Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger

Where to eat in Chicago?

I’m sorry to say, you have to live there to hit every great spot that was recommended to us.  However, I feel it is my moral, culinary duty to share this list of restaurants with you—just in case you plan to hit the Windy City any time soon.  Even though we only made it to a fraction of this list ourselves, it should not go to waste as it is compiled from 3 people who are highly trained, professional eaters (and drinkers) and 1 local Chicagoan.

Let’s start with Emily.  Emily lives in New York City.  She is a television producer and has, at many points in her life, produced television shows about food.  So naturally, you want to take her advice.

Her list, her words:

Oysters and fantastic draft beer (and more) at The Publican.  She’s right.  I made it here.  I ate pork rinds, oysters, sardines on toast, cauliflower topped with prosciutto crumbs, homemade beer and milk panna cotta.  COME ON!!

Classic, superbly made Macaroons and fresh baked croissants at Vanille Patisserie.

Cookies of ALL concoctions (like brownie chunks and potato chips in a cookie) in a fun retro setting with 70′s music at The Cookie Bar.  Tried to go..NOTE-Closed on Sunday and Monday.  Looks really fun inside.

If you can handle gelato in the cold, go to Black Dog Gelato for some really divine flavors.

The Purple PigIt’s on Magnificent Mile and is great — small plates, huge wine list, always hopping.  Tried to go early on a Sunday…packed!  Menu looked great.

Urban BellyAsian noodles and dumplings. Wonderful stuff, yummy ramen, very casual (shared long tables) super cool.

XocoAuthentic Mexican cafe (Rick Bayless, famous chef)

sally ryan-new york times
sally ryan-new york times

with great sandwiches made to order and yummy hot chocolates with sweet churros that are made all day long and the most delicious ever. Open early and late.  Went for breakfast.  We had breakfast empanadas, huevos rancheros, spicy hot chocolate (no coffee) and churros.  Fantastic!  Just because I don’t usually eat doughnuts doesn’t mean I won’t.

Mindy’s Hot ChocolateThe name is a bit misleading  because it’s really all about the rest of the food. Nice family place. The chef is a former pastry chef turned restauranteur and she gets nominated for awards every year.

AvecThis is the same owner as Publican but more upscale. Lovely, spare space. Really good dining.

The Girl and the GoatI actually haven’t been but it is supposed to be really good and always gets written up, and I love the name. The former pastry chef opened Black Dog Gelato.

CrispKorean fried chicken. Foodies love this cheap eats place, say it’s the best fried chicken.

If you are downtown, and looking for a really old world experience, kind of fun— the famous Berghoff.  We went to the cafe for lunch.  Old world is the best way to describe it.  We had Berghoff root beer and eggplant parm in the most cozy, Christmasy, German dining room around. 

Do you like hot dogs? Go to Hot Doug’s.

Next we have Sara.  Sara also lives in New York and works at a farm in the Hudson Valley.  She pioneers programs for sustainable farming and cider production.  She also eats in delicious restaurants all over the country in the name of the food industry.  Naturally I listen to her advice as well.

She says: ‘They are all a bit fancy, but I did eat at Publican and it was really fun.’

Her List:

Publican (see above)

Hot Doug’s (also see above)

Perennial Virant (by Lincoln Park.  ALMOST made it for brunch—it looked so cozy inside.)

Graham Elliot

Frontera Grill (a classic)-(This spot is also run and owned by chef Rick Bayless who runs Xoco—see above)

Then there is my Father.  While Dad is not a food professional, he has sort of an honorary degree from the University of Eating and Enjoying Food & Wine.  His advice on food is analogous to Inès de La Fressange‘s advice on fashion: Classic.

His List:

Shaw’s Crab HouseWe made it here on our last night in Chicago and it’s safe to say it is my favorite spot in town.  Dark wood, crimson leather, black leather tufted booths—classic Chicago.  We made it for oyster happy hour, salads and one glass each of Caymus Conundrum.  

RosebudItalian food.  Of course.

Billy Goat TavernWhile Dad didn’t tell me to go here, he said I could if I wanted to.  How could I not want to?  The famous SNL sketch of Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Coke?  And the place still exists?  While perhaps maybe it shouldn’t—this photo was entirely worth the visit.


Lastly we have Kit, a reader who I do not know, so I’m not going to make any assumptions about her eating and drinking life—BUT she is a Chicago local, sent me a comprehensive restaurant list and keeps a blog about food.  So—draw your own conclusions.  To learn more about Kit, you can visit her at

Her list, her words :

For the best brunch ever go to Southport Grocery. It is just north of the Southport Brown Line stop. The neighborhood is really great and filled with fun boutiques to shop around.

If you like Mexican food check out Rick Bayless’s Xoco (see above). Or Big Star in Wicker Park. Big Star was just named one of the best taco joints in the US and it is cheap.

If you like Italian try Volare or Prosecco.

If you like speakeasy style places check out Bavettes or Untitled. Bavettes has great food too!

If you want steak try Gibsons or Hugo’s Frog Bar.

And then—to wrap it all up—we actually stumbled on a few places all by our little old, barely trained, unprofessional selves—

Bin 36-cheese, small plates, wine by glass, bottle or flight.  It was hard to eat there and not miss Divine Bar in New York.

The Drake Hotel at the Palm Court-La di da.  One of the fabulous women in Les Mis had her last show in Chicago.  So another fabulous woman arranged a surprise ladies tea at the Palm Court.  What an old school treat.  The Drake is an older, posh hotel at the top of the Magnificent Mile and it was made all the better for being decked out for Christmas.


The Aviary—They make cocktails here that are essentially science experiments.  Plan ahead.  It’s by reservation only.

When this post publishes, we’ll be in Washington DC.  Any favorite spots there you think we should hit?


  • A few Washington DC dining suggestions for you:

    Blue Duck Tavern — It’s part of a hotel so it’s mildly fancy but it’s a really lovely experience, I have been for brunch and dinner. Great egg dishes (and sweet stuff too) for brunch. Very aware of ingredients and farmers. You walk in and you see them baking in front of you, and then the actual kitchen is all open too. So open that some guests accidentally walking into it.

    Granville Moore’s — great variety of mussels (and fries and dipping sauces and beers. Cozy old gastropub feel. Kitchen is only open for dinner during the week, plus lunch on weekends, closed Mondays. A few booths upstairs and downstairs. Can get crowded when the bar scene enters. Odd part of town (I have always cabbed it). I LOVE this place.

    Good Stuff Eatery — Bright, casual diner style setting with homestyle burgers and shakes (toasted marshmallow milkshake? yes!) Spike Mendhelson is chef and pretty well known. Very creative.

    Oyamel for Mexican food — a bit on the upscale side. The chef is Jose Andres from Spain who is very famous and influential in the world of food. Sure to get some really well prepared food here.

    I am sure there is more, but hey, this is a start!

    • I had the toasted marshmallow milkshake last night. Thank you for tempting me away from my ‘can we just have one week without sugar?’ plan.

  • Hmmmmm……In my time I’ve been called a lot of names and compared to a lot of things (that will remain nameless)……. but “Inès de La Fressange” is a first!!!! After checking with Wiki….thanks! BTW a point of order……it’s ‘chezzeborger, chezzeborger, chezzeborger,Coke :){ !!

  • Hello There. I found your blog the usage of msn. This is a really well written article.

    I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more
    of your helpful info. Thanks for the post.
    I’ll certainly return.

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s