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The Best Restaurants In Lincoln Park

Our list of all the best restaurants in Lincoln Park.
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photo credit: Susie Lacocque

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

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Lincoln Park

$$$$Perfect For:Fine DiningSpecial Occasions
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This fine-dining spot has everything we look for in a fancy-ass meal. The $235, 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.

Galit stands out—not only because it has great service or a bright open space defying 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 harmony throughout the $88 prix fixe menu, but a must-order is their silky hummus with brisket that’s paired with 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.

photo credit: Christina Slaton

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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.

“Gas station food” is usually limited to things like hot dogs and Tic Tacs. Unless it's the Mobil complex, which is where you’ll find El Tragón Taqueria. All of the Mexican food at this counter-service spot is great, but prioritize the bistec tacos. Juicy ribeye gets a sprinkling of cheese while on the plancha, giving each piece of meat a crispy crust, and it’s all topped off with grilled green onions. Oh, and the trio of housemade salsas on every table? They’re fantastic—drizzle a hefty dollop of the smoky salsa roja before each bite.

John’s Food And Wine feels like a neighborhood bistro had a child with a fast-casual wine bar. The resulting part counter-service, part-virtual tab restaurant with great seasonal American food is a welcome addition to Lincoln Park. It’s an unexpected service model for a place with $44 (fantastic but small) bowls of lumache with shaved truffles. But we’re willing to endure a little confusion for well-made plates of “elevated” fish sticks—fried branzino gussied up with kimchi ketchup and celery root slaw—and ramekins full of not-too-sweet butterscotch pudding.

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, Ciccio Mio, 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, any of the rotating pot pies (which all have a marrow bone baked into their center), or the wagyu cheeseburger.

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 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.

Naudi’s is a thin crust spot, and the pizza here shares some DNA with a Neapolitan pie. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven, the cheese in the center is almost liquidy, and the slices droop nicely when you pick them up. But the edge of the crust is crunchy like a cracker, which creates an enjoyable contrast with the soft center. You have two pies to choose from (a margherita and a white) and about eight toppings to choose from. But thanks to basil, a wonderful four-cheese blend, and rich sauces on both, even a plain pie is really flavorful.

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 that they do a fantastic job with carryout: Our scallion pancakes always manage to stay crispy despite the 15+ minute car ride home.

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 grilled and glazed beets are impressive. You can order a la carte, or try the tasting menu for $175 if you really want to go all out.

photo credit: Ringo

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If you ignore the open kitchen and tables full of Japanese food, this small restaurant feels like a cute neighborhood coffee shop. The sparsely decorated space has mid-century modern chairs and frosted pendant lamps, and the quiet atmosphere is great for a meal when you actually want to get to know someone. Although the menu leans on the simpler, more straightforward side, their maki and nigiri are both delicious and affordable. The hamachi nigiri with yuzu has just enough citrus to complement the fish while the botan ebi is pleasantly sweet and comes with a perfectly crispy shrimp head.

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.

Bonci serves Roman-style pizza “al taglio,” meaning cut (with scissors) when you order and sold by weight at the counter. The crust is airy and thick like focaccia, and the pizza doesn’t have very much sauce so the toppings are the focus. There are around 12 rotating varieties, and you’ll see combinations like potato with rosemary, mushroom and sausage, and ‘nduja with ricotta. Even if it sounds strange, it works. And compared to the one in the West Loop, this location is much bigger and has a large side patio.

Happy Lamb Hot Pot is a large restaurant whose hot pot is made with flavorful broths (get the combo of original and spicy Szechuan) and high-quality meat, seafood, and vegetables. You can go AYCE for $29, but we prefer ordering a la carte because the menu is longer. This place gets incredibly busy and only takes reservations for 10 or more, so you can expect a long wait. Luckily they have a self-serve ice cream machine and free bags of chips to help.

Evette’s is a counter-service Lebanese-Mexican cafe on Armitage, that could be somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. This casual restaurant is all geometric floors and brightly painted brick, and when the sun beams through the windows, sitting at the counter can feel like it’s 100 degrees. The short menu is solid, but the standouts are the fantastic "tacos" on soft little pitas stuffed with delicious halloumi or chicken arabes. Most people will get their food to go, but it’s worth the risk of sunburn to dine in. Get the baklava ice cream to cool off.

Like that elusive sock that disappeared last 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. The bright dining room is deceptively spacious, perfect for a casual group dinner or solo lunch to break up the monotony of your three-week-long bologna sandwich streak. D Cuisine keeps their dim sum menu compact at just 30 dishes, with options like juicy siu mai 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.

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.

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 blueberry-lemon compote in your life.

Chicago doesn't have very many Central Asian restaurants, and Anor is a noteworthy addition to the scene. This casual Uzbek spot has great starters, like a crispy fried eggplant salad with sweet chili sauce or their peppery beef manty. Follow those up with some lagman or kabobs, and make sure to throw in some honey cake for dessert. Since there are usually plenty of open seats and Anor has large servings, coming with a group and sharing a bunch of dishes is the best strategy.

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.

photo credit: Sandy Noto

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Weiner Circle

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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.

photo credit: Matthew Gilson

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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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