What area does Lincoln Square include? That’s an honest question. Is it the Greater Lincoln Square neighborhood that runs from Montrose up to Bryn Mawr, or is it the actual downtown square? The answer is both, and neither, and ultimately it’s up for debate.
We’ve decided that Lincoln Square means the actual square and immediate surrounding area - roughly from Rockwell to Leavitt on the east-west spectrum, and Leland to Winnemac north-south. Anything on the bubble you will also find in our Ravenswood guide. Don’t like that definition? Too bad. Here’s where to eat in Lincoln Square.
If Gather were in Lincoln Park instead of Lincoln Square, it would probably be much better known. Its seasonal menu of new American food will please just about everyone. The chef used to work for Charlie Trotter, and that experience shows because even the boring-sounding dishes (like roasted broccoli) end up being interesting (in the broccoli’s case, thanks to a cashew brittle and a miso gastrique). The space is low-key but nice enough for a celebration or date night, and there’s also a back patio that’s fantastic for large groups.
This restaurant is from the same people who own Gather, and like its sister restaurant, it serves New American food. You’ll find vegetable dishes (like ponzu glazed crispy cauliflower florets), housemade pastas (their whole wheat cacio e pepe in particular is worth ordering), and traditional entrees like roast chicken and a cheeseburger. They have a large bar area that’s good for grabbing some appetizers and a glass of wine with friends, too.
Between excellent bakeries like First Slice, Bang Bang, and Baker Miller, this area should probably be called the Pie District. But in addition to pie and other treats, Baker Miller also has great breakfast dishes like a southern hash and oatmeal with cinnamon sugar toasted pecans. Basically, come here before work because this counter-service spot has way better options than whatever you’ve been microwaving at the office.
This is a small BYOB spot on Lawrence that’s serving great Nepali food, like a savory kwati (a nine bean soup), and C momos - crispy dumplings served in a spicy sauce that will make you glad you brought a six-pack. This place has some very good Indian dishes, too (like tikka masala and lamb vindaloo), and it’s a perfect place for a casual weeknight dinner.
If you’re looking for great Venezuelan food in Lincoln Square, you’ll find it here. Sweet Pepper is a counter-service spot for build-your-own arepas, with ingredients like beef, sliced plantains, and cheese. While the arepas are excellent, so are the deep-fried sweet plantains, which are cut in half and filled with things like pulled pork and avocado. Although to be fair, it would be pretty hard to screw up a deep-fried sweet plantain.
Dancen serves very good Korean bar food. This place is small and casual - much more of a bar than a restaurant. But you should work your way through their entire menu over multiple visits, and the first thing you should try is their fire chicken. Chunks of marinated chicken are grilled (on an open grill behind the bar) until the marinade becomes charred and caramelized. It’s delicious and incredibly spicy, and it comes with a Thousand Island-dressed cabbage slaw to help balance out the heat. It’s perfect for a solo meal at the counter, where you can watch the grill.
If you’re searching for a New York-style pizza place, this is it. Jimmy’s serves huge, perfectly greasy slices on little paper plates. Come for the basics, like a plain cheese with red sauce and a garlicky white pizza topped with blobs of ricotta. If you really like it, you can order a full-sized pie to go. But when you’re done, go eat some deep dish. Please.
This casual, BYOB spot serves fantastic Southern food. It’s a counter-service operation, and you feel like a part of the family the moment you walk in. You’ll see the chef cooking in the back, there’s a good chance his wife will take your order, and they’ll both treat you like a long-lost cousin. The menu includes Southern staples like fried chicken and shrimp and grits, all of which are done extremely well. This is a solid option for take-out, or if you feel like showing up with a six-pack and feeling like part of the family.
The pizza at Roots is Quad Cities-style, which, in case you don’t have an encyclopedic brain that keeps track of all the different pizza styles, means it’s in cut into rectangles and the toppings are under the cheese. The menu is long, with lots of salads and a rotating list of specialty pies inspired by local chefs and restaurants. The large bar area, huge patio outside, and creative pizzas make this a great neighborhood hangout.
“Jibek Jolu” means “The Silk Road” in Kyrgyz, a Turkic language spoken in Kyrgyzstan. The restaurant has this name because the food here is from all the different regions of the historical Silk Road trade route, including Russia, China, Turkey, Afghanistan, and India. Try everything from blintzes, to steamed dumplings, to lagman - stewed beef and vegetables with hand-pulled noodles. Come here on the weekend with a group, or stop by during the week for a low-key lunch by yourself.
Gene’s is an old-school Polish deli that serves traditional sausages and other specialty Polish items. In the summer, they also open up a rooftop beer garden, where they grill sausages and serve beer. Grab a couple of each and hang out on the picnic benches for an excellent afternoon.
The tasting menu at Elizabeth is expensive (it starts at $165) and the meal itself is an experience. Each menu is themed - for example, inspired by Game of Thrones or the menu at Noma in Denmark - and runs for a few months. It’s an intimate restaurant where you’re practically sitting in the kitchen with other diners, so it feels more like you’re at a dinner party than a restaurant. But the food is both beautiful and delicious, and it’s definitely worth a big night out. Seatings go fast, so if there’s a theme you want to try, book it ASAP.
Pannenkoeken are large and thin pancakes traditionally found in the Netherlands and Belgium, and Pannenkoeken Café is a cute breakfast spot that specializes in making them. It’s a very small restaurant with limited seating, but even on weekends you won’t have much of a wait. They have egg dishes and French toast, but you should stick with the pannenkoeken - either sweet variations like chocolate banana, or savory options like bacon and cheese (the bacon is actually in the batter).
This is a hot dog stand that takes its hot dogs very seriously. They even have a hot dog how-to sign to instruct you on building a classic Chicago-style dog. They serve quality burgers, chicken sandwiches, and waffle fries, too. But no instructions are provided for those - you’re on your own.
This place, located in a small strip mall, is easy to miss. But you should make a point of seeking it out, because the food is impressive. Order the house specials like the longanisa sausage or the mixed adobo with chicken and pork (marinated in a tasty garlic, vinegar, and black peppercorn sauce). This place is casual and good for groups. Just make sure to BYOB.
The neighborhood utility player since 1983. What started off as a small bakery and cafe is now a full-service operation serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. You can get comfort food like burgers and chicken pot pie, but they also have plenty of salads. The space is warm and welcoming, so even if you don’t need a real meal, you should stop in for coffee and a piece of chocolate cake.
Nhu Lan is both a market and a great spot to grab a sandwich on the go. That’s because their homemade baguettes make for delicious banh mi sandwiches. Get the roasted pork or the lemongrass chicken. Bonus points for affordability.
If you appreciate a good meaty, cheesy Philly cheesesteak as much as we do, then check out Monti’s. It’s a bar-like space that specializes in the classic Philly staple, which makes sense since the couple that owns and runs the place is from Philadelphia. The authentic Philly cheesesteak is the way to go, and get an order of cheese fries to go with it.