Photos by Cheryl Landes
Editor’s note: I wrote the original Chicago Restaurant Guide for a conference that was held in downtown Chicago. After the conference ended and the information was no longer available online, I decided to post the guide on my blog. If you have any restaurant recommendations for Chicago, please post them in the comments section. Thanks!
Hours are subject to change.
Chicago’s culinary scene goes far beyond the deep-dish classic pizza it’s famous for. The city is a melting pot of cultural cuisines, from India to Spain, plus American diners dishing up comfort food and traditional entrees with unusual twists. Wake up with a cup of gourmet coffee or tea and fresh-baked goods. At the end of a busy day, stop at a local pub for a craft brew or glass of premium wine.
The restaurants and cafes in this guide are listed in alphabetical order.
Indulge and enjoy!
Au Cheval, 800 W. Randolph Street, (312) 929-4580, auchevalchicago.com
This upscale American diner with a passion for eggs is popular with the late-night crowd but also a good dinner option if you don’t mind a bit of a wait. Grab a drink at Au Cheval’s bar while waiting or check out another one nearby. Some menu options: Chopped chicken liver, roasted bone marrow, a signature cheeseburger, and, of course, many entrees featuring eggs. Gluten-free and dairy-free menus are available.
Hours: 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 9 a.m.-midnight Sunday
Beatrix, 834 W Fulton Market, (312) 733-0370, beatrixchicago.com/beatrix/fulton-market/menu
Beatrix serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has an eclectic range of menu options, such as cauliflower grits; kung pao brussels sprouts; poke bowl with bulgur wheat; chili and chocolate glazed salmon; and the turkey, sweet potato, and green neatloaf. Vegetarian and gluten-free options available.
Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Coffee shop and bakery open daily at 6 a.m. The bar closes one hour after dinner.
The Berghoff, 17 W Adams Street, (312) 427-3170 (restaurant) and (312) 427-7399 (cafe), theberghoff.com
Herman Joseph Berghoff opened this authentic German restaurant and bar in 1898, and it has become a landmark near the center of the Chicago Loop. After all these years, the restaurant is still 100% family owned. Authentic German menu items include schnitzels, sauerbraten, German gnocchi, and spinatknödel. There’s also a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, seafood, and steaks. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are also available.
- The Berghoff Restaurant—11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
- The Berghoff Cafe—11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday
Blackbird, 619 W Randolph, (312) 715-0708, blackbirdrestaurant.com/#new-page
Blackbird is a connoisseur in “elegant and imaginative Midwestern cuisine” and prides itself in “simplicity in execution, complexity of flavor.” The menu is pricey, but the food is excellent. Treat yourself to dinner selections like Atlantic blue crab, barbequed quail, potato-wrapped sturgeon, and rohan duck breast. Lunch menu items include sandwiches, burgers, whitefish, and steak.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday (lunch), 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday (dinner), and 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday (dinner)
Brightwok Kitchen, 21 E Adams Street, (312) 583-0729, brightwok.com
Brightwok Kitchen is an Asian-inspired restaurant focused on vegetables. Everything is fresh from the kitchen—from marinating and grilling the meats to making sauces to chopping the vegetables. Brightwok Kitchen has a small menu consisting of six bowls, such as The Crunchy Crave and Curry Flurry Masala, or create your own combination. Soup, potato fritters, sweet and sour pickles, banana chips, and magic cake are also available.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday
Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S Wabash, (312) 427-1190, buddyguy.com
Buddy Guy’s Legends is a “Chicago institution” and a great place to get a taste of Chicago’s blues culture. A combination blues club/restaurant serving lunch and dinner, Buddy Guy’s features Louisiana-style Cajun and soul food, such as gumbo, jambalaya, chicken and ribs, and catfish po’boys. There’s also a wide selection of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and comfort food. It’s a nice place for happy hour, and usually there’s a free show around 5 p.m. before the main act.
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-3 a.m. Saturday, and noon-2 a.m. Sunday
Catfish and chips, one of Buddy Guy’s Legends signature dishes
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, 2024 N Halsted Street, (773) 935-5000, cafebabareeba.com
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba is Chicago’s authentic taste of Spain. This Lincoln Park eatery is the city’s original tapas bar, which opened in 1985. The menu is designed for sharing and features tapas, pintxos (bite-sized tapas), and paella, a classic Valencian rice dish. Beverages include sangria, craft cocktails, Spanish wine, and local beers.
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Friday, 9 a.m.-midnight Saturday, and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Cafecito, 7 N Wells Street, (312) 263-4750, cafecitochicago.com
A favorite stop for breakfast or lunch in the Loop. You really can’t go wrong with anything at this Cuban coffee house. They’re known for their (strong) espresso drinks, Cubanos, and guava pastries. The menu contains tasty salads, soup, rice and beans, and a wide variety of pressed sandwiches.
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
Catch 35, 35 W Wacker Drive, (312) 346-3500, catch35.com
This premium seafood and steak house is among the best in Chicago, bringing seasonal ocean fresh seafood like Alaskan halibut, Block Island swordfish, and Georges Bank cod to the Midwest. Signature dish favorites are Chilean Sea Bass, Alaskan crab legs, prime bone-in ribeye steak, and filets. Also listen to live jazz music from the Eric Hochberg Trio and special guests in the lounge every Tuesday-Saturday, 6-9 p.m.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday, and 4-9 p.m. Sunday
CH Distillery, 564 W Randolph Street, (312) 707-8780, chdistillery.com
This local distillery makes just about every kind of spirit. Really great seasonal tapas as well. Witness the Science of Alcohol tours are Tuesday and Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and cost $15/person. Book tours online.
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday, and 5-11 p.m. Saturday
Chicago French Market, 131 N Clinton Street, (312) 575-0306, frenchmarketchicago.com
With more than 30 food vendors and artisans under one roof, there’s surely something to please everyone at this year-round market in the West Loop. Choose from comfort food, Italian, Mexican, Chinese street food, Indian, soup, poke, gourmet coffee, a truffle bar, and French (of course, it’s a French market after all!).
Hours: 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday
Coco’s Famous Fried Lobster, 426 S Clark Street, (312) 786-2070, cocoslobster.com
Dubbed as “the best soul food spot in downtown Chicago,” Coco’s is best known for its deep-friend lobster. Other selections include catfish, wings, turkey burgers, chicken livers and gizzards, deep-fried Vienna Polish sandwiches, and po’boys.
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
Dark Matter Coffee, 601 W Jackson Blvd., (312) 631-3553, darkmattercoffee.com
This coffee shop gets great reviews for its limited selection of strong, dark coffee varieties and chai tea. Also order bags of coffee online.
Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
The Dearborn, 145 N Dearborn Street, (312) 384-1242, thedearborntavern.com
This urban American tavern serves contemporary pub fare with traditional Midwestern items like fried chicken thrown in. Some examples of current menu items: Roasted beef marrow, grilled pear and Gruyere grilled cheese, veggie Dagwood sandwich, gnocchi and octopus, crispy Brussels sprouts, and ribeye and mushroom soup.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday, 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday, and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Del Seoul, 2568 N Clark Street, (773) 248-4BBQ, delseoul.com
This Lincoln Park restaurant gets its inspiration from the Korean street food found in California, Asia, and Korea. Definitely try the kimchi fries and the kalbi poutine.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Dollop Coffee, 343 S Dearborn Street, (312) 846-6103, dollopcoffee
In addition to gourmet coffee and tea, this coffee house serves pastries, breakfast, and lunch (salads, sandwiches, chicken pot pie, and quiche).
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee, 50 W Randolph Street, (312) 488-2483, doritedonuts.com
Do-Rite makes doughnuts in small batches, so they’re fresh and piping hot all day. The selections vary, depending on the chefs’ moods, but all are good. Gluten-free and vegan doughnuts available. Do-Rite also serves fresh-brewed Dark Matter Coffee (see separate entry above).
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Eataly, 43 E Ohio Street, (312) 521-8700, eataly.com/us_en/stores/chicago
This is the Chicago outpost for Italian food, featuring a variety of restaurants, counters, and even a cooking school. Buy fresh ingredients to make your own favorite meals.
Hours: Lavazza and First-Floor Market – 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Second Floor Market – 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Restaurant and counter hours vary.
Eleven City Diner, 1112 S Wabash Avenue, (312) 212-1112, 11.elevencitydiner.com
This casual neighborhood diner serves breakfast all day. The extensive menu includes salads, soup, deli sandwiches, hamburgers, and macaroni and cheese that you can load up with assorted toppings. An old-fashioned style soda fountain has traditional favorites like cherry cola and thick, creamy milkshakes. Delivery menu also available.
Hours: 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
I do not recommend Eleven City Diner for parties of one. It’s better to come with two or more people. When I came alone, I was seated at a table in a high traffic area. After a long wait, a server offered to move me to a “quieter section”, which was located in a separate area where the lights were turned off and no one else was being served. I declined and left.
If you are traveling from outside the United States, there have been reports of the Eleven City Diner servers complaining about foreign customers not tipping the customary amount and the manager chasing them down after they left the restaurant. I talked to a party from Australia who experienced this. They tipped 20% before they left the restaurant, but the manager said they didn’t tip enough. They gave the manager an additional 10%.
The customary tip in the United States as of this posting ranges from 18% to 20% of the total check.
Eleven City Diner
Epic Burger, 517 S State Street, (312) 913-1373, epicburger.com
It’s all about the burgers here. Small menu but a variety of meats: angus, chicken, and turkey – plus a veggie and Portobello mushroom burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Meat is sourced locally. Vegan option available, and you can order a burger without a bun. Milkshakes and sodas round out the beverage list. No cash accepted; credit and debit cards only.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Exchequer Restaurant & Pub, 226 S Wabash Avenue, (312) 939-5633, exchequerpub.com
CBS Chicago and the Chicago Tribune chose Exchequer Restaurant & Pub as the best place to get Chicago-style pizza in the city. Even Roger Ebert gave the pizza four stars! The baby-back ribs are also a big hit. The menu is full of standard pub fare—burgers, sandwiches, wings and other appetizers—along with those yummy ribs, steaks, seafood, and the outstanding deep-dish Chicago pizza. There’s an extensive beer and wine list featuring some of the best brands from around the country, along with martinis and cocktails.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday
Fruve Juicery, 1130 S Wabash Avenue, (312) 374-4502 or (312) 763-2616, fruvexpressjuicery.com
The juices, smoothies, and acai bowls all get rave reviews here.
Hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
The Gage, 24 S Michigan Avenue, (312) 372-4243, thegagechicago.com
The Gage, an award-winning restaurant serving rustic American fare, is named after a set of historical buildings at 18-24 S Michigan built in the late 1880s and occupied by three milliners. David and George Gage, founders and owners of one of these milliners, made fashionable hats for women worldwide. Original early 20th-century theater advertisements for these hats are on display on the walls of the stairway to the lower level of the restaurant. The menu features seafood, grass-fed beef, salads, soup, and sandwiches.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. The kitchen closes one hour before closing.
Garrett Popcorn Shops, 27 W Jackson Blvd., (312) 263-8087, garrettpopcorn.com
This is a popcorn lover’s paradise, with those familiar buttery and cheesy flavors, plus others you might not have heard of like macadamia caramel crisp, hickory smoked bacon cheese, and chocolate-dipped strawberry with caramel crisp. There’s also plain if you’re not into the flavored versions. If you can’t make it here for a snack while you’re at the IA Summit, you can order online. And maybe there’s a shop near you; check the location finder on the website.
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Goddess and the Baker, 33 S Wabash Avenue, (312) 877-5176, goddessandthebaker.com
Delicious food anytime—breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or even if you’re in the mood for only dessert. “And we corner the market for awesome coffee,” declares the Goddess’ home page.
In a rush? Order online for pick-up or delivery from the Wabash location.
Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Intelligentsia, Monadnock Building, 53 W Jackson Blvd., (312) 253-0594, intelligentsiacoffee.com/monadnock-coffeebar
Enjoy classy coffee and teas in a classy atmosphere! Intelligentsia resembles an Italian espresso bar with original tile floors, marble-topped tables, and a stylish bar. You can even take a barista class. Learn more about the class here: intelligentsiacoffee.com/learn-do/experiences/public-classes-at-intelligentsia. Register for the class here: intelligentsiacoffee.com/chicago-barista-class.
Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Italian Village Restaurants, 71 W Monroe Street, (312) 332-7005, italianvillage-chicago.com
Chicago’s oldest Italian restaurant, Italian Village Restaurants is now in its third generation. Family owned since 1927, Italian Village Restaurants is actually three restaurants in one location with three different chefs and menus. There’s also a wine cellar with more than 1,000 varieties.
- The Village is open 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday, and noon-11 p.m. Sunday
- Vivere serves lunch weekdays, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
- La Cantina serves dinner only starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 4:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Little Goat Diner, 820 W Randolph Street, (312) 888-3455, littlegoatchicago.com
Little Goat Diner is a mix of American diner food, Korean, and Mexican—and everything is delicious. And if that isn’t enough, there’s a wonderful bakery!
- Diner—7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday
- Bakery—6 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
Lockwood Restaurant & Bar, 17 E Monroe Street, (312) 917-3404, lockwoodrestaurant.com
This farm to table restaurant features herbs, vegetables, and urban honey harvested from Lockwood’s very own rooftop garden and apiary. Save room for dessert and order a brownie made from the original recipe. The first brownie was made in the Palmer House’s pastry kitchen in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair, when owner Bertha Palmer asked the pastry chef to create something new. The brownie served at Lockwood is topped with a scoop of vanilla Palmer House ice cream.
Lockwood also has a new collection of maple syrups aged in barrels in-house in the old Chicago rail passage 65 feet below grade.
Hours (all daily):
- Breakfast—6:30-11 a.m.
- Lunch—11 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Afternoon tea—2-4 p.m.
- Dinner—5-10 p.m.
- The Lockwood Bar opens at 11 a.m.
Reservations are not accepted for dinner, and lobby seating is available. Reservations are not accepted on Saturday and Sunday for breakfast, either. Reservations are required for afternoon tea a minimum of 24 hours in advance.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, 805 S State Street, (312) 786-1000, loumalnatis.com/chicago-south-loop
This classic Chicago joint features delicious deep-dish Chicago style and thin-crust pizza. Gluten-free crusts area available. Also serves soup, salad, pasta, sandwiches, and dessert—including a chocolate chip pizza. Take-out and delivery available; deliveries end 30 minutes before closing.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday, and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday
Magnolia Bakery, 108 N State Street at Block 37, (312) 346-7777, magnoliabakery.com
The Magnolia Bakery specializes in delicious homemade cupcakes, with a different flavor featured every day. Call ahead to place an order to pick up, or ask for delivery.
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Meli Cafe, 500 S Dearborn Street, (312) 834-0500, melicafe.com/index
Meli Cafe gets rave reviews for their homemade, hearty breakfasts made from Eggland’s Best organic eggs. Choose from omelets, breakfast bowls, pancakes, French toast, waffles, and crepes. Vegan and gluten-free items are available. Regular diners highly recommend the Banana Bread French Toast, Farmland Breakfast Bowl, and fresh-pressed juices.
Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday (kitchen and bar), 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday (kitchen only), and 7 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday (bar only)
Mercat a la Planxa, 638 S Michigan Avenue, (312) 765-0524, mercatchicago.com
Mercat a la Planxa features authentic Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on the Catalonian region. It combines fresh meats and produce with the energetic spirit of a Barcelona market. a modern interpretation of timeless Catalan traditions. Some examples of menu items you’ll find here: Smoked paprika-garlic sausage, Spanish potato salad, beef and lamb meatballs with smoked yogurt, bacon-wrapped dates, squid ink paella, and tapas. And the grilled mushrooms…well, you gotta try them. They’re amazing!
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
The Milk Room, 12 S Michigan Avenue, (312) 792-3535, chicagoathletichotel.com/restaurants/milk-room
The Milk Room started as a speakeasy used by athletic club members during Prohibition. Today, it’s a hidden, eight-seat micro bar where the mixologists create classic, spirit-forward cocktails from rare, vintage spirits and hard-to-find ingredients. A limited, refined menu of shared plates is available nightly. Cafe service is also available in the morning and early afternoon.
Hours: 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for cafe service, 5 p.m.-midnight daily for the microbar
Native Foods Cafe, 218 S Clark Street, (312) 332-6332, nativefoods.com
Native Foods is a fast-casual vegan restaurant admired by vegans and non-vegans alike. All food is prepared fresh from scratch daily, and menus change seasonally based on items available locally. The entire menu is 100% plant-based.
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Nutella Cafe, 189 N Michigan Avenue, (800) 861-4888, facebook.com/NutellaCafeChicago
The Nutella Cafe is the first U.S. restaurant from Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, and features items made from this chocolate-hazelnut spread.
Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Plymouth Rooftop Bar & Grill, 327 S Plymouth Court, (312) 362-1212, plymouthgrill.com
Plymouth Rooftop Bar & Grill is two restaurants on two levels. Both feature hearty selections of adult beverages and pub fare, such as salads, wraps, burgers, sandwiches, wings, chicken tenders, nachos, flatbread pizza, macaroni and cheese bites, and a taco bar.
- Main Floor Bar & Grill—11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Friday
- Rooftop Bar & Grill—4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Friday and 3 p.m.-midnight Saturday
Portillo’s, 520 W Taylor Street, (312) 667-4560, portillos.com/index.html
This Chicago classic is a solid place for Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, and fries.
Hours: 10:30-11 p.m. daily
Potbelly, 57 E Chicago Avenue, (312) 428-2970, potbelly.com
Potbelly started as a sandwich counter in an antique shop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago in 1977 and has turned into a chain of 400 restaurants worldwide. Potbelly features toasty warm sandwiches, homemade desserts, and live music. Vegetarian sandwiches are available. So is delivery.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily (breakfast served until 11 a.m.). Delivery hours 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
The Publican, 837 W Fulton Market, (312) 733-9555, thepublicanrestaurant.com
The Publican pays homage to oysters, pork, and beer. Menu items change daily, depending on the fresh ingredients available, and the food is presented simply—meaning no adornments. A meal here is worth it for the space alone; it resembles a Medieval European banquet hall or German beer hall. If you’re bring a large group from the IA Summit, The Publican is the ideal place.
- Dinner—3:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday. A limited menu is available 3:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
- Brunch—10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
The Purple Pig, 500 N Michigan Avenue, (312) 464-1744, thepurplepigchicago.com
Cheese, swine, and wine Mediterranean style—that’s The Purple Pig in a nutshell. The ala-carte menu is eclectic and includes items like milk-braised pork shoulder, deviled eggs with arugula and capers, smashed potatoes with sheep feta and oregano, and salt-roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachio butter. During my last trip here, I fell in love with the roasted garlic green beans. Save room for dessert; my favorite is the creamy corn ice cream topped with crunchy corn nuggets.
From left to right: Pork shoulder, broccoli, and creamy corn ice cream at The Purple Pig
Most seating is family style, but it’s a nice way to meet friendly people who are also enjoying the delicious food. (One of the couples I met recommended those green beans, so I added those to my order.)
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
The entrance to The Purple Pig
Revival Food Hall, 125 S Clark Street, (773) 999-9411, revivalfoodhall.com
This market features stalls from 15 local fast-casual vendors, ranging from poke to BBQ. You’ll find gelato and a bakery to satisfy the sweet tooth. There’s also Curbside Books & Records, selling books from independent presses, music from Chicago musicians and independent labels, and wine from vineyards practicing organic and sustainable farming.
Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
River Roast, 315 N Lasalle Street, (312) 822-0100, riverroastchicago.com
Located on the shores of the Chicago River, River Roast features contemporary tavern fare and has fantastic views of the river from any seat and the patio. The meat, fish, or veggies you order are roasted and carved tableside. Drinks include cold-brewed cocktails from two slow-drip infusion towers, Midwestern beers, and wine. On Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., enjoy brunch and live blues from the city’s best talent.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. A limited menu is available 3-5 p.m. daily.
Roka Akor, 456 N Clark Street, (312) 477-7652, rokaakor.com/chicago
Roka Akor is a fine-dining Japanese restaurant featuring sushi, steak, and seafood. The menu highlights the freshest foods in season. Roka Akor has received top ratings from Zagat, Travel & Leisure, Bon Appetit, Wine Spectator, Crain’s, and the Michelin Guide.
- Lunch—11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
- Dinner—5-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 5 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday
- Bar—5 p.m.-1 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Friday, and 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday
RPM Italian, 52 W Illinois Street, (312) 222-1888, rpmrestaurants.com/rpmitalian/chicago
Hearty contemporary Italian dishes meant to be shared is the trademark of this Chicago River North neighborhood restaurant. RPM Italian makes more than a dozen fresh pastas in-house every day. Slow-roasted meats, wild fish and seafood, signature cocktails and wines, and tempting desserts round out the menu.
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday, 3 p.m.-midnight Saturday, and noon-11 p.m. Sunday
The Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen, 1301 S Wabash Avenue, (312) 705-0595, thescoutchicago.com
Located near Soldier Field and Grant Park, The Scout is a favorite hangout for local and visiting sports fans. It has an extensive menu that includes foot-long grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, salads, burgers and other sandwiches, tacos, pot roast, seafood, macaroni and cheese, and even dessert. There’s also a wide selection of beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a quiet place to have a conversation, The Scout is not the place to go. This is a place to enjoy hanging out with your sports fan friends and relatives, having some drinks, and munching on good food. When I was there, the Final Four was underway, so the staff turned up the TVs when the game was on and replaced the sound with recorded music during the commercials. The sound is loud, so the server and I had to yell at each other when she took my order and stopped by to check on me.
It’s also dark so that customers can watch the TV monitors lining the walls near the ceiling. I had to use my phone flashlight to read the menu.
The food and service were excellent.
Hours: 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. On weekends, The Scout opens at 9 a.m. on days the Chicago Bears have home games that start at noon.
The Scout Burger at The Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen
Seven Lions, 130 S Michigan Avenue, (312) 880-0130, sevenlionschicago.com
Seven Lions promotes itself as “a modern interpretation of the classic clubhouse restaurant.” Burgers, nachos, salads, roasted cauliflower, avocado and salmon toast, Chilean sea bass, and filet mignon are among the varied menu options. Gluten-free menus are available.
Seven Lions’ owner and Master Sommelier, Alpana Singh, hosted Check, Please! for 10 seasons on PBS and has appeared in many national publications and television shows to talk about wine and food.
Hours: 11 a.m.-close Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-close Saturday-Sunday (The closing time isn’t listed on the website.)
Shake Shack, 12 S Michigan Avenue at the Chicago Athletic Association, (312) 646-6005, shakeshack.com
Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in Manhattan in 2001 and now has “roadside burger stands” throughout the world. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, fries, frozen custard, beer wine, and (of course!) shakes. Gluten-free buns and a shroom burger for vegetarians are available.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
Smith & Wollensky, 318 North State Street on the Chicago River at Marina City, (312) 670-9900, smithandwollensky.com/our-restaurants/chicago
Smith & Wollensky, is a steakhouse, but it has a large selection of seafood on its restaurant menu and delicious pub fare in the bar. The bar menu has a long list of sliders made from a variety of ingredients.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Stan’s Donuts, 26 E Roosevelt Road, (312) 834-0700, stansdonutschicago.com
I stopped at a Stan’s Donuts when I was in a hurry but needed to pick up something for breakfast on the way to a workshop. I chose a homemade cake donut topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles and a cup of coffee and enjoyed every bite and sip. Stan’s also serves Danishes, assorted filled pockets called Dough Boys, a cinnamon sugar pretzel—plus many varieties of glazed, cake, and old-fashioned doughnuts. I’m curious about the lemon pistachio old-fashioned doughnut and must try it the next time. Delivery is available. So are vegan and gluten-free doughnuts.
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cake doughnut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles with a latte at Stan’s Donuts
Three Dots and a Dash, 435 N Clark Street, (312) 610-4220, threedotschicago.com
A fun tiki bar in a basement with elaborate drinks, Three Dots and a Dash was named one of the world’s best 50 bars by Drinks International.
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday
Toni Patisserie & Café, 65 E Washington Street, (312) 726-2020, tonipatisserie.com
European-inspired pastries, cakes, crepes, and other sweet treats are beyond tempting here. Light breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are now available. Menu items for the meals include quiche, yogurt parfaits, salads, baguette and hot sandwiches, savories, and soups.
Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
The Violet Hour, 1520 N. Damen Avenue, (773) 252-1500, theviolethour.com/#about
The Violet Hour serves artisanal cocktails and other spirits, with cocktail selection rotating by season. The sustenance menu includes stuffed dates, truffle chickpeas, pickle chips, sliders, meatballs, and lemon ricotta doughnuts.
Hours: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Friday and 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Sunday
Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe, 130 E Randolph Street in the Prudential Plaza, (312) 938-9777, wildberrycafe.com
Looking for a hearty breakfast? Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe has you covered! Breakfast is the specialty, with benedicts, omelets, pancakes, waffles, crepes, skillets, and French toast. The lunch menu includes paninis, wraps, sandwiches, and salads. Breakfast is served all day.
Wildberry is one of the most popular restaurants in downtown Chicago. I have heard of wait times as long as 45 minutes or longer to get a table when there’s a rush.
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily
Xoco, 449 N Clark Street, (312) 334-3688, rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco
Xoco (SHO-ko) is a quick-service cafe with contemporary expressions of Mexico’s most beloved street food and snacks: flaky empanadas, hot-from-the-fryer churros, frothy Mexican hot chocolate, crusty tortas, and meal-in-a-bowl caldos. You’ll also find daily sandwich specials and salads. Eat at the restaurant or take out. To save time when you’re on the go, place orders online for pickup.
Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Yolk, 1120 S Michigan Avenue, (312) 789-9655, eatyolk.com
Yolk specializes in breakfast with creativity and class. During my last trip to Chicago, I ate breakfast at the Michigan Avenue location twice and had a fantastic experience each time with the food and friendly, fast service. I tried the Countryside Scramble (pictured below) and a waffle with fresh strawberries and blueberries atop a generous scoop of plain Greek yogurt with honey drizzle. Portions are hearty, so you will not leave hungry.
Yolk has eight locations in Chicago.
Hours: 6 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, all locations
Countryside Scramble at Yolk’s Michigan Avenue location