The Best Restaurants In Lincoln Park guide image

CHIGuide

The Best Restaurants In Lincoln Park

Our list of all the best restaurants in Lincoln Park.

Lincoln Park is one part DePaul students, one part “I just moved here and Googled neighborhoods in Chicago,” and two parts old money. Luckily, this mashup of different lifestyles translates to an interesting restaurant scene. Here are our favorite places in the area.

THE SPOTS

Esmé  review image
9.3

Esmé

$$$$

2200 N Clark St, Chicago
Earn 3X Points

This fine-dining spot in has everything we look for in a fancy-ass meal. The $200, 12-15 course meal never drags, dishes flow together seamlessly, and (most importantly) the food is incredible. Plus, the magician that did the restaurant’s lighting made sure everyone looks airbrushed and like they belong in an art gallery. The food is fun without being too whimsical, with dishes like charred ribs topped with banana caramel and wrapped around a ceramic “bone” you eat like a Flintstone. There’s also savory sweet potato ice cream topped with caviar, and a canapé that tastes like a Cheeto from the future. So if you’re looking for a very upscale place to celebrate a special occasion, you can confidently book a table here.


photo credit: Susie Lacocque

Galit review image
8.9

Galit

Galit stands out not only because of its great service or how the bright open space defies Chicago’s obsession with dark, moody spots, but because it has some of the city’s best Middle Eastern food. Flavors and textures work in perfect harmony throughout their $68 prix fixe menu, from the zesty Tangier sausage with fluffy lamb couscous to the stuffed cabbage with tender oyster mushrooms and fragrant saffron mujadara. But a must-order is their silky hummus with smoky cinnamon-braised brisket that’s paired with fluffy pita seemingly made from a cumulus cloud. Galit works for a dinner date, or for a meal with friends where you can try a bunch of dishes. But the counter seats by the open kitchen are ideal for some quality alone time with your new crush: that brisket hummus.


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In the great citywide deep dish pizza debate, you’ve got Giordano’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 here. This deep dish may force you to reconsider previous allegiances.


This neighborhood Greek restaurant is one of our favorite spots in all of Chicago. You can’t beat it for the price (very low), atmosphere (super casual), and quality of food (excellent). The sauce on the chicken kalamata dinner is something special, and the gyros and skirt steak are just as good. If you haven’t already eaten at Athenian Room 100 times, you need to change that.


The dim lighting, Victorian-inspired interior, and early 20th-century jazz music makes you want to wear flapper dresses and bowler hats at Armitage Alehouse. This upscale pub is from the team behind Bavette’s and Trivoli Tavern, and similarly, it’s also very popular. So though a bar seat may be open for a walk-in, you’ll need to book a reservation for a group dinner in the dining room. Order bar food like the perfectly salted steak tartare with crisp cornichons, or any of the rotating pot pies, which all have a marrow bone baked into their center. They also have a handful of Indian-inspired dishes like chicken tikka masala, but the underseasoned curry doesn’t stack up against more flavorful options like the wagyu burger. Grab a British ale or an espresso martini to help balance the menu’s onslaught of meaty richness, and maybe you’ll even loosen up enough to attempt your best Charleston, or whatever the 1920’s version of the Cha-Cha Slide looks like.


Chicago Pizza And Oven Grinder Co. imageoverride image
8.2

Chicago Pizza And Oven Grinder Co.

RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

open table

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.


A nicer sushi restaurant that will cost you a bit, but isn’t overpriced for what it is. Nobody plates sushi more prettily than the sushi chefs at Juno. Load up on the simple sashimi and nigiri, but make sure you try at least one of their “smoked” specials.


Half Shell looks like Bad Santa meets Christmas Vacation, all 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. Just note that it’s cash only.


Need an Italian restaurant to visit with your parents or significant other? Riccardo Trattoria is a great option. It’s nice without being too trendy, and perfect for a low-key special occasion dinner or even a nicer weeknight meal. Get any kind of pasta.


This casual Chinese spot is great. Chengdu's specialty is Sichuan cuisine, and dishes like cold noodle salad, shrimp with crispy rice, mapo tofu, and mala fish filet are all incredible. The bright, dining room works well for a relaxed weeknight dinner, and it's also worth noting is that they do a fantastic job with carryout: Our scallion pancakes always manage to stay crispy despite the 15+ minute car ride to our house.


Boka makes for a fancy yet still cool night on the town. It’s ideal for a big date once you’ve gotten to know each other, and a good option for dinner with the parents as well. The food is creative, and even boring-sounding things like smoked and grilled beets will have you impressed. You can order a la carte, or try the tasting menu for $165 if you really want to go all out.


This Puerto Rican restaurant has some of the city’s best jibaritos. Their crispy plantain sandwiches come with an assortment of fillings like thin steak with grilled onions, blood sausage, or juicy roast pork. Plus, they’re affordable, hovering around $10. But what completes each sandwich is they're topped with a potent layer of their garlic spread—it not only adds zestiness, but also keeps people from invading our personal space. They have two other locations in Dunning and Logan Square, but this one has a full bar and is more of a sit-down spot.


Like that elusive sock that disappeared during the chaos of laundry day, finding dim sum outside of Chinatown can be tricky. But luckily for Lincoln Park (and unlike that pesky sock), we’ve found D Cuisine. Despite seeming small from the outside, this restaurant’s bright dining room is deceptively spacious, with enough room for a casual group dinner, and a bar that’s perfect for a solo lunch to break up the monotony of your three-week-long bologna sandwich streak. And while some dim sum spots have an endless number of menu items, D Cuisine keeps it compact with just 30 dishes. Some of their options include juicy siu mai, sweet and savory baked BBQ pork buns, and fluffy steamed buns filled with a molten, egg custard that will definitely burn your tongue. But, waiting for them to cool requires the patience of a saint, and you’re probably not being canonized anytime soon.


Kala is part of the parade of new Chicago Greek restaurant openings—and this small, fast-casual spot is a welcome addition. The menu has tasty souvlaki, flaky spanakopita, and desserts like housemade frozen yogurt with fluffy loukamades. Everything can be made into sandwiches or rice bowls (well, maybe not the frozen yogurt) with options like chicken, shrimp, and some delicious flash-fried mushrooms that taste like potato chips. The sunny space is always busy, the servers are really nice, and it’s a great option for a light lunch and dinner in the neighborhood.


Red Light Chicken is a tiny take-out spot that only serves chicken sandwiches, nuggets, fries, and has no seating. But there’s a small outdoor standing table with heat lamps. The fried chicken sandwich is the best thing here. It’s satisfyingly crispy, gets an extra kick and sweetness from hot honey sauce, and comes with a fluffy potato bun that soaks up the juices. And we’re pretty sure it’s illegal to leave without ordering truffle fries, so you should get those too.


North Pond, in the middle of Lincoln Park, is a special occasion restaurant that frequently gets overlooked - probably because Alinea absorbs the neighborhood attention. The benefit of this is that it’s fairly easy to snag a last-minute reservation if, say, you completely forgot about your parents’ wedding anniversary. The seasonal American food is always outstanding, and as a bonus, your mom won’t have to figure out how to eat a molecular-gastronomy balloon for dessert.


After starting out as a food truck operation (hence the truck-shaped neon sign by the counter), Fat Shallot opened up their first brick and mortar shop in Lincoln Park. Their menu only has six sandwiches, but unlike the hypothetical bologna sandwiches we seem to have a vendetta against, these are actually good. The crispy buffalo chicken with creamy blue cheese and celery slaw and the Reuben with housemade corned beef are two of our favorites, especially when paired with a fun cocktail like a gin and tonic slushy. Similar to the menu, the space is compact with only a handful of tables and a couple of counter seats by the cashier. But that’s all you need for a quick bite or a casual dinner before catching a movie at the nearby Landmark Theater.


Blue Door used to be a small grab-and-go operation, but has since moved to a larger sit-down space down the street. Lots of plants and little watering cans make the interior feel like a farmhouse, which fits with the Midwestern food. You’ll find stuff like fried chicken sliders (with excellent pimento cheese), cheese curds, and seasonal vegetable dishes. If you’re in the mood for American comfort food, this is the spot.


Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! is a neighborhood staple with solid sangrias and shareable tapas. When it’s warm outside, you want to be on the patio. When it’s not, eat paella inside. Come for brunch tapas on the weekend, too, because you need french toast with marcona almond nutella in your life.


CBA isn’t a bagels-and-lox kind of bagel place, but they do great “steamwiches,” a.k.a. steamed bagel sandwiches. It’s the ideal spot to get an inexpensive take-out sandwich when you aren’t trying to eat a whole bunch of fried stuff.


Summer House is still a very solid restaurant. The California-themed menu at Summer House has something for everyone, from kale salad to satisfying pastas and proteins for those looking for heartier options.


In between That Bar That Serves Beerzillas and That Bar You Played Nintendo 64 in, you’ll find Del Seoul making some great Korean fusion food. Their specialty is Korean tacos (make sure you get the shrimp ones), and they have excellent kimchi fries, too. There’s a serious takeout operation going on here, so consider Del Seoul when you need something to-go.


Sushi Hall is a great spot for a casual meal in a space that looks like the West Elm website. It has a sleek, cozy interior with minimalist-designed chairs, tables, and bar stools at the chef’s counter. Their long menu has a wide range of quality raw fish, prepared in all sorts of ways like sashimi and well-crafted hand rolls. When you’re here, you can also expect a  visit from the friendly chef who likes to check in and fist bump every diner.


As the name suggests, the Bageler’s Coffeehouse is a one-stop shop for all your bagel and coffee needs. Open daily until 3pm, this place is great for grabbing breakfast or lunch to go, or for dining in with the intention to get some work done, but then watching Lebron highlights on Youtube to help you forget that Space Jam 2 exists. Their kettle-boiled bagels have a firm crust with a soft, doughy interior, and are perfect vessels for one of their housemade cream cheeses, like the fantastic giardiniera. If you’re in the market for a sandwich (especially when you’re still avoiding the aforementioned stream of bologna sadness), try The Butcher: an Italian meat triple-threat of salami, mortadella, hot coppa, muenster, and garlic mayo.

Whether you need a cup of coffee and a croissant in the morning, or a few chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon because your sweet tooth is out of control, Floriole is the spot. Make a habit of stopping here every time you pass by.


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 drinking whiskey at the bar. Go on a date or even with your parents, and order one of the five different styles of steak frites.


A great pizza place that knows what works and sticks to it. Homeslice isn’t reinventing the wheel here—the pizza is not Chicago’s best, but it’s perfectly good. You’re really coming to enjoy the excellent patio, with plenty of funky lights, signs, and couch-like booths ideal for groups. Come here with your friends for any easygoing but fun night, and order as many pizzas and beers as you can handle.


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 affordable. Most pastas will ring in around $12, and adding a protein won’t add more than a few extra bucks.


Toro is a casual spot with quality, affordable sushi. The simple stuff is good, but the creative rolls are, too, and don’t forget that 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 this off, did you? Weiner Circle is the place to be, whether you’re looking for a late night snack at 10pm or stopping by in the middle of the afternoon. The hot dogs are actually good, so yes, sober trips are allowed.


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 here once in your lifetime. Skip the next few months’ student loan payments and maybe you can get to it sooner rather than later.


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