One of the best perks of living in a melting pot like Chicago is the diversity of cuisine. In the last 30 days alone, I enjoyed some great Chicago eats across 9 neighborhoods which represent 5 continents. That’s impressive. So, if you cannot plan a trip out-of-town or abroad, here are some restaurants and cafes that can offer you a transportive experience. All you have to do is
hop on the local trains and buses to reach them:
La Sirena Clandestina – West Loop
This is one of the cutest and most romantic restaurants in Chicago. I never tire of coming here. They are serving up Brazilian fare reminiscent of the years Chef John Manion spent there. Start with the most crispy, flaky and flavorful empanadas and work your way through the menu to dessert. Get the alfajores (dulce de leche cookies) and the decadent quattro chocolates. So sexy! I always feel like I am in a beach cafe in Rio or Sao Paolo when I dine here.
Take the CTA Green or Pink Lines to the Morgan ‘L’ stop and walk 1.5 blocks north. – 954 W. Fulton Market
Duke of Perth – Lakeview
If you’re in the mood for a pint of Scottish ale, whiskey, fish and chips, burgers or a rich shepherd’s pie, head over to Duke of Perth. This dark and cozy neighborhood pub is located near the Landmark Century movie theater. Whether you want to take the edge off of a cold winter’s night or enjoy a warm summers day on the back patio, Duke Of Perth has a friendly, relaxing vibe. Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a pub in the Scottish highlands.
Take the CTA Brown or Purple Lines to the Wellington ‘L’ stop and walk 1 block south and 3 blocks east – 2913 N. Clark
Goddess and the Baker – The Loop
Midwesterners have got the baking thing down, people! If you are looking for some delicious baked goods and sandwiches, Goddess and the Baker is a perfect place to stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Since they are in The Loop, doors open early for the business crowd during the week at 7 am. Spread out at one of the large communal tables or grab a table for two. On a recent visit with my friend, Denyse, I enjoyed the avocado toast with ricotta cheese, olive oil, chili flakes and side arugula salad. Denyse enjoyed a hearty bowl of oatmeal. I’ll be back to try the latter in the cooler months to come:) Drool over the cake and scones on the way out.
Take the CTA Orange, Green, Brown Lines to the Adams/Wabash stop and walk 1.5 blocks north – to 33 S. Wabash
Broken English Taco Pub – The Loop
Blink and you’ll miss this inconspicuous and awesome Mexican taco bar located just off of Michigan Avenue near Millennium Park.
The food is all fresh and made to order, including the lovely margaritas (no mix here, folks!). On my first visit, I tried both the swordfish and shrimp tacos.
The proteins at Broken English Taco Pub are grilled (not fried) and stuffed into in corn tortillas (as it should be).
I enjoyed the house-made salsa very much. The guacamole that passed by my table looked lovely, particularly the interesting version with smoked trout I’ll need to check that out soon, along with some chicharrones.
Take the CTA Orange, Brown, Green, Purple, Pink LInes to the Randolph/Lake ‘L’ stop. Walk 1 block north and 1/2 block east. Most of the Michigan Avenue buses will stop nearby. – 75 East Lake St.
Pearl’s Southern Comfort – Edgewater
Chicago has some satisfying Southern restaurants (Big Jones, Luella’s Southern Kitchen, etc.) Pearl’s Southern Comfort in the Edgewater neighborhood is one more to add to your list of great Chicago eats.
The friendly kitchen at Pearls’ Southern Comfort is cranking out Cajun and Creole dishes. You can find most of the usual suspects on the menu. On my first visit during Sunday brunch, I enjoyed the barbecue shrimp ‘n grits. It was very nice and filling. I am such a sucker for anyplace that can turn out a great version of this classic. How about you?
I’ll be back to check out the rooftop space which is serving up a limited menu of small plates.
Take the CTA Red Line to the Berwyn ‘L’ stop and walk 1 block north and 1 block west. – 5352 N. Broadway
Kristoffer’s Cafe & Bakery – Pilsen
Pilsen is home to some great Chicago eats including some of the best Mexican food in town. Included in this mix is one of the best bakeries you will find, Kristoffer’s Cafe & Bakery.
Can you say “tres leches cake”? I just know you can! Kristoffer’s is cranking out the very best tres leches cakes you will find in Chicago. Even world-renowned chef, Rick Bayless says so! That’s high praise, folks!
I am lucky to live within walking distance of Kristoffer’s and that’s a good thing. After I inhale a slice of either the original, vanilla, Kahlua, caramel or coconut versions of this Mexican classic, I need to walk the 2 miles home 😉 But, why stop at just a slice? Buy an entire tres leches cake to take home. Who’s got a birthday coming up?
Other sweets here include chocoflan. Breakfast and lunch are available as well. Note: They close by 5 pm (4 pm on the weekend). Closed on Monday.
Take the CTA Orange Line to the Halsted ‘L’ stop and walk 4 blocks north. The #8 and #62 buses stop out front. – 1733 S. Halsted St.
The Duck Inn – Bridgeport
It’s no secret how much I am in love with Chef Kevin Hickey’s south side homage to the neighborhood where he was raised. This not only the best restaurant in Bridgeport, it’s one of the great Chicago eats!
Chef Hickey is serving up great whole roasted duck (order it ahead of time!), as well as other comforting meat and fish dishes. The flavor profiles are always interesting. On my visit last weekend, I tried some fun rice cake sticks with a kimchi dipping sauce, the tender and crispy duck wings and the special bonito fish served with a mix of summer beans, lemon, and fennel.
As usual, The Duck Inn did not disappoint.
No visit here would be complete without trying at least one of the signature cocktails which are always changing. Brandon Phillips is the beverage director at The Duck Inn and he is so badass. His cocktails are extremely well-balanced and potent. You will get your money’s worth here.
I loved this beautiful “The Garden’s Secret” made with rum, vermouth, Amaro, tea, and lingonberries. It’s even served in the perfect glass. Nice!
Take the CTA Orange Line to he Halsted ‘L’ stop and transfer for the #62 Archer bus to Loomis. Walk 2 blocks north. – 2701 S. Eleanor
Parachute – Avondale
If you are craving great Chicago eats on the north side of Chicago, check out the Korean-American fare at Parachute. This unassuming restaurant is the invention of Chef Beverly Kim who was a contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef show. She and her husband/partner, Johnny Clark, are preparing food with a ton of love and creativity. I suggest you make a reservation or arrive as soon as the door opens for dinner, in order to score a table.
I fell very hard for Chef Kim’s seared tuna with a multitude of seasonal, local greens. Do not miss the crispy pork belly pancake topped with a runny egg and drizzled with kimchi and black garlic puree. Stunning and delicious!
Take the CTA Blue line to Belmont ‘L’ stop and walk 3 blocks north and 4 blocks east. – 3500 N. Elston.
Fat Rice – Logan Square
Both Fat Rice and Parachute made my list of Chicago’s Best Asian Restaurants. While Parachute is kicking butt and taking names with their Korean fare, Fat Rice is wowing us in Logan Square with Macanese food.
This fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cuisine from the island of Macau is blowing the collective minds of Chicagoans and visitors to this city. It has been highly acclaimed since doors opened. Step inside the rustic space in this hip neighborhood at sample some exotic flavors from spicy to sweet to tangy to sour. I enjoyed the Malay vegetable curry. It’s much lighter than the curries you will find in other Asian countries.
Also, I really loved the seasonal shishito peppers with pork belly, corn and tomatoes.
Take the CTA Blue Line to Logan Square and walk 1 block north and 7 blocks east – 2957 W. Diversey.
Ramen Takeya – West Loop
This small ramen shop specializes in chicken-based ramen broth. You can get a mix of chicken and pork broth as well. The noodles here have a nice texture.
Grab one of the few tables or sit at the bar or sushi counter near the back of the restaurant.
Take the CTA Green or Pink Lines to the Morgan ‘L’ stop and walk 1 block north and 3 blocks east – 819 W. Fulton Market.
De Quay – Lincoln Park
Another one the latest great Chicago eats is this Dutch-Indonesian restaurant on the north side. De Quay is a comfy neighborhood pub where you want to check in for a stiff drink (the cocktails are damn good!) and some interesting fusion cooking.
De Quay is the only other restaurant in Chicago that features Indonesian cuisine, although it is a fusion menu. Rickshaw Republic is the more authentic one. I stopped by recently for a tasty P.Y.T cocktail (tequila, tamarind, orange).
I enjoyed the house-made gravlax with sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, and side egg salad.
The lemongrass pork skate skewers were equally delicious. They were served over a refreshing bed of greens and watermelon with papaya vinaigrette.
Take the CTA Red, Brown or Purple Lines to the Fullerton ‘L’ stop and walk 2 blocks north and 2 blocks east. – 2470 N. Lincoln Avenue.
Yassa African Restaurant – Bronzeville
This super friendly Senegalese restaurant on the south side of Chicago is colorful and casual. Stop in for lunch through dinner and enjoy some great Yassa shrimp prepared with peppers, onions and an earthy tomato-based rice.
The portions are great here. A good bang-for-your-buck. I will be back for the meat curries and the interesting, vitamin-packed fruit drinks. Yum.
Bonus! Yassa is B.Y.O.B.!
Take the CTA Red or Green lines to their respective 35th St. stops and walk a few blocks east. The #3 King or #4 Cottage Grove bus stops right at the corner of the restaurant. – 3511 S. King Drive.
What are you waiting for? Grab these great Chicago eats without having to cross the border or clear Customs!
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to these great Chicago eats. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!