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Natalie Allen By
Posted 13 Aug, 2018 | 6 Comments
Posted in: Travel Blogs, United States of America

Despite the reputation for calorie-ridden, deep dish pizza, Chicago’s food scene is really quite varied and surprising. Expect tasty brunch, lunch, dinner, small brews, farm-to-table, international cuisine, and off-the-beaten-track places to eat in Chicago.

I’ve been to Chicago many times with my husband and friends and always enjoy what I eat – and at prices cheaper than what you’d find in New York City, what’s not to love? Exploring all the best places to eat in Chicago is a delicious challenge when visiting the Windy City, one I’m always up for – not to mention, eating your way around the city is one of the best things to do in Chicago.

best places to eat in chicago for raman furious spoon

Here’s my list of the top 21 best places to eat in Chicago:

Best Places to Eat in Chicago for Brunch

Chicago does brunch just right.

I’m a true-blue, native New Yorker and my love of my hometown will forbid me from admitting publicly that Chicago’s brunch scene could ever rival New York’s. That being said, I think most people can agree that Chicago knows how to kick brunch’s ass.

Whenever I come to the Third Coast to visit my friends, we always try to get our eat on. Here’s a list of some of our favorite places to eat in Chicago for brunch:

1. Mortar and Pestle

  • Address: 3108 North Broadway
    Chicago, IL 60657. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 857-2087
  • Hours: Wednesday – Monday: 8am – 3pm. Tuesday: Closed

I had the best Cubano sandwich I’ve ever had here. Try as I might, I haven’t found a place to top this one no matter which of the best places to eat in Chicago we dine at. Mortal and Pestle is a classic, hipstery, modern-looking restaurant with big windows perfect for people watching.

Last time I was there, I felt comfortable seated in the window seats watching the world go by. I love going somewhere I don’t feel I need to rush out of, ya’ know?

Pro Tip: They are walk-in only and don’t take reservations.

☞ NOTE: another top thing to do in the city is go on the Chicago Architecture River Cruise. After you’ve had a fantastic lunch, hop aboard a boat and learn about the history and architecture along the Chicago River. Don’t miss it!

2. Batter and Berries

  • Address: 2748 N Lincoln Ave
    Chicago, IL 60614. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 248-7710
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8am – 3pm

If you are looking for one of the best places to eat in Chicago, look no further. People love this restaurant not just for the wonderful owners, but the fantastic meals. How about apple pie french toast with maple butter? Or maybe some cheesy hash browns?

Batter and Berries is also BYOB, so don’t expect to order a Bellini here.

Pro Tip: This place is popular! Expect a wait, but the line moves fast.

3. Tweet

  • Address: 5020 N Sheridan Rd,
    Chicago, IL 60640. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 728-5576
  • Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8:30am—3pm

This is one of my go-to spots to score some awesome biscuits and gravy. Their menu is not all stodgy carbs, though. They have excellent gluten-free options and vegan scrambles to die for.

Located in a really cute restaurant with a bunch of local art on the walls, this cash-only brunch restaurant is a great stop.

Pro-tip: Get one of their Bloody Marys, they are huge and delicious and will give you a great buzz to start your mid-morning stroll.

tweet is one of the best places to eat in chicago

4. Toast

  • Address: 2046 N. Damen
    Chicago, IL 60647. Click here for directions & reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 935-5600
  • Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am—3pm. Saturday & Sunday: 8am—4pm

With 2 branches in Bucktown and Lincoln Park, Toast has got you covered. This is a cute restaurant filled with knickknacks and fantastic aromas coming from the kitchen.

Try their “pancake orgy”, a stack of different varieties of rich and fluffy pancakes (pine nut and mascarpone? Yes please!) and at only $10, this place is a real bargain. This is BYOB, so if you’re looking for mimosas, bring the champagne.

Pro Tip: Get there early. Both branches tend to fill up quickly for brunch on the weekends.

5. Lula Cafe

  • Address: 2537 N Kedzie Ave
    Chicago, IL 60647. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 489-9554
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9am—2:30pm

Recently featured in Thrillist’s Best Brunch Spots in America, this one is a real show-stopper among the best places to eat in Chicago. They specialize in farm-to-table fare, mixing up their menus to suit which ingredients are currently in season.

They have a fantastic vegetarian / vegan menu that uses organic, seasonal ingredients. So, enjoy stuffing your face with greens and fruits…and if you have space in your stomach, get the side dish of coleslaw. It’s fantastic!

Pro Tip: They have amazing organic coffee here.

6. Goddess and The Baker

  • Address: 33 S. Wabash Avenue,
    Chicago, IL 60603. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (312) 877-5176
  • Hours: Monday-Friday: 7am—8pm. Saturday: 8am—8pm. Sunday: 8am—6pm

If you are looking for something more in the downtown core, then this would be one of the best places to eat in Chicago. They have two branches around town and offer an amazing breakfast.

What I really enjoyed most about this place was the effort they made for Pride Week in Chicago. They had glitter and rainbow coffee, and rainbow pastries!

There are also lots of vegan options. But if you are looking for more of heart-stopping meal, their Mac and Cheese is delicious. Here is, truly, a hipster paradise.

Pro Tip: Great to stop in for a coffee on your way to Millennium Park.

7. Victory’s Banner

  • Address: 2100 West Roscoe Street
    Chicago, IL 60618. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 665-0227
  • Hours: Wednesday-Monday: 8am—3pm. Tuesday: Closed

Vegans and vegetarians, rejoice! Here is a good, cheap, veggie-friendly restaurant featuring tons of brunchy yumminess. Don’t miss this casual restaurant’s delicious vegan french toast.

Pro Tip: There’s a lot of available parking outside in case you decide to drive.

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8. Longman and Eagle

  • Address: 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60647. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 276-7110
  • Hours: Monday-Friday: 9am—2am. Saturday: 9am—3am. Sunday: 9am—2am

This American, hipster restaurant is not to be scoffed at. Featuring farm-to-table menus and a rotating line-up of fresh ingredients, there is always something special being cooked at Longman and Eagle.

The real humdinger about this place is the huge list of delicious cocktails and spirits they serve, setting this brunch apart from the rest of the best places to eat in Chicago.

Pro Tip: Although famous for their brunch, these guys are open late into the night serving food and drink. According to some of my local friends, sometimes they’ll offer really cheap drinks like $1 PBRs.

Best Places to Eat in Chicago for Lunch and Dinner

In my opinion, the best places to eat in Chicago are authentic, flavorful and unique. Even if the restaurant I plan to visit only serves burgers, I’d hope that this American classic is done well and leaves me feeling like I had something special.

For lunch or dinner, Chicago is known for their deep dish pizzas – you can’t go wrong seeking out a chance to drown your hunger in cheese, sauce and bread. That said, here are some other classics in Chicago that you should try.

9. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria

  • Address: Over 50+ locations throughout Chicago
  • Phone: numbers vary depending on location.
  • Hours: vary depending on location.

I’m partial to calling Chicago’s deep dish pizza a glorified casserole with cheese, tomato sauce, and crust. I’m biased though, because aside from a rivalry over whose buildings are the tallest, New York and Chicago tend to have very different ideas over what “pizza” really is. My biases aside, I can’t say “no” to a ton of cheese and a crusty edge no matter how thick that slice may be…

best places to eat chicago pizza

Lou Malnati’s is a staple of deep dish pizza and with so many places to eat in Chicago, you’re likely to come across more than one location beckoning you to come in and stuff yourself with all the carbs a body can handle. I won’t beat around the bush: deep dish pizza is fantastic, but heavy.

I split a personal sized pizza with a friend when I was last there. We ordered the pepperoni and it was amazing. The crust was buttery, the sauce was bright and that cheese oozed all over the place.

Pro Tip: Go for a downtown location and then take a walk along Lake Shore Drive to help burn off that calorie avalanche your body has to deal with.

10. Big Jones

  • Address: 5347 N Clark St
    Chicago, IL 60640. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 275-5725
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11am-9pm. Friday: 11am-10pm. Saturday: 9am=10pm. Sunday: 9am-9pm

Here is Southern Louisiana cooking done right. Huge portions will fill you up until you burst with pleasure, before rolling yourself home. The shrimp and grits are out of control, plus they give beignets with your meal!

The price tag for this restaurant is a little on the expensive side, so don’t come if you’re on a shoe-string budget, but it is well worth a visit. If you need more convincing, Thrillist listed Big Jones as one of the best fried chicken joints in America.

Pro Tip: They also serve awesome cocktails.

11. Tank Noodle

  • Address: 4953-55 North Broadway
    Chicago, IL 60640. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 878-2253
  • Hours: Thursday-Tuesday: 8:30am—10pm. Wednesday: Closed

This is my favourite Vietnamese restaurant outside of Asia, and is one of the best places to eat in Chicago. Every time I visit the city, I go here and order the crispy, stir-fried, large, rice noodles with seafood. Divinity in a serving bowl.

The restaurant is no-frills and don’t come expecting 4-star service, but I have never walked away from this place disappointed. Even in Vietnam, I couldn’t find the crispy, oily, large noodles like Tank Noodle.

Pro Tip: Go with friends and order a couple of dishes to eat family style.

best places to eat in chicago tank noodle

12. Parson’s Chicken and Fish

  • Address: 2952 W. Armitage Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60647. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 384-3333
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11am-12am. Friday: 11am-2am. Saturday: 10am-2am. Sunday: 10am-12am

One of my friends claims that their fried chicken is the best in the city. But my real reason to go would be to enjoy their massive patio and drink a beer. If fried chicken isn’t your thing, they also feature a bunch of other tasty treats…that you can wash down with delicious frozen alcoholic slushies.

Pro Tip: The fried fish is not as good as the fried chicken as it’s heavy on the batter.

13. Blackbird

  • Address: 619 W Randolph St.
    Chicago, IL 60661. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (312) 715-0708
  • Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday: 11:30am—2pm. Dinner: Sunday-Thursday: 5pm—10pm. Friday-Saturday: 5pm—11pm

For those of you who prefer fine dining, this is more of an upscale restaurant experience. Blackbird is a restaurant where you’ll find fantastic mid-western food showcasing farm-to-table ingredients. They offer great choices for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

If you are not looking to spend a lot of money, rather than having dinner here, stop in for lunch. Blackbird has a very reasonably priced lunch prix fixe menu where for $25 per person you can enjoy an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The menu changes constantly and offers a lot of exciting seasonal treats.

Pro Tip: They offer $10 wine pairings with lunch. A great way to enjoy a very reasonably priced, well-paired glass with your meal.

14. Demera

  • Address: 4801 N Broadway St.
    Chicago, IL 60640. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 334-8787
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am—10pm. Friday-Saturday: 11:30am—11pm

Rated as the best Ethiopian food in the Windy City, this is a gem among the best places to eat in Chicago. This Michelin Guide recommended restaurant is a great place to take a group of friends for a family style night out. The interior is bright, friendly, and easy to plop down in a seat and get your eat on.

There are vegetarian and vegan options to choose from on the menu (although the menu can be a little daunting and hard to navigate if it’s your first time – just trust that this food is outstanding!). They also feature imported African beers, which you should give a try.

Pro Tip: Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands, and if you have never tried this incredible cuisine, come with an open mind (and clean hands!).

*Lunch Bonus* Also check out Revival Food Hall for a wide variety of restaurants all under one roof.

best places to eat in chicago the revival food hall in the loop

Best Places to Eat in Chicago For Snacks and Brews

Walking in Chicago is one of my favorite pastimes and whenever I visit, I’ll walk until my feet feel like they’ll fall off. That’s why knowing a couple of the best places to eat in Chicago that can dish out a snack and a beer to break up the walk is so critical!

My Chicago friends have taken me to many of these places listed below when we’re walking around. It’s like they’re calling us to come in and take a load off. In my opinion, you can’t come to Chicago without trying at least one local brewery and eating a Chicago hot dog. So, here’s a list of the recommendations I have for beers and snacks to help you get the most out of your strolls.

15. The Wiener Circle

  • Address: 2622 N Clark St,
    Chicago, IL 60614. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 477-7444
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 11am—4am

best places to eat in chicago for a hotdog

The Weiner Circle has a well-known reputation among places to eat in Chicago, for just toeing the line between a joke-like vibe and flat-out insults hurled at the customers. When I last walked in with a friend, the lady behind the cash machine had just finished telling off a customer for “taking too long to order”.

I made sure I knew just what the hell I was ordering before I stepped up.

Their hot dogs speak for themselves, however, and you can’t miss a chance to bite into a crunchy, crispy, overstuffed charred ‘dog that sings Chicago’s praises (even if you won’t hear them from the cashier).

Pro Tip: This is a great place to come if you are looking for a post drink-a-thon night out.

16. The Doughnut Vault

  • Address: 401 N Franklin St
    Chicago, IL 60654. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (312) 285-2830
  • Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am ’til sold out. Saturday-Sunday: 9am ’til sold out

There are two locations in Chicago, because these doughnuts are that good. You can get whatever type of fried dough you feel like: glazed, stuffed, plain, dusted… you name it. Sometimes there will be a line out the door for people waiting to get their hands on a doughnut.

Their selection of flavours and varieties change daily, so go with an open mind. You might come away with a new favourite flavour.

Pro Tip: Don’t wait until the end of the day to get here, this bakery closes its doors once the stock runs out!

eating doughnuts from doughnut vault one of the best places to eat in chicago

17. Four Moon Tavern

  • Address: 1847 W Roscoe St.
    Chicago, IL 60657. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 929-6666
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 5pm-2am. Friday: 12pm-2am. Saturday: 10am-3am. Sunday: 10am-2am

This is a true neighbourhood bar with lots of space and a little patio to go and spend some time outside. Play a game of billiards or put some money in the old-school jukebox, this is a good, classic pub to get a brew and some nibbles.

The food is great: Four Moon’s bar food rotates, but their chicken tenders are really good. Occasionally, they’ll feature a chicken pot pie that is out of control delicious. You can also order some great cheap drinks.

Pro Tip: This spot is a hang for lots of theatre people who’ll go for a nightcap after finishing with their evening performances.

18. Hop Leaf

  • Address: 5148 N Clark St
    Chicago, IL 60640. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 334-9851
    Hours:
  • Bar: Sunday-Friday: 12pm—2am, Saturday: 12pm—3am.
  • Lunch: Sunday-Monday: 12pm—5pm.
  • Dinner: Monday-Thursday: 5pm—11pm, Friday-Saturday: 5pm—12am, Sunday: 5pm—10pm

This is a bar where you can get seasonal fare, a great beer and not be distracted by a million TVs! I think the best places to eat in Chicago are airy, filled with good conversation, and don’t constantly bombard customers with a loud sports game or TV show.

Hop Leaf is a 21+ adults only bar. No kids. No families. Just adults eating good food. They have wine on tap and they are always rotating their beer and wine list, offering the visitor a chance to just hang with grown-ups and order good, cheap food (like maybe a cashew butter and jelly sandwich?). Don’t miss this spot, or the other best bars in Chicago.

Pro Tip: They also have live shows a couple of times a month if you’d like to see some storytelling or reading or performances by local artists. Check out their website for more details.

19. Begyle Brewing Company

  • Address: 1800 W Cuyler Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60613. Click here for directions and to see reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 661-6963
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday: 12pm-9pm, Friday: 12pm-10pm, Saturday: 11am-10pm, Sunday: 12pm-8pm

A neighbourhood bar where lots of locals chill out with a good brew and good friends. This is a smaller, no-frills place where you can drink good, artisanal beer. I recommend Begyle Brewing Co. because you’re likely to avoid the worst of any tourist crowd and get a chance to rub elbows with locals.

Begyle does not offer a full kitchen for eating, but they do encourage you to bring your own food and there are often food trucks parked near the brewery to fill an empty stomach. Be sure to take a brewery tour while there.

Pro Tip: There’s a skee ball machine!

Don’t miss this video of the awesome things to do in Chicago!

20. Billy Goat Tavern

  • Address: 60 E. Lake Street
    Chicago, IL 60601. Click here for directions and reviews.
    (And 4 other locations around the city)
  • Phone: (312) 346-5620
  • Hours vary by location.

Among the best places to eat in Chicago, few are as classic and historic as the Bill Goat Tavern (the original opened in the 1930s). The location I listed above is on the “lower level” of Chicago, meaning its no-frills, Gotham-like location was perfect for the set of some of the Batman movies (which were filmed here!).

Billy Goat is most famous for their “cheezborger,” which you are encouraged to order with more than one cheesy meat patty if you desire. The burgers aren’t served with lettuce or tomato, instead heaped high with pickles. There are no fries, either. You can get a bag of chips.

Pro Tip: Coming here for the burger is all well and good, but the location is also really cool to walk around and pretend you’re on the set of a Batman movie.

21. Waterfront Cafe

  • Address: 6219 N Sheridan Rd.
    Chicago, IL 60660. Click here for directions and reviews.
  • Phone: (773) 761-3294
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am—10pm, Friday-Saturday: 11:30—11pm

If you visit Chicago, this is a great patio-only restaurant featuring views of Lake Michigan and a chance to get as much of a beachy vibe as possible while in the Windy City. The restaurant is right on the water and the atmosphere is really chilled out. Come enjoy the sun and wind while sipping a very reasonable $10 sangria.

Waterfront Cafe has a small selection of eats and they feature live music on weekend nights. For a really nice Lake Michigan experience, this is one of the best places to eat in Chicago.

Pro-Tip: Go for the views. Seriously. This restaurant still feels like a hidden gem and isn’t too crowded.

Ready to Expand Your Waistline in Chicago?

While there are numerous fun things to do in Chicago, the fact that the city is known for its foodie scene means that you must indulge during your trip – it’s practically a requirement! As you can tell from this list, Chicago offers food from all around the world, plus the typical American classics. I hope this list gave you some inspiration for amazing dining options in Chicago.

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Natalie Allen

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Natalie was born and raised in New York City where she eventually met her Kiwi husband, Jackson. Together they write for their travel blog, A Pair of Travel Pants, documenting their two round-the-world trips over the past two years. When not on the road, they live in New York City.

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