The Best Restaurants In Lincoln Square guide image


The Best Restaurants In Lincoln Square

Our guide to the best spots in Lincoln Square.

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.



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.

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 dining in if you feel like showing up with a six-pack.

San Soo Gab San is a Chicago institution, and has the best banchan spread in the city. The moment you sit down at this casual Korean BBQ spot your table is swarmed with side dishes that make free table bread feel insignificant. From kimchi, to broccoli muchin, to myeolchi bokkeum, there are over 25 things to snack on between bites of grilled meat. And the seasoned meats are fantastic—get the thinly sliced bulgogi and their sweet and savory wang kalbi, which get extra flavor from their charcoal grills. The dark, smoky interior is large, so it’s perfect for celebrating with some friends who can help you finish the meat, but also tackle all of the banchan.

​​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. Even the boring-sounding dishes (like crispy brussels sprouts) end up being interesting (in the brussels sprouts’ case, thanks to toasted pistachios and a white miso glaze). 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 grilled salmon and a cheeseburger. They have a large bar area that’s good for grabbing some appetizers and a glass of wine with friends, too.

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.

Jibek Jolu is one of the only Kyrgyz restaurants in the city, and this Lincoln Square sit-down spot with a small yurt-like interior has great Central Asian food. Every dumpling on the menu is delicious enough to warrant a tattoo in their honor, like the fried vareniki with potatoes, juicy manty, or garlicky pelmeni. But they also have heartier options like chewy lagman noodles with beef or lamb kuurdak with tender potatoes and onions. Coming for a solo meal is possible, but servings are large so bringing some friends won't hurt.

From the crackly housemade baguette, to the large array of delicious proteins, our heads turn like an owl whenever we hear someone talking about Nhu Lan’s bánh mì. We fluctuate between ordering the Nhu Lan special topped with ham and fatty head cheese, or the #2 made with chunks of sweet roast pork, but often just get both because the sandwiches here are all around $10. And regardless of what type you get, each bánh mì gets plenty of added flavor from pate, crisp vegetables, and a sweet housemade mayo.

El Xangarrito means “tiny shop”—an appropriate name for a small sit-down restaurant whose tables are so close to the kitchen it feels like you should put on an apron and start cooking too. But this BYOB spot makes up for its tinyness with a menu full of great Mexican dishes. Like their savory al pastor tacos or the shrimp ceviche with just the right amount of citrus The steak enchiladas are also fantastic, and come with a rich smoky mole. Because the inside is so small it’s best for couples, but a sidewalk patio adds more seating.

With its glass chandeliers and cloud-painted ceiling, LC Pho looks a little bit like a lite version of the Venetian in Vegas. But that’s where the parallels end—which is great because we’ll take delicious Vietnamese food over tacky fake canals any day. The crispy banh xeo or shrimp and pork spring rolls are great , and they also have a delicious grilled pork chop and rice. But as its name states, the pho is what you’ll see on almost every table. Each bowl comes with your choice of meats like fatty tendon or thin flank steak, all served with a fragrant broth that’s basically aromatherapy for stress relief.

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.

The rules of Han Bat are simple: bring cash and order the seolleongtang. The entire menu practically revolves around the milky white ox bone soup with glass noodles, and the only decision to be made is which cuts of beef you want. Our go-to is the ox tail—the meat is incredibly buttery, letting go of the bone the way we wish we could let go of our collective fascination with Elon Musk. The broth has a very light beef flavor that can be seasoned to taste with some salt and fresh green onions, with each spoonful of soothing soup feeling more effective than your Headspace meditation. And since this place is rarely packed, it’s easy to walk in and just grab a table.

When the 84% of DNA we share with wolves kicks in, we head to 016 Restaurant. The menu at this casual Serbian spot reads like a meat-lovers Christmas list, with dishes like smoky cevapi, plump grilled meatballs, and stuffed cabbage with pork belly the last two having a fantastic char and added tang from raw onions and creamy kajmak. They have a spacious dining room, but we like eating and drinking Serbian cocktails on their outdoor patio.

Miku Sushi is a great neighborhood spot for affordable nigiri, sashimi, and maki.  Every day from 11am-6pm they have a deal where all of their traditional maki are half off. Standard rolls like tuna or salmon are $4.50, and combination rolls like their Samurai with tuna, yellowtail, and masago go for just $7.50. The long, narrow dining space has plenty of table and counter space, so it’s perfect if you’re suddenly put in charge of planning a team lunch for you and your 18 coworkers.

Maybe it’s because we hardly left our house that year, but we’re pretty sure ATX appeared out of nowhere at the end of 2020. This takeout spot's Tex Mex menu is full of things like birria tacos, elotes, and queso blanco. Their birria tacos are made with brisket, and come with a rich consomé that really complements the smoky meat. We really like their baby back and St. Louis-style ribs, which come with a thick, sweet sauce we really like. And while you won’t find classic BBQ sides like cornbread or mac and cheese, the elotes and queso are so perfect you won’t even miss them.

Between excellent bakeries like First Slice, Hoosier Mama, 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 hash and biscuit sandwiches with bacon, egg, and aioli. Basically, come here before work because this counter-service spot has way better options than whatever you’ve been microwaving at the office.

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 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.

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.

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.

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The Best Restaurants In Lincoln Square guide image