Where To Eat After A Day At The Museum Campus

Whether you’re a visitor making a bucket-list stop or a Chicagoan who just hasn’t been to a museum in a while, here’s where to eat after becoming your most cultured self.
Where To Eat After A Day At The Museum Campus image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

After spending a day taking selfies with Sue the T. Rex or learning about the photoreactivity of zooplankton, you’re going to need some food. There aren't any good restaurants on the Museum Campus (the lakefront park that houses the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium, plus a pro football field, an outdoor amphitheater, and the largest convention center in North America for good measure), but there are plenty of places nearby. So once you’ve absorbed all the useless trivia necessary to monopolize the conversation at your next dinner party, head to one of these spots for a bite.


photo credit: Sandy Noto


South Loop

$$$$Perfect For:Classic EstablishmentLunch
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Distance: 9 min drive / 30 min walk

Manny’s opened over 80 years ago, and this iconic Jewish deli is still a destination. It has all the things you’d want from a classic deli: it’s family-owned, has a ridiculous variety of comforting food, and you order cafeteria-style from someone whose sole purpose in life is making sure you get enough brisket. There are sandwiches stacked with piles of corned beef and pastrami (a popular combo for their reuben), matzo balls the size of your head, latkes, and black and white cookies.

Distance: 7 min drive / 28 min walk

Apolonia is a Mediterranean restaurant conveniently located near McCormick Place and the plethora of hotels in its vicinity. It’s a bright and airy space, which will be a welcome change after spending the afternoon in the dark watching the Planet Nine Sky Show at Adler Planetarium. Every dish on the menu at this upscale spot has multiple layers of flavor, like buttery truffle puff bread and fiorentini topped with a pork sugo. Even “the pistachio,” a dessert made with only one main ingredient (albeit in gelato, pastry, oil, and candied form), is surprisingly complex. After dinner, you can head next door to VU Rooftop for drinks and one of the best views of the city.

Distance: 6 min drive / 15 min walk

If January is when you’re embarking on your museum quest, a visit to AO Hawaiian Hideout will help temper the harsh reality that is winter in Chicago. It really leans into the tropical island theme, so expect plenty of fake fish and sunset murals all over the place. But don’t let the straw huts and tasty tiki drinks distract from how good the food is. Besides their signature Hawaiian plates, there are dishes from across East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Polynesia, plus a dedicated vegan and gluten-free section. Focus on things like the poké bowls, beef short ribs, and panang curry.

Distance: 6 min drive / 15 min walk

Extend a day spent steeped in history with dinner at The Chicago Firehouse. This spot was previously HQ for Engine Company 104, before they converted the entrances of this 1905 building (designed for horse-drawn fire engines) into massive floor-to-ceiling windows. In fact, everything at Chicago Firehouse is massive: The ceilings are almost comically high, there’s a large bar that tends to fill up around Happy Hour, and a sizable secluded back patio. Even the menu is long, covering all the steakhouse bases like an excellent lobster bisque and steaks that are aged and butchered in-house. It’s a great option for drinks or a nicer-than-average post-sight-seeing dinner.

Distance: 7 min drive / 22 min walk

While there are other places to get sushi near the Museum Campus, Umai is the best. This Japanese spot also serves ramen, udon, and dishes like katsukarē in a cabin outfitted by the West Elm lighting department. Are the chandeliers giving off a soft glow that’s exactly the type of flattering you want after standing in front of blue lights all day? Yes. Is it bright enough to read the menu without the aid of a phone flashlight? Also yes. This spot is cozy, but not to the point that a group of colleagues in town for the Morningstar Investment Conference feel awkward about being here together.

Distance: 8 min drive / 28 min walk

Cindy’s, an airy, greenhouse-like rooftop restaurant, is on top of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. ​​There are a lot of great spots at the CAA, like The Game Room and Cherry Circle Room, but Cindy’s has one of the best panoramic views of the city. And, it’s just a block north of the Art Institute, right on Michigan Ave. All this translates to being incredibly busy and occasional hour-long waits just for the elevator. But once you’re upstairs, you’re rewarded with an unbeatable view of Millenium Park and Lake Michigan. The crab cake sandwich and potato gnocchi won’t blow you away, but the cocktails and atmosphere make up for it.

Distance: 6 min drive / 16 min walk

This Italian and Polish pub’s menu reads like the syllabus of a Chicago Foods 101 class, with tavern-style pizzas and toppings like kielbasa or Italian beef and hot giardiniera. You can also get fantastic pierogies, including ones masquerading as ravioli in a tomato-bacon-vodka sauce. Flo & Santos can get crowded on Bears’ game days, but it’s a short walk from Museum Campus and has a little (heated) patio, just in case you need some vitamin D after spending all day indoors.

Distance: 7 min drive / 28 min walk

Despite being a museum, the Museum of Science and Industry isn’t actually on the Museum Campus—it’s in Hyde Park. So get your technology fix by visiting Haidilao, a Chinese hot pot chain famous for its robot servers and noodle dancers. There are nine soup bases to choose from and a variety of fun things that are begging to be dunked into boiling broth, like white shrimp, cocktail sausages, or pork belly. The space is large and perfect for groups, and the condiment bar is as robust as the menu. Also worth noting is that Haidilao accepts reservations, and will give you free soft serve at the end of your meal.

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