I'm so excited to share my Chicago eats guide with you today! One of the things I love most about living here is the food, so this guide is heavily focused on my favorite food and drink spots in town! I hope you're able to visit Chicago soon and try out some of my recommendations!
I moved to Chicago 6 years ago, where I started out living in the city for a few years. I have now migrated to the suburbs but still frequent the city very often. It's such a great place for food, culture, and experiencing the thrill of a big city. I hope everyone else loves Chicago as much as I do!
Let's get on with the guide! I have only included places I've been to and would take a visitor - I wouldn't recommend to you somewhere I haven't been. Enjoy!!
- Little Goat, West Loop || Same chef as the famous Girl & the Goat restaurant. This is an elevated diner style spot with great brunch options. They are open for lunch and dinner too, and actually serve breakfast all day long. In my opinion, the breakfast items are the best ones on the menu.
- TIP: Make a reservation on OpenTable. Get the goat chili cheese fries if you're open to trying goat meat - so good.
- The Publican, Fulton Market/West Loop || Elevated pub-style restaurant focused on local meats. Weekend brunch here is very tasty, and they take reservations!
- TIP: Get the red wine poached eggs.
- Tre Kronor, North Park || A Swedish brunch spot a bit farther removed from the busy downtown areas. A very cute, homey feeling restaurant.
- TIP: The smoked salmon eggs benedict is fantastic.
- Summer House Santa Monica, Lincoln Park || A bit of a trendy spot, but it feels like California inside, and anywhere that feels like summer in Chicago is a good place to be.
- TIP: Make a reservation, it gets very busy on weekends. Don't miss the cookie counter in the front lobby - munch on cookies the size of your head while you wait.
- Beatrix, multiple locations || Fresh, tasty food with a lot of non-meat options. They're also known for their really great fresh juices and coffee drinks.
LUNCH & DINNER
- Girl and the Goat, West Loop || Of course. Such a famous place, and so so delicious. I've never been disappointed with any of my dinners there. The menu is always changing, and their cocktails are excellent.
- TIP: Make a reservation online MONTHS in advance if you can plan ahead. If you couldn't snag a reservation, show up right before they open (around 4:15 pm), make a beeline for the host table and try to get seated. They can sometimes accommodate you if you're able to eat and free up that table by a certain time. Get the green beans, they are life changing. Also, don't be freaked out by the sound of "pig face", it's just really tender pork and it's SO good.
- Au Cheval, West Loop || Another very popular spot, but very good. A very simple but delicious burger. No fancy toppings, just quality and tasty ingredients.
- TIP: It is a tiny restaurant, like really tiny. Not good for large groups. Be prepared to wait 2-3 hours during peak meal times - otherwise, show up right when they're about to open up their kitchen for dinnertime (around 4:30ish pm), get seated for drinks, and then by the time the kitchen opens up, you'll be seated and ready to order! Or, show up right before they open in the morning.
- Quartino, River North/Near North || Italian small plates that are delicious and affordable. Good for a larger group and has a great, lively atmosphere. They have a really good/extensive wine list so be prepared to drink up! They take reservations here!
- Wasabi, Logan Square || One of my favorite ramen spots in the city. It recently expanded and one side is sushi, while the other side is ramen.
- TIP: I always order the spicy miso garlic ramen and the pork belly buns. The sushi side of the restaurant is BYOB but the ramen side is not. Be prepared for a wait!
- Ramen Takeya, Fulton Market/West Loop || Another of my favorite ramen spots. This place is known for their chicken ramen. At first, you might not think it sounds as delicious as traditional pork ramen, but the flavor and broth is just as good!
- TIP: Spicy chicken paitan ramen is my go-to here. The brussels sprouts are SO good - crispy and delicious.
- Sunda, River North/Near North || An asian-fusion style restaurant where everything is just so tasty. It's a bit pricey here so perhaps more for a special occasion depending on your budget, but definitely worth it.
- TIP: The crispy brussels sprouts salad is one of the best things on the menu - even people who don't like veggies will probably like it. I also love the pork adobo fried rice.
- En Hakkore 2.0, Wicker Park || Not to be confused for En Hakkore (although that's a good spot as well). This is the 2nd location that focuses more on sushi burritos. Portion sizes are very decent!
- L'Patron Tacos, Logan Square || Some of my favorite tacos in the city. It's a cash only and BYOB spot, but tacos are less than $3 here and authentic. YUM.
- El Carrito, West Rogers Park || It's definitely out of the way, but they have what I think are the best fish tacos/fish burrito. The slaw that they make for the fish tacos/burrito is the game changer. Also, the corn tortillas are homemade and quality - the tortillas are thicker and they don't crumble immediately when you fold them.
- Parson's Chicken & Fish, Logan Square || Mostly for summertime, as it's almost all patio seating. Fun, casual vibe with good food and good drinks. It's a very popular and enjoyable place with cute red and white umbrellas, so what's not to like?
- Cafe Iberico, River North/Near North || A lively Spanish tapas restaurant with great sangria and affordable tapas.
- Tanuki Sushi, Lakeview || A cute little sushi spot with a great menu (including robata) and BYOB. Affordable eats, and cozy interior.
- Punch House, Pilsen || Casual, speakeasy style spot that serves up delicious (and strong) punches and cocktails. Reasonably priced drinks considering that craft cocktails run more than $12 in the city typically.
- TIP: It's located in the basement of Dusek's/Thalia Hall. Once you get downstairs, there's also a "secret room" with extra seating.
- Drumbar, Streeterville || Swanky rooftop bar with a gorgeous moody interior. Drinks are decent, but the main reason to go is for the atmosphere/rooftop.
- Watershed, River North/Near North || Cozy speakeasy spot with good drinks. I love the vibe here! It's located in the basement of Pops for Champagne.
- Revolution Brewing, Logan Square || The brewpub restaurant, not to be confused with the brewery. Great eats and great beers here.
- Cindy's or Game Room, The Loop/Millennium Park || Cindy's and Game Room have different vibes but both are worth checking out at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Cindy's has a great rooftop view of Millennium Park, and Game Room has a more casual vibe with pool tables, shuffleboard, etc.
- TIP: Cindy's is on the top floor and usually has a bit of a wait. Game Room is on the second floor and is not usually as crowded.
- Violet Hour, Wicker Park || One of my favorite speakeasy lounges in Chicago. You might miss it if you don't know where to look, making it like a true speakeasy. Look for the large mural, where there's a hidden door that usually has a line of people outside of it. Excellent drinks and a very dark, cozy vibe. No phones should be used inside (it's all about feeling like you're in another world), and be prepared for a long wait (30 mins - 1 hour).
- The Allis, West Loop || My happy place, and overall favorite spot in Chicago. It's great for brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks, dessert, and coffee, so it basically satisfies any cravings that people in your group might have. Also very Instagrammable, I'm sure you've seen it online. Super cozy and just so beautiful. Very busy on weekends, make sure to make a reservation.
- TIP: You can also have afternoon tea here! It's more of a cozy vibe than upscale, and it's more affordable than the fancy places. Make a reservation in advance.
- Up & Up, Wicker Park || Cool midcentury style rooftop spot with great views and good drinks. Probably best if you visit in the summertime! It's located on the rooftop of The Robey hotel.
- CH Distillery, West Loop || Local distillery that gives tours sometimes, and serves up good cocktails. Bonus points for a really pretty interior.
COFFEE & SNACKS
- The Allis, West Loop || See section above! It's also listed in this section because it's great for coffee and snacks as well.
- La Colombe, multiple locations || Quality craft coffee, never disappoints. These are my favorite coffee shops in Chicago. Great for coffee snobs (like me).
- Stan's Donuts, multiple locations || YUM. Tons of donut choices, and lots of locations to get your donut fix.
- The pistachio old-fashioned is a very popular one, and the "pockets" are filled donuts. Too heavy for me, but if you like that kind of thing, you should try it!
- Eataly, River North/Near North || There isn't an Eataly in every major city so it's definitely worth checking out if you're in the area. There's a gelato and Nutella counter on the ground floor, and then a ton of great ready-to-eat options and grocery options upstairs.
- Jeni's Ice Cream, multiple locations || You may have a Jeni's in your city, but if you don't, definitely check it out. The ice cream is a bit pricey but you can taste the quality in the ingredients.
- Heritage Bicycle, Lakeview || A super cute bicycle and coffee shop that locals love.
- TIP: Try the lavender latte if you like that sort of thing!
- Ipsento 606, Wicker Park || Another favorite coffee spot, right by the 606 trail (similar to NYC High Line).
- TIP: They serve alcohol in the evening!
THINGS TO DO
- Architectural Boat Tour || There are multiple companies that do these tours along the river when it's nice weather out. I loved doing this and learning more about the really great architecture the city has to offer.
- The Art Institute of Chicago || Chicago has a lot of great museums, but the Art Institute has a ton of great pieces, and the modern wing is absolutely beautiful.
- Show/Play/Musical || Chicago has so many beautiful historic theaters, so if this is your kind of thing, I definitely recommend trying to catch a show while you're here. My husband and I saw the Nutcracker a few weeks ago, and I loved it.
- Garfield Park Conservatory || If you love plants, this is the place to be.
- And of course all the usual ones like the Bean, Navy Pier, Sears/Willis Tower, etc etc. I'm sure you already know!
GENERAL CHICAGO TIPS (in case you've never visited)
- Don't forget that it's very cold here most of the year, even in the spring. Bring layers and some sort of scarf (lightweight in the spring, heavier in the winter) always. You hear people talk about how windy it is, and it's true! If you come during the winter, it's so magical, but much more enjoyable if you're dressed properly!
- Just know that there's probably always traffic. Even at times you didn't think there could ever be traffic. Like at 2 pm on a weekday, or 11 pm on a Saturday. If you're trying to get somewhere on time, add at least 15-30 extra minutes to your travel time.
- Be prepared to wait anywhere from a half an hour to 2+ hours to try a really good restaurant (but it's mostly worth it, promise) at places that don't take reservations. Or, if they do take reservations, just make sure to reserve far in advance! For very popular restaurants, reservations may fill up weeks and months in advance.
- Plan your transportation ahead of time. Parking downtown can get expensive, especially if you're staying multiple nights. You may want to consider using Uber or the El (CTA train). If you drive, use SpotHero! It's great for finding garage parking downtown. In the neighborhoods (non-downtown), you'll most likely have to park on the street and pay the meter. Read all parking signs and double check them down the block to make sure you're not violating any parking restrictions!
I hope this was helpful! I would love to hear from you if you've tried any of these places, or if you're planning to visit soon!