A Guide To Chicago’s Secret Restaurants

One of these spots is in the back of a jewelry store, another is in an office building's basement—these are the best secret restaurants in Chicago.
A Guide To Chicago’s Secret Restaurants image

photo credit: Marisa Klug-Morataya

People love restaurants. People love secrets. So it’s logical that people love secret restaurants.

But what makes a restaurant secret?

Is it a hidden entrance? A not-so-obvious location that takes forever to find? The inability to be found using GPS? For the purposes of this guide, it’s all of the above—every spot on it requires some level of sleuthing in order to visit. Here’s everything you need to know about Chicago’s best secret restaurants.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik


Wicker Park

$$$$Perfect For:BYOBSpecial Occasions


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You could walk down every sidewalk in Wicker Park and never find Coach House. That’s because this BYOB tasting menu spot is completely secluded, hiding in the courtyard behind their not-very-secret sister restaurant, Lilac Tiger. It’s one of the only South Asian tasting menu spots in the city, serving a $190 eight-course meal in an informal atmosphere. Expect vivid stories about each dish from the chef, with a few stop-and-chats sprinkled in between bites of pani puri or momos, and (possibly), a complementary round or two of shots.

photo credit: Kristen Mendiola

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightWalk-InsUnique Dining ExperienceDinner with the Parents


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A Tavola in Ukrainian Village isn’t secretive because it lurks in a basement or moonlights as a barbershop, but because it looks like a regular ol’ brick house. But just past the foyer (it literally is in an old house) is this Italian restaurant’s intimate dining room with thick window curtains and black and white photos. Don’t be surprised if you run into regulars who’ve been eating there for decades or a 10-year-old blowing out birthday candles. And when it’s nice out, you can enjoy pillowy housemade gnocchi or short rib risotto on their secluded back patio.

Korean food and karaoke—in the basement of an office building. The location is unconventional (buzzing to be let in feels like meeting an accountant to discuss taxes), but Tak in South Loop is a one-stop-shop for eating seafood pajeon, drinking soju, and singing your ass off. And with plenty of space for groups and five karaoke rooms (one can fit 18 people), this is the party spot that dreams are made of. 

The sworn enemy of GPS and cell service, Lower Wacker has given us the cool chase scene from The Dark Knight and, more importantly, the original Billy Goat Tavern. This subterranean spot is their oldest location, serving cheap beer and “cheezborgers” since 1964. And eating here still feels like 1964, with old-school bar stools and tables, wood paneling, and vintage photos. The unique burgers are served on a thick Kaiser roll with super thin patties, so get a double or a triple.

We wouldn’t normally use the phrase "hidden gem," but considering that Oasis is located in the back of a jewelry mall in the Loop, this Mediterranean spot is the exception. After walking past cases of diamonds and gold necklaces, the mall opens up into an ordering counter and a two-floor, food court-esque 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, beef, or, all of the above. Make sure to get their housemade hot sauce involved, too.

Ada Street is in a barren, industrial part of Bucktown, and the unmarked entrance is on what looks like a frontage road. If you’re not expecting this, you might think you're lost. The isolated atmosphere continues with the enclosed and hidden courtyard in the back of the restaurant. But once you get settled and text everyone to let them know you’re alright, you can have a nice, quiet dinner without hearing city buses go by. Order the steak tartare and the pasta of the day.

Talard Thai in Edgewater is the perfect solution to never shopping on an empty stomach. In the back of this grocery store, past bunches of basil, jars of spices, and the freezer aisle, lies a fantastic cash-only food stall. Served cafeteria style, metal trays of dishes like pad prik king, massaman curry, or stewed sweet pork, stay nice and toasty in a steam bath. Options rotate regularly, and it’s all incredibly affordable: three dishes and a side of rice only costs $8.75.

Ok, this Chinatown speakeasy hidden behind Moon Palace Express’ "kitchen door" is technically a cocktail bar. But considering you can actually have a whole meal here, (and the food is great), it qualifies. Their spicy sesame noodles are light and refreshing and we daydream about their mapo hot fries a few times each week. Throw in some well-made cocktails like an Old Fashioned with Chinese five spice, comfy couches, and a fun neon-lit space, and it’s easy to see why this is one of the best bars in the city.

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