Until very recently, it was really hard to find a good spot to eat in downtown Chicago. And if you were hoping to score a meal on a weekend? Forget it. It felt like Chicago spent all of its energy attracting every single store to Michigan Avenue, but neglected the notion that people might be hungry after a long day of shopping.
But in the last few years, the dining scene here has absolutely exploded. From a massive food court featuring high-end Chicago restaurants to a Nutella cafe, here are the places you must try.
Food markets have popped up across Chicago at an alarming pace (we aren’t complaining!), and we’ve tried every single one of them. This, by far, is our favorite market. Located in the West Loop, they’ve curated all the trendiest, yummiest restaurants — many of which are ridiculously difficult to snag reservations for — and they’ve popped them in this 50,000 square foot space where you can get anything you want sans the wait. Try everything from Urban Belly (udon soup and dumplings) to Demera (Ethiopian food). Overwhelmed by your options? Our go-tos are the goan curry from Bar Goa and the pulled pork sandwich from County BBQ. Seating is communal, and there’s a DJ at peak dining hours, so be prepared for a lively, loud dining atmosphere.
916 W Fulton Market, Chicago
In the mood for a really rich pork-filled meal? This is where to go. From the bone marrow to the braised pork shoulder to the crispy pig’s ears, you really can’t go wrong. They even cater to the swine-free eaters, with an incredible half duck and a tuna tartare. This restaurant is more of a fine dining experience, but they won’t bat an eye if you arrive with a hungry child in tow (spoken from experience).
444 N Michigan Ave., Chicago
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then this is the place to stop (be prepared for a bit of a wait, though, especially around lunchtime). You could probably ascertain correctly that most of the offerings here include a Nutella twist: Nutella latte, Nutella gelato and Nutella crepes are very popular. But this isn’t just a dessert spot. They offer yogurts and oatmeals and other brunch-type foods which can be done with or without the sweet stuff if you’re trying to be healthy.
189 Michigan Ave., Chicago
Chicago Comfort Food Picks from Michelin-Starred Chef Jenner TomaskaHere’s where the guy who makes his own Cheetos eats on his day off
Is it possible to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or to visit the Art Institute without stopping in at The Gage pre-or-post visit? I mean, I guess it’s possible, but it would make the day much less festive. The Gage, which is located just steps from those fabulous Chicago destinations, is one of the best gastropubs to step foot in the Windy City. It’s swanky, trendy and fun — and it’s got the grub to match. The fish and chips is fantastic, as are the burgers, but you really can’t go wrong here. It’s easier to get in for lunch, but for dinner, you should make a reservation.
24 S Michigan Ave., Chicago
Looking for a spot that truly feels like a Chicago institution? Dine at Cindy’s Rooftop, perched on the top of the Chicago Athletic Association. Views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan aren’t the only valid reasons to check out Cindy’s (it’s open all year). The drinks are beyond fabulous, and the brunch is the best way to start the day. If you come for dinner, make a reservation, as walk-ins are difficult.
12 S Michigan Ave., Chicago
It’s giving a boho vibe on the riverfront. This is truly a unique destination, decorated in Indonesian daybeds, tiles, comfy couches, colorful umbrellas and lots of plants. The food is globally inspired with a focus on Moroccan flavors. Yes, it’s a total Insta-worthy destination — but the food is actually delicious (In fact, it’s so good, you may even forget to take a picture.) The best time to dine is during the summer months, when you can sit on the patio, but if you have a chance to eat here any other time of the year, don’t give up your shot.
180 N Wacker Dr., Chicago
Craving some Chicago steak? There are plenty of places that excel at steak in the Windy City, but this supper club is one of our absolute favorites — especially for happy hour. Snag dollar oysters and the best Espresso Martinis in town, along with dry-aged cheeseburgers, seared foie gras and Waygu beef tartare. Or stay for dinner to really dig in to the meaty stuff.
222 N LaSale St., Chicago
It’s a gem you could only find here. Klara Muchnik, who was born in Ukraine, moved with her family to the United States and opened this restaurant with her son, Vadim. The food is totally authentic and delicious. They do a $35 prix fixe lunch and dinner from Mondays to Wednesdays which really can’t be beat, especially if you’re curious about Russian cuisine.
77 E Adams St., Chicago
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