known for their roasted dishes (whole roasted chickens, beef roast, and whole roasted fish), but they also have incredibly tasty breakfast dishes, including Mascarpone French Toast (seriously decadent) and for the slightly more adventurous, Rabbit & Waffles.
Tip: Don’t forget a Bloody Mary to wash everything down!
Thank goodness I don’t live in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago, because if I did, I would probably eat at Velvet Taco multiple times per week. Not only are they located within walking distance of the beach, but they happen to have some of the most creative tacos in the city, including my personal favorites: Ahi Poke (served in a lettuce cup), Spicy Tikka Chicken, and Annatto Shredded Pork tacos. It is casual, laid-back, and the food is reliably delicious every time.
The Allis in Chicago’s Soho House might be one of my favorite spaces in the city to grab lunch, as it is beautifully decorated—I could literally sit there all day long–and there are multiple food spots within Soho House where you can grab great food (The Allis, Chicken Shop, and Pizza East).
Tip: Their menu changes seasonally, but my current favorites include their heirloom tomato and burrata salad and short rib grilled cheese sandwich.
While City Winery (the Riverwalk location) does not have a traditional cocktail menu and has a limited wine list, I love visiting this spot for happy hour because it has one of the best views of the Chicago river (as it is located directly on the new Chicago riverwalk). You can watch the boats go by, order a plate of charcuterie and cheese, and sit outside and take advantage of the incredible weather (while it lasts).
Tip: If you’re heading there on a busy Saturday or Sunday, expect a 20-30 minute wait for a table.
RM Champagne Salon is a bar tucked away in an alley, along with a hidden ramen and BBQ joint, in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago. You can stand outside and grab a table outside and sip on champagne by the glass, or any number of cocktails, and order oysters by the half shell. Perfect for those last summer evenings!
Photo: Lula Cafe
Thankfully, I stumbled upon the gem that is Lula Café last year when I didn’t even live in Chicago (and happened to be visiting from out of town). Since then, I’ve had the chance to eat dinner there twice and have had amazing experiences every single time. Their seasonal, farm-to-table menu is incredibly creative and changes practically every day. The atmosphere is cozy, and the service has always been great. Thankfully, they also take reservations and you can generally find a table within about a week or so of visiting!
Kameya is a hidden 10-seat Japanese restaurant is tucked away (they don’t even have a website!) in the heart of Lincoln Park, and is currently my favorite sushi spot in the city. The fish is always incredibly fresh and the sushi rolls are excellent! Personal favorites include the yellowtail ponzu starter (seasonal) and 911 tuna roll.
Tip: Since the restaurant does not take reservations, I recommend calling ahead, visiting on a weeknight, or visiting on off-hours to snag a table.
Publican Quality Meats is one of my favorite local stores in the West Loop neighborhood, and it happens to sell some of my favorite bread in the city! It is whole grain and long fermented, and It takes all of my willpower not to drop by every day to grab a loaf of freshly baked PQM Sourdough or Multigrain “1979.”
Tip: While you’re there, buy some meat, housemade charcuterie or cheese!
While I don’t make it out to this area of the city as much as I’d like to, The Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park might be one of my favorite coffee shops in the city. Not only do they make an excellent cappuccino, but the shop has a really unique and funky interior (which includes a full-size back to the future car).
Philia Kelnhofer | SweetPhi
We love Philia’s beautiful photography and fuss-free approach to cooking — we’re especially fans of her “Five Ingredient Fridays.” She also shares great travel re-caps and offers up her own tips on where to eat in the places she’s visited!
Chicago has always been home to Philia. She grew up in the city, and even though she now lives a little over an hour away, she visits her parents and friends in the city frequently. She and her husband are even known to drive down into the city just for a piece of pizza (because according to Philia, there’s just nothing like Chicago style pizza, done right)!
Philia loves that even though Chicago is such a big city, all of its little neighborhoods make it feel manageable, not daunting. Also, she thinks the city has an incredible food scene!
Little Goat Diner (also one of my dinner recommendations) serves some of the best food I’ve ever eaten! Their menu boasts breakfast served all day (brinner anyone?) and freshly baked bread. I love all their sides to breakfast and they have a whole ‘tater’ section – yum! Their waffles are off the chart amazing, crispy and soft– the Fat Elvis (banana, peanut butter-butter, bacon maple syrup) is a menu item not to be missed. Also, the Razzle Home Fries are addictingly delicious!
Tip: They have a really cool rooftop bar worth checking out, and they also have a café/bakery with delicious coffee and a bar where you can take a peek through a window and see them baking their amazing bread.
Ann Sather is a Danish breakfast/brunch restaurant that gives you two giant cinnamon rolls as a side with your order! There is always a crowd, but the wait is never too long – the throughput is fantastic there….and did I mention that you get TWO cinnamon rolls as a side? Grab a friend and be prepared for some tasty breakfast food!
Chicago is known for its deep dish pizza, and none is better than Lou Malnati’s! My first job at 16 was at one of the Lou Malnati’s locations, not that that swayed me in any way (my family has been eating there since as long as I can remember), but it really is the BEST Chicago deep dish pizza. My hubby and I have driven down from Milwaukee to Chicago (only an hour and a half drive) on a weeknight for Lous on more than one occasion.
Tip: Get the Malnati’s Chicago Classic – it’s made with Lou’s lean sausage, some extra cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on Buttercrust. It’s authentic Chicago! If you’ve never had Chicago style pizza – know that the sauce is on top!
Publican Quality Meats is one of the best delis, period! You can get a sandwich from their menu to go (and also pick up some groceries like their homemade soups or frozen meats) or grab a seat. Their warm charcuterie plate is not to be missed-three house made sausages with marinated peppers, fried potatoes and dijonnaise – suuuuper good warm meats and potatoes with a killer sauce!
Tip: If you want to see something really cool take a trip to their restrooms – you can get a peek into their kitchen because you literally walk through it!
Eataly is a market that has different food counters and a super awesome wine selection – one can grab a little bite (like some salami and fresh mozzarella and fresh baked bread) and a glass (or two) of wine and then enjoy it with friends at one of their many high top table areas. Then one can pick up ingredients for dinner on the way out (or some gelato!) Did I mention they have a Nutella bar? Eataly is one of my favorite Chicago meeting spots because you can browse the amazing selection while waiting for your friend to arrive.
Frontera Grill– Give me a margarita after a long day and I’m a happy girl! Frontera Grill is impossible to get a reservation to for dinner (almost as difficult as Girl and the Goat) but one can always find a seat in their bar area (there are usually even tables where one can sit on a first come first serve basis). The margaritas and cocktails are off the chain amazing, and they have a great snacking/starters menu – their ‘just made chips and two salsas’ are definitely a must – along with their guacamoles! Honestly, everything on the menu is just deliciousness to the max!
Chicago pizza and oven grinder is my little secret gem in Chicago – the restaurant I recommend to anyone asking where to go in Chicago – it’s an “experience!” They don’t serve typical Chicago ‘deep dish’ pizza, rather they serve these things called “pizza pot pies!” The pizza pot pie is made with triple-raised Sicilian bread-type dough, a homemade sauce and a special blend of cheeses – it’s how it’s served that is really cool – it comes in a dish with the crust on top and then the server flips it over when it is brought to the table and it turns into a pot pie! Something else that is really not to be missed here is their salad and their Mediterranean flat bread. The salad comes with two dressing that are great alone – but are meant to be mixed! The Mediterranean flat bread is so unique – it comes on a huge plate and spills over the edge and has spices and parmesan, it’s meant to be ripped apart and is oh so yummy!
Tip: This place is small, but it’s worth the wait (they don’t take reservations) and they only take cash (there’s an ATM across the street at the street corner)!
Little Goat Diner is top notch amazing! In the Fulton Market District (many other restaurant and bars close by) the Little Goat Diner is the sister restaurant to the famous Girl and the Goat restaurant. However, unlike the Girl and the Goat where one cannot get a reservation unless it’s 4-6 months out (no joke) the Little Goat Diner has typical diner food – but more upscale. For the burgers one gets to choose beef or goat, and if you’ve never had a goat burger, I would highly recommend it – goat is a little more gamey than beef, it’s good! They also serve breakfast all day and have a great cocktail menu! If you have a few moments to spare – check out their roof top bar – it is super cool!
Alliance Patisserie has amazing French macarons and pastries, and it’s also only a few blocks away from Eataly – definitely walking distance. My husband, who has never understood the allure of French macarons like I did (I’m pretty much obsessed with them) changed his tunes after having them from Alliance Patisserie – he said that he finally understood what the rage was all about. They have tons of unique flavors – two of our favorites are the peanut butter and jelly and the pistachio.
Tip: Adagio Teas is right next door to Alliance and they have a huge selection of teas (you can purchase both tea to make at home and a delicious cup of tea to go).
Vanille Patisserie has a great selection of fancy pastries and also a beautiful selection of French Macarons, and is down the street from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder! My favorite one here was a Boston Cream Pie macaron!
Kirby lives in Brooklyn, by way of Chicago. When she’s not drawing, she can be found doing other’s makeup, watching movies, cooking meals with five ingredients or less, and dancing! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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