CHIGuide

Where To Eat Ukrainian Food In Chicago

From warm borscht to pillowy varenyky, Chicago has some incredible Ukrainian food.
A tiny wooden restaurant with a small bar and a few tables with people eating.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

The first wave of Ukrainian immigrants arrived in Chicago in the late 1800s, and soon became the largest ethnic group in what’s now known as Ukrainian Village. To this day, the area continues to be a vital hub for Ukrainian food, with decades-old buffets and newer spots that dole out tiny ferris wheels full of vodka shots. While that namesake neighborhood is a good place to start for borscht or breaking the world record for “Most Varenyky Eaten,” there are a handful of other great restaurants sprinkled throughout the city, too.

THE SPOTS

Ukrainian

Avondale

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightFirst/Early in the Game DatesEating At The BarDrinking Good CocktailsDrinking Good Wine
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This Avondale spot with trippy lamps and sparkling zakusky carts full of appetizers is an exciting addition to Chicago’s roster of Ukrainian restaurants. Before you order at Anelya, servers hype up halushki and kovbasa as if the pillowy potato dumplings and smoky pork sausages are about to win a medal—and they should. So should the trout roe tarts that taste like a whole lox bagel in one bite, or the lokshyna with layers of farmer’s cheese and egg noodles. Whether you're coming for a low-key hang, date night, or just because of how good those tarts sound, the playful space and unique takes on classics always make eating here fun.

photo credit: John Ringor

Magic Jug in Portage Park looks like someone uprooted a tiny cabin in the forest and dropped it off on a busy stretch of Irving Park. The floors, walls, and ceiling are decked out in light wood, but decorative trinkets keep things from feeling like you're eating in a sterile balsa box. We always get the dumplings—pelmeni and varenyky with fillings like peppery beef, potatoes, and sour cherry—but their light, umami-punched mushroom soup and juicy strips of pork with vegetables and perfectly seasoned fluffy rice are good picks, too. If you like the dumplings, you can always buy frozen ones to take home.

The first thing you’ll notice at this Ukrainian Village cafe is their stocked pastry case—that is, as long as you get there before they sell out in the late afternoons. Located right by the entrance, it’s got drunken cherry cake, hazelnut cookies, macarons, and flaky Napoleon with apricot, all of which are perfect companions for sipping coffee and reading a book. There's also some good non-sweet stuff, like varenyky stuffed with mushroom, potato, and tarragon. And if you need to combat 12-degree weather, siphon some warmth from their pechenya, a chunky beef stew that comes in a hot clay bowl with a side of fluffy rolls that they bake themselves.

If you're with self-proclaimed "party people" who want a night fueled by a ferris wheel of vodka shots infused with sour cherry or horseradish, go to this spot in Ukrainian Village. Tryzub's menu has well-made borscht, salo, and stuffed cabbage. But the varenyky party platter is non-negotiable, with four varieties ranging from standard potato to rich sauerkraut and mushroom. Don't be surprised when dinner devolves into a competitive game of I-Spy with neighboring (and equally tipsy) tables in the tchotchke-filled room.

Old Lviv would be an ideal rest stop after wandering through the wilderness—but it works just as well when you’re hungry after touring Ukrainian Village. The tiny wooden restaurant has only a handful of tables and a bar. But more importantly, there's a buffet. For $18, you can eat endless plates of mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, roasted chicken legs, and nalysnyky with sweet cheese and berries tucked into soft crepes. If 60 pounds of stuffed cabbage isn’t enough, you can always throw in some a la carte dishes like pelmeni.

This spot with swings dangling from the ceiling and cloud sculptures looks like something you’d find in River North rather than in the middle of a strip mall near O’Hare. Some of the food is pretty straightforward, like their salo plate with cured pork, bread, and mustard. Other options are much more creative, like borscht that gets drizzled over vegetables and meat, and holubtsi that comes in the form of stuffed cabbage balls (rather than rolls) with a leaf-shaped cracker on top. We like both approaches, so try a little of each style. As long as you prioritize a mousse dessert, like passion fruit or cherry, you'll be in good shape.

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