There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like to dine solo, and those who don’t know what they’re missing. Count us in the first group. We’re not recommending you become a recluse with zero human interaction, but sometimes it’s nice to eat by yourself. And we’re not talking about grabbing things on-the-go either - we’re talking about sitting down at a restaurant for lunch or dinner.
The best part of eating alone is that nobody will judge you for staring at your phone the whole meal. That, and the fact that it’s actually relaxing. Going somewhere and sitting at the bar is usually the best way to do it, so you’ll notice good bar seating is a common theme on this list. Here are 19 Chicago restaurants “Perfect For” Dining Solo.
This all-purpose French cafe has you covered for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. You can order anything from plain fresh fruit to steak tartare, and it’s easy to put together a meal from lots of different small things. The large diner-type counter has plenty of seats with power outlets, so there’s space to eat, work, and hang out until it’s time for your next meal. There’s really nothing stopping you from staying here all day.
When downtown is the last place you want to be, but you still want to eat the kind of food you’d find downtown, head to Income Tax. Here, you can hide away from the rest of the world while eating some very well done European small plates (conveniently just the right size for one person), and not paying an absurd amount of money for the privilege.
Green Street is always crowded, and getting a seat at one of the communal picnic tables is much easier when you’re by yourself. Barbecue is served cafeteria-style, and you can get meats like ribs, brisket, or pastrami by the half pound. But what you want to do is skip right to the “by the each” section of the menu, which has things like a pulled pork sandwich, hot link sausage, and a smoked chicken leg, all of which are perfect for solo diners.
Come here for sushi, but also to entertain yourself at the bar by watching the chef. Sunda has great rolls (both classic and Americanized), and it’s pretty sceney, so put on your fancy clothes and enjoy some quality people-watching beyond the bar, too.
If you’re not used to this eating alone thing, ramen is a good way to test the waters. Get in, eat quick, get out, and you won’t worry about people staring at you. There are a lot of ramen spots we really like, but the accessibility and quality of Furious Spoon makes it our go-to. Slurp those noodles like nobody is watching, even if they are.
There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, and there’s never a wrong time to eat at Athenian Room. It’s is one of those spots that makes you feel good about life as you tear into a chicken kalamata or gyro on the spot. Real dining solo pros know you can eat at the Glascott’s bar next door.
Get down with your bad self at the Cold Storage oyster bar. Eat oysters, have a beer, and transition into a sandwich or small plates you can handle all on your own.
The best way to deal with Avec’s no reservation policy and always-crowded ordeal is to hit it up solo during the week. Seriously. In Chicago for business? Happen to be in the neighborhood? Treat yourself. Swing by Avec, post up at the bar, and grab a personal order of bacon-wrapped-chorizo-stuffed dates. Add another small plate or two plus a glass of wine and consider yourself living the dream.
Half Shell has all the characteristics we love about a dark, depressing bar - except, we promise, it’s not actually depressing. The garden unit space on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview feels like an old dive bar with its Christmas lights and other goofy sh*t on the wall. But it’s an old dive bar that serves awesome crab legs. A lot of crab legs and melted butter makes for an awesome meal that would only be ruined by having to share.
One of the best things about eating alone is the people-watching, and Dove’s is a great spot to do it. We like to sit at the counter facing Damen Ave. and guess where random strangers are going. If it’s nice out, the answer is probably Big Star, but in winter the possibilities are endless. Who shops at that Levi’s store around the corner anyway?
Fish Bar is meant to feel like an East Coast seafood shack, which makes it another great spot to check out by yourself. It’s all about the satchmo po’ boy for us - fried shrimp & crawfish, roasted garlic aioli, and bread & butter pickles on a roll. Start with some gumbo or clam chowder first and you’ll be set.
If you’re more of a meat eater than a seafood person, check out Fish Bar’s sister restaurant next door - DMK Burger Bar. The thing here is all vegetables, all the time. OK, that’s not true. How f*cked up would it be for a restaurant called DMK Burger Bar to only serve vegetables? Luckily, that’s not the case, and you can get everything from simple Big Mac style cheeseburgers to more interesting lamb burgers with feta and olive tapenade.
3 Greens is one of our favorite spots to hang, particularly when we’re alone and want to get work done. It’s also like a Power Rangers Megazord with its many food options: hot and cold salad bars, Green Street Smoked Meats, Small Cheval burgers, Dillman’s pastrami sandwiches, and Doughnut Vault donuts. Make yourself comfortable and get something to eat.
If you live anywhere near Andersonville, then Little Bad Wolf should be the spot when you don’t know what else to do with yourself. Bored? Lonely? Friends out of town? It’s late and you’re hungry? Hit up Little Bad Wolf. The kitchen is open late every night, and the high quality bar food is great. The extensive beer and whisky list doesn’t hurt either.
Wyler Road has really become part of the neighborhood in Logan Square, particularly because it’s on a side street next to a bunch of houses away from all the action. Combine that with the filling and semi-fancy sandwiches, and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for shunning your friends in favor of yourself.
Mirai Sushi in the Gold Coast might strike you as fancy spot on the surface, but we promise the prices are no different than other sushi joints that aren’t half as good. The sushi bar chairs are also super comfortable, which is a nice touch to go along with quality fish.
It should be illegal to eat at High Five Ramen with anyone else. The tiny basement ramen joint beneath Green Street Smoked Meats has only a handful of seats, and as we already said, ramen is the best kind of food to eat alone. Get the namesake High Five Ramen if you like things spicy, and don’t forget a cold Sapporo to wash it down.
In town for business or happen to have a dinner to kill by yourself in River North? Hit up Shaw’s. But skip the formalities of the dining room and find space in the oyster bar. Oysters are a necessity, and follow them up with anything seafood-related after that.
Residents of River North and the Gold Coast should thank God, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Tom Cruise for 25 Degrees. Yes, Portillo’s is close, but this is a different kind of dining solo spot. It’s an ideal place to catch a low-key game during the week or just escape and build your own burger, because every now and then that’s something you should do.