Where To Eat When You’re Visiting Chicago

Not every great restaurant in Chicago—just the ones you should have on your list while you’re getting acquainted.
Rémy Martin

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Welcome to Chicago, a city that’s great for eating and neighborhood-hopping. It’s practically designed to be one big food crawl for visitors, with breaks in between for gawking at skyscrapers, hitting a comedy show, and sleeping.

There’s no doubt that you’ll get some deep dish pizza, which you definitely should (and we have three suggestions below). If you love The Bear, head to Mr. Beef in River North for the sandwich that made “Yes, Chef!” a popular catchphrase. But don't miss out on other highlights, like Doma's smokey cevapi, the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates at Avec, or the steak at Bavette’s. It's possible to hit some of the city's best spots all in the same afternoon, without needing to hop on the elevated train line we call the "L."

This isn’t meant to be a definitive list of Chicago’s best restaurants—it’s just what we’d do if we were in your shoes. Speaking of shoes—hopefully you brought something comfortable. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik


River North

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This Croatian cafe has one of the city’s best english muffin egg and cheese sandwiches regardless if you’re team bacon, sausage, or avocado. We’re also big fans of their breakfast plate with eggs, greens, crispy hashbrowns, and the smokey cevapi. And when it’s too cold to hang out on their isolated back patio, their bright space’s large windows still guarantee that you can get your vitamin D fix.

photo credit: Beatrix



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When the morning needs museum-visit strategizing and a solid sit-down meal, consider Beatrix in River North for a power breakfast. The massive and sunny dining room thrives on efficiency, as tourists and families fuel up with safe classics like the soft oven-baked brioche and non-sweet brunch options like the spicy green chili and chicken enchilada. Beatrix also has a large bakery and coffee stand in the center, so grab an apple vegan muffin or lavender honey latte to-go before finally checking out the Chicago Medieval Torture Museum.

Before a whole day of landmark hopping between a former “World’s Tallest Building” and a giant handprint-covered metal legume, grab breakfast at another local institution, Lou Mitchell’s. We mean that literally—this West Loop diner has an official spot in the National Register of Historic Places for being at the start of the original Route 66. And it definitely has the old-school diner feel. Enjoy a classic skillet and pancake stack at one of their retro counters and bar stools, and the staff will probably call you some variation of hun, sweetie, or darling as they drop off a slice of their rotating pie of the day.



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Cira benefits from geography—it’s centrally located in the Hoxton at Fulton Market. The Mediterranean breakfast also makes things easy too, with broad enough options for tourists who want to begin their day with a classic American plate of two eggs, or get more spice from their shakshuka. The mezze platter is a solid way to jumpstart a day of strolling the West Loop, especially if the night before involved closing down Lazy Bird, the charming speakeasy in the Hoxton’s basement.

Chicago may never beat New York when it comes to bagels, but there are plenty of quality options throughout the city. And the ones at Tilly’s in the South Loop are perfect for a pre-museum day breakfast or to power your stroll up Michigan Avenue. These sourdough bagels are made fresh throughout the morning—a watchable activity thanks to a partially visible kitchen—and come in interesting flavors like cacio e pepe, or a rotating special like pepperoni. Whatever flavor you choose, these fluffy and chewy bagels seem designed to be ripped and dunked in the housemade cream cheese, which are equally delicious and creative.


This iconic family-run Italian deli and sub shop in the West Loop has been around since 1937. J.P. Graziano’s industrial exterior hasn’t changed since the neighborhood was full of meatpacking warehouses, and inside they’re still making the most delicious Italian subs and sandwiches in the city. Specifically, the Mr. G, which has spicy soppressata, prosciutto, salami, hot oil, marinated artichokes, and a surprisingly delicate truffle mustard balsamic vinaigrette.

This leather-clad, diner-inspired restaurant is known for their famous burger and infamous lack of reservations, and attracts both local burger enthusiasts and tourists alike. But unlike dinner where the wait can be long enough to sneak in a game of Monopoly, stopping by mid-day is like catching the Burger Express. The thick-cut bacon and fried egg upgrades are a must, but make sure to also check out other non-burger items like the fluffy scrambled eggs with rich foie gras or bone marrow with beef cheek marmalade.

This very popular dim sum restaurant has a bunch of locations, but whether you visit the one in Streeterville or South Loop, each MingHin follows the same format: a large space with plenty of seating, a long menu of consistently well-made dim sum, and an iPad ordering system at the table that helps you wade through the seemingly endless array of choices. The dining room is dark and sleek, but it’s casual enough for a family-style meal. All of the above (plus little to no wait time) makes Minghin one of the best places for groups.

There’s “old school” as in handwritten thank you notes, Old School the cinematic masterpiece, and then there’s Mr. Beef. This iconic River North shop is the inspiration behind The Bear, and despite the show's popularity, still has a no-nonsense vibe and isn’t filled with tourists like yourself. It’s a cash-only spot with politely impatient service, and a sparse dining room with a communal table where you can befriend someone who’s been eating here for decades. Come to Mr. Beef for a well-made, classic Italian beef without a side of selfies and ring lights.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Apolonia is a Mediterranean restaurant conveniently located near McCormick Place and the plethora of hotels in its vicinity. You’ll find couples drinking wine, as well as lanyard-wearing Accounting Association Summit attendees debating which of the fantastic dishes—like the roasted mussels on toast, buttery truffle puff bread, or fiorentini topped with a pork sugo—to order. After dinner, head next door to VU Rooftop for drinks and one of the best views of the city.


We’ve yet to find a scenario where coming to the best Italian restaurant in Chicago isn’t a great idea. But this perpetually-booked spot from a Top Chef alum will definitely need a reservation months in advance for your group dinner—try for a table during weekday lunch to increase your chance of success. Personally, we like to walk-in solo and grab a seat at the bar facing the pastificio and smile maniacally at all the pasta we can’t wait to consume, because nearly every dish is excellent (and reasonably priced). Try the cacio e pepe or ragu alla napoletana (a giant plate full of fusilli, sausage, meatballs, and a large braised pork shank), and attempt to stuff the inevitable leftovers in your hotel mini-fridge.

At this white-tablecloth French spot, it’s common to see couples feed each other buttery escargot for their anniversary while servers expertly fold someone’s napkin shortly after they leave their seat. But you'll also see people popping in for after-work glasses of Beaujolais at the bar, and friends in matching jean jackets attempting to equally split the Korean-inspired tête de cochon. Obelix expertly walks the tightrope of feeling formal without being stuffy—a balance that extends to its menu of classics like French onion soup and playful, fusion-y dishes like foie gras tacos. 

Bavette’s is our favorite steakhouse in Chicago. First, because the actual steak is delicious. Second, groups can come here, not order a steak (entrees like the fried chicken and the pork chop are outstanding), and still have a fantastic meal. Third, the 1920s jazz music playing in the windowless dining room makes this place feel like it exists outside of the normal space/time continuum. Just know that everyone also seems to love this place, so for a table that’s not at 3:00pm or 10:00pm, you’ll need to jump on a reservation when they’re available 21 days in advance.

It’s easy to meet strangers with similar great taste at Avec, a restaurant in the West Loop with communal tables and Mediterranean dishes. But accidentally nudging someone while reaching for the last dab of short rib hummus is common here, as consistent as the excellence of their rotating small plates. The space is all about sleek wood—for its stools, tables, and bar—which keeps the atmosphere bright, even when Avec inevitably gets busy with people. Get a reservation in advance, and plan on talking to seat neighbors also fixated on Avec’s must-order chorizo-stuffed medjool dates. 

Sushi-san in River North serves seriously great Japanese food, even if the club-level-loud rap music and poop emoji bathroom sign make it seem somewhat gimmicky. The sushi here is expertly prepared, like their San-Set assortments of nigiri, sashimi, and rolls that have names like Megatron and Mr. Maguro. And like the spicy octopus tacos in a crunchy nori shell or fluffy Japanese pancakes for dessert, they’re perfect for a group to split as they ramp up their night. Sushi-san is an irreverent party with excellent sushi and an exciting bar roster (Asahi, on tap, in a frosted glass), but they also have a great selection of drinks that have nothing with alcohol—AKA their N.W.A. section, naturally.


Unlike other upscale cocktail spots in the area, Kumiko doesn’t have velvet curtains or decorations that should come with “do not touch” signs. The intimate, pristine space is ideal for anniversary drinks, or relaxed hangs with people whose default speaking voice sounds like they regularly lead guided meditations. The attention to detail starts with menus designed like carefully crafted zines and extends to creative cocktails like a bold-yet-light Old Fashioned with green tea, and dishes like a crispy wagyu katsu sando with pillowy milk bread.

Start off a night in River North at this mid-century-looking lounge in The Acme Hotel, which is great for classic cocktails. But any rebellious, liquor-drinking trailblazers should order the Dealer’s Choice, which doesn’t have complex menu descriptions to parse—just tell the friendly bartenders the spirit, flavor profile, and desired glass. Come early in the night, before the dark nooks and low tables are filled with people trying to impress their party with a tolerance for something strong and stirred when they secretly wish the drink was sweet and sour.

The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel’s version of a Dave & Busters has skeeball and shuffleboard instead of a Jurassic Park shoot ‘em up, and while a child or two might be visible, the scene skews toward people who were indeed alive when the first movie came out. The bar food, like their sweet Maxwell Street Polish honoring the classic Chicago sausage, is better than average but it’s the drink specials that make this a fun place to be an adult: co-workers marking another conference survived can split the Victory Lap, a large tequila cocktail for four-to-six served in a trophy. The Game Room is like a reclusive baron’s low-lit kick-back spot, an ideal scene for those who want sports and a good bar, without a rowdy crowd.

Located next to Au Cheval, Lone Wolf is a common waiting room for burger-hungry souls who are patient, determined, and apparently have three hours to kill. But even if you’re not stuck in burger purgatory, it’s a great place to get a taste of the local dive, including a shot of Malört, a Windy City delicacy. Lone Wolf only opened in 2013, but the scratched-up wooden bar and old-school glass block windows could fool you into thinking it’s been a neighborhood watering hole for decades. Along with Old Style tallboys, they also have local beers on tap, cocktails, and even food from local celebrity, The Tamale Guy.

Grabbing drinks at The Drifter is a whole experience—assuming you’re able to find it. Spoiler alert: it’s in the basement of The Green Door Tavern, right next to the bathrooms and behind a shelf of tchotchkes. Beyond its secret entrance is an intimate space full of antiques, an old American flag that hangs above the bar, and short burlesque performances that’ll spice up your night more than the peppers at Mr. Beef next door. Throw in their rotating cocktail menu with fun drink names printed on individual tarot cards, and you have a whole night of mystique, intrigue, and maybe a table full of Kimmy Gibbler Gimlets.


Pequod’s in Lincoln Park isn’t the easiest to get to from Chicago’s general downtown area—plan on an Uber fare, a train-to-bus situation, or a 90-minute stroll. But the caramelized crust on the edges of their deep dish alone raises it above its peers. Pequod’s is a two-floor sports bar that’s always busy at night with families and people watching the evening’s game, so walk-ins should expect a wait, and it’s another 30 to 45-minute wait after ordering the pie. But like the journey it took to be in the same building as one of our favorite pizzas, it’s more than worth it.

If you can’t get to Pequod’s, Lou Malnati’s is the next best version of a classic Chicago-style pizza (sauce on top, with cheese and toppings underneath). There are multiple locations throughout the city, which means getting your deep dish fix is considerably easier. The crust is buttery and flaky, there’s a ton of cheese, and the whole thing is pretty much a gooey and delicious mess. You can even order a personal-size deep dish pie. It’s like a slice, except it’s round and weighs eight pounds. After a trip here you might want to make sure your touring schedule is light the rest of the day.

Eating an entire deep dish pizza (even with hungry friends) can be quite the undertaking, so luckily there’s Art of Pizza, which offers some very good deep dish by the slice. Yes, there’s thin crust and pan-style, but the best is their stuffed pizza—it’s the same as Lou Malnati’s, but with way more cheese and an extra layer of dough. The South Loop location is counter-service, BYOB, and has a few tables for small groups that get tired of waiting in line at the Lou’s down the street. But this is an especially good option when you just want to eat your Art’s Special slice in solitude while everyone else spends the afternoon at the aquarium.

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Our favorite places to eat in the neighborhood.

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There’s a lot going on in this neighborhood, and deciding on a restaurant can be tough. This is where you should be eating.

The dining room at Maxwells Trading with wooden tables and large windows on the left side

Our favorite places in the neighborhood. Yes, this includes Monteverde.

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