Did you all know that according to Time Out Index, Chicago is the food and drink capital of the world?! Have you been?! If not you should absolutely add it to your travel list.
After living in Chicago for 3+ years the outstanding options for food and beverage are endless. There are locations I would consider Chicago staples, but the selection is ever-growing and ever-changing. It’s challenging, but fun to try to keep up with ☺
The list may seem long, but I promise you this was as tiny as I could get it! I encourage you to take a look before you visit and make reservations (where available) to the locations that stand out to you. Don’t feel the need to plan every detail though, you can refer to the list categorized by type of cuisine, with location by Chicago neighborhood, while you are out and about!
* = takes reservations
- The Doughnut Vault (Near North Side): Fresh, simple, goodness. Classic delicious flavors, and they will sell out. Arrive before it opens!
- Stan’s (Various): Originated in California, but they are all over Chicago! The way you can tell a great donut place, from a not so great donut place is the glazed donut. We love their glazed donut and I’m also a sucker for the Nutella & Banana filled.
- Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (Near North Side, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wrigleyville, West Loop!)- For me this is a do not miss. It’s my favorite dessert in Chicago. My go-to is the salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks and the milkiest or darkest chocolate. However all of their flavors are fresh and amazing! And you better get the waffle cone…or ELSE!
- 3 Arts Club Café (Near North Side): This is inside the Restoration Hardware! Get there before it opens in order to avoid a long line and/or wait. If you do have to wait grab a mimosa and enjoy shopping the many levels of furniture that if you’re anything like me, you cannot (yet) afford. It’s STUNNING and the food is so good.
- Bang Bang Pie Shop (Logan Square): Omg thinking about this place makes me want to go this weekend! There may be a long line but it’s worth the wait. Yummy yummy breakfast (or lunch) biscuits, single slices of delicious pie, and an awesome backyard picnic patio for your enjoyment.
- Little Goat Diner* (West Loop): One of those Chicago classics I mentioned above (and one of multiple Stephanie Izard restaurants mentioned on the list). A beautiful mix of classics and creative dishes.
- Lula Café* (Logan Square): Farm-to-table (before it was popular ok!), ever-changing locally sourced menu, delicious, “hipster”, funky, yum! Reservations are dinner only.
- Summer House Santa Monica* (Lincoln Park): Take a trip to California while you’re in Chicago! Super cute, bright space with an awesome menu, fantastic drinks, and even better cookies ☺
- Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Avondale): It’s a little bit of a trek. We normally drive here after church on Sundays when we already have the car out and about. Our personal favorites are “The OG” and the Honey Butter Fried Chicken Sandwich.
- Beatnik*/Beatnik on the River (Ukrainian Village/The Loop): Flavors of the world, small plates, and an intriguing bohemian space. You’re going to want to move in!
- Pacific Standard Time* (Near North Side): Another West-Coast inspired eatery that has won awards for restaurant design. Dishes come straight off the hearth oven, and they are tasty! I would consider this one currently more “hot and new”.
- Bad Hunter* (West Loop): Veggie forward, but you’d never know it. The cocktails are also outstanding (my personal fav is the Mermaid Water).
- Lou Malnati’s (Various locations) over Giordano’s any day. We love the Deep Dish Malnati Chicago Classic and the Deep Dish Lou. Be prepared to wait ~45 minutes for deep dish pizza. If you’d prefer you can call ahead and take it with you!
- Parlor Pizza* (West Loop, Wicker Park, River North): Parlor is just such a vibe. I’m normally a firm believer in Yelp reviews except when it comes to Parlor Pizza. I love all their pizzas, their nacho bites are GENIUS, and the taco desserts & monster cookies are a must! Also if you love a good Bloody Mary bar this is your spot.
- Homeslice/Happy Camper/Paradise Park (Lincoln Park, Near North Side): Must haves include a Moscow or Kentucky Mule, Mozzarella Sticks with Goat Cheese Marinara (not on the menu just trust me), and Cookie Dough Bites.
- Bonci (West Loop, Wicker Park): Italian pizza spot with creative toppings (this is the real deal people). The style is “Al Taglio” which is a huge rectangular piece and it’s cut and sold by weight.
- Big Star (Wicker Park, Wrigleyville): Another Chicago classic in my opinion. Go ahead help yourself to a Pescado taco (my personal favorite) and a heap of margaritas. Drink your water though because they are strong and they are tasty. Enjoy is all I can really say.
- Velvet Taco (Viagra Triangle): Gosh I love tacos! And margaritas! Here they are served frozen and if you think you’re noticing a trend, you are. I like good, strong, fresh margaritas.
- Antique Taco (Wicker Park): More delicious tacos but also love the elotes
- Federales (West Loop): You are here for a good time. You are here for an open roof, for chips, for guac, and for a tequila served in a glass made of ice, and you are going to throw said ice glass into a bell and it’s gonna ring honey!
- Lonesome Rose (Logan Square): Open and airy space, classy wooded warehouse vibes, and plenty of plants for décor. The tacos and craft cocktails are on point.
- Au Cheval (West Loop): Repeatedly ranked one of the top burgers in the country. And yes it is really stinkin’ good. There’s consistently a long wait so be committed, show up before it opens or the in between hours where the restaurant is closed but the bar is open, or see Small Cheval below.
- Small Cheval (Wicker Park/River North): Doesn’t have the same extensive menu as Au Cheval, but still a great experience and a killer burger.
- Mini Mott (Logan Square): Want to try the Mott Street burger (declared #7 best burger in American in 2017), but at a more casual dining location? This is it!
- Acadia (South Loop): A South Loop location on my list (we live in the South Loop) and two Michelin stars! We’ve only ever dined at the bar where you can get amazing food, a top ranked burger, and an impressive cocktail without spending all the moola.
- Butcher & The Burger (Lincoln Park): The burgers are customizable (down to the seasoning), it’s BYOB (with a very nice beer, wine and spirit selection nearby at Off Premise), and the fries are yummm-my.
- Monteverde* (West Loop): Modern Italian with house made pastas. It’s so good you generally have to book far in advance. Plan ahead little foodies!
- Daisies* (Logan Square): Pasta focused (but you’ll get your veggies in too), mid-century modern interior, and craft cocktails.
- Piccolo Sogno* (Near West Side): A more classic, romantic Italian restaurant. Piccolo Sogno can be enjoyed year-round, but if you catch it in the summer be sure to enjoy the enchanting patio.
- Figo Wine Bar* (Lakeview): Think Italian & New American Tapas in a rustic and warm environment. If you’re up north, it’s one I consider a great new spot.
- Formento’s* (West Loop): Consistent, great Italian food – classic Italian dishes with a touch of a modern twist.
New American (personally my favorite category)
- The Dawson* (Near West Side): In my opinion The Dawson is extremely underrated (as far as top restaurant lists in Chicago go). Do NOT miss out on the chicken fried lobster. The mac and cheese is ALWAYS a good idea. The inside is beautiful (many a wedding is held here so be sure it’s open before you go), but the patio is where it’s at. Brunch, lunch, or dinner it’s one of my very favorites. Quite possibly my two favorite cocktails in Chicago are or have been served at The Dawson. One is no longer on the menu so I won’t tempt you, but the GTO is so refreshing and delicious so give it a whirl.
- Giant* (Logan Square): Giant is without a doubt in my Chicago top 5. They serve creative dishes (I love the uni shooters), comfort food (onion rings and ribs), and homemade pasta. The record player is generally humming and the desserts have the relatable at home flavors I love, but with a fun spin.
- S.K.Y.* (Pilsen): Writing about S.K.Y. has me craving a Hemingway Daiquiri, the fried chicken, and a banana budino (probably tied with Jenni’s as my favorite dessert in Chicago). We have gone just to get a drink & dessert, but don’t miss out on the food which is great for sharing.
- Dusek’s* (Pilsen): Dusek’s is a classy Gastropub. The menu is meat heavy, the brick interior is offset with chandeliers, and the beer list is stellar. Before booking a reservation, see who is playing next door at Thalia Hall or enjoy a post-meal cocktail at Punch House or Tack Room.
- Girl & The Goat* (West Loop): Book early and book often. This is a Chicago-classic (Stephanie Izard), and for good reason. You can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to eat or drink!
- Duck Duck Goat* (West Loop): Another from the aforementioned Stephanie Izard, except this time it’s creative Chinese food and craft cocktails coming for ya.
- High Five Ramen (West Loop): The perfect winter Ramen spot! It’s in a tiny basement and they don’t take reservations so the key is to get in line a few minutes before the doors open. The ramen is sooo yummy, you choose your level of spice, and they have slushy cocktails.
- Mott Street* (Wicker Park): I would describe both the food and drink as inventive. It took us a few years to get to Mott Street, but I’m ready to go back! They also have a killer burger, but see the burger section for a new development.
- Fat Rice* (Logan Square): It’s the best mix of Chinese, Portuguese, and Indian. Every single dish will be delicious! Book early.
- Ramen-San/Sushi-San* (River North/West Loop): Everything here is so fresh! They’ve got hip music, cocktails served out of La Croix cans, the rapper Ice Cube in an ice cube, along with some delicious Sake bombs.
- Bavette’s* (Near North Side): There’s only one steakhouse option listed and there’s a reason for it. It’s the best. Must book ~3 months in advanced and/or eat at 4:30 pm or 9 pm but any way you do it is the right way.
- The Violet Hour (Wicker Park): Just across the street from Big Star, The Violet Hour has serious speakeasy vibes. They serve delicious pre-prohibition style drinks in a dimly lit elegant space. Per the cocktail class we’ve taken here, they will give drink recipes to customers. Test that theory out!
- Cindy’s Rooftop (The Loop): Amazing cocktails, one of the best views in the city and, in my opinion, it cannot be missed when in Chicago.
- Scofflaw (Logan Square): A little different than the Chicago norm for a few reasons. They have all sorts of alcohol, but the drinks are primarily gin focused and they aren’t outrageously priced. Never been around to experience but it’s on my to-do list to be there at midnight, because they serve fresh WARM chocolate chip cookies fo’ free!
- Saint Lou’s Assembly (Near West Side): It’s a diner. It’s a hidden gem. Certainly not on any tourist lists (that I’m aware of). Cocktails are killer. In the summer enjoy the outside patio and bocce ball (try not to have too many of the frozen drinks). In the winter enjoy a fire pit and make your own s’mores. If you’re day drinking stick around and enjoy Money Gun right next door for late-night.
- La Colombe (Various)
- Limitless Coffee (Fulton Market, River North, Michigan Ave)
- Heritage Bicycle General Store (Lakeview)
- Intelligentsia (Various)
- Kibbitznest (Lincoln Park/De Paul): Books, cocktails, conversation cards, board games, the best playlist. Go tuck yourself away and enjoy.
Now go ahead and satisfy your souls and your taste buds!