As a truly great culinary metropolis, the “city of (delicious) neighborhoods” that is Chicago can be downright overwhelming for the adventurous foodie. Where to begin? This list doesn’t hardly do it justice, but here are five solid places in the city to start:
West Loop/Fulton Market
The West Loop area now boasts six restaurants starred on the Michelin Guide, easily more than any other neighborhood, and four of them have gained this status in the last couple years. That doesn’t even include the three-starred Grace, one of Chicago’s two three-starred Michelin Guide restaurants in recent years (along with Lincoln Park’s Alinea), which abruptly closed in late 2017 due to a dispute with ownership. But celebrity chef Curtis Duffy is staying in the neighborhood with his pivot to a new restaurant, Ever, that will open next spring in the 1300 block of West Fulton Market.
Even outside the pricey tasting menus to be found in the West Loop, the “Restaurant Row” along Randolph Street and nearby Greektown have been foodie highlights for some time. Other notable spots include Girl & the Goat, Monteverde and Formento for Italian, Lena Brava for Mexican seafood, The Publican for great meats, Nia for mediterranean tapas, upscale diner Au Cheval, and Kuma’s Corner for casual yet excellent burgers.
If variety is the name of the game, there may not be a better location than Albany Park, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation. Food-wise, it has been described as an “authentic Epcot.” Start your day with Swedish pancakes and other Nordic breakfast and lunch items at Tre Kronor. Head over to Semiramis for some Lebanese. Try a Salvadoran pupusa at El Cuscatleco. Go for casual Filipino classics at SUBO, or check out a number of other Persian, Brazilian, Korean, Mexican, Thai, and Japanese options.
Pilsen was originally inhabited by German and Irish immigrants, then became a primary landing spot for Czech immigrants for about a century, followed by an influx of Mexicans especially after the construction of the nearby UIC campus forced many out of their homes in the early 1960s. Today, it remains primarily known as a hub for Mexican culture, but other residents and establishments, old and new, contribute to a true multicultural fusion. Highlights include upscale New American fare at S.K.Y., Casa Indigo, and Monnie Burke’s, plus upscale bar food at Dusek’s Board and Beer, HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen, and gastropub Pl-zen.
Authentic and delicious Mexican eats in the city as a whole are pretty ubiquitous, but a visit to Pilsen is still worth it for local favorites like Carnitas Uruapan and Canton Regio.
Way up north along Clark Street lies Andersonville, another home to a surprisingly diverse set of excellent food genres. There may not be a better southern restaurant in the city than Big Jones, and brunch fare and pancakes at m.henry and A Taste of Heaven, respectively, are similarly hard to beat. Svea, meanwhile, serves fantastic Swedish pancakes and sausages, as part of “viking breakfasts”. Andersonville residents can also go Korean with Jin Ju or Passerotto, or Italian with Anteprima. But perhaps the best known of all local spots is Hopleaf, a city-wide destination for Belgian eats and a massive beer menu.
One of Chicago’s classic neighborhoods, Bridgeport was the home of the mayor for all but 10 years between 1933 and 2011. To this day, there are plenty of scrumptious restaurants that power brokers could settle into. Neighborhood highlights include nana for American and Mexican brunch food, upscale Chinese at Northern City and Han 202, upscale Mexican at Pancho Pistolas, and upscale meats at The Duck Inn. Another fun hangout is Maria’s, a liquor store upon first glance that opens into a spacious, lively tavern in back.