Lincoln Park comes with a bit of a reputation: it's one part DePaul fratstars, two parts old money yoga moms, and one part "I just graduated and Googled best and most affordable neighborhoods in Chicago." And while it might be less Fresh Prince and more Carlton, what it lacks in street cred it makes up for with great food.
Here's where you should eat in Lincoln Park.
The neighborhood Greek restaurant is one of our favorite spots in all of Chicago, let alone Lincoln Park. You can't beat it for the price ($15), atmosphere (super casual), and quality of food (excellent.) The sauce on the chicken kalamata dinner is something special, and the gyros and skirt seak are just as good. If you haven't already eaten at Athenian Room 100 times, you need to change that.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeb! is a neighborhood staple with solid sangrias and shareable tapas. It's a great fallback, especially as a low pressure date option. It's also always here for you with a patio for the warm days and hearty paellas for the frigid nights. And brunch tapas. You need mini pancakes in your life - a lot of them.
So there might be this kind of secret bakery/cafe started by a former Charlie Trotter chef located in a back alley off of Halsted. It might serve some of the best sandwiches in the city, including a pork shoulder version that’s only occasionally on special. And it might offer some of the most delicate, buttery pastries around. It also might be one of this city’s best kept secrets. Or, it might not exist all. Do with that information as you please.
In between That Bar That Serves Beerzillas and That Bar You Played Nintendo 64 in, you’ll find Del Seoul whipping together Korean tacos in a takeout haven. Don’t skip the shrimp taco or the kalbi poutine on your next Saturday lunch outing.
Everyone has a “neighborhood spot.” This should be yours. It’s small but inviting, cozy but modern, and intimate but casual. The staff feels like the big family you never had, except they seem legitimately happy to see you walk through the door. The salads, flatbreads, and pastas are all pretty kick*ss, so order liberally.
The prosciutto and egg pizza coupled with the bakery area in front are enough to make a trip here worth it. While it’s conjoined sister Summer House Santa Monica might be the more highly publicized restaurant, Stella Barra is our top pick. It’s easy and convenient, and the Italian sides and pizzas are great for splitting with a group.
Speaking of Summer House, it’s still a very solid restaurant. We might prefer Stella Barra, but that’s because pizza > everything else. The California themed menu at Summer House has something for everyone, from kale lemonade to satisfying pastas and proteins for those who actually want to eat.
CBA isn’t a bagel and lox kind of bagel place, but they do great “steamwiches,” which are steamed bagel sandwiches. It’s the ideal cheap eats place for a take-out sandwich when you aren’t trying to eat a whole bunch of fried stuff.
Mon Ami has the traditional French brasserie thing going on, which means it's somewhat fancy but in a cool, laid-back kind of way. It's the kind of place you could easily see Ernest Hemingway pounding whisky at the bar while also seeing affluent couples having a typical night out. Go on a date or even with your parents, and order one of the eleven different styles of steak frites.
A great pizza place that knows what's good and sticks to it. Homslice isn't reinventing the wheel here - the menu is comprised of mostly pizza, all of which are good enough. But Homeslice has an excellent patio with plenty of funky lights, signs, and couch-like booths ideal for groups. Come here with your friends for any easy-going but fun night, and order as many pizza and beers as you can handle.
Are we telling you to eat at Alinea right this second? Of course not. But it is in Lincoln Park, so this is a friendly reminder that you need to eat there once in your life. Who knows when they’ll just shut the whole damn thing down. We’ll probably never see it coming.
A nicer sushi restaurant that will cost you a bit but has food worth the price. Nobody plates sushi prettier than the sushi chefs at Juno. Load up on the simple sashimi and nigiris, but make sure you try at least one of their “smoked” specials. The spectacle alone is worth it.
In the great citywide deep dish pizza debate, you’ve got Gordiano’s on the left, Lou Malnati’s on the right, and dark horse independent Pequod’s in the middle. The thick, chewy crust with a fortifying caramelized layer of cheese is what makes the difference, and this deep dish might convince you to switch parties.
Chicago is obviously the deep dish pizza capital of the world, but it’s also the pizza pot pie capital of the world. That’s because as far as we know, nobody is serving pizza pot pies other than Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder. And they’re doing it all in the downstairs of an old Lincoln Park house that was allegedly a former hideout for Al Capone. You can hide your whole head inside of a pizza pot pie if you want.
Half Shell looks like Bad Santa meets Christmas Vacation year round. It's a tiny little basement bar with a few plastic tables and christmas lights that never seem to come down. So you might be surprised to know that this joint has some of the best crab legs in town. Sit at the bar, order beers, and get a plate full of king crab legs, which you need to dip in the clarified butter. Cash only.
Need a classy Italian restaurant to take your parents or significant other? Riccardo Trattoria is absolutely the spot. It’s nice without being too trendy, so you’ll feel like much less of an *ss than at some of the places in River North.
The seoul sassy wings at Crisp are our favorite chicken wings. Period. Exclamation point. Bold statement concluded.
Rickshaw calls themselves street peddlers. Luckily, they’re peddling Indonesian street food and not $5 DVD’s. That’s a win for all of us. You’ll especially win if you come with a group of people and get the Rice Table, which is a whole lot of food for not that much money.
You might not hear much about Balena anymore, but we're here to remind you that the pastas and pizzas are always great, and so is the environment. Need a low-key date night? Dinner with co-workers? Weekend brunch? Parents in town from Iowa and you're worried if they can handle the big city? Balena is good for any of those occasions.
Every now and then you owe it to yourself to blow a bunch of money on a great sushi meal. And when you're ready to do that, Naoki Sushi is the spot. This space was originally the private dining room of L20, a serious high-dining experience inside of the Belden Stratford building. Fast-forward to today and L20 is gone, the former main dining room is Intro, and the old private room has been transformed into Naoki. And despite being a tiny sushi restaurant through a secret door behind a kitchen, Naoki isn't that fancy. Go on a repeat date, for dinner with family, or even go with a small group of friends looking to do it big.
Looking for a fancy French restaurant to hit on a Friday or Saturday night out? The Blanchard has you covered in an elegant way. Go hard on sophisticated French favorites like escargot, foie gras, and dover sole, and take your best guess at what the abstract art on the wall is supposed to represent. We think it looks like a drunk rainbow.
Whether you need a cup of coffee and a croissant in the morning, a simple sandwich for lunch, or a few chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon because your sweet tooth is out of control, Floriole is the spot. It's easy to make a habit of stopping here every time you pass by.
Sometimes we want a place where we can knock back too much house wine and go face first into a pile of pasta and meatballs. That place is pasta palazzo. The food is simple, fresh, and seriously cheap. Most pastas will ring in around $10, and adding a protein won’t be more than a few extra bucks.
Boka makes for a great fancy yet still cool night on the town. It's ideal for a big date once you've gotten to know each other, or perhaps even dinner with the parents while in town. The food is modern American, but it's super creative, and boring things like roasted carrots will have you impressed. Try the tasting menu for $120 if you really want to go all-out.
Finding quality sushi at a reasonable price can be as hard as finding The Holy Grail. Luckily, there's Toro Sushi. Toro is a small spot with all of the neighborhood feels. The simple stuff is good but the creative rolls are great too, and don't forget it's BYOB. Post up at the sushi bar where the chefs are always friendly and happy to please.
You didn’t think we’d leave off the Winer Circle, did you? Weiner Circle is the place to be whether you’re blackout drunk with visitors at 4am or stopping by in the middle of the afternoon. The hot dogs are actually good, so yes, sober trips are allowed.