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 our 28 favorite Chicago restaurants that are perfect for dining solo.
Whether you’re BTS escaping from super fans or just need a break from Jeff’s small talk whenever he fills up his water bottle, you need to know about Oasis Cafe, a casual Mediterranean spot in the Loop. We wouldn’t normally use this phrase, but, considering that it’s located at the back of a jewelry mall, this place is a hidden gem. After walking past display cases of diamonds and gold necklaces, the mall opens up into a two-floor dining area where you can lose yourself in pita stuffed with hummus and crispy falafel, or a large rice platter topped with smoky pieces of chicken, lamb, or beef. And definitely utilize their housemade hot sauce to brighten up your meal with an extra layer of spice and tartness. This spot is perfect for a quick bite and some alone time, so don’t ruin it by telling the always-hydrated Jeff.
For that classic situation when you’re hungover after a night of belting “Dancing Queen” six times at U Star, revive yourself with the life-giving Korean food at Susie’s Noon Hour Grill. With only five tables and a couple of counter seats, this casual, cash-only spot in Rogers Park is terrible for large groups—but ideal for a solo breakfast or lunch. Susie’s is a one-woman show, with Susie herself playing server and cashier, all while cooking up spicy pork fried rice, hot bowls of yukgaejang, and omelets full of bulgogi, kimchi, and melted cheese. The hefty portions and calming classical radio will help you recharge so that you can start figuring out what to do with the light-up tambourine you don’t remember stealing.
A decade later, Au Cheval still makes one of Chicago’s best burgers, still doesn’t take reservations, and is still extremely hard to get into. Trying to eat with a group in this West Loop staple can lead to waits long enough to start and finish a game of Monopoly. For quicker access to the burger, come alone because you can usually snag a counter seat fairly quickly. Order the cheeseburger, and add egg and bacon—the yolk adds an extra layer of creaminess, while the thick-cut bacon throws some fatty crispiness into the mix. Their fries are also fantastic, and so is buttery bone marrow with toast—but maybe save that to order with your friends after two hours of waiting leads to a Lord of the Flies situation.
This restaurant in the West Loop has forced countless games of calendar Tetris to try and squeeze in an available reservation, even for parties of two. Dining solo is the easiest way to get into Monteverde and eat some of Chicago’s best Italian food. Alone, you can fairly easily grab a bar seat and enjoy handmade pastas like caccio whey pepe with milky ricotta or zesty spaghetti pomodoro, all while observing the emotional dissonance between elated diners and disappointed walk-in groups that weren’t as lucky as you. And while their whole bird chicken parm is too big for one person, if you come during their Friday or Saturday lunch you can order the chicken parm sandwich for yourself.
This Italian restaurant in Humboldt Park has the laid-back feel of a European cafe, filled with people laughing while pretending to be on vacation. Plus, Segnatore has friendly bartenders, and a long wooden bar that takes up almost half the restaurant. All of that makes this spot perfect for a solo meal to begin with, but the main reason we love coming here is because of the excellent pasta. Each one has a creative twist that makes things exciting. Their “lasagna” is deconstructed into a pile of handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and rich mushroom bolognese that rivals any meat version. Delicate capellini is tossed with a black kale pesto, blue cheese, and walnuts—which sounds like a lot of bold ingredients at play but unlike your ex, it’s strong enough to hold up to the pressure. This place is begging to become your new forwarding address.
When you’re trying to see the latest addition to the MCU at the Landmark Theater in Lincoln Park, but your friends don’t have the time to keep track of the 20+ superhero movies released this year, The Fat Shallot is perfect for a pre-show meal. With only a few tables and counter seats, this small sandwich shop is ideal for a quick solo bite. Order a crispy buffalo chicken sandwich or a grilled cheese loaded with gooey Muenster, sauteed spinach, caramelized onions, and bacon. They also have gin and tonic slushies if you want to avoid spending money on an overpriced theater Slurpee so that you can get some overpriced candy instead.
Tortello doesn’t have a bar bar. But this brightly lit, counter-service restaurant in Wicker Park does have plenty of space perfect for just one person, and several wines available by the glass, so it counts. This place specializes in delicious handmade pasta, and you can get things like burrata-filled tortellini, cacio e pepe, or squid ink bucatini. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure to order some of their focaccia with ricotta and honey to go with it. Also worth noting: They have a cute sidewalk patio if you want to eat your pasta outside.
Complex salsas, handmade corn and flour tortillas, rich flavors, and some of the best palomas we’ve ever had are just a few of the reasons why we’re fans of Con Todo in Logan Square. The bright space has an open kitchen, and a large bar that’s perfect for a solo meal after a long, paloma-needing kind of day. The menu is full of tacos, tortas (the “pamburgesa” is a fun hybrid of a spicy pambazo and a smashburger), and dinners like the tamal frito: a corn panisse with sweet roasted squash, savory mushrooms, and a rich pipian verde. In fact, there are plenty of impressive salsas to go around, like the smoky tatemada with fresh chips.
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.
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.
Publican Quality Meats (PQM)
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.
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.
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.
Green Street Smoked Meats
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.
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.
Little Bad Wolf
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.
High Five Ramen
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.