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 among 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 a full 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 32 Chicago restaurants that are perfect for dining solo.
Even though it doesn’t have a drive-thru window or a PlayPlace, Mini Mott in Logan Square is kind of like a fast-food version of Mott Street. It’s a counter-service spot that serves a slightly smaller version of the burger you can only get during the original’s brunch or while at the bar, along with some things you can’t - like wings, and taiyaki cones with flavors like pretzel or apple pie. It’s an easy, quick spot to go to solo while being an important step away from eating in your car.
In the daytime, you can go to Cellar Door Provisions in Logan Square and work on your laptop with a croissant or a delicious piece of quiche. At night, this cafe switches to full-on restaurant mode and serves dinner. And the communal seating means it won’t be weird if you grab a spot at the end of someone’s table - they’ll just be jealous that you’re not being forced to share any of the excellent small plates you order.
It’s hard to convince your friends to go out to eat with you if you keep weird hours as a gravedigger/masked vigilante. But you don’t need those people anyway, because Humboldt Haus is open until midnight, and has excellent sandwiches like the West Sider (turkey, pastrami, swiss cheese, and garlic mayo). It’s mostly bar seating, and since the dining room is connected to a liquor store, you can buy a six-pack to split with your new friends - the people hanging around the cemetery after hours.
While The Publican is a great place for a group dinner, Publican Quality Meats - the half-deli, half-cafe across the street - is perfect for eating on your own. There are small tables and some counter seating, and because so many people are coming and going, no one will notice (or care) that you’re listening to a true-crime podcast while eating your BBQ lamb sandwich.
The only thing more relaxing than having some tropical cocktails and jerk chicken by yourself at Garifuna Flava is doing it on a beach in Belize. But that also means hours of interactions with cab drivers, flight attendants, and customs agents. So after a crowded bus ride standing next to a guy shouting into his conference call, this casual spot in Marquette Park is a good laidback alternative.
We usually like going to Virtue in Hyde Park with a group, because it gives us an excuse to order multiple servings of biscuits. But the dimly lit bar area here is great for eating alone. Unlike the bright, open dining room, it’s dark enough that you can order way too much of this place’s Southern food without getting any strange looks (at least not that you can see). So go ahead and eat your fried green tomatoes, catfish, shrimp and grits, and biscuits in peace.
The menu at this casual Southern bar and restaurant has delicious small plates like tamales (the house specialty) and pork ribs, as well as a great cheeseburger. The space is small and narrow, but there’s a long bar, plus a lot of counter seating facing the window. It’s an upbeat atmosphere, and the people who work here are really nice. So basically, you can count on leaving in a better mood than the one you arrived in.
Burgers are the focus at Maillard Tavern in River West, and they’re really good. The classic (with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, and pickles) tastes like what you’d have on a road trip in the 1950s, and there are creative options, too, like one with foie gras and truffle. The space is small, but the large bar has plenty of seats and a few TVs, so it’s a great spot to eat a burger and/or drink a boozy milkshake by yourself.
Sushi-san in River North has a long wooden bar, loud rap music, and a menu with a mix of traditional and contemporary Japanese dishes. It’s a lively, fun place, and the sushi is delicious. Sit at the bar, which also happens to be the only place you can order hand rolls.
Band of Bohemia is a restaurant and brewery that feels a lot like a large living room - the space is full of upholstered furniture and lamps that look like they belong on tables next to your couch. But instead of eating at the coffee table while watching House Hunters, you can sit at the bar here, like a civilized person. The food is expensive, but the atmosphere is relaxed, and the bill (probably) won’t get as out of control when you’re here by yourself.
You’re almost expected to eat alone at a Loop hotel restaurant - people assume you’re traveling on business, and won’t know that you’re actually avoiding the macaw your roommate is bird-sitting. Fisk & Co. is in the Hotel Monaco, and the specialty here is mussels served in a variety of different broths (like apple cider or green curry). The rest of the menu is seafood-focused, too, with a lot of raw bar selections - so plan on eating shellfish until you’re certain Professor Petey is asleep.
Marisol is where you go when you’re shopping on Michigan Ave and don’t want to eat at Water Tower Place. Even though this restaurant is located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, it still feels like it’s a separate thing, and it’s open to the public even when the museum is closed. The menu includes things like sunflower seed hummus, salads, and housemade pastas, and the food is all way better than anything we’re used to eating in a museum cafe. Plus, there will almost certainly be other people dining solo at the bar.
Tempesta is a deli/grocery in the West Loop serving fantastic and interesting gourmet sandwiches. It’s a counter-service spot, with some communal picnic tables and a few seats on the small patio. The Dante is one of our favorite Italian sandwiches in Chicago, and the delicious shaved apple, beet, and almond butter sandwich will impress you even if it’s the only vegetarian thing you’ve eaten all year.
This all-purpose French cafe has you covered for breakfast, lunch, and 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. In other words, there’s really nothing stopping you from staying here all day.
When you want to have a cocktail and eat in a quiet, relaxing space, head to Income Tax in Edgewater. Sit at the bar and enjoy some reasonably priced, well-done European small plates that are conveniently just the right size for one person.
This place is always crowded, but the good news is that getting a seat at one of the communal picnic tables is much easier when you’re by yourself. The BBQ is served cafeteria-style, and you can get meats like ribs, brisket, or pastrami by the half pound. What you should really do, though, 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.
Come here for sushi, but also to entertain yourself at the bar by watching the chefs. Sunda has great rolls (whether you like yours simple or over-the-top), and it’s also pretty sceney - so plan on doing some quality people-watching beyond the bar, too.
There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, and there’s never a wrong time to eat at Athenian Room. The kalamata chicken is fantastic, and as a bonus, it also happens to cost just $11.50. In fact, everything here is both delicious and reasonably priced. And real dining solo pros know that you can also bring your food to the bar next door.
The best way to deal with Avec’s limited reservation policy and always-crowded dining room is to hit it up solo during the week. Sit at the bar with some bacon-wrapped-chorizo-stuffed dates, another small plate or two, and a glass of wine. 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, with its Christmas lights and other goofy sh*t on the wall. But it’s an old dive that serves awesome crab legs. And a dinner of crab legs and melted butter would only be ruined by someone watching you messily crack open the shells.
One of the best things about eating alone is the people-watching, and Dove’s is a great spot for 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? Some of these people, apparently.
Fish Bar is a casual spot that’s meant to feel like an East Coast seafood shack. But food-wise, 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, and you’ll be set.
If you’re more of a meat-eater than a seafood person, check out DMK Burger Bar, Fish Bar’s sister restaurant right next door. You can get everything from simple Big Mac-style cheeseburgers to more interesting lamb burgers with feta and olive tapenade. Just make sure to finish your meal with a peanut butter milkshake.
3 Greens is one of our favorite spots to hang out, particularly when we’re alone and want to get work done. It’s also like a Swiss army knife with its many food options: hot and cold salad bars, Small Cheval burgers, Dillman’s pastrami sandwiches, and Doughnut Vault donuts. Make yourself comfortable and get something to eat.
Bored? Lonely? Friends out of town? It’s late and you’re hungry? Hit up Little Bad Wolf if you live anywhere near Andersonville. The kitchen is open late every night, and the high-quality food (like tacos, bao, and burgers) is way better than what you normally find in a neighborhood bar. The extensive beer and whiskey list doesn’t hurt, either.
Wyler Road is an all-day neighborhood spot in Logan Square. It’s on a side street next to a bunch of houses, away from the 693 other Logan Square restaurants that just opened. Come here for a delicious semi-fancy sandwich (like the crawfish melt) and a cocktail from the full bar.
Mirai Sushi in the Gold Coast is definitely expensive, but so is pretty much everything else in the neighborhood, and the food here is fantastic. It’s a relaxing place to hang by yourself - plus, the sushi bar chairs are incredibly comfortable. Which is a nice touch when you can’t stop ordering more food.
It should be illegal to eat at High Five Ramen with anyone else. This tiny basement spot beneath Green Street Smoked Meats only has 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 beer to wash it down.
In town for business or happen to have time to kill in River North? Go to Shaw’s. Skip the more formal dining room, and find space in the oyster bar. Oysters are a necessity, and follow them up with anything seafood-related - like chowder, fish and chips, or lobster.
Residents of River North and the Gold Coast should thank God, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Tom Cruise for the burger spot 25 Degrees. It’s an ideal place to catch a game during the week, or just escape and have a boozy milkshake by yourself. Because every now and then that’s something you should do.