There are plenty of reasons you might end up needing to eat dinner out after 10pm. Maybe your flight got into O’Hare late, and you can’t wait until tomorrow to eat something that wasn’t warmed up in an airplane kitchen. Maybe you’ve spent the last few hours trapped at a party with terrible food, and now that you’re out, you need a burger ASAP. Whatever the case, it’s kind of late, and you want a full meal. By which we mean a sit-down dinner with table service and maybe some drinks. (Cocktail garnishes, however creative, do not count as dinner.) Here’s our guide to all of your best bets.
Open until 1am
La Josie is in the heart of the West Loop, has three full bars and a roof deck, and tends to get pretty crowded. So it’s no surprise that this place stays open late. It also happens to serve great Mexican food - even if you’re not looking for a wild night out, it’s worth coming just for the tacos and enchiladas. Get a drink or two from the extensive cocktail menu, and enjoy the fact that no matter how rowdy the space gets, the servers and bartenders stay very friendly.
Kitchen open until 1am Monday-Saturday and 12am on Sundays; pizza available until 2am on Saturdays
That scavenger hunt your friends forced you to do took forever to finish. Who knew that trying to find a Jay Cutler jersey would be so hard? Now it’s 11:30pm, everyone’s starving, and you want to go someplace kind of nice but still affordable. Quartino is reliably good, and its tapas-style Italian menu is reasonably priced and perfect for sharing. The space is also so big that you probably won’t have to wait for a table.
Open until 11pm
What time to do you think celebrities are eating dinner? According to Us Weekly, definitely much later than the rest of us. So if you want to pretend you’re famous, hit up RPM Italian around 10 - it’s perfect if you need a “hot spot” but also actually want to eat a good meal. They do upscale modern Italian food in a sleekly designed space full of black tables and large white leather booths. Whatever else you get, make sure to order at least one of the housemade pastas.
Open until 12am
Nothing says “going out to dinner in Chicago” like a steakhouse, and RPM Steak is one of our favorites in a city that has about 18 per block - so that’s saying something. It feels similar to RPM Italian (unsurprisingly, since it’s from the same folks), with a trendy space and excellent, expensive food. There’s a whole section of wagyu and kobe on the menu if you’re going all out, but if you’re not, you’ll find good options among the shareable small plates and seafood dishes. This place is equally good to hit up on your own or with a big group. And the later you eat here, the more likely you’ll be to see a former Disney star get whisked away to the private dining section after his or her United Center concert.
Open until 11pm
In general, restaurants that don’t take reservations are great for late-night meals, since the wait usually gets shorter as the night goes on. With The Purple Pig, there’s the added bonus that the Magnificent Mile clears out after 10pm, so you won’t have to deal with its usual crowd of tourists. This Streeterville spot serves great food, and the extensive menu of Mediterranean small plates has something for everyone. Just make sure to order at least one pig’s ear.
Open until 1am
Au Cheval is often the first stop for people returning to Chicago after having moved away. This is primarily because of its burger - pretty much the best one on the planet, with two patties and cheese on a buttery bun - but there are plenty of non-burger items worthy of your attention here as well. Like the bone marrow, or the pork porterhouse. The space is dark and pretty small, with a long counter and limited tables, and at prime times, you’ll usually have about a two-hour wait (they don’t take reservations). Luckily for everyone, Au Cheval is open until 1am, and not only is your wait probably going to be less intimidating after 10, but the only time (besides weekend brunch) you can order their chilaquiles is post-midnight. They are, predictably, amazing.
Open until 11pm Tuesday-Thursday and 12am Friday and Saturday
Bavette’s is a steakhouse that feels like a speakeasy. Expect big leather booths, jazz music, and enough darkness that you might need your phone to read the menu. Their steak is some of the best in Chicago, but the excellent non-steak items on the menu - from shellfish towers to the short rib stroganoff and a double bone pork chop - make this place a real standout. If you’re eating here late because you can’t sleep, count on wanting a nice long nap immediately after your meal.
Girl & the Goat
Open until 11pm Sunday-Thursday and 12am Friday and Saturday
If you don’t live in Chicago, this spot belongs on your “I’m only in town for a few days” hit list. If you do live here, it’s still worth your time. It’s one of the city’s best-known restaurants, it really does have great food, and if you plan to eat here between 5pm and 10pm, you’ll need to make a reservation three months out. If you don’t mind eating later, though, you’ll have a much easier time getting a table. The eclectic small plates menu has dishes like goat empanadas and duck tongues, and if you’re by yourself, you can get the full menu at the bar - where you won’t need a reservation at all.
Open until 2am
The party trolley driver did your bachelorette party group a “favor” and extended the rental time. Now you’ve been trapped on it for six straight hours listening to “Hollaback Girl.” Most people are really drunk, some people just want some decent food, and everyone needs to pee. Bar Siena is the spot - the space is loud and buzzy, with a huge bar dominating the first floor and a larger dining area upstairs. Pastas and wood-fired pizzas make up most of the menu, and they’re all great. The gnocchi is pillowy and delicious, and the prosciutto and fig pizza has a great balance of sweet and savory. Your hungry friends can eat, your drunk friends will blend in perfectly, and you (probably) won’t hear “Hollaback Girl” again. Win-win-win.
Open until 11pm Sunday-Wednesday and 12am Thursday-Saturday
Sunda is a sceney Asian fusion spot in River North ideal for multiple late-night dining situations. It’s perfect if you’re traveling by yourself and arriving in the city late. Come here for sushi, and entertain yourself at the bar by watching the chef work. It’s also perfect for a group outing, if you share some over-the-top signature rolls (like one with lobster and ghost pepper) plus some other dishes like the duck bao and oxtail potstickers. Just keep in mind that this place is generally full of pretty-people, so you might want change out of your sweatpants.
Open until 11pm Sunday-Wednesday (with pizza available until 12am), and 12am Thursday-Saturday (with pizza available until 1am)
There’s nothing quite like a bowlful of carbs (or a plateful of pizza) when you’re really hungry, and if you’re not eating dinner until 11pm because the dog groomer took forever with your Pomeranian, that’s probably the case. On the surface, Siena Tavern has all the traits of a typical River North spot: it’s trendy, always crowded, and it has giant booths. But despite all this, it’s actually a really good Italian restaurant. You can order the pizzas here half and half (our favorite combo is the prosciutto and pear with the pepperoni), and you can’t go wrong with an order of the gnocchi, or the squid ink linguine with lobster. It’s the kind of food you’ll be glad you waited all night to eat.
Open until 12am Sunday-Thursday and 1am Friday and Saturday
We’ll happily eat here any time of the day or night. But during “normal” hours, getting a table can be a gamble - the small space gets crowded quickly. As with other popular places in this guide, the later you come, the better your chances of getting a seat will be. This spot is usually full of cool people (who probably just got done working their late night cool-people jobs), and the food is always phenomenal. Don’t pass up the opportunity to order the taleggio flatbread - get it with a side of honey - and/or the chorizo-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates. The ample bar seating and small plates also make it a fantastic option for a solo dinner.
Open until 12am
You wouldn’t have picked that particular movie at the Regal on Western if you’d known it had a running time of 428 minutes. Now it’s 11pm, and you need something besides the taste of stale popcorn to sustain you. Walk across the street to Owen & Engine. This place serves upscale British pub food, like pasties, fish and chips, and one of the best burgers in the city. So if the theater ever runs a Downton Abbey marathon, you’ll really be set.