Similar to most big cities, you could live your whole life in Chicago and still not cover everything. Chicago has an excellent food scene, and I’ve been fortunate enough to try quite a few restaurants in the years I’ve lived here. I’m breaking them down by neighborhood so you can plan accordingly by location! Below is my take on what to eat in Chicago.
Also be sure to check out my Weekend Guide to Chicago!
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The restaurant I frequent the absolute most has to be Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! It’s a Spanish tapas restaurant right in the heart of Lincoln Park. They often have reservations available, it’s very well priced, and I’ve never tried a dish there I didn’t like. Perfect for brunch or dinner, and especially great for large groups! Must haves: bacon-wrapped dates, goat cheese baked in tomato sauce, spicy potatoes with tomato aioli, handmade beef empanada, and any of the paellas.
Lincoln Park doesn’t get more classic than this. Fresh, delicious food and a perfectly instagrammable location. Must haves: Brussels & kale salad, lamb & pork pierogi.
If you want a little taste of Vitamin D, this is where to get it. Summer House is where you can get a little basic… their avocado toast is to die for (they have a gf option too!), and they have a delicious burrata platter. Sit on the patio or in the Vitamin D room for some sunshine, even in the dead of winter. I recommend going for brunch over dinner. Must haves: Avocado toast
I frequent Homeslice a LOT. It’s a local pizza joint that has a sister restaurant (listed below under OLD TOWN). Their back patio has the perfect summer vibes, and I’m known to spend hours on end here on sunny afternoons. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the owner’s dog, Gary! Must haves: Bread sticks & goat cheese, spinach salad, The Lucille pizza.
The best Korean Street BBQ in Chicago (IMO). It’s an order-and-sit-down kind of place, so don’t plan on spending too much time here. Must haves: Any of their Korean BBQ tacos.
A lesser-known deep dish place, Pequods is probably my favorite aside from Lou Malnati’s. The line to get in is ridiculous, so I recommend ordering for delivery (a few hours ahead).
Their brunch is insane(-ly delicious). Picture in-house, slow-smoked meats and a bloody mary that just begs to be ‘grammed. Must haves: The Hangover Breakfast Sandwich or any of Chef Bryant Anderson’s seasonal dishes… you won’t regret it!
OLD TOWN AND GOLD COAST
Classic Chicago BBQ, right in the middle of Old Town and the Gold Coast. I recommend going for brunch! Must haves: any of their benedicts.
Okay guys, I haven’t actually been here yet. I’m just too lazy to wait around in line… but I’ll get there, I promise! It comes SO highly recommended and has the most beautiful interior I’ve ever seen (via Instagram). Also, it’s in the middle of the renowned Restoration Hardware, so you’ll get a nice tour of that space as well.
This is the biggest downtown location that I know of. Lou Malnati’s is a Chicago classic, and for good reason. They’re my favorite deep dish place! I’m not saying I’m a Lou’s fanatic, but they do have my name and phone number in their system because I order so much. Pro tip: Order your pizza right when you put your name down. The wait is long, and so is the cooking time for the pizza. If you plan it right, you’ll get your pizza shortly after being seated!
Another location from the creator of Homeslice, Happy Camper features almost the exact same menu items, just with different names. They have an airstream in the back that you can sit in, and a great patio too! Must haves: goat stix, the Guarav pizza, the Pat pizza.
If you’re trying to get fancy, Maple & Ash is your go-to. I haven’t been myself, but most of my friends have (Idan, if you’re reading this… date night??).
Another Chicago classic… Gibson’s is one of THE iconic Chicago steakhouses. If you’re a meat eater, you’ll be into it. It’s a bit pricey but a Chicago staple!
From the creators of Gibsons is Hugo’s, some really really nice seafood. This is another Chicago Gold Coast staple!
Hands down one of my favorite restaurants is Sunda. Their Asian fusion food is absolutely to die for. You’ll definitely need a reservation, so plan ahead! Must haves: crispy brussels sprouts salad, seoul wings, oxtail pot stickers. They are known for their sushi, too!
Another one of my River North favorites. Gilt Bar is a dimly-lit, very romantic spot. A little-known fact about them is that they are BYOB! You can bring your own bottle of wine, and as a “corking fee,” the server will serve a glass of your wine to another table at the restaurant (of their choosing). I love that! Their plates are pretty small and are for sharing. Their menu changes often, but I do recommend the ricotta gnocci if it’s available.
Siena Tavern is perfect for a girl’s brunch, or somewhere to take your parents for dinner. They have delicious food and great service! I especially love their brunch. Must haves: breakfast skillet, avocado toast, monkey bread, roasted beets salad
I love Doc B’s because it’s fresh and delicious. It’s a great place to stop for a break from shopping on Michigan Ave! There’s also a location in the Gold Coast. Must haves: their guacamole is to die for. Thank me later.
Hardly a Chicago staple, but incredible nonetheless, Sweetgreen serves up hearty, healthy, and delicious salads. I go here at LEAST once a week for a quick lunch to go. Must have: the harvest bowl. If you want $3 off your first bowl, follow this link to download the Sweetgreen app!
Beatrix is a Chicago classic–their food is really good (and pretty healthy!) and the ambiance is great. It’s perfect for dinner with friends before a night out, and they have some of the best cookies around. There are a few locations! Make sure you get a cookie after your meal.
Bernie’s is known for their Mediterranean menu, even though their name makes it sound like a Jewish deli. I only recently tried Bernie’s, and it lived up to the hype. Their avocado toast was one of the best I’ve ever had (rivaling Summer House) and the atmosphere was really great. I’m a fan!
If you want a nice, healthy lunch, head to Left Coast. They are perfect for breakfast or lunch, with menu options ranging from avocado toast to acai bowls to wraps. 10/10 recommend. Must haves: hermosa avocado toast, el guapo burrito, montecito hash.
If you follow any Chicago bloggers, you’ve probably seen the above “Rosé All Day” sign around Instagram. The Hampton Social brings Nantucket to Chicago–seafood and rosé are their staples. I recommend going for brunch so you can get that beautiful lighting and enjoy the ambiance! They often have live music on the weekends, as well.
Probably best known for starting in New York, Eataly is an Italian food lover’s paradise. You can eat, shop, and take cooking classes there. Sometimes you can catch a deal on Gilt City for a pizza + wine pairing! Idan and I have also gotten fresh pasta there to make ravioli at home–it was such a treat!
Note: The West Loop is known for food. You’ll find some of the best restaurants in town here, so I recommend doing some more research on the area–this is just a list of my personal favorites.
Believe the hype. I go to Girl and the Goat probably once a year, and it’s always the best meal of my life. There’s a reason the wait is months long! If you are planning a visit to Chicago, get yourself a reservation here along with your plane tickets. Must haves (trust me on this one): sautéed green beans, calamari bruschetta, crispy beef short ribs, wood oven roasted pig face (again… trust me), goat empanadas, and definitely try one of the seasonal breads.
Okay, so you forgot to get a reservation at Girl and the Goat. It happens! It’s little sister restaurant, Little Goat, is also amazing. You’ll need a reservation here, too. Must haves: brussels sprouts, goat chili cheese fries.
Stephanie Izard did it again. From the creator of the above two, Duck Duck Goat is a new-ish Asian restaurant that has my heart. The food is for sharing, and you’ll definitely need a reservation. Must haves: crab rangoon, any of the soups, silver needle noodles, duck fried rice, pekan chicken.
This no-frills restaurant is where to go for BBQ in the West Loop. Order, grab a seat outside, and await your delicious fate. This place reminds me of down-South BBQ. Must have: sliced brisket.
One of the only places in Soho House you can get in without being a member, The Allis is by far one of the most Instagrammed spots I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect for brunch (order the bagel tower!!) and it’s hard not to relax in this calming ambiance. I also recommend visiting for afternoon tea!
Worth the hype. You’ll wait about 3 hours for a burger, so make sure that you get in line as early as possible and have a game plan to grab a drink at a nearby bar while you’re waiting!
A Wicker Park classic, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate serves up not only hot chocolate but so much more. Perfect for date night or a night out with friends!
Go to Bongo Room, order pancakes, never look back. There are multiple locations, but the Wicker Park spot is the OG.
Big Star is one of my most frequented spots, especially in the summertime. I sometimes go with friends and sit on their massive patio for hours on end. It’s dog friendly (outside at least), their tacos and margaritas are fantastic, and the prices really aren’t bad at all. They don’t take reservations, so you’ll likely find yourself waiting for a while for a table. It. is. worth. it.
Can you tell I love pizza? Piece is a really great spot right in the heart of Wicker Park. They do live band karaoke every Saturday, and it’s seriously a blast.
OTHER CHICAGO FAVS
If you find yourself in Andersonville, M. Henry is absolutely worth a go. It’s perfect for brunch and browsing the charming Andersonville neighborhood! Must have: cinnamon roll french toast.
I haven’t been here, but I’ve heard really wonderful things. They apparently have some of the best sushi in Chicago! And they have a Michelin star soo….
Oh, man. I freaking love this spot. Lula Cafe is SO good for any meal (I’ve been for all of them), and I love taking people here! They have a seasonal menu so I don’t have any dishes to recommend, but trust me when I say that everything here is wonderful.
This spot is another that I’m dying to try, and have heard amaaaazing things about. Their cocktails are supposed to be amazing (and cheap!), too!
Perhaps I should have given Logan Square its own category. Wasabi has hands down the best ramen noodles in Chi-town.
Right inside Thalia Hall, Dusek’s is one of the more trendy spots in Pilsen. Check it out before a concert at Thalia Hall!
This vegetarian spot is pure gold. I’m not even a vegetarian and I LOVE it. My favorite things on the menu are their mac’n’cheese (vegan) and their vegan milkshakes.
Did I miss anything? Have any questions? Leave a comment below! Enjoy your visit to Chicago!