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. Everything else nearby you can find in our Ravenswood guide. Don’t like that definition? Too bad. Here’s where to eat in Lincoln Square.
We like Luella’s because it’s casual, BYOB, and has 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, his wife will probably take your order, and they’ll both treat you like a long lost cousin. The menu includes the Southern staples that you would expect, like fried chicken and shrimp and grits, and all 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.
Gather is the type of place that would be impossible to get into if it were in River North, but since it’s in Lincoln Square, it doesn’t end up on everyone’s list. That’s a shame, because Gather is great. Its seasonal menu of new American food will please just about everyone, and the chef used to work for Charlie Trotter, and that experience shows because even the boring sounding dishes end up being interesting. The space is low-key but nice enough for a celebration or date night, and there is also a back patio which is fantastic for large groups.
Roots is one of the only neighborhood options for dine-in pizza, and luckily it’s a solid option. The pizza is Quad-Cities style, which means it’s in cut into rectangles and the toppings are under the cheese. The menu is huge, with a decent selection of salads and rotating group of pizzas designed by local chefs. A huge bar area, large patio outside, and interesting specialty pies make it a great local spot for hanging out with pizza and beer.
“Jibek Jolu” means The Silk Road in Kyrgyz, a Turkic language spoken in Kryzgstan. Fittingly, the food here is from all the different regions of the historical Silk Road trade route, which means a bit of love from Russia, China, Turkey, Afghanistan, India, and more. Try everything from blintzes, to steamed dumplings, to Kuurdag - a traditional Kyrgyz dish with stewed beef, potatoes, and onions.
To be clear, the food here isn’t anything special, but the Chicago Brauhaus experience as a whole is. This is as close to Oktoberfest or a beer hall in Munich you’ll get without leaving Chicago. Go with your friends, order some simple food like a reuben or sausage because you have to for a table, get a couple giant beers, and hit the dance floor with the older ladies and traditional German band. It’s an awesome time.
Gene’s is an old-school Polish deli that serves traditional sausages and other special Polish items. In the summer, Gene’s opens up its 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 will cost you a bit, but the meal itself is quite the experience. 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. It’s almost enough to forgive them for closing down their sister restaurant, Bunny The Micro Bakery. Almost.
Thai restaurants throughout the city can be hit or miss. But Opart Thai House is a definite hit. It’s all good, from the noodles, to the curry dishes, and especially anything from the “hot and spicy” section.
Pannenkoeken are large and thin pancakes traditionally found in the Netherlands and Belgium, and Pannenkoeken Café is cute spot in Lincoln Square that specializes in making them. We once had someone tell us all the Pannenkoeken in Amsterdam are laced with weed, because, Amsterdam. Safe to say that’s not true, but also safe to say you’ll like the pannenkoeken at this cafe for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.
The local hot dog stand around these parts also serves quality burgers, chicken sandwiches, and waffle fries. No frills. You know the drill.
Have a favorite Filipino restaurant? Good news, you do now. Isla Pilipina doesn’t look like much from the outside considering it’s located in a small strip mall. Hell, even the inside doesn’t look like much. But the food is what you’re there for, and it’s interesting and impressive. Make sure to try some of the house specials like the longanisa, a fried Filipino-style sausage, or the mixed adobo with chicken and pork marinated in a special garlic, vinegar, and black peppercorn sauce.
The neighborhood utility player since 1983. What started off as a small bakery and cafe is now open seven days a week churning out breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. The space is warm and welcoming, and even if you don’t need a real meal you should stop in for a piece of chocolate cake anytime.
Nhu Lan is both a market and a great spot to grab food on-the-go. That’s because homemade baguettes make for delicious banh mi sandwiches at this local Vietnamese bakery. Bonus points for the highly cheap prices, and don’t forget one of the puddings for dessert.
If you appreciate a good meaty, cheesy, Philly cheesesteak as much as we do, then check out Monti’s. It’s a bar-like but family-friendly space specializing in the classic Philly staple, which makes sense since the couple who owns and runs the place is from the city of brotherly love. The authentic Philly cheesesteak is always the way to go.