CHIGuide

Where To Eat In West Town

Our favorite spots in the neighborhood.
Where To Eat In West Town image

photo credit: Jack Li

Technically, “West Town” encompasses all of Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, Noble Square, and Bucktown to name a few. But for the purposes of this guide, when we say “West Town”, we mean that smaller subsection, with the boundaries loosely being Grand to Augusta, and Western to Halsted. A.k.a “That Neighborhood With All The Great Restaurants Along Chicago Avenue”. Whatever you call it, here are the places to eat when you’re there.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Filipino

Ukrainian Village

$$$$Perfect For:Serious Take-Out OperationSpecial OccasionsDate Night

Kasama is a fantastic Filipino spot that’s become one of our favorite places, for, well, a lot of things. They have pastries (like the ham and cheese danish or cardamom kouign amann), plates like chicken adobo, and snacks like lumpia—all absolutely delicious. Thursdays through Sunday the cafe lights a few candles and transforms into a special occasion-worthy restaurant. The 13-course Filipino menu is $185 per person, and it’s a rare fine dining menu that unequivocally feels worth the price. The menu changes regularly, but you can expect to find delicious things like squid ink pancit topped with serrano ham, lamb belly kare kare—no matter what hits the table, each course is balanced, perfectly executed, and flows seamlessly into the next. Oh, and they have a cute little side patio, too.

photo credit: Jack Li

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Provaré is a fun, brightly lit Creole and Italian spot that’s a newcomer in the neighborhood. The busy space has an R&B playlist that will make you realize how much you enjoy 90s Usher, and you’ll get complimentary shots of one of their house cocktails as soon as you sit down. The menu is short (just a few appetizers and mains) but really good. Standout dishes include cheesy spinach and artichoke dip filled with shrimp and crawfish, shrimp Hennessy scampi, and bone-in lamb chops with corn maque choux. Oh, and they have a couple vegan options, too - like bolognese made with Impossible Meat and brussels sprouts topped with vegan parmesan.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

$$$$Perfect For:BrunchLunch

Un Amor specializes in brunch, and that focus pays off. At this excellent Latin-American restaurant, you’ll find plates of cochinita pibil tostadas topped with eggs, juicy chicken and waffles with dry chile maple syrup, and brunch-adjacent dishes like a tender skirt steak sandwich topped with duck fat onions. Come with friends so you can try everything, including a tower of churro french toast.

From the street, Nettare looks like a boutique liquor store with a line-up your Obscure Wine Of The Month Club would envy. But the shop is just one part of this great all-day cafe, bar, and seasonal American restaurant. In the casual dining room decked out like Design Within Reach: Jungle Edition, you’ll find dates trying the $65 tasting menu, groups of friends drinking seasonal cocktails with ingredients like pear brandy and grappa, and solo diners downing dishes like crispy-skinned walleye or beef cheek swimming in a white BBQ sauce. Next time you’re in West Town with a group of plan-commitment-phobes, Nettare is a good slashie solution to any dining or drinking indecisiveness.

The decision to go to Dell Rooster in West Town is always a good one. This isn’t just because this all-day Latin American restaurant has great food (and it really, really does) but because it works for all sorts of situations. The space is decorated in cute chicken murals and plays salsa music at a volume that’s still a vibe but doesn’t force you to scream across the table. The food is affordable (most dishes hover between $15-30) and  servers enthusiastically walk you through the menu—explaining the origin of each dish, and offering suggestions. Which is easy to do since everything is a hit. The oxtail sitting on fried sweet plantains is an example of a share plate that shouldn’t be shared, and the cheese-filled Colombian-style sweet corn cake covered in a rich vegetable seems like the culmination of a farmer’s life work.

This upscale Korean restaurant is perfect for a special occasion, or even a Wednesday when you decide it’s time for a super nice date night. They offer a $115 seven-course tasting menu, with incredible dishes like salmon tartare topped with crispy rice pearls and creme fraiche, and mandu with kimchi and pork. Whatever you end up getting, you can count on it being delicious and well-prepared. Just be sure to make reservations ahead of time—it’s small, and books up quickly.

Tempesta is a deli/specialty store serving fantastic gourmet sandwiches. They have sandwich options like The Dante (which has an entire deli counter worth of house-cured meat and a spicy ’nduja aioli) or the Beet Streets (thinly shaved beets and apples with homemade almond butter). Along with some of Chicago’s best sandwiches, you can also pick up lots of meat,cheese, and prepared foods like potato and pasta salad. This place is good for a quick lunch when you’re in the neighborhood, or to grab supplies for a picnic by the lake.

Boeufhaus is not a traditional, huge Chicago steakhouse. Think of it as more of a little, steak-centric tavern. It definitely feels like a neighborhood spot, with its dim lights and exposed brick - it’s the kind of place you’d visit with a small group of friends or a date, not a corporate card. You’ll find classics like steak tartare and fries, but the menu also has a German twist, so you can get things like sauerkraut spaetzle, too. It’s a worthwhile destination if you’re looking for a steak but don’t want the usual suspects.

Lao Peng You is a small Chinese spot with a short menu of primarily handmade noodles and dumplings. They pivoted to carry out during the pandemic, and it turns out that their plump handmade dumplings and 67 foot-long noodles taste just as wonderful on your couch. We like everything here, but our favorites are the cold noodles, beef noodle soup, and the excellent xi’an bing. Also, make sure you take advantage of the delicious housemade chili oil and vinegar they give you.

JJ’s is a very small, casual, BYOB restaurant. Their specialty is Thai street food, so you can expect dishes like khao mun gai, noodle soups, and gai satay. The food is incredible and the space is small, so you can expect a wait. Come here with a friend and a bottle of wine.

Flour Power is guaranteed to break you out of your pasta rut—something we just made up, but are 100% certain exists. This counter-service spot has a short menu of handmade pastas (available pre-made or as meal kits) and they rarely serve the same thing twice. From campanelle with nduja and tomato confit to creste di gallo with apple, bacon, and cream cheese -whatever you get will be delicious.

photo credit: Garret Sweet

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This BYOB Italian restaurant in West Town is small and dimly lit, with vintage touches like ornate mirrors and moody candelabras dripping wax decorating the space. And you’ll probably be happy as soon as you sit down, because your meal at Elina’s begins with complimentary garlic bread, cheesy focaccia, and salami. While the delicious free stuff is fun, the menu also has tasty dishes like clams casino, rigatoni a la vodka, and chicken parmesan. The service is attentive, and the busy restaurant works just as well for date night as it does for catching up with friends. Elina’s only has about 28 seats, so plan on making reservations in advance.

Happy Hour deals, flatscreen TVs, and being open until 2am sell the illusion of Diego being like any other Chicago bar. But things like crispy tostadas topped with spicy macaroni and shrimp salad, or yellowfin and avocado say otherwise. There are plenty of tasty tacos on the menu too, and despite primarily being a seafood spot, some of the best food here is meat-based. Case in point: a thick burger so smoky and juicy, it's singlehandedly doing its part to end the smashburger trend. Add in an excellent Cali-style steak burrito, and Diego is a wealth of beef-based riches.

Uncle Mike’s Place started out as an old-school diner—a spot for eggs, bacon, pancakes, and coffee. But eventually they started incorporating Filipino breakfast items into the menu, and those are the reason you come here. The longanisa, tocino, and skirt steak platters are all delicious, and served with garlic rice and fried eggs. Plus, everyone gets a complimentary bowl of lugao when they sit down, which is just lovely.

All Together Now is a useful all-day spot that’s right on the border of this part of West Town and Ukrainian Village. It’s both a restaurant and a market, with a bar that works for dining solo and/or getting some work done, and also some tables for small groups. The food is delicious (for example, dishes like fried goat cheese curds or tomato-braised lamb shank), and this place works well for everything from a casual weeknight dinner to just picking up some wine and cheese.

This place is big on atmosphere, to the point that you may even feel like you’re in a themed hotel. But unlike the spaceship room at the Adventure Inn off I90, the design at Beatnik - which in general we’d describe as “Wes Anderson movie chic” - is tasteful, and adds to the fun of the place. So come ready to drink cocktails in a jungle of tropical plants, or eat dishes like a rabbit arepa or fried quail on a gigantic daybed. The food and drinks don’t disappoint, so this place is perfect for cocktails or a bohemian-feeling group dinner.

This West Town brew pub in a remodeled old theater has enough historical touches to fit in with the neighborhood, but still seems modern: the space is open and airy, with cool steampunk light fixtures and brewing vats visible in the back. The food and beer are both great - they have a great burger as well as interesting bar snacks, like fried giardiniera. It’s an easy option for a post-work drink with friends, since if you end up wanting to get a full dinner, you don’t need to find another place.

Out of all the Publican entities, Publican Quality Bread (PQB) is the one that’s, unsurprisingly, carb-central. This is where you’ll find the baking operation that supplies bread to The Publican and Publican Quality Meats, along with a small storefront that has all sorts of pastries and loaves. Inventive baked goods like buckwheat chocolate croissants and gruyere brioche buns are available on a rolling basis starting at 7am, followed by fresh bread at 9, and sandwiches and tartines at 10. There’s no place to sit, but there’s ample street parking in the area—perfect for when you need an SUV to transport everything you bought home.

The “Aya” in question was originally the head pastry chef at Maple & Ash, and this neighborhood bakery means that now you can get her fantastic baked goods straight from the source. It has everything from wonderfully flaky croissants, to pull-apart milk bread, to take-and-bake cinnamon rolls that will change your life. Plus, Aya even has a drive thru so you can roll up in your PJs before heading home to throw those bad boys in the oven.

This Korean spot has two locations (there’s another one in Uptown) but West Town’s is the original. And we like coming to this little place for their stew—particularly the soondubu and the army, which are both antidotes to a gloomy winter day. We’re also fans of their chewy tteokbokki and crispy kimchi pancakes. You can order all this to-go, but we actually like coming here because there’s a little self-serve banchan station that we appreciate.

Traspasada is a cash-only taqueria with around 15 stools. Focus on the tacos, particularly the chorizo and al pastor, and the elotes. One of the best things about this place is that it’s open late - until 1am during the week and 3:30am Friday and Saturday nights. So tell your friends if they lose track of you while you’re drunk, this is where you’ll be.

Flo’s has been in West Town since 1999, and the New Mexican specialities are what you want. They do breakfast six days a week (they’re closed Mondays), and we endorse the huevos rancheros or anything with chorizo. For dinner, get the enchiladas or the green chili stew. And if you’re here on a weekend for brunch, you’ll also find some over-the-top sweet dishes, like their Fruity Pebbles French toast.

Roots is a solid neighborhood option for dine-in pizza. The pies are Quad Cities-style, which means they’re round but cut into rectangles, and the toppings are under the cheese. The menu is huge, with a decent selection of salads and rotating roster of pizzas designed by local chefs. A huge bar area and large patio, as well as the interesting specialty pies, make it a great local spot for a hangout - especially if you’re with a large group.

This restaurant is right above Roots, and the entrance is actually inside the pizza place. But the two spots couldn’t be more different. Homestead on the Roof is a hardcore farm to table spot that even has its own rooftop organic garden. The menu changes often, but you can expect rustic, vegetable-heavy food like sweet pea risotto, as well as simple meat and seafood dishes. Try and eat on the patio if the weather permits, and/or you want to feel like you’re in Country Living magazine.

Fry The Coop started in the suburbs, and unlike your cousin, this is a suburban import we enjoy. The counter-service spot’s menu has four fried chicken sandwiches (including one on a donut), chicken and waffles, tenders, and sides. Their specialty is Nashville hot chicken, and there are six heat levels to choose from (ranging from “country” to ’insanity”).We suggest finding a designated driver if you order anything above “hot.”

Junebug Cafe image

Junebug Cafe

Sometimes decision making is overrated, and that’s when a place like Junebug comes in handy. This small New Orleans-inspired cafe has a very short menu - hand pies, fresh beignets, and gumbo. And those fluffy beignets and rich, dark gumbo are why this place is on this list. They also have cafe au lait (regular or chicory), sweet tea, and a rotating selection of pastries. Come here to get some work done while pretending you’re in the French Quarter, or to pick up something warm when it’s 15 degrees outside.

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Liberation Donuts

Liberation Donuts is a carryout vegan donut shop, but—vegan or not—these are just excellent donuts. They’re cake-based, not at all dense (which can happen with vegan baked goods), and perfectly fried until just crispy. Our favorite donut is the For Greta - a plain cake donut filled with vegan whipped cream, and topped with vanilla glaze and fresh strawberries. We also really like the Sanctuary (bruléed sugar and pineapples) and the Kindness, which has a maple glaze and spiced chocolate crumbs.

This casual pizza spot has been in the neighborhood since 2007, and is still an excellent option for a weeknight when all you want is some pizza and a glass of wine. Their specialty is thin crust, and the pies are (as the name suggests) coal-fired with a charred, bubbly crust. You’ll find a variety of creative toppings like whipped ricotta with pepperoni, Italian beef, and pistachio pesto. In other words, it’s the kind of light, tasty pizza that you’re going to want to eat a lot of—so plan on ordering at least two.

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Elina’s image
7.0

Elina’s is a BYOB Italian restaurant in West Town.

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