The Best Restaurants In Lakeview
Our guide to the best spots in Lakeview.
Lakeview is a neighborhood with an extensive restaurant line-up. There’s affordable and quick dining options for students, plenty of spots for Cubs fans hoping to grab a meal but avoid the chaos of Wrigleyville, and a bunch of upscale restaurants to celebrate an anniversary or impress a date. Arepas, Thai food, burgers, steak dinners, and vegan milkshakes—this neighborhood has a place for every occasion. Here are the best ones.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
If you’re looking for a leisurely spot where you can commiserate about your former boss, or discuss important topics like Aaron Rodgers’ contract, book a table at Dear Margaret. This charming BYOB French-Canadian restaurant in Lincoln Park has tasty dishes like foie gras terrine with fluffy milk bread, duck breast with lentils, and a friendly team who will leave you alone while you get to the bottom of how Aaron and Shailene met. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place where you will want to take extra time to finish off that wine you brought.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Sochi Saigonese Kitchen
Bright, airy, and with a menu full of some of our favorite Vietnamese dishes in the city, Sochi is a great spot for a casual date night or a small group lunch. Decorative greenery, upbeat techno music, and a frequently busy dining room give this Vietnamese restaurant energy and warmth that makes shoveling snow feel like a myth. And that vibrance carries on to the food. From the incredibly light egg rolls paired with a tangy fish sauce, to the fragrant ginger dressing of the seared duck salad, to the Shaking Beef’s buttery filet mignon, the food is full of exciting combinations of sweet, spicy, tart, and umami flavors. If conversation at your table is boring, at least the complexity of the dishes can keep things interesting.
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Southport Grocery and Cafe
If you’re a regular Infatuation reader, then you know what we’re about to say. If you’re new here, welcome. Settle in, because we have some great news. Southport Grocery is our favorite brunch spot in Chicago, and we’re not afraid to say it’s the best. A side of bread pudding pancakes is a must.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Zaza’s is a casual New York-style pizza shop with very good pies. The crust is thin and chewy, glistens with olive oil, and provides a wonderful vehicle for Zazas’ long list of toppings. You can order by the slice or pie, with options like a sweet and spicy bacon jam, or soppressata with hot honey. For the New York-style purists, there’s also a great pepperoni (with cute little grease cups) and a white pie topped with fluffy dollops of ricotta. The restaurant is BYOB, and luckily there’s a Binny’s right across the street.
Look no further than Crisp the next time you’re craving chicken wings. The sweet Seoul Sassy sauce is where it’s at, and you’ll be even happier if you eat them on your couch.
Taipei Cafe’s bright interior is decorated with small plants, postcards, and cartoons of bubble tea and Chicago landmarks. And though the long beverage menu and cute illustrations suggest you’re at this Taiwanese spot for the boba (we like the Taipei milk tea), not ordering any food would be a mistake. Their crispy popcorn chicken is pleasantly salty with a slight kick, and each order comes with enough bite-sized pieces to qualify as a meal. But for something more balanced, we like the braised pork in a sweet and salty dark soy sauce that comes with rice, a hardboiled egg, pickled vegetables, string beans, and a side salad. Most people order food to go since the space is fairly small, but they have a few tables and counter-seats available.
La Biznaga #2
What differentiates La Biznaga #2 from the other taquerias nearby is their selection of 16 different fillings. You can customize your taco line-up however you want, with options like chorizo, carne asada, crispy beef intestine, or our first-round draft pick: the juicy lengua. Though the tacos are the highlight, they also have larger plates of enchiladas, fajitas, and a steak dinner. With plenty of tables, this bright, vibrantly colored spot works for solo diners, couples, and small groups. Plus, they also have Taco Tuesday discounts, which is an easy excuse to try all of their varieties at least once a week.
Unlike other cities (ahem, New York) Chicago can appreciate pizzas of all kinds. Like the pies at Coalfire: The thin crust is dotted with flavorful char spots, yet have a soft chew and maintain a nice flop in the center. There are plenty of toppings to choose from, including options like pepperoni or egg, but our go-to is the Honey and Salami: a balanced trifecta of sweet, savory, and spicy courtesy of soppressata, honey, and calabrian chile. There are a lot of tables here, so come with your family and even your highly-opinionated New York friends—it’s a good way to ease them into the Chicago scene before surprising them with a reservation at Pequod's.
Bolivar & Lincoln
This small BYOB Venezuelan restaurant is located on the cusp of Lakeview and Wrigley, right before the wilderness filled with crazed Cubs fans. Bolivar and Lincoln makes loaded arepas, and has a variety of options like shredded chicken with gouda, NY strip steak, and their take on sausage, egg, and cheese. But our favorite is the Pabellon, which throws sweetness into the mix thanks to caramelized plantains buried underneath a mountain of stewed shredded beef, beans, and cheese. Disclaimer: spillage is an unavoidable part of the eating process here, so definitely ask for extra napkins. It’s pretty small with limited seating, but if you can grab a table it’s a great place to eat and drink before a game.
Kubo is a cozy Filipino restaurant that has the atmosphere of a neighborhood dive bar. With over 20 types of martinis, plus cocktails and beer, this place is filled with friends catching up over drinks on the weekend, or locals getting a therapy session from the bartender after a long day at work. Their menu has staples like crispy chicken lumpia, pancit canton, or savory adobo short ribs. But we also love their kansi, a tamarind-based soup full of vegetables, bone marrow, and tender beef shank. At its busiest, the whole restaurant might have “Bohemian Rhapsody” blasting from the speakers and every table and barstool filled. But on a slower night, the dim lighting and delicious food make it a great spot for a lowkey date or group dinner.
The Gundis Kurdish Kitchen
The Gundis is a lowkey spot on Clark that’s perfect for an easy dinner with friends. But it’s also a great spot in the morning - the full Kurdish breakfast is a spread for two that includes three kinds of cheese, three house jams, honey, butter, sesame butter, vegetables, fries, fried cheese rolls, and your choice of egg scramble. If you’re someone who reliably orders two eggs and toast wherever you go, this is an excellent place to branch out.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
The Chicago Diner
The Chicago Diner is a long-running institution and weekend brunch destination for a reason. Everything on the menu is either vegan or can be made vegan, including their famous “Radical Reuben,” so it’s a great place to go when you don’t want to explain your dietary restrictions seven times. There are sure things like quinoa chili and more adventurous moves like poutine or country fried “steak,” but no matter what, you should order a vegan milkshake while you’re here.
photo credit: Sandy Noto.
Strings Ramen Shop
Just off the Belmont stop, Strings has some of the best ramen in the neighborhood. It seems like an easygoing place at first, but then you take a look at the menu and see “HELL RAMEN” in all caps. There are five spice levels of Hell Ramen if you’re seeking a challenge, but no judgments if you’d rather take it easy with a bowl of filet mignon shoyu instead.
Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar
You’re bound to see a lot of families at Frasca, and it’s earned its reputation as a neighborhood staple. The wood-fired pizzas are reliably delicious, and there are enough Italian favorites rounding out the menu for everyone to be happy.
Figo Wine Bar
Considering that most of the options near the intersection of Belmont and Sheffield are fast-casual spots or places you go for late-night eats, Figo is a nice addition. It’s a wine bar serving reasonably priced small plates - all of the pastas are under $15. Come here on a date, split a bottle of wine, and watch as drunk people file into Trader Todd’s for karaoke across the street.
One million times more zen than a garden unit, MFK takes on the task of serving coastal Spanish food in a space below street level on Diversey. Simple seafood dishes shine here, and it’s a great place to come for light snacks at the bar or on a weeknight date.
Chicago Bagel Authority
What you’ll find at CBA are delicious, messy steamed bagel sandwiches. There’s no structured line here, just step up to one of the employees on the sandwich assembly line when you’re ready and order from the massive menu. You’ll probably want to try more than one, so have multiple options locked and loaded.
Skip the fancy seafood restaurants with the white tablecloths and the overpriced lobster tails. Instead, hit up Half Shell, a garden-unit place that looks more like a dive bar than a restaurant. But this dive bar happens to have some of the best crab legs around. Post up at the bar, have a couple beers, and keep both the cold and steamed crab legs coming until you’re full.
Red Hot Ranch
Red Hot Ranch on Ashland serves a great Depression Dog topped with fresh-cut fries and one of the best cheap burgers in town with a thin, delicious griddled patty.
On the surface, Wood appears to be a typical, somewhat boring New American restaurant. It has a wide-ranging menu that’s designed to appeal to everyone, with small and large plates, flatbreads, pastas, and of course, a cheeseburger, as required by New American restaurant law. And while the food here isn’t going to shock and/or amaze you, it all tastes great, and almost everything is made in house, including the pasta. Come here for drinks and a casual weeknight dinner, or for a low-key date night in the neighborhood.
Left Coast Food & Juice
If you want to feel like your friend from California who gets up at 6am for yoga is cooking for you, come here. You’ll find stuff like avocado toast with orange slices, ricotta, and sunflower seeds, or wraps with chicken and black beans. Plenty of it is vegan and gluten-free, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for a healthy-ish meal. They have three locations, but we prefer the Lakeview space for its beach house feel and outdoor patio.
The space at Ella Elli reminds us of a furniture store - there’s a large waiting area with a fireplace and couches that looks staged - but you can forgive that once you’re seated and start eating. Nothing on the Mediterranean small plates menu is bad, but it’s the vegetable dishes that stand out. Keep it in mind for date night, or when you want somewhere to catch up with friends at the bar.
Coda Di Volpe
The Southport stretch in Lakeview is a family-heavy area, so on any given night you might find yourself eating in a restaurant full of children. This Italian spot is no exception, particularly because it’s a large space with plenty of room for strollers. The pizza here, which you cut yourself with scissors, is excellent - the crust is chewy and crispy in all the right ways - and there are also great pasta dishes and mains. Just keep the scissors away from the kids.
Can an empanada restaurant take over the world? Probably not, but 5411 is trying. What started as a food truck has expanded into multiple storefronts. But you can’t knock it, because the array of Argentinian baked empanadas are great, from a classic ham and cheese to a new-age banana and Nutella. They’re a decent size but only $3.29 a pop, so make sure to try a few.
DMK Burger Bar
DMK Burger Bar offers exactly what you would expect based on the name. There’s a variety of burgers, ranging from a classic styled after the McD’s Big Mac to a salmon burger, and it’s a very bar-like atmosphere. It’s full of people hanging out, eating burgers, and drinking beers. The milkshakes are also great, so make sure to drink one of those.
DMK is very matter-of-fact with their restaurant names, because next to Burger Bar is Fish Bar. It would be funny if Fish Bar served pizza, but that’s not the case. Come sit at the counter and eat a grilled fish BLT.
Panes Bread Cafe
A neighborhood spot serving sandwiches on housemade bread. Panes is the kind of place you have to know is there, because its location on Sheffield just north of Wellington will never be all up in your face. But now you know it’s there, and now you know to go if you’re ever near and in need of a quick bite.
BopNgrill is a counter service spot that does two things - burgers and bibimbap - and it does them both very well. But we come here for their Asian style burgers, which are just the right kind of hard to eat, in that they’re sloppy but still manageable. Get their fries topped with caramelized kimchi and cheese, which somehow manage to stay crispy whole time you’re eating them.
If you’re looking for steakhouse-quality food without the steakhouse-quality prices, Tango Sur is it. The Argentinian steakhouse cooks great steaks in a dark BYOB space. The fact that you can get quality meat and BYOB for less than $50 is a steal.
If you’re ever trying to get into Tango Sur and the wait is two hours, consider calling an audible and heading to Bodega Sur next door. You’re going to have to ditch the wine bottle you brought (they have a full bar, so it’s not BYOB), but because they’re owned by the same people they have the delicious Argentinian steak and honey chimichurri you’re after. They’re also open for brunch from Friday - Sunday, which is more than Tango Sur can say.
The Art of Pizza
The Art of Pizza is one of the few spots in Chicago that has deep dish available by the slice. The best is their stuffed pizza - same style as Lou Malnati’s, but with way more cheese. It’s a counter service operation, it’s BYOB, and it feels like a partially finished basement from the ’80s. The large space is great for groups or even just a slice or two by yourself.
This is a real family-friendly place that serves a lot of needs. Crosby’s is ideal for when you want to head out and grab a comfortable sit-down meal without it being a big ordeal. There’s something for everyone and a giant cookie skillet for dessert that everyone should share.
El Nuevo Mexicano
There are a lot of good places to grab a burrito or taco on the run, but Nuevo Mexicano is the spot when you want to sit down over some Mexican dishes and drinks. Try one of the platos fuertes and get pitchers of margaritas with your friends.
Big & Little's
Big & Little’s keeps expanding, now with four locations, and this casual Lakeview spot serves everything from burgers and tacos to cajun and truffle fries that are top-notch. We hope they continue to share these fries with the world.
Andy's Thai Kitchen
When we want a sit-down Thai meal in this part of town, Andy’s Thai Kitchen is the move. The menu has a ton going on - but feel free to order anything, because it’s all good. We usually like to sample a bit of each section of the menu, making sure that includes a soup. Bring cash, because it’s all they accept.
This restaurant relocated to Lakeview from Uptown a few years ago, and they’ve been cruising along with quality Italian food the entire time. You can keep things straightforward with the pastas, fishes, and meats, but don’t be afraid to get pizza involved, too.
A friendly Thai restaurant in the midst of the Boystown portion of East Lakeview. Want to feel and act like a neighborhood regular? Get takeout or grab a BYOB dinner at Joy’s, because that’s what everyone in the neighborhood is doing.