People often ask me where I like to eat in Chicago. Here’s a quick list of my favorites (so far).
Go in what you’re wearing (Casual Joints)
One of my top two favorite restos in Chicago (with Avec). Amazing. Delicious. Amazing. Chef Abe cooks up food from the island of Macau which is a Chinese island that was colonized by Portugal until 1998. That means Cantonese flavors mixed with those of Portugal with other influences from Southeast Asia. Sounds strange, I know, but it’s the most natural thing for them. Trust me on this. Go ASAP.
So right on in every way! I heart Rick Bayless. The tortas (sandwiches) and caldos (soups) here are TDF (that’s, to die for)! I also hear that the breakfast empanadas kick ass and that the churros are fab. Haven’t had the pleasure of those two menu items, yet, but I can vouch for the hot chocolate. Amazing!
This is a great little hippy cafe in Logan Square. It’s tasty stuff, though much of it is quite decadent. Think: Duck confit benedict with truffle oil hollandaise. Yeah, you’ll be full for a while.
An awesome little ‘New Vietnamese’ place on Lake Street. It’s complex and interesting for such a cashe little place.
Latino influenced organic goodies in Pilsen. I brunched there once and loved it. I wish I had a place like this in my ‘hood.
This is real-deal Neapolitan pizza in Ravenswood. In my top 3 in the states (with Keste and Motorino, NYC).
Korean Tacos and other yummy Korean-ish stuff in a kinda crummy little hole-in-the-wall in Lincoln Park. Delicious!
The burger alone gets 3 Aces on the list. It’s ridiculously good. The rocker bar ambiance helps, too. It’s the kinda place you want to go for a whiskey and a fat, juicy burger.
An OLD school little creperie in Lakeview. It’s been around since 1972 for a reason. Honest, no-frills Frenchy stuff.
Simple and authentic Indian food in the West Loop.
Some seriously fun and tasty burgers with awesome brunch cocktails (including a build-your-own bloody bar).
Yuzu Sushi & Robata
A good and inexpensive little sushi joint on the semi-shady stretch of Chicago Ave. It’s BYOB and has a printed paper sign scotch taped to the window but the food is fab.
Publican Quality Meats
This is a little grocery/butcher shop/sandwich spot on Fulton Market in the West Loop. They’re curing their own everything and making amazingly delicious and creative sandwiches. While you’re at it, you can pick up a loaf of in -house made bread and artisan whatever-you-want. It’s a must.
Wear something cute (An Evening Out)
My #1 recommendation. Probably my all time favorite spot in the city. The food is so good and clean but interesting. A farm-to-table type place. Be prepared to wait, as they don’t accept reservations, and to sit with strangers since most of the seating is communal. Don’t worry… it’ll be worth it.
Maude’s Liquor Bar
This is probably the place I frequent the most often. It’s a small, dark little spot on Randolph St. It’s cool with pretty heavy French stuff (like cassoulet, frites, sausages, terrines). My faves are the chicken liver mousse, Brussels sprouts, shaved vegetable salad and braised lentils. Excellent craft cocktails, too!
La Sirena Clandestina
On Fulton Market across the street from Next & The Aviary, this ‘hidden’ spot serves fantastic Latin/South American inspired food. Delicious daily empanadas and tasty cocktails. (No reservations, walk-in only)
Fun and tasty. This is definitely a hot spot… but a valid one. Mostly Italian ingredients but not necessarily Italian food. There’s a lot of charcuterie and cheeses on the menu but also a ton of other stuff (except for pasta, which you won’t miss).
Girl and the Goat
Funky and wacky ingredient combos that you could never imagine yourself that turn out deliciously. She was the Top Chef season 4 winner and she’s definitely a bad bitch (in a good way) in the kitchen. It’s always packed so make a reservation reeeeaaaallly far in advance or walk in AT 5pm (if not before).
This is some delicious New American stuff in Bucktown. It can be a little heavy handed on the butter and oil but the flavor combos are really balanced and well prepared.
It’s been a while… All I can remember is that I loved it. The space was cool and swanky, and there was a 5:10 egg on something we ordered. I’m a sucker for a properly gooey egg.
Another Top Chef contestant who’s totally killin’ it in Chitown. Dale’s brunches are amazing so I can only imagine dinner to be the same. Plus, he’s the sweetest thing ever.
Delicious New American food in Lincoln Park. Their specialty is their roasted meat of the day that spins in the dining room while you consume other wonderful morsels. It’s a lot of decadence with a few lighter options.
This brother and sister team just got named one of Buon Appetit’s top 10 new restos of the year. It’s a tiny little BYO on Ashland in West Town. A lot of Asian influence but not completely. Really, really good stuff. (No reservations, walk-in only. Put your name in and go to Leopold for a drink.)
A super-happenin Asian place in River North. The space is huge and they have everything from sushi to glazed pork belly. It’s good stuff. The menu is large enough that you could go light or serious.
The best patio in the city. Plus, Tony makes everything by hand here and he doesn’t have a freezer in the entire resto (except for the gelato) which means that everything, including the pastas, are super fresh. Yum!
It’s out of the way but if you’re in the ‘burbs or want to get out of the city, it’s soooo worth it! French, Spanish and Italian all done with such balance and care. Wish it was closer to me!
This is a little place on Taylor St that does French/Italian/Spanish also. They have a wood burning oven that they do a lot of stuff in.
There’s been some disagreement over this place. I don’t know what happened to the people who claim to have had bad food here (and too bad for them) because everything I had was fabulous. The place is named after the estate where The Stones recorded Exile on Main St. Take it from there. Glitzy meets rock n roll with Italian and French Riviera food. Oh, and they had a flour mill built in their basement to grind 00 flour for the pizza. I highly recommend you try one!
I have to admit, I’ve only been here for brunch…. but it was so fab that I’m sure dinner is fantastic, too. It’s right across the street from Lincoln Park, which makes it perfect for brunch after you hit up Green City Market. Their menu is very market driven and he does a ton of canning and preserving to utilize produce in the winter that he’s purchased in season in the summer. It’s very clean food. I dig.
This is Takashi Yagahashi’s Japanese street food resto. It’s the best food on Hubbard street. Tons of noodle soups and grilled skewered things. The fried Brussels sprouts are to die for. I also LOVE ramen here. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations so walk in early or be prepared to wait.
Break out your best heels (Fancy-Pants Places)
What’s to say. 3 michelin stars. Incredible. Whacky. Super expensive. An experience.
I’m shocked that this place is ranked 2 michelin stars when L20 is 3. Service, especially but also the food, are impeccable!
The restaurant in the Park Hyatt. It overlooks Michigan Ave and the water tower. I’m totally in love with the brunch here. I can’t imagine any other meal is too shabby here, either.
If, by the grace of God you can get tickets, DON’T PASS THEM UP! If, for some ungodly reason you can’t go, call me and I will!
The most elegant food you’ll ever eat in a warehouse. (Yes, you read that right.)
Curtis Duffy’s new spot on Randolph. Dine here once and you’ll see that he’s clearly shooting for 3 Michelin Stars. He might just get them, too!