Chicago is a great place for food and drink. It has something for
everyone. I love experimenting with restaurants & bars and I've built up
a mental list of "places I love". A friend recently suggested I write
down my mental list so that people could explore my suggestions and give
me feedback and receive further restaurant suggestions based on what I
like. Great idea!
So here goes - creating a top 10 list is just too hard for me - it's
like picking your favourite children, instead I've gone for
"categories". All the links in this article go to Google places pages
where you'll be able to access the restaurant web site, the google maps
location and other reviews - take reviews with a pinch of salt - I only
recommend great places!
Worth noting - I work down town and live in the Lincoln Park & Lake
View area. I have a definite geographical bias. I don't have kids so I
cannot really comment on "family friendly locations" - perhaps a
category for the future. I'm not a big fan of "boxing left-overs" so if
you're not into portion control you might want to find a different
This page is a little long so here are some quick links:
I'm definitely a hearty-breakfast-kind-of-guy. I like fresh fruit,
omelets & the occasional pancake.
- it's always fun to eat in Boy's Town and this place is no
exception. Nookies has a great selection of breakfast dishes -
omelets, pancakes etc - as well as a more seasonal menu of specials.
Nookies has several restaurants across the city so check out Google
maps to see if there is one near you.
- the first breakfast place I fell in love with. On top of a great
menu selection this place has some lovely morning cocktails to
sample. I love the "scrambles" they do here. Scrambled eggs with tons
of ingredients thrown in. Yum!
- slicker than your average. This is a place with a style of it's
own. I've queued to get in several times. I love it because the
dishes are a little bit unusual and the juices available are awesome.
The make-your-own-juice concept is a lot of fun and tasty too!
- the building and location are beautiful and the food is stunning.
Set next to the body of water known as the North Pond in Lincoln Park
(more of a mini-lake than pond) this restaurant offers up a set price
3 course brunch. The place is pricey, particularly if you fancy wine
to get your morning kick started, but you definitely get value for
Lunch is always a tricky one. You try not to spend too much money and
you would rather be in and out fast (or perhaps that's just me). I don't
think you can get a good lunch in down-town Chicago for under $7. Price
is not a good indicator of quality though as I feel there is big range
of quality in the $7-$10 price point.
- hands down my favourite place for a good panini or salad. Artisan
also has an amazing selection of wine and booze. This is also one of
the only places I've found which has European style chorizo - thank
goodness! All prices include sales tax too - particularly satisfying
from an Englishman's perspective.
- wow & wow. If you need cheese you need Pastoral in your life. If
you need cheese and fancy chowing down an awesome mini-baguette
stuffed with deliciousness - this is your place.
- it's easy to get cynical about celebrity chefs (I love 'em) and if
you're in Chicago talking about the subject it will not be long
before you hear the name "Rick Bayless". The owner of several
high-end Mexican restaurants in Chicago and
celebrity-chef-extraordinairre. Xoco is Chef Bayless's take on
Mexican street food and it's amazingly yummy. If you love soups and
freshly made sandwiches with a little bit of kick you cannot go wrong
here. Warning - expect to queue.
- this bakery, based in Lake View, is great for many things - buying
a nice loaf of bread to go with your evening meal, soup and good
sized tasty sandwiches.
- my first sit-down-place lunch recommendation. Maggianos is known
for it's family style Italian food. I've been there and I've done
that - it's tasty for sure... BUT... I don't think it gets much
credit for it's lunch/snacks/bar menu. If you like your sandwiches
"man-size" with a side of marinara sauce take a walk to this Chicago
- delicious beer ("no crap on tap") and a foodie-style bar menu. I
love the kobe-beef burgers, the fish & chips and the pork & gravy.
- great place to hold a client meeting. The place feels like a
throwback from the 1920s. Al Capone and friends would definitely dine
here and I say that in the most positive way possible. The place is a
touch of Chicago class. Everything is good here but their risottos
have a special place in my heart. Always listen out for the specials!
- "Yummy" and "wow" are 2 words I associate with Chalkboard. I felt
delighted after enjoying a fabulous Afternoon Tea at Chalkboard. The
tea, the food and the service were excellent. The decor was classy
yet humble. If you need delicate sandwiches, perfect scones &
something to satisfy your sweet tooth you should head on over to
Chalkboard! This place is perfect for a weekend catch up with
Perhaps the most controversial category. Why? Chicago deep dish does not
really float my boat. For me it's more of a gimmick. A stunt you should
try after exercising your stomach in a hot-dog eating contest.
- picture the scene - your favourite pizza place is also an award
winning brewery. AMAZING! If you really like pizza, the thin crust
kind, go here. Everything tastes fresh, everything is washed down in
- I feel as if I need to include a deep-dish place for my personal
safety. If I have to recommend one I'd go with Pizzeria Uno or Due
(same owners). Small-ish, intimate and stuffed with pizza. I love the
- if you go here and don't like the stuffed dates I may lose respect
for your tongue and send you straight to the nearest hospital. This
place does comfort food in small portions and it's a good job too!
The food is fantastic and affordable. The wine and even champagne is
mainly around the $30-$40 mark - not bad! Go here if you need flavour
in your life without a huge hole in your pocket. You cannot make
reservations here so just show up and pray there is no queue.
- this place is always packed and the energy level is always good.
Quartinos does awesome Italian small plates. Risotto is to die for
and so is anything prefixed with the words "slow cooked". The wine
here can be purchased by the carafe - very useful (and perhaps a
little dangerous) for a place that is so sociable.
- continuing the Italian theme, this is definitely the most
consistent Italian place I've been. In too many places in Chicago
"Italian" is synonymous with "portions as big as Hulk Hogan riding a
baby elephant". Thankfully Mia Francesca provides a more than
adequate sanctuary of Italian freshness. The food is fresh, fast and
fabulous. I like to think that this is where Jamie Oliver would work
if he lived in Chicago.
(added to guide 8th Aug. 2010) - owned by the same people as
Carnivale and just as wonderful as it's Latin cousin. Gioco offers
some amazing dishes from simple antipasto to extravagant appetizers
e.g. rabbit loin with Champagne vinaigrette (yum!). Amongst the posh
pizza, pasta & entrees I'm told the Lamb Shank is the restaurant's
signature dish. Slow cooked for 7 hours! My serving was a pretty huge
cut of meat but delicious :)
- if you like lamb you need to go to Maza. This Lebanese place is
great. The service is friendly and welcoming. The random courses
around the meal are always a nice little treat. This place introduced
me to the concept of squeezing lemon into my lentil soup - a lesson I
will not forget. Yummy!
- more than just hummus. Sultan's Market is a BYOB place where you
can get quick, delicious food. There is a couple in town - Wicker
Park and Lincoln Park - both are worth checking out. This is also a
great place for veggies & vegans.
- as discussed in my lunch section this place totally kicks ass!
Don't forget to enjoy the churros and crazy chocolate drinks!
- awesome BYOB Mexican. There is nothing fancy about Papacitos. It's
quick, it's tasty and it's very affordable. Great place if you like
SCUBA diving at Underwater Safaris!
- there is just so much to love about this place. The atmosphere, the
cocktails, the service, the energy level every single night. All this
before you start talking about the incredible food. The ceviche is
great, the Ropa Vieja is amazing and don't get me started on the
steak. The steak with chimichurri sauce - I'll fight you for it!
If you're an Englishman in the USA you need access to good curry. I
cannot live without it. Unfortunately Indian restaurants can vary wildly
in Chicago. Your safest bet is to head to Devon Avenue and sample the
gifts of this Little-India.
- best down-town curry by far. Great energy in this place, the smells
hit you in all the right places. One down side - drinks are
expensive. Save your wallet - eat more delicious food & drink water!
- a great pick in the sea of restaurants on Devon Avenue. Good
selection (I'm told by my Indian friend Sapna - she must know,
right?) and reasonable prices. If you want a laugh - get someone in
your group to order something served in a Paper Dosai. It's a huge
Indian crepe-type thingy!
- oddly not many people know about this place. This place tries to
position itself in the overcrowded steak restaurant scene, and it
does do great steak, but this place totally comes into it's own if
you think about it as a steak-burger place. The burger is honest -
basic bun, awesome meat. I just have mine with cheese and a slice of
tomato. Anything else just gets in the way!
- just been here once but the place left a good impression. I was
certain this place was going to give me "food-chain-service" but I
was very pleasantly surprised. The burger was tasty and very nicely
cooked. This place is always packed and it's in a good location to
explore the lake, Lake View and Lincoln Park.
Like a vampire in a church, veggies should be terrified of the
- I take people who love meat & beer. Do you know many? I thought so!
This place is so cool. The decor is great, the service is
sensational, the beer list is jaw dropping. The superlatives keep
coming when you get their share-plates-you'll-hate-sharing menu. The
fish and meat menus are as delicious as they are adventurous. The
chefs make use of some unusual cuts of meat so if you're
squeamishness extends to reading a menu you might want to try
elsewhere. I've heard from my friend Kelly that the brunch is awesome
- BYOB Argentinian restaurant specializing in great slabs of cow. I'd
seriously consider ordering a dish to share between 2. The food is
good but there is a little too much of it for my tastes. The other
big draw back with this place is the queue. Expect to wait. Expect to
get annoyed with people trying to jump the line.
- fine dining redesigned. Turn up in jeans and listen to good music
at this insanely awesome River North restaurant. The cocktails are
awesome, the vibe is slightly more relaxed than your usual high-end
eatery and the food is as divine as it is imaginative. I've been here
a few times and at least 2 dishes on each visit make me stop what I'm
doing and wonder "have I ever tasted anything like this before?".
Yeah - that good.
- just been here recently and went all out with the 9 course tasting
menu. Did I regret it? Not for a second. The food was sensational.
The venison and chocolate dish was out of this world. I want to go
back so I can try everything else on this menu. The place has a great
decor too with very attentive waiting staff.
- as already discussed in breakfast/brunch this place is awesome. The
North Pond is more traditional fine dining and you should go there in
smart trousers and dress shoes. I'm yet to try the seasonal tasting
menu but I cannot wait until I get my chance. Wine is pricey - you've
(added to guide 8th Aug. 2010) - this place is awesome. It has
everything - a patio, a nice interior decor, a chilled out
atmosphere, really nice wait staff, great cocktails and, let's not
forget, amazing food. The menu here is rewritten every day and only
seasonal fare from local producers is on offer. Fine by me! This is
the sort of place you can bring any social circle - work folks,
clients, best buddies, significant others and family. Everyone will
get something out of it.
- like wine? Like cheese? Then fasten your seat belts, hire yourself
a Concorde and head towards Bin 36 at Mach speed. This place is the
best place to sample affordable wine. The wine and cheese flights are
excellent. The food menu is also pretty good.
- jaw dropping beer list. Everything from everywhere, a little
- great cocktails and a really nice roof top. Probably worth phoning
before you go as they often have private events on the roof top.