Ideas To Break Your Routine

You go to the same places all of the time. Here are some good alternatives to break your routine.
Ideas To Break Your Routine image

photo credit: Christina Slaton

We’re all guilty of getting stuck in routines. Take our morning routine, for example: wake up, ignore alarm, don’t go to gym despite setting time aside to do it, read Twitter for an hour instead. That’s life. And just like we do the same thing every morning, you get stuck eating at the same restaurants over and over again. We get that those places are probably good and convenient, but there’s a lot more out there and it would do you some good to explore.

Here are some well-known restaurants you have hopefully eaten at, coupled with a similar alternative to help you break your routine. Get out there and do something different.

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Big Star: You hate Big Star. You love Big Star. Wherever you fall on this subject matter, odds are you have a strong opinion. We’re fans, in both the summer and winter, because a snowstorm never stopped us from enjoying a good margarita indoors. But it’s time to face the fact that all 10 of you probably aren’t getting a table at Big Star tonight.

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Del Toro

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The good news is you can live out all your taco and tequila-fueled dreams at Del Toro. It’s under the radar, but the tacos are great and Pilsen is a fun neighborhood to go out in. Plus, Del Toro serves flaming jalapeño margaritas, and they mean the name literally - these things come to the table on fire, which is thrilling no matter how comfortable you are with danger.

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Parlor Pizza: Parlor’s like a fraternity party disguised as a West Loop pizza place. And based on science (our brains), there’s more alcohol than pizza consumed here. It’s a fun spot, and we definitely like going for a night out that includes pizza and drinks.

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photo credit: Christina Slaton


West Loop

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsDate NightFirst/Early in the Game DatesOutdoor/Patio Situation


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But if it’s quality pizza you’re after, check out Forno Rosso down the street. The Neapolitan style pies are some of the best in the city, and the salads and antipasti help make it a well-rounded meal. There’s even a great patio right on Randolph Street so you can eat outside just like Parlor. Remember when you could drink all night and not get hungover? Ya, that’s not true anymore. Get drunk on excellent pizza at Forno Rosso instead.

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Au Cheval: Au Cheval is the most talked about burger in the city, possibly the world. And it’s for good reason, because this burger is on the Patrick Dempsey in Grey’s Anatomy level of delicious and dreamy. We’d run through a brick wall defending Au Cheval as the best burger we’ve ever eaten, but we don’t always want to wait in the two-hour plus lines. And the waits never go away (the burger is that good), which is why you need a more practical alternative at times.

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And the practical thing to do is hit up The Bad Apple in Ravenswood. Let’s be clear: this isn’t some generic burger stand hiding in the middle of nowhere. Bad Apple is an excellent and popular neighborhood spot to grab a burger and beer - Ravenswood just isn’t as popular as the West Loop. There’s a whole menu full of burgers that has something for everyone, from a classic cheeseburger to Elvis’s Last Supper with bacon and peanut butter to The Cowboy Killer with egg, cheese, jalapeño, and baked beans on a pretzel bun. You really can’t go wrong, and even though The Bad Apple is often crowded, there won’t be a crazy wait.

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Green Street Smoked Meats: Texas BBQ meets West Loop warehouse at Green Street Smoked Meats. The food here has really grown on us over the years, particularly the sliced brisket, so much so that Green Street has become one of our go-to spots for a casual drink and dinner. But you spend enough time in the West Loop, so let’s get barbecue somewhere else.

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That somewhere else is Pilsen, particularly at Honky Tonk. Not only is the food great, but it’s always a party in here with live music most nights. A giant bowl of brisket chili piled high with mac & cheese is a must, and you’re going to like the ribs too. And cornbread muffins - never say no to cornbread muffins. Feel free to dance around with a cocktail and cornbread muffins in your hands while you listen to live tunes.

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RPM Italian: The food at RPM Italian is excellent - you won’t find any argument from us on that. But the scene is, well, quite a scene. It’s everything you would expect and then some from a restaurant owned by Giuliana Rancic. We’re not knocking it, but it’s not always what we want to deal with, and that’s why you need a good alternative.

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Riccardo Trattoria is the perfect alternative when you want quintessential Italian food in a more inviting setting. Indulge in everything from burrata to spaghetti chitarra alla carbonara to an excellent osso bucco. Like RPM Italian, Riccardo Trattoria is also nice and on the more expensive side, but the atmosphere is more laid-back and less E! Breaking news.

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PQM: PQM is the best for so many reasons. Their homemade charcuterie is great, the sandwiches, particularly the chicken parm, is an all-time favorite, and the cafe vibes make it the perfect place to hang out for a casual but enjoyable meal. The only complaint about PQM is that it closes at 6pm, but otherwise, you need more restaurants like this in your life.

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And Wyler Road is here to serve the same needs as PQM, plus, it’s open until 10pm during the week and midnight on the weekends. We’re into Wyler Road for similar reasons we’re into PQM - it’s a cozy neighborhood spot and the sandwiches are some of the best around. It’s ideal for hanging over a coffee and a light bite during the day, or a sandwich and a beer at night. Get some cheese curds too. You want those.

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Fat Rice: The Macanese restaurant in Logan Square has been a favorite since it opened a few years back. Partially because where else can you eat food native to Macau, but also because everything here is so good. The namesake Fat Rice dish is like scuba diving through a sea of exotic animals if that sea was a stone bowl of rice topped with sausage, duck, Portuguese chicken thighs, pork, prawns, clams, and more.

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And if you’re into Fat Rice, odds are you’re going to love Mott Street too. Not because it’s also Macanese food (it’s not), but because it’s different and interesting just like Fat Rice. The food here is Korean street food at its core, but there are Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and even Mexican flavors in the mix. The multi-cultural influence is obvious in dishes like kimchi and oaxaca empanadas made of masa or wings with a sweet and spicy soy chili sauce. Go for almost any occasion, try anything on the menu, and then feel better about yourself because you do cool things.

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Duck Duck Goat: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Duck Duck Goat - the high-end Chinese restaurant from Stephanie Izard. It’s good, no doubt, and their peking duck is one of the best things on the menu.

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photo credit: Sun Wah

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups

But Sun Wah is the OG when it comes to peking duck in town, and they do the best version. Facts only. Sun Wah’s specialty is Chinese barbecue in general, but in reality you need to head to Uptown to order their off-menu peking duck special. And if you have too big of a group for one duck (good for 3-4 people), order another one. It’s a spectacle. First, they’ll carve the duck tableside and give you some baos to make sandwiches with it. Then they’ll take the rest of the meat and bones in the back to whip up some duck fried rice and duck bone soup that comes out shortly after. The best part is all of that costs about $40 and the place is BYOB.

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Portillo's: If you spend a decent amount of time reading this website, you probably think we talk about Portillo’s too much. And you’d be right. Guilty with the Portillo’s, but that’s how good it is.

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Morrie O'Malley's Hot Dogs

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But we recognize our extreme bias, and we know there are a ton of great hot dog stands in the city. One of those places is Morrie O’Malley’s, a family-friendly spot in Bridgeport that’s perfect for a quick and easy bite. The hot dogs are delicious, obviously, but there are also quality burgers and steak sandwiches too. Also, soft-serve ice cream. There’s nothing better than a giant chocolate-vanilla twist in a cone.

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Little Goat: How many times has a friend suggested you get brunch at Little Goat? Strong chance the answer is too many. The crazy menu concoctions like “breakfast spaghetti ‘n clams ‘n crab” and “kimchee & bacon & eggs & pancakes asian style breakfast tasty thing” are fun and all, but they’re also a little ridiculous at times.

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Be adventurous and do something different by going to Tweet in Uptown. The funky breakfast and brunch spot looks more like a home art studio that happens to serve food than it does a restaurant, which makes it different and interesting. But Tweet isn’t just a spectacle, because the food is actually good. They serve some salads and sandwiches for lunch, but breakfast and brunch is where it’s at. You can order anything you want, and there’s an extensive gluten free menu for those of you in need. Bonus suggestion: this is the kind of brunch where you want to get an adult beverage or two.

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