Some people always order the chicken. Maybe it’s because of a dietary restriction, fond childhood memories of Sunday dinners at home, or vengeance for the time some chicken killed their entire family. Or it could be that they just like eating it, or that they don’t like eating much else. Whatever the reason, chicken has a gravitational pull on them, and they order it practically before they’ve even glanced at the menu.
And when you’re going out to eat with a person who always gets the chicken, the best and only move is to go somewhere that has great chicken dishes. But the places in this guide have other great options on the menu too - just in case the chicken orderer decides to branch out.
Etta is a great restaurant in Wicker Park with the kind of wide-ranging menu that’s designed to appeal to a lot of people, yet never seems boring. Despite the housemade pastas and pizzas, garlicky shrimp, steak, and pork shoulder, the chicken orderer in your life is not passing GO and collecting $200 - they’re heading straight for that wood-fired you-know-what. But that’s OK, because it’s a delicious you-know-what, and it can keep them occupied while you eat everything else.
This Southern restaurant in Hyde Park is our go-to for an upscale date night spot in the neighborhood. And if your date’s Hinge profile indicates they’re a chronic chicken orderer (CCO), Virtue has a great roasted chicken on the menu that comes with chow-chow (a spicy relish), which gives the dish some acidity, and makes it feel light at the same time. Since the rest of the menu can be pretty heavy (with entrees like short ribs and shrimp and grits), this might be the best option for both of you, depending on what after-dinner activities you had planned.
When you think of a perfect roast chicken, you’re probably imagining something like what they have at Maude’s: juicy and flavorful with a crackly brown skin, served in its own little cast iron dish. Whoever orders it (let’s be honest, it could very well be you) also needs a side of creamy mashed potatoes, which come in a pool of chicken jus. Sunday supper incarnate.
Duck is not chicken. We repeat, duck is not chicken. That said, they both kind of look the same when they’re roasted and covered in fries. So there’s a small chance you might convince a CCO to share the fantastic duck frites with you at Cafe Marie Jeanne, a casual French spot with great food in Humboldt Park. Ply them with wine, then slide the duck frites in front of them and announce that their order has arrived. If that doesn’t fool them, they can go ahead and get the smoked chicken, which is also excellent.
Pacific Standard Time is a large and very loud restaurant in River North with California-inspired food. The menu has a broad range of dishes, from seasonal vegetable plates to entrees like skirt steak and polenta. And since (according to legend) Californians also enjoy some lean protein now and again, chicken is on the menu, too.
This Greek restaurant in Lincoln Park is one of our favorite spots in all of Chicago. One reason is that it’s so affordable - almost everything on the menu is less than $10 - and another reason is that all the food is fantastic. But the best thing here is the chicken kalamata dinner. It’s a perfectly roasted half chicken over fries, served with a salad and bread and butter for $12. We’re going to warn you: the kalamata chicken at Athenian Room has the potential to make a CCO out of you.
This all-day cafe in West Town has dishes that are so straightforward, you’d consider making them yourself at home if you had the time. But usually you don’t, which is why it’s a useful neighborhood spot for a casual meal. One of our favorites is a juicy roasted chicken in a flavorful pan sauce with black garlic bread pudding. All Together Now is both a restaurant and a market, so this place works well for everything from a casual weeknight dinner to just picking up some wine and cheese (to go with the chicken you’ve got in the oven).
Funkenhausen in West Town is a German-inspired restaurant, so it’s understandable if you assume this is a pork-heavy menu. It is. But while there are dishes like cider-glazed pork shoulder and a schnitzel, there’s also a flavorful chicken breast dish that comes with pulled dark meat and spinach on the side. This place manages to be fun without being too sceney and works for date night, a group dinner, or meeting friends over German beers before a night out.
Poached chicken has the potential to be the most boring preparation on the planet. But this isn’t the case with the khao mun gai at Immm Rice & Beyond. Here the poached chicken is served with a side of delicious (and spicy) ginger chili soy sauce and some chicken fat rice, and the result is one of the best things on this Thai restaurant’s long menu. Curries, noodle dishes, grilled meats, and six different papaya salads are also available, if the khao mun gai has encouraged your CCO to stretch their (chicken) wings.
Marisol is inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, but the food is definitely way better than anything you’ve eaten in a museum cafe. It’s also open to the public even when the museum is closed, so if you’re downtown with your uncle who loves shopping at Water Tower Place and ordering chicken like it’s his job, it’s perfect. Marisol keeps things interesting by pairing their roast chicken with a big piece of toast topped with delicious liver pate (guess which animal). Also on the poultry side, they’ve got a fried quail with date honey that tastes sort of like (tiny) chicken and (invisible) waffles.
The large Peruvian menu at Tanta has sections devoted to ceviche and skewers as well as main dishes like the aeropuerto (pork fried rice). Among those mains is the pollo a la brasa - a fantastic roast chicken with potatoes, beans, choclo, and aji sauce. So the best strategy is to come with a group so you can try as much food as possible, and hope the chicken person feels like sharing, too.
Your dining companion has announced they only eat animals with wings and a beak, so it’s a good idea to meet them at Summer House Santa Monica. It has a well-rounded New American menu with a lot of options like pastas, fish tacos, and salads, but most importantly, a brick chicken that will make your CCO happy. The bright, summery space is nice to spend time in, and a great distraction from the idea of that bird coming face-to-face with that brick.
You can order anything on the Somerset menu - the beet tartare, a nice piece of fish, some steak, a cheeseburger - and it will be excellent. To the surprise of no one, this includes the roast chicken. While it used to only be a large-format option, now you can get it in a full or half size, so the CCO won’t need to involve anyone else in their chicken-ordering schemes. Just be aware that it also comes with garlic sausage, in case that’s too adventurous and they need to omit it.
Everyone is concerned about the vegetarian finding something to eat at a steakhouse, but what about the chicken orderer? Won’t someone please think of the chicken orderer? Luckily Swift & Sons in the West Loop not only has great steaks, but their other options (including the vegetable dishes and, yes, the chicken) are consistently great too. And there are plenty of classic steakhouse touches here, like great service and both drink and dessert carts rolling around, so you’ll still get the full experience, no matter your entree.
On the surface, The Publican seems like it’s all about pork and beer. And while you’re encouraged to order the porchetta and pork rinds here, one of their signature dishes is the platter of roast chicken on fries. Come for a large group meal, which you can eat at the giant wooden communal table. It will make you feel a little like you’re at a Medieval European feast, but with chicken instead of huge turkey legs.
Most places on this list aren’t small plates places, because that format doesn’t quite work when the majority of people at the table find the chicken too boring to share. Most things on the Mediterranean menu at Ema are meant for sharing, but there’s a rotisserie chicken that your CCO can eat by themselves at the bar while the rest of the group passes around dishes like roasted shrimp, octopus, and lamb.
It’s hard to classify the food at S.K.Y. in Pilsen. The menu here doesn’t fall completely into any one category - you’ll find things like lobster dumplings, cornbread madeleines, and foie gras bibimbap. Lurking on this menu is a delicious fried chicken thigh, served with creamed corn and an incredibly spicy hot sauce poured tableside. This space has a cool atmosphere that looks a little like a basement and plays low-key indie rock that will make you feel like you’re at a chill house party. With chicken as your designated driver.
Luella’s Gospel Bird specializes in chicken. Specifically, outstanding fried chicken with crispy, crunchy skin served with either a spicy remoulade or honey. But they have a very juicy smoked chicken, too. In other words, this BYOB spot is where a chronic chicken orderer takes you.