Gaby’s Guide to Chicago, IL

So I’ve lived in California for the majority of my life but did you know I was born in Chicago? And I’ve been dozens and dozens of times in the past few years and I can never get enough. The food in Chicago is beyond. So without further ado… my favorite places to eat and drink in the windy city post book tour!

Momotaro – all the sushi you could eat plus a really fun ambiance! Perfect for a big group too!

The Publican – we’ve been going here for years and it never disappoints! Another one that’s great for a group – order a bunch of veggies, meats and fish dishes and you’re all set!

Cone Gourmet Ice Cream – it’s not always ice cream season in Chicago but when it is, the cookie monster ice cream from Cone Gourmet is not to be missed.

Parachute – it’s kinda American meets Korean and it’s GOOD. And it’s non-negotiable to order the Baked Potato Bing Bread

Revival Food Hall – there’s honestly nothing I love more than a food hall. Whether it’s in LA, Copenhagen or Chicago, I’m game! And Revival is one that can’t be missed. I’d go mid-day and eat your way through the various stalls so you can graze for lunch and then recover before dinner.

Dove’s Luncheonette – if you’ve never had Southern inspired Mexican food than you’re doing it all wrong. And Dove’s will fix that.

Big Star – you wouldn’t think tacos and whiskey go hand in hand, but they sure do at Big Star. You’re gonna need all the tacos, a big thing of guacamole and salsas. If you’re a whiskey fan go for it – but I ate so much I didn’t even have room for a drink so there’s that!

Federalis –  are you surprised there are so many Mexican inspired picks on my list? I’m not! I’ll find the guacamole no matter what town I’m in. Federalis is super casual and the nachos are a must!

Duck Duck Goat – it’s super fun Chinese food with a twist that won’t leave you feeling super heavy! So in other words… I’m in!

Au Cheval – the best burger in all of chicago. Trust me.

Frontera – I mean, it’s a classic and the guacamole and chips are out of this world! There’s also an outpost at the O’Hare airport that I literally will go to before any flight for some chips and guac on the plane. It’s mandatory.

Girl and the Goat – if you can snag a spot at one of the few coveted bar seats that open up to the kitchen then consider yourself lucky! (Thank you Khatira!!) You’ll get to watch all your food come together right before your eyes. But be warned, you’ll end up ordering more than you anticipated because you’ll want one of everything!

Purple Pig – one of my favorite places to grab lunch after a day on Michigan avenue! Everything is small plates so just order a ton and go to town. But whatever you do, don’t miss the octopus!

Maudes – oysters, French wine and a CROQUE MADAME!! What more could you ask for?

3 dots and a dash – it’s a Tiki bar. Enough said.

Lou Malnati’s – deep dish pizza. It’s an institution and it’s mandatory.

Money Gun – all the specialty cocktails you could ask for! It’s the perfect night cap before heading back to the hotel and crashing from a food coma!

Did I miss anything? Shout it out in the comments below so I can go give it a try!! There are too many restaurants and not enough days in the week to try them all. But I’m willing to give it a try!

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  1. Dona C

    Gabby, these are all wonderful suggestions but you missed two great places – Avec and 3 Arts Cafe. Both places have sublime food. 3 Arts Cafe/Restoration Hardware is magical. It’s like Disneyland for women.

  2. Amy

    Italian Village!
    A different chef/menu at each level – currently being run by the 3rd generation, and Chicago’s oldest Italian restaurant. Just went for the first time while dropping a kid off to university. It was wonderful. <3

  3. Abby

    I live in Chicago and I think you pretty much nailed it. You named a few I have yet to try!
    I see you spent time in Wicker Park…thats where I live :).

  4. Monika

    Seems like a trip to Chicago is in order!! But I will wait for warmer weather!!

  5. Britt

    Beatrix! Amazing chicken Bebe and a good brunch!

    Little Goat it’s more of a diner but owned by the girl and the goat! Still yummy!

  6. Michelle

    Nice picks!! The food and wine are great at maude’s, but the bar is amazing too. You tell them what you like and they make something great every time. I love the corpse reviver. Also, El Nuevo Mexicano on halsted in Lakeview is a nontrendy but fun and yummy spot – the carnitas chipotle is life changing. We’ve been going for 10 years and that is literally all my hubby will order.

  7. Christina @ Every Little Thing She Does…

    I LOVE The Purple Pig so much I ate there three times on my trip to Chicago! Their shaved brussels sprouts tasted like Lays potato chips! I was eating them by the handful! So good.

  8. Noel

    My husband and I have enjoyed two great “parent” get-aways in Chicago and absolutely love it! You hit a few of our faves and some we need to try. Another favorite you have to try is Longman & Eagle! Best brunch ever, wonderful food menu, extensive bar menu and you can even stay in one of their few hotel rooms!

  9. Annie

    Such a great list! A few of my favorites are Pequods, Spacca Napoli, Lena Brava, Hopleaf, and Honey Butter Fried Chicken 🙂

  10. Cindy

    Next time you’re at the Purple Pig ….a must try is the roasted bone marrow smear…..ahhhhhh heaven

  11. Brianda Larson

    I think you would love Chilam Balam 3023 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60657. Seasonal (their menu changes like every few months or so) Mexican dishes for sharing in a cozy basement & BYOB. You need another trip just for this place. <3

  12. Sierra

    You have to try Antique Taco, the tacos are SO good (love the rib-eye and the potato)! The guacamole is amaze, too!

  13. DMG

    You must add Lena Brava, Rick Bayless’ newest Chicago eatery to your list for your next trip. I live in Alaska and it’s worth the trip just to eat there.

  14. Deborah

    Piece brewery and Pizza. Sooo good. It is not Chicago deep dish. Think crist Connecticut style.

  15. Erin

    The nachos at Little Goat across the street from Girl & the Goat are amazing!!

  16. Jill Arthur

    Gaby, next time you’ve got to try 5 Rabanitos. Its a wonderful BYOB in Pilsen.

  17. Lynn

    Breakfast at the original Stax, lavendar pancakes are sooo good and also the avocado/crispy prosciutto eggs Benedict!

  18. Katie

    Must add Piccolo Sogno – best patio in the city. Maillard Tavern nod Gibson’s Italia

  19. Melanie

    Also Bang Bang pie gives me life! Best avocado biscuit in Chicago!

    Pretty cool ice cream is also going to be amazing when it opens up tomorrow!!!

  20. megan

    this list has all my favorites!!! i’d only add El Buena Vista for the vegetarian burrito supreme (featuring the best mole EVER) and their amazing salsa.

  21. Maritza

    I would say Roister is a great spot to try out or Ella Eli in lakeview. ENJOY!!

  22. Peggy

    Love this, sooooo helpful! Only have been to Frontera and Girl & The Goat, both delish!!!! Heading there next week to settled in another college kid. Best Foodie city ever!

  23. Meaghan Warner

    I can’t wait to try some of your recommendations that the hubs and I haven’t been to yet. When you come to Chicago next you should really check out Nico Osteria. The Brussels Sprout Bruschetta is to die for. We usually do group dinners there and order a ton of food and share everything because it is all amazing. In fact, you should just stay at the Thompson and then head back down to Nico for breakfast and get their MUST HAVE Eggs in Purgatory, so delish. You can even order the Brussels Sprout Bruschetta for breakfast too, cuz you will want it again the next day, lol!!!

  24. Angela Greene

    Heading there in a couple weeks! Excited to hit as many of these as I can. Thanks Gaby!

  25. Susan Oher

    Surprised no one has mentioned Lula Cafe – one of my favorites when I visit Chicago. I’m not a vegetarian, I often have the
    Vegetarian tasting menu for dinner. Great vibe.

  26. Donna Frescura

    There is so much great food in Chicago it’s going to take A few trips. We stayed at the Palmer House Hilton, it’s where the brownie was invented. You need I do have the recipe after the tour and it is 14 ounces of chocolate to 4 ounces of flour sounds like you’re kind a brownie and it’s not to be missed . Goddess and the baker their iconic rainbow cake which we had this past weekend they also had a glitter latte and gave back From the sale of every slices during pride weekend it was wonderful. Pittsfield Café for brunch beautiful iconic building, Cindy’s rooftop great food great cocktails and amazing view right over the Chicago athletic club’s boutique hotel.the aviary for a really cool presentation drinks by a $25 reservation ticket in applies towards your bill everyone needs to experience it at least once . Carson’s barbecue ribs and steak House great place you gotta have the coleslaw

  27. Mehak Qadeer

    Cabra (food and amazing rooftop), Swift & Sons (food), Aviary (cocktails), Aba (food & cocktails with an amazing roof area), Etta (food), Monteverde (great Italian food), Machine (creative cocktails), Offshore (rooftop with good food) are all amazing as well!

  28. Giovanna

    I second Italian Village Restaurants! The Village upstairs is the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago, truly an amazing experience between the ambience of a little village in Italy to the amazing food you can’t go wrong! Then you have Vivere which is their contemporary Italian dinning room and they make handmade pasta. How can you go wrong?!?! And the third is La Cantina which is there chophouse. You can’t go wrong with any of them! They are family owned currently run by the third generation. On top of amazing food they also have an amazing wine list! I have grown up going there truly a Chicago staple!!!

  29. Joan

    You forgot Portillos!!!! Chicago staple! Hot dogs, Italian beef dips, and famous chocolate cake/shakes.

  30. Lexieg

    Great recs!! Can’t forget Vanille Patisserie for the best French pastries in Chicago 🙂 River Roast has a Sunday jazz brunch that has the best pot pie/quiche thing I’ve ever had. Chicken Shop in the SoHo house is phenomenal too and across the street Green Street Meats has the best frito pie and bbq but Pro-Tip in the basement in a tiny Ramen place that is out of this world!!!

  31. Megan

    Chicago pizza and oven grinder co for the pizza pot pie. Best tip I’ve ever had and it’s a literal institution.

  32. Julie

    Chicago is famous for steakhouses, and the Kinzy Chophouse is a must visit for us. We also love to visit Glen’s Diner—they were featured on Triple D.