The best part about Chicago is summertime in the city - we have a giant lakefront with all the activities you could possibly want. Want to hit the beach? There are a lot of them. Feel like sightseeing? All of the best museums are located right off the lake. Trying to make friends that have access to a boat? Smart idea.
But after awhile in the hot sun and humidity, you're going to be hungry. And that's why we're here. Below, we've broken it all down from Hyde Park to Edgewater, so that no matter where along Lake Michigan you and your friends are, you'll have some pre or post-activity eating options covered. Have fun.
57th Street beach (Hyde park)
A long, tough day at the beach means pizza. And there's only one correct place to get it in Hyde Park - Medici. The longtime University of Chicago favorite has both deep dish and thin crust, so feel free to get a mix of both.
Looking for a quick sandwich to take with you to the water, or for on-the-go afterwards? Hit up Bergstein's. It's not a traditional deli, but it definitely has some good sandwiches. We prefer a simple salami or tuna salad sandwich.
Both classic American diner food and Greek comfort dishes can be found together at Salonica. Want an omelette, but your friend wants some souvlaki? No problem. Salonica has you covered from morning til night every day.
museum campus (South Loop)
Part Polish-American restaurant, part bar, and a lot of good thin-crust pizza in recognizable South Side form. Flo & Santos is a short walk from the Field Museum and the type of low-key, friendly spot you can stroll into whenever.
Our favorite South Loop rooftop restaurant and bar to hang at, and not just because it's one of the only ones. Reggies has solid burgers and wings, cold beer, and a cool patio to kick back on. The inside doubles as a live music venue at times, and altogether that's an ideal situation when you've been out and about all day.
Jewish deli classics will either provide you the energy to get through the day or fill you up after a long outing with Sue at the Field Museum. It's casual, so no need to worry about whatever you're wearing.
Grant Park/Millennium park (The Loop)
One of our all-time favorites for an easy, delicious, and relatively cheap meal. Cafecito is dishing out excellent cuban sandwiches and plates not far from The Bean. Whether you've been lounging in the park all day or are coming from the water further down, Cafecito is always a strong move to keep you well fed.
SHAKE SHACK B*TCH (said in our best Jesse Pinkman voice). As if you need an excuse to get a tasty little burger and some crinkle cut fries.
Walking along Michigan Avenue in front of Millennium and Grant Park can be the stuff nightmares are made of. Too many people, too many cars, you can't cross the street, and why are these people walking so slow? Don't get caught in that position when you're hungry, because it'll be even worse. Stop at Fontano's and get a quality sub full of giardiniera peppers instead.
Brown Bag is the perfect spot to hit on your way to or from The Bean or anywhere near it. Or better yet, grab some Brown Bag beforehand and make it a picnic. The seafood-centric tacos, bowls, and salads are satisfying yet still light enough for a hot summer day.
Ohio Street Beach (Streeterville)
Nothing says beach body like a fried chicken sandwich and some donuts. Thankfully, Do-Rite in Streeterville is available for you to grab something easy and close to the Ohio St. Beach. Sup ladies/gents - you want some of this fried chicken sandwich and donut body or what?
PSA: There's a respectable outdoor restaurant on the Ohio St. beach called Caffe Oliva. It's kind of like ordering food at a hotel pool. Best food around? No. But it does the trick and you don't have to go anywhere.
We can't believe these words are coming out of our mouths, but the food at Navy Pier is getting better. You still don't need to go to Navy Pier just to go, but if you're at The Ohio St. Beach and don't want to travel far for food, it's acceptable to eat at the pier. Hit up Goddess & The Baker or DMK Burger Bar, and make sure to cap it off with an Original Rainbow Cone so you can justify being at this god forsaken tourist trap.
Oak Street Beach (Gold Coast)
A fast-casual taco spot that takes everything you liked as a kid and puts it in taco form. Buffalo chicken taco? Yup. Fish & chips taco? All you. Might as well go with the bacon-cheeseburger taco while you're at it.
Luxbar is definitely on the nicer end of things, but it could be a strong move to eat here before catching some rays. At night, it's probably too sceney, but we've definitely strolled in wearing bathing suits for an early afternoon lunch on our way to to the Oak Street Beach and felt great about it.
Once you cross over Lake Shore at the Oak Street Beach, you're kind of stuck on Michigan Avenue. But the Hancock building is right there, so head down the stairs to the base of it where you'll find L'Appetito, a small little Italian deli where you can grab a basic sandwich or grilled panini. Watch out for the Cheesecake Factory.
You just spent all day frying in the sun playing volleyball and the only thing on your mind is pizza. Walk west back across Lake Shore to Viagra Triangle where a good old fashioned Lou Malnatis awaits. You deserve a deep dish.
North Avenue Beach (Lincoln Park)
Is Castaways a cesspool of drunks and most likely STD’s? Sure, and that’s nothing new. But it's literally on the beach, so, if you happen to be in party mode, we don't judge if you settle for a subpar burger and a couple of Bud Lights.
Take a short walk through Lincoln Park over To Ranalli's on Lincoln Ave. They have a large patio perfect for summer evenings after a trip to the beach. Bathing suits are a non-issue, so grab some pizza and beer and finally hang out in the shade.
Pizza sound good, but the thought of more daylight does not. Bricks is located literally next door to Ranalli's, and they do their own version of a great thin crust pizza in a dark bar setting. Stay away, sun.
Before there was Joe's, RPM, Paris Club, or any of the other billion restaurants owned by Lettuce Entertain You, there was only RJ Grunts. While the glory days are past, RJ Grunts is still a solid spot to grab a burger, and the salad bar is legit. It's also directly on the other side of the park from the beach.
Diversey harbor (Lincoln Park)
Beautiful weather, boats, beaches, and a Chicago hot dog. Welcome to the U.S. of A. Cheese fries are very American too - just saying.
Del Seoul is a no frills joint where a beautiful fusion of two cuisines is greater than the sum of the parts. They offer Korean/Californian-inspired street food in the form of sweet and spicy tacos, pork belly laden French fries, and other more traditional Korean dishes. The grub is insane and you won’t spend over $15.
You spent all day in the sun and your back is so red you'd be afraid to cross paths with a bull in case one happens to be loose on the streets. You need to bunker down at Half Shell's garden-level bar. It's a dive spot that serves excellent seafood - the kind of place far more familiar on the East Coast. You're going to want all of the king crab legs.
Belmont harbor (Lakeview)
As a species, we humans are suckers for any food form in a bowl: poke bowls, burrito bowls, ice cream in a helmet at a baseball game. We can't resist. So if you throw some quality Brazilian flavors and ingredients in a bowl you know we'll eat it. Feel free to sneak in an empanada or a smoothie.
If you're heading out on a boat from Belmont Harbor, bringing infinity seoul sassy crisp wings with you is mandatory. Hell, if you're headed down to the Hyde Park beach you should just stop and get some Crisp wings before or after. We'd do anything for Crisp.
Sometimes the hardest part about picking a restaurant after you've been outside all day is agreeing on something to eat. That's not necessary at Nookies Tree because they have everything - burgers, breakfast, a salad, whatever. It's also BYOB and open 24 hours.
Montrose beach (UPtown)
Another beach restaurant, another place with excellent views and convenience built in with mediocre food. It plays.
Perfect for brunch on the way to the beach. Tweet is a popular, eclectic, cash-only cafe in Uptown. It's the exact kind of funky place you need for some breakfast before a lazy day.
Tank Noodle is known for their pho, but you might not want something hot after sitting in the sun all day. No matter. The banh mi's here are excellent, as are other non-soup dishes like the Grilled Pork Vermicelli (#89) and the special Tank combination rice dish (#107).
FOster beach/Hollywood Beach (Edgewater)
The best bet for quality food near these parts is to head to Andersonville. And our move would be to hit up Little Bad Wolf for their great tacos, baos, and burgers.
If you like adventurous meals, check out Ras Dashen for Ethiopian food. Hopefully you have some friends willing to go with you, because it's best to share. Expect a large tray of food you'll be eating with your hands.
Loyola BeacH (rogers park)
If you're at Loyola beach there's a 100% chance you should grab bopNgrill. The fun, cheap Korean-American spot has everything from burgers, to a bulkogi plate, to awesome kimchi fries with cheese sauce. It's exactly what you want after a rough day of doing nothing.
In case you don't want to get bopNgrill, you can also opt for crepes on the beach. This is a better beach-front restaurant than the other ones that serve generic bar food. We're particularly into the sweet versions.