We see you over there, frantic fingers, desperately scrolling through OpenTable as beads of sweat form over your furrowed brow. You finally asked out that babe from work and want to appear responsible enough to make reservations. The parents told you last minute they want to treat you to dinner. Maybe you forgot. Whatever the reason, you need a reservation, and you don’t have one.
You could go to one of those places that doesn’t take a reservation, but you don’t have the time or mental fortitude to take that chance. You need a last minute reservation at a solid restaurant that isn’t a ghost town, which is the equivalent of a goddamn miracle.
You’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of unicorns – restaurants that 1.) are actually good 2.) are relatively full, and 3.) often have available tables. Quit aimlessly scrolling through OpenTable and thank us later.
Chicago’s “Original Tapas Bar” might be thirty years old, but it can still party like it’s 22. They do it up big – big space, big menu, and big noise, supplying a lively atmosphere that makes it Perfect For First/Early In The Game Dates or Big Groups. Plus, they have five types of sangrias on tap. We like.
Upscale BBQ is counterintuitive, but we’ll play along at Chicago q. They’ll win you over with the addicting and complimentary pickles and homemade chips, and they’ll steal your heart with with the pit-master mac ‘n cheese topped with pulled pork. With a front patio for warm days, a second floor wine room for intimate events, and large leather booths that can fit a big crew, q is a great fallback to have in your arsenal.
Beatrix is a versatile gem in an otherwise one-dimensional River North food scene. With an array of healthy juices, tasty salads, and substantial fish and meat dishes, it’s a great middle of the road option on the spectrum of take out to fancy.
So you thought you’d try your luck with the Chicago Athletic Association on an unseasonably warm Friday in March. Ha. Haha. Hahahahaha. Walk just around the corner to The Gage, a gastropub directly across from Millennium Park. “The Regular” burger is solid and the Scotch eggs are great, but get something unique like the bison tartare or the rabbit salad.
25 Degrees can be your old faithful, a reliable place to grab a burger when you’re in need. It’s mainly a build-your-own burger kind of place, and a boozy milkshake place. Boozy milkshakes are good.
Don’t sleep on Balena. You’re not hearing or talking about it as much as you should be. You’re also not eating enough of their perfect homemade pastas.
Davanti is Perfect For any Date Night or First/Early in the Game Dates with a casual atmosphere, good food, and solid price point. You can never have too many casual and good Italian restaurants in the back pocket.
You can get charred duck hearts, turtle bolognese, or elk tenderloin. Plus they have an entire menu dedicated to “Whole Animal Service,” so yeah, it’s one of those places.
Hub 51 is well-run with great service and a lively atmosphere. But like all River North restaurants, Hub is overrun with River North riffraff at times, and the menu is all over the map. But if you’re in the neighborhood and need a place for a large group of incredibly picky eaters, this will hit the spot.
Mon Ami Gabi gives you a comfortable neighborhood feel while maintaining an upscale French ambiance. It’s a place for people who enjoy the finer things in life, or people who really enjoy cheesy French onion soup. We happen to enjoy both but can only afford one. More soup please.
Our Dusek’s review plainly states, “much like Brian Urlacher’s coverage…, Dusek’s has range.” Well, that’s more true than ever now that Urlacher has hair. It’s a big space and you’d be wise to venture to Pilsen if you’re in a bind.
It’s sceney and hyped and dark and you f*cking love it. Their new American small plates are great, but the drinks are where it’s at. Throw back some cocktails with River North’s finest.
The safety net of safety nets. Quartino is always crowded, but it’s so big that you can usually get a table. The basic Italian small plates are fit for everyone, and you can have an entertaining, tasty, and rather inexpensive meal.
The newer Tanoshii in the West Loop is still trying to figure out the whole service thing, but there’s no denying the quality sushi. We’re talking really good sushi, from the simple sashimi and nigiri to the chef’s choice rolls that are often heavy on truffle sauce. Get a little bit of everything.