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The Best Restaurants In Wicker Park

There are a lot of places to eat in Wicker Park, but these are the best ones.
The Best Restaurants In Wicker Park  image

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Wicker Park has something for everyone where restaurants are concerned. From 12-course tasting menus to to AYCE Korean BBQ, there’s a lot to choose from. The hardest part about breaking down the Wicker Park dining scene is deciding where to go. Let us help with that.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Sammy Faze

American

Wicker Park

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSpecial OccasionsUnique Dining ExperienceFine Dining
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Valhalla’s $198 tasting menu begins when you slice through a wax-sealed menu with a letter opener, revealing a page of scattered dish descriptions with no clear order. But the suspense of not knowing which of the 13 delicious courses is first, last, or next makes this dimly lit Wicker Park spot from the SKY team so thrilling. At the 14-seat, spotlighted chef’s counter, you scoop spicy ceviche, drag scotch egg-inspired lamb through tikka masala sauce, and watch chefs shave dinosaur egg-shaped Filipino seasalt onto juicy arrachera with apple kosho. By the time the final dessert shows up in nesting dolls, you’ll be itching to run the perfectly paced two-and-a-half-hour meal back again.

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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. Bonus: It’s BYOB.


This new 25-seat tasting-menu spot, which, yes, is in a 100-year-old coach house, is hidden in the courtyard behind Lilac Tiger. The Coach House serves an incredible $190 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 and you’ll be eating to a chill playlist filled with South Asian pop and hip hop.


Wazwan was one of the best South Asian restaurants in the city—until it closed. Luckily, that “closing” was a technicality. They’ve stayed in the same space and simply rebranded as Lilac Tiger. The dark narrow interior has the charm of a busy dive, but instead of lukewarm Schlitz and stale pretzels, tables are full of great cocktails (like the lilac colada with ube and sesame) and South Asian food. Some Wazwan classics like the nihari momos are still on the menu, but dishes like duck fried rice or crispy tandoori honey chicken nuggets are new favorites. Just get there on the earlier side—they don’t take reservations and only have a few tables.


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.


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 burnt ends hash.


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—it’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 $7-$16, making it a great option for a reasonably priced date night, too.


Alright, we know Desert Hawk is a bar and not a restaurant. But considering that the food comes from one of our favorite Mexican pop-ups in the city, Taco Sublime, we're willing to make the exception. Every taco comes with a layer of fried cheese and well-seasoned proteins (definitely get the shrimp) and their smashburgers have delicious, perfectly crispy patties. The dimly lit, wooden space is small, but not too cramped, and they also have a sidewalk patio in front.


Oiistar is one of our favorite ramen spots in the city. And while standard options like tonkotsu are great, the best ones here are the unique Oiistar exclusives. There are fusion-y bowls like the Tikkamen with masala, Pozolemen made with chipotle, and the rich mollusk-loaded Musselmen. All of the creative variations pair perfectly with their thin, chewy, housemade noodles. Though the narrow dining space has plenty of tables and bar seats, it fills up around dinner time, so plan to leave work a little early for a “doctor’s appointment” if you want to beat the rush.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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 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.


We like Folklore because of its flexibility. This Argentinian restaurant’s dimly lit space and tango-pop playlist works for date night, while its incredibly spacious dining area also has plenty of room for when your small birthday dinner mutates into a party of 18. But like its Lakeview sibling, Tango Sur, the reason to come to Folklore is for the meat. Whether it’s their tender filet mignon, rib-eye, or parrillada (a spread that includes chorizo, morcilla, sweetbread, short ribs, and sirloin), these grilled dishes should be your table's centerpiece. And if you want to say you ate your vegetables, the vesuvio potatoes and flaky empanadas with spinach and cheese are also great.


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.


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.


Indian Paradise is going to become your new go-to Indian restaurant in the neighborhood. This casual BYOB spot has a long menu that focuses on North and South Indian dishes, and Indian Paradise doesn’t shy away from spice. The lamb vindaloo has all the vinegary heat you’re hoping for, and the sweet malai kofta has just enough kick to make you glad you ordered extra naan. They have biryanis and a variety of rice sides, like kashmiri, tumeric, or peas pulao. Just know that rice doesn’t come with your meal, so you’ll need to order that separately.


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.


With its collection of mismatched chairs, antique dressers, and an old electric organ, Komorebi feels like a sushi restaurant that’s sponsored by one of Wicker Park’s 279 vintage shops. But instead of feeling like a creepy attic, the combination of the old-timey furniture with the bright space is cozy and inviting. The menu has a variety of consistently good, affordable loaded rolls as well as simpler nigiri and maki. And since it’s BYOB, it’s great for a low-key date night or dinner with friends where you can bring a vintage bottle of wine to pair with the art nouveau chair you’ll be sitting on.


Mindy’s Bakery is from the same people behind the now-closed Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. And though they’ve scaled down to a take-out operation, longtime fans will be happy that they’ve kept their rich hot chocolate and equally rich mac and cheese on the menu. But what’s most exciting about this new version of Mindy’s is their impressive line-up of baked goods. The long menu reads like an Encyclopedia of Bread, with everything from donuts to pot pies—but some standouts include a mortadella and giardiniera turnover and a honey, brie, and apricot jam danish. Since their small space is usually packed and only has a couple of window seats, be prepared to eat that kolache in your car.


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 Vietnamese spotspot does a good job at being both. The food menu is short (mainly tasty bowls of pho, rice, bánh mì, and fried chicken skins), and the market has a small selection of everything from paper towels and air fresheners, to a salted egg-flavored Lays potato chips—which are, incidentally, pair pretty well with a bánh mì.


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 the “Easy Does It” with Mississippi chili and lots of cheese). You can also get good hushpuppies and fried pickles. 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.


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 seared tuna tacos.


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.


With a full menu available until 4am every day except Saturday (when it’s until 5am), Estelle’s is an incredible utility player. This divey bar has been serving Wicker Park’s creatures of the night tasty bar food since 1999. And while the usual suspects of burgers and sandwiches are good, the long list of fried appetizers like pizza puffs, cheese curds, and mac and cheese bites are particularly satisfying after some drinks. Make sure to get them topped with cajun seasoning and garlic parm—aka “hot mess style”, which is probably an appropriate term if you end up here at 3am.

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