Wicker Park has something for everyone where restaurants are concerned. From 12-course tasting menus to great Filipino food to a taco restaurant with a legendary patio, there’s a lot to choose from. The hardest part about breaking down the Wicker Park dining scene is deciding where to go. So, let us help with that—here are the best restaurants in the neighborhood.
Schwa is not only one of the best restaurants in Wicker Park—it also happens to be one of the most unique dining experiences in Chicago. For a long time, they only accepted reservations by phone, but now they’ll let you reserve a table online. Once you’re there, you can expect an incredible 12-course tasting menu set to a soundtrack of independent hip hop, as well as a fun environment (the chefs are the servers and you might smell weed coming out of the kitchen). Bonus: It’s BYOB.
This casual South Asian restaurant began as a pop-up, then was in a virtual kitchen, and now has a permanent location in Wicker Park. We’re grateful it found its forever home, because this little spot is incredible. The nihari momos are delicately wrapped packages of beefy love, the mushroom korma is rich and savory, and the chettinad masala has the perfect amount of heat and unbelievably tender pieces of chicken. While Wazwan is very casual, they also have a tasting menu concept in the same space called The Coach House. It’s only available on Friday and Saturday, so plan accordingly if you want to make reservations.
This new 25-seat tasting-menu spot, which, yes, is in a 100-year-old coach house, is hidden in the courtyard behind Wazwan. The Coach House serves an incredible $150 eight-course meal with dishes like momos filled with crab kulambu in a spicy black garlic sauce, chewy fara dumplings swimming in clarified beet butter, and chettinad fish topped with eggplant and crispy shallots. Every dish has a story (like that the duck numidian was inspired from a cookbook titled “Recipes From Medieval Islam” read during quarantine), or that the fara is an homage to the chef’s street-food-loving uncle. And while this place is expensive, it feels relaxed. It’s casual, BYOB, you’ll be eating to a chill playlist filled with South Asian pop and hip hop.
The original Chengdu Impression is in Lincoln Park, and this is the second (newer) location. But the menu is the same, which is great news because the food at this casual Chinese spot is great. Their specialty is Sichuan cuisine, and dishes like cold noodle salad, shrimp with crispy rice, mapo tofu, and mala fish filet are all incredible. The dining room is airy and bright, and works well for a relaxed weeknight dinner. Also worth noting is that they do a fantastic job with carryout: Our scallion pancakes manage to stay crispy despite a 15 minute car ride.
The original Dr. Bird’s opened in Buffalo in 1981 (fun fact, Griselda named a song after it) and thankfully this counter-service Caribbean spot put their second location in Wicker Park. The specialty here are Jamaican patties, which are filled with either chicken, beef, or spinach. Those are great (our favorite is the spicy beef) but the menu also has tender jerk chicken and creamy rasta pasta with gruyere, rosemary, and roasted tomatoes. The sides are outstanding too - including must-order coco rice that’s sweet and savory, fluffy coco bread that’s perfect for enfolding your patty, and festivals that are a great complement to the smoky jerk seasoning. Bird’s also has a long list of fresh juices, rum cocktails, and incredibly friendly service. In other words, if you like being in a good mood, head here immediately.
Bloom is vegan and gluten-free spot from the same chef as Amaru, which has a lot of great vegetarian dishes. So it’s no surprise that Bloom’s long menu is full of hits. Like the squash blossom-filled tamal topped with a rich mole, a tomato pizza with sweet tamarind saba and a cauliflower crust, and some truly wonderful mushroom asada tacos. And a lot of the dishes on the menu are also raw, so this place works well for a variety of dietary needs. The space keeps with the theme—t’s filled with plants and is bright enough that you won’t worry if said plants are getting enough light.
We like to go to this fun Latin American spot on a weeknight when it can help to break up the monotony of a boring week. All the dishes usually have some element that ends up surprising us - like the chicken skewers that come in a spicy huancaina sauce and have the unexpected addition of choclo (large chewy pieces of Peruvian corn), and ceviche that’s hiding sweet potato puree under the leche de tigre. As a bonus, almost everything on the menu is between $6-$15, making it a great option for a reasonably priced date night, too.
Cebu is a small, slightly upscale Filipino restaurant in the neighborhood. The menu features dishes like kinilaw, sisig, chicken adobo, and some fantastic housemade pandesal bread served with honey butter. In fact, anything baked (including cakes and cookies on the dessert menu) needs to be on the table. The space is good for a quiet date night or catching up with one or two friends over drinks. But our favorite time to be here is any time of year when we can sit on the back patio.
Mama Delia’s is a Spanish spot, and if you’re familiar with Beatnik in West Town, you’ll know what to expect. It’s from the same team, and has a similar atmosphere—meaning loud music and ornate furniture, even on their covered sidewalk patio. Come here to catch up with friends over cocktails and share dishes like conversas, tartare, or a cheese plate. Or come on a date, and be grateful you’re not attempting to cook paella at home with that nonstick pan you’ve had since college.
Tortello is a brightly lit, counter-service restaurant in Wicker Park that specializes in delicious handmade pasta. You can get things like burrata-filled tortelli, cacio e pepe, or squid ink bucatini. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure to order some of their focaccia with ricotta and honey to go with it. Also worth noting: They have a cute sidewalk patio if you want to eat your pasta outside.
Club Lucky opened in the early 1990s, and it’s meant to resemble an old 1940s Italian supper club. It’s loud and crowded and the main dining room is huge, with lots of tables and big leather booths. Come here with a group, and prepare to float away on a sea of martinis and red sauce. Order the fantastic handmade cavatelli in vodka sauce, and you can’t go wrong with the lightly fried calamari as an appetizer. Most of the dishes here are meant to serve two, so we mean it when we say you should come here with friends.
The original Lost Larson in Andersonville is one of our favorite bakeries in the city, so we’re happy to report they opened a new location in Wicker Park with an identical menu. This means pastries, bread made with their house-milled grain, various smørrebrød, and a bunch of natural wines by the bottle.
Things are usually off to a good start at a restaurant when the server puts (free) fresh bread down in front of you. That’s the case at Cafe Istanbul, an upscale Mediterranean place where most things carb-adjacent are made in-house—lahmacun, pita, even the rigatoni with veal sausage. But the main things you should focus on here are the meats. The best way to do this is by ordering the mixed grill that has a bit of everything, including doner, chicken, beef, shrimp, and lamb kebabs with fluffy basmati rice. The space is loud (the kitchen is semi-open, and there’s a TV in the dining room), but white tablecloths and the full bar make it feel nice enough for a celebratory group dinner.
It probably won’t shock you to learn that Phodega is a combination of a bodega and pho shop, and it turns out this small spot does a good job at being both. The food menu is short (mainly tasty bowls of pho, rice, and fried chicken skins), and the market has a nice selection of everything from paper towels and air fresheners, to a cooler full of paletas - which are, incidentally, very satisfying after a meal here.
This Wicker Park spot is really into flowers (they have a flower shop inside their restaurant) and elaborate cocktails (the kind that comes with a sugar cage and tiny hammer). Along with a long drink menu, they also serve small plates like smoked salmon spread and crispy chicken tacos, and entrees like braised short rib. And they also have a nice plant-filled sidewalk patio that feels a little secret garden-y.
Bars that serve good food are a wonderful thing, and that’s why we really like Tricycle. This spot definitely feels more like a Chicago bar than a restaurant, mainly because the bar itself dominates the space. But it also has a long food menu with a wide range of options that taste really good. You’ll find bacon-wrapped dates, roasted cauliflower with a fantastic curry sauce, and a deconstructed chicken pot pie. In other words, this place is a good reason to hit up a neighborhood bar for dinner.
Not only does Etta have great food, but it also works for a lot of different situations - from dinner with co-workers to a casual date night to eating with kids. This place serves delicious housemade pastas and pizzas, plus other dishes (like vegetables and pork shoulder) made in a wood-fired hearth. So basically, come here on a date, invite your co-worker who just had a baby, and order the cavatelli.
Ina Mae is a casual restaurant in Wicker Park serving New Orleans-inspired food. The menu has great po’ boys, fried chicken, and beignets, all of which are very enjoyable while day drinking. And with a large bar area and friendly staff, this is a great neighborhood spot for doing that.
The Delta is a casual Southern bar and restaurant that’s great for drinks and light bites. There’s a long cocktail menu, and the food specialty is tamales simmered in a chile broth instead of steamed (these come in a few different varieties, like spicy brisket and a “Jim shoe” version with pastrami, lamb, beef, giardiniera, and lots of cheese). You can also get good hushpuppies and fried green tomatoes. The space is small and narrow, with an open kitchen and an awesome back patio. They don’t take reservations, but don’t be discouraged - seats turn over quickly.
Ok, this spot isn't technically in Wicker Park, it's actually in Noble Square. But if you’re a fan of shellfish, this Mexican spot is where you should be eating. Definitely order the prawns and lobster—the prawns come in a delicious spicy broth, and the lobster has an incredible seafood stuffing. Don’t forget to BYOB.
Irazu is a great Costa Rican with a fantastic all-season patio. The menu is long, with lots of sandwiches, empanadas, and entrees like casado, a Costa Rican specialty with skirt steak, an over-easy egg, plantains, and cabbage salad. Whatever you order, you can count on it coming with gallo pinto and an order of plantains. Just know that this place is cash only and BYOB.
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
A pizza party for adults is the short way to sum up Piece. Their specialty is New Haven-style pizza, which has a lot of red sauce with extra olive oil and parmesan, but no mozzarella cheese (but you can order styles with mozzarella if you want). Gather your crew and head to Piece for pizza and beer.
Mirai is a solid neighborhood sushi spot. Focus on their nigiri and sashimi, and order one or two of the hot plates—their gyoza are really good.
Taxim serves lots of traditional Greek dishes in an upscale environment. Their food is consistently good, and there’s really no wrong way to order. But you should make sure to get a lamb dish, and at least one of their pastry appetizers (like leek and goat cheese in homemade phyllo). Come for a date night or even a big group dinner - that way you can try as much of the menu as possible.
The tacos at Big Star are perfectly fine, but you’re really here for the space. Specifically the huge patio. It’s one of the best in the city—lively, perfect for day drinking, and dog-friendly, too.
Antique Taco serves a bunch of different kinds of - you guessed it - tacos. While the classics, like their carnitas taco, are great, we prefer focusing on signature versions like their mushroom tacos with ranch dressing, or the sweet and spicy chicken. Inside, it looks like an old farmhouse, with reclaimed wood all over the place. Make sure you have room for a homemade pop tart (with marshmallow and chocolate) for dessert.
Dove’s is a great spot if you want to dine solo, or with just one other person. It’s almost all counter seating, and the place overall is a Tex-Mex Food + Old School Soda Shop Lunch Counter + Chicago Blues Music combination. You’ll find dishes like chicken fried steak, a flour tortilla brisket taco, and pork shoulder with hominy.
We all know the Au Cheval burger is the best out there. But as good as it is, that’s also how big of a pain in the a** it is to get a table. That’s why Small Cheval is so great. The Small Cheval burger is not quite as good as Au Cheval’s because you can’t order it with bacon, but it’s pretty damn close, and you can always get in.
Handlebar is a mostly vegetarian restaurant that’s the kind of place you want to sit, eat, drink, and hang. And that’s especially true in the summer, when you can do all of those things on their back patio. Handlebar’s menu has things like vegan mac and cheese and a buffalo seitan wrap with vegan ranch dressing. There are some non-vegetarian options, too, like blackened catfish and shrimp and grits.
Iron Age Korean Steakhouse
Iron Age is a KBBQ spot worth visiting because it's AYCE. Though the cuts of meat may not be the best on this list, $29 for unlimited KBBQ is a fantastic deal, especially when paired with a packed dining room and pulsating K-Pop soundtrack. There are plenty of meat and seafood options, but some of our favorites are the spicy chicken, unmarinated pork belly, and Iron Age steak which comes with a tangy soy marinade. We also like to get some spicy rice cakes and japchae involved, but don’t get overly ambitious since Iron Age charges for leftovers.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Cumin is a combination Nepali and Indian spot with good food. The menu is long, with everything from goat stew to samosas to chicken tikka masala to Indian staples ideal for vegetarians. There’s a lunch buffet if you want to go big during the day, and at dinnertime, it has a nice, quiet environment for date night.
Whadda Jerk is a Caribbean spot that started out as a roaming food truck, but now has a permanent location in the neighborhood. The menu is full of tasty fried things like jerk egg rolls, jerk wings, and an absurdly good jerk chimichanga, all of which go very well with one of their rum cocktails. The restaurant has a large front patio, and DJs playing dancehall and reggae. And letting the music wash over you while you relax with a drink and some sweet and spicy jerk chicken is a great way to unwind after a hard day of, well, pretty much anything.
Surprising exactly no one, Paulie Gee’s makes an excellent New York-style pie. After all, the original Paulie Gee’s is in Brooklyn. And unlike the one in Logan Square, this takeout-only location focuses exclusively on New York-style pizza that you can get as a pie or in foldable slices that come on little paper plates. Classics like the pepperoni are great, but so are the more interesting varieties like roasted pork topped with a pineapple habanero salsa and cilantro sauce.
Sultan’s Market has affordable, tasty Middle Eastern food. We like to keep it simple with the falafel and shawarma sandwiches on the go, but the platters are a good choice as well. If you really want to take advantage of Sultan’s, grab dinner on the small patio in the summer. This spot is BYOB, so pick up some beer on your way.