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.
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 an intense 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 two locations, with another in River North, 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, like the roasted fennel served in a citrus broth with grapefruit and oranges, 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 lowly 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 $2.75 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 shy to say it’s the best. A side of bread pudding pancakes is a must.
French bistros often get a reputation for being friendly and homey, and for being places you want to hang. Well, why can’t an American bistro be the same, with contemporary American food instead of classic French cuisine? Short answer: it can, and it does, because HB Home Bistro is the place. It’s a great little restaurant where the food is good and you can bring your own wine, so if that’s not good you have nobody to blame but yourself.
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 some next level sh*t, 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 homemade baked 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.
Look no further than Crisp the next time you’re craving chicken wings. Ever wonder how chicken wings get so tiny? You won’t have that question here, because these are full-size wings. The sweet Seoul Sassy sauce is where it’s at, and you’ll be even happier if you eat them on your couch.
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, is BYOB, and feels like a partially finished basement from the ’80s. But it’s large and 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 typical Mexican dishes and drinks. Try one of the platos fuertes and don’t be afraid to 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 all the great sides like macaroni and cheese and bread pudding are available too. If you’re feeling really ambitious, grab The Brittany 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.
The fact that Big & Little’s keeps expanding is proof that god does exist. The funky spot serves everything from burgers and tacos to soft shell crab po’ boys that are top notch. We hope they continue to spread the gospel of French fries with foie gras to the world.
This is the kind of artisanal shop that’s commonplace in Europe, and we wish were more commonplace 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, and make sure that includes a soup. Bring cash, because it’s all they accept, and ATMs are not in abundance nearby.
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 - they’re just the right kind of hard to eat, in that they're sloppy but still manageable. Also make sure to get their fries topped with caramelized kimchi and cheese, which somehow manage to stay crispy whole time you're eating them.
Do you like extremely loud heavy metal music blasting in your ears while you eat? You better if you’re going to hit up Kuma’s Too. We’ll be honest in that it’s not our first choice of music for setting the mood, but we respect Kuma’s for never apologizing for who they are. There’s certainly nothing to apologize for when it comes to the burgers, because they are exceptionally good. All of the burgers are named after metal bands, and the crazy topping combinations could keep you busy for days.
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 Chex Mix don’t get you going, then we probably can’t be friends.
A friendly little Asian 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.