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 Pig–It’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 Belly–Asian noodles and dumplings. Wonderful stuff, yummy ramen, very casual (shared long tables) super cool.
Xoco–Authentic Mexican cafe (Rick Bayless, famous chef)
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 Chocolate–The 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.
Avec–This is the same owner as Publican but more upscale. Lovely, spare space. Really good dining.
The Girl and the Goat–I 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.
Crisp–Korean 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.’
Publican (see above)
Hot Doug’s (also see above)
Perennial Virant (by Lincoln Park. ALMOST made it for brunch—it looked so cozy inside.)
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.
Shaw’s Crab House–We 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.
Rosebud–Italian food. Of course.
Billy Goat Tavern–While 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 thekittchen.com.
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.
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?