Recently, we took a look at the best foodie neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, and highlighted a number of places to try. But with the abundance of livable suburban towns and insatiable appetites everywhere, it’s no wonder that there is tremendous food to be found all across Chicagoland.
This makes it somewhat impossible to narrow down the best choices for brief review, as even the towns featured here offer more than we can mention. But let’s attempt to do so anyway, at least as an “appetizer” to finding the best eats in suburban Chicago.
Evanston’s sizeable downtown offers an impressive amount of culinary diversity. If you’re a suburbanite who eats out a lot, and wants high-quality variety when they do, Evanston is for you. Highlights range from casual to fine dining, burgers to tapas to stir-fry.
Speaking of burgers, Edzo’s Burger Shop isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. It is, as it sounds, a burger joint. But there are few better. The freshly-ground patties at Edzo’s have achieved legendary status in local circles. Did you want fries with that? You’ll have to be more specific–Edzo’s offers 12 varieties.
Going more upscale, The Stained Glass, Found Kitchen, and Hearth are your spots for highly-regarded intimate New American dining. Evanston’s strength for Asian eats are exemplified at casual Red Hot Chili Pepper and trendy joints KANSAKU (Japanese) and Table to Stix (ramen). Also, don’t miss legendary steakhouse The Barn.
Speaking of hip sushi, SEN Sushi Bar is here to give Evanston a run for its money. Plan ahead as the small Oak Park location can line up a wait quickly, so maybe make your move to come here on an off night.
Meanwhile, mediterranean-inspired Citrine Cafe blazes right past the trendy cauliflower steak, and puts on a cauliflower Korean fried “chicken”. This place is inventive on food and drink, and a lively outdoor patio has made it one of Oak Park’s favorite new hangs.
Fusion can be extremely difficult to pull off well, even among similar flavor profiles. Maya Del Sol, just a half-block from Citrine, pulls it off well. Whether it’s a Salvadoran pupusa, a standard Center Cut Filet, or any number of Mexican favorites, you’ll be having a great experience on another great outdoor patio.
Mitsuwa Marketplace could be the best singular hub for Asian fare in the Chicagoland area. It is a supermarket that also features a 10-stall food court with all kinds of varying delicacies. It’s predominantly Japanese food you’ll find, but also extensive Chinese and Korean dishes.
While the food court is inherently casual, Arlington Heights seems to have a particular strength for Asian eats of the slightly upscale variety too. Up in downtown, three must-visits are altThai, sleek and modern Shakou for sushi and more, and the homey Ttowa Korean Bistro.
We’d be remiss talking Arlington Heights food without giving a shoutout to Johnnie’s Beef, a prime no-frills fixture of Chicago-style Italian beef.
Head off the beaten path for a collection of authentic eats across an impressive array of cuisines. There’s no shortage of Middle Eastern food in the area, but Al Bawadi Grill on Harlem easily takes the cake. The place is an intricately-decorated gem hidden within a strip mall, but you’ll know you’re in the right place once you’ve dug into a kebab or Syrian cheese. This place knows good meats.
Mama Luigi’s, a 1948-vintage Italian place up Harlem, is your classic old-world Italian spot. Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe, over in the adjacent Burbank, refreshes your culinary palette again with fantastic barbecue infused with Cajun and Mexican flavors. Lastly, there are countless cheap and casual Mexican joints to round out the variety.
The trendy “hot chicken sandwich” just isn’t enough to differentiate your restaurant these days. Unless you’re a place like Elmhurst’s Fry the Coop (also in Oak Lawn) which makes a Nashville Fried sandwich so good that it puts the rest of the followers to shame. Coop sticks to a small yet unique menu, which also includes fried chicken sandwiches with spicy honey butter and a glazed donut.
Don’t miss the bright and inviting atmosphere of Pazzi Di Pizza in downtown. Francesca’s Amici, just up the block, is another staple for intimate Northern Italian fare. One Fifty One is the best New American spot you’ll find, and you can keep the good times rolling at upscale sports bar Pints’ retractable-roof beer garden.
The next morning, you’ll be right back in town, mouth-watering at Stray Hen Cafe’s notorious massive pancakes.
Naperville boasts the Chicago region’s only White Chocolate Grill, an extremely comfortable place for upscale American food. Quality is consistently high across a vast menu of steaks, BBQ, burgers, sandwiches and salads, and more. Nearby Old Town Pour House, one of two suburban outcrops of the original city haunt, has a truly spectacular outdoor patio and fireplace to go with strong American food and, incredibly, 90 beers on tap.
Naperville is also known for its walkable downtown and riverwalk, which is where we find the first Chicago location of Neapolitan pizza chain MidiCi. The high-end authentic pizza draws the crowds, but you may want to save room for the Nutella calzone dessert. A short walk from MidiCi is modern Mexican joint Quiubo, a must-try. Fat Rosie’s Taco and Tequila Bar, just a couple blocks over, somehow manages to be even more colorful than Quiubo.
If you’re looking for something less than a meal, perhaps charcuterie and small bites with a glass of wine, look no further than SixtyFour also on the riverfront. The name is quite telling–here you can try up to 64 wines every day. Hopefully it will actually take you at least a few days to complete this mission.
Up in the North Shore’s Highwood community, we find a distinctly more intimate vibe. This is also reflected in the area’s restaurants, which are clustered along Green Bay Rd and Waukegan Ave, parallel to the Metra tracks.
Eats are diverse: while there is the usual collection of American, Mexican, and Italian, one block of Waukegan Ave alone features an upscale French restaurant with Cuban influences (Miramar Bistro), Caribbean cuisine in modern digs (El Buren), and Latin American fusion (Longitud315). On the more casual side is Clucker’s Charcoal Chicken, an ideal high-quality takeout or quick dine-in option.
Finally, no Highwood food profile is complete without mention of 90 year mainstay Del Rio, a true old school Northern Italian experience.
You’ll be forgiven if you feel slightly out of place–in a good way–at Fiora’s in Geneva. You see, the fine dining New American restaurant is situated in a converted home, so the restaurant is divided amongst various highly intimate rooms. This also makes it a great location for upscale group outings or special occasions, but make sure to inquire well in advance.
Fiora’s is surrounded by great options in downtown Geneva. As far as upscale American digs that won’t break the bank, look into Barrel + Rye, The Burger Local, and steakhouse Wildwood. A slightly more eclectic American option is Craft Urban, while some locals would argue the fine dining experience at Niche tops that of even Fiora’s.
Fiora’s also isn’t the only eatery in a uniquely repurposed setting: Cajun restaurant The Patten House is an unmistakable, 1857-vintage brick building with a wonderful patio. They boast over a dozen “New Orleans sandwiches” that will keep you coming back for more. Downtown Geneva also features an incredible half-dozen Italian restaurants worth checking out.