Lakeview is home to some of the best easy and inexpensive restaurants in Chicago - nowhere in the city are there more quality places to eat on the cheap, whether you’re looking for fried chicken, Thai food, or burgers. But that’s not all, because there are also great sit-down meals in places that take on the neighborhood’s comfortable and friendly vibes.
In no particular order, these are the best Lakeview restaurants.
The restaurant attached to Schubas Tavern is not only sleek but also serves very good food. It’s ideal for grabbing dinner before a show next door, though their upscale menu means it’s also worth seeking out on its own. On weekends, brunch includes bagels, dutch pancakes, and breakfast ramen - a combination that feels designed to confuse and delight us.
The Gundis is a low-key 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.
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.
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.
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. Especially if you come on a Monday when bottles of wine are half off.
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.
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.
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. They’re also open until 5am on the weekends, so this should be your last stop after spending a late night at Lincoln Tap Room or Cody’s.
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.
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.
This daytime spot looks pretty typical, but has a subversive menu we can get behind. Come here for interesting twists on classic breakfast dishes, like incredibly thick French toast topped with a foie gras torchon, and lunch options like a chicken roulade.
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 $2.99 a pop, so make sure to try a few.
This is a classic Italian place that’s nice without being stuffy and cute without being overly romantic. You can bring a date, you can bring your friends, or you can try and date your friends while eating dinner here. Mia Francesca’s is a comfortable place that’s ideal for a lot of situations.
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.
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 fried shrimp and crawfish po’ boy.
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.
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 every day, which is more than Tango Sur can say.
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.
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.
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.
More fried chicken, but in a totally different way than Crisp. Roost does Southern-style fried chicken, which means great sides like macaroni and cheese and bread pudding are available too. If you’re feeling really ambitious, grab The Sunrise sandwich for breakfast – spicy fried chicken on a biscuit with a fried egg and sharp cheddar cheese. Let’s see how ambitious you’re feeling after that.
Big & Little’s keeps expanding, now with four locations, and this casual Lakeview spot serves everything from burgers and tacos to soft shell crab po’ boys that are top-notch. We hope they continue to share their cajun and truffle fries with the world.
This is the kind of artisanal shop that’s common in Europe and that we wish were more common here. If you had a Scripps Spelling Bee-type competition for cheese knowledge, the Pastoral crew would be the heavy favorites. The sandwiches are excellent, and the original Lakeview location has expanded to include a more complete menu as well. Post up at the bar with plenty of food, wine, and cheese.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fahlstrom’s is both a fish market and a restaurant, so it’s no surprise that the restaurant portion is serving up fresh fish. The cereal wall is maybe more surprising - there’s an entire section of the restaurant devoted to over 35 favorite childhood cereals, served with really cold milk. If king crab legs and Cheerios don’t get you going, then we probably can’t be friends.
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.