Hey, Everyone! During the last 3 weeks, I have covered a lot of territory on the Chicago dining scene from the north side to the south side in 14 different neighborhoods. I have gotten cozy in some adorable coffeehouses, celebrated Taco Tuesday, stuffed my face full of some decadent desserts and I stopped in at the latest giant among Chicago’s restaurants. Whether you live in Chicago or you are planning a visit here, below is my recent guide on how to reach my latest recommendations using the local trains and buses. No car necessary. Save the planet!
Evanston is one of the suburbs which is closest to the city of Chicago. It is not only home to Northwestern University, it is a
charming neighborhood filled with some tasty dining options. If you are looking for a more elegant option for lunch or dinner, head to Found which is a pretty and cozy spot. Choose an individual table or sit around a coffee table for your meal or a drink. I met my friend, Anca at Found for lunch a couple of weeks ago and it was delightful!
Shared plates are the best way to go here to ensure you get a taste of a few of their creative dishes. After we split a smoky cauliflower soup, we shared a plate of gorgeous smoked salmon salad, a mozzarella/beet salad, as well as a bad-ass flatbread with prosciutto, grilled apples, parsnips and pickled onions.
We finished off our meal with a sticky toffee bread pudding with ice cream.
(1631 Chicago Ave. Take the Purple Line to the Davis ‘L’ stop.)
Brunch spots in Chicago are a dime a dozen but if you are looking for one of the very best and you are willing to venture outside of the more trendy locations, I highly recommend Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club. That’s right! This spot is open every day for breakfast and lunch, as well as brunch.
The portions here are a great bang for your buck and I find the food to be pleasing to the palate as well as to the eye. Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club is the perfect corner nook with a lovely and accommodating staff.
While the sweet options on the menu here are stunning, on a recent visit, I chose the scallion pancake with Brussels sprouts in a pork belly and garlic sauce, over-medium eggs and dreamy potatoes. Of course, you can choose your eggs any way you like them. This plate of wonderful comes with your choice of toast but I declined because the potatoes were more than enough carbs for one day.
(3401 W. Bryn Mawr. Take the Brown Line to Kimball (last stop) and transfer to the #82 bus)
Fancy something sweet to eat? Well, cupcakes are king in Chicago but Molly’s Cupcakes has some of the best you will find. On a recent visit, I was really feeling this Malted Marble cupcake with vanilla and chocolate marble cake. It was filled with malted milk pudding and topped off with chocolate swirl buttercream and malt candy. Yum!
(2536 North Clark St, just a few blocks north and east of the Fullerton ‘L’ stop on the Red and Purple Lines)
The newest and most acclaimed darling of the Chicago dining scene is Giant and those accolades are very well deserved, indeed. Giant’s kitchen is in the talented hands of the former Nightwood chef on the south side and the menu here is phenomenal. Last week, I stopped in for what is the best meal I have eaten in 2016, to date.
I began with a zucchini with pumpkin seed and cilantro marinade. There were a smattering of nuts and cheese which added another layer of flavor to this already warm and smoky dish. Whether you are a vegetarian or you are just looking to meet your veggie intake for the week, this is the dish for you!
After I polished off the zucchini, I ordered the swordfish which is one of my favorite fish options to have when it is available. Giant’s swordfish creation was made with a lovely lemongrass and coconut broth and accompanied with fresh mint, jalepeños, and lime. Wowsa! This is one comforting and refreshing plate of food. Go get it before it leaves the menu.
I cannot wait to work my way through the rest of Giant’s offerings. Do make a reservation!
(3209 W. Armitage. Take the Blue Line to the Western ‘L’ stop and transfer for the #73 Armitage bus)
Let’s talk tacos! If you are looking for tacos with a Korean twist, head to En Hakkore. This bright counter service spot has a small but delicious menu and the tacos are pretty hefty. They come two to an order, so pace yourself. I loved the tofu-kimchi taco and the spicy pork taco. The flour tortillas were thick enough to hold up to the ingredients without getting soggy or falling apart.
(1840 N. Damen, two blocks north of the Damen ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line)
Who doesn’t love a joint that is open 24 hours? Arturo’s Tacos is a family-run Bucktown diner that has you covered with taco dinners, breakfast and much more. The price is right, too. I ordered this taco dinner which comes with 3 tacos of your choice, rice, beans and complimentary chips with pico de gallo (very fresh and zesty pico at that).
(2001 N. Western Ave., 1 block north of the Western ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line)
If you are looking to get your coffee and tea needs satisfied in this part of Chicago, I recommend the well-crafted drinks at Buzz Killer Espresso.
(UPDATE: Buzz Killer Espresso has since closed.)
One of the most lovely bakeries in Chicago is Alliance Bakery in Wicker Park. It is located on the bustling and trendy Division St. They are churning out gorgeous cakes for every occasion, as well as cookies, pastries, and quiches. Take your pick! I stopped in on Thanksgiving morning for a roasted red pepper and spinach quiche and a steaming hot americano.
There is also a space next door with free Wi-Fi.
(1736 W. Division. Take the Blue Line to the Division ‘L stop and walk west)
I do not think there is any bad day for a steaming bowl of ramen but, certainly, this is the season to take the chill off. If you’re of like mind, head to Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya in Wicker Park.
I tried the garlicky pork ramen the other day and I thought it was quite good.
(1482 N. Milwaukee, just one block south and east of the Damen ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line)
Spinning J is a nostalgic throwback to the old-fashioned pie and ice cream shops. They are making creative pies, shakes, ice-cream sodas and more in this adorable Humboldt Park neighborhood. There is nowhere else like it in Chicago.
I love this ginger-lime soda (house made) with blackberry-lime gelato made with Black Dog gelato. It was outrageously refreshing and a great way to start my day, as I had it for breakfast 😉 I will be back for the quiche, strata and sweet pie creations.
1000 N. California Ave. Take the Blue Line to the California ‘L’ stop and transfer for the #52 Kedzie/California bus to Augusta.
On one of the first chilly days of the fall season, I headed to Francesca’s on Chestnut in the Gold Coast. It’s a great place to take a load off and re-energize if you are shopping near Water Tower Place and Michigan Avenue.
I had not been to Francesca’s in quite some time and I really enjoyed this lovely bowl of rigatoni with spicy sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, white, goat cheese and basil.
(200 E. Chestnut, a few blocks east of the Chicago ‘L’ stop on the Red Line)
Amorino’s is a cute, corner spot to try for some yummy gelato. It’s not the famous Vivoli’s in Florence but it’s pretty damn tasty 🙂
(838 N. State St., just one block north of the Chicago ‘L’ stop on the Red Line)
Eva’s Cafe is absolutely the best coffeehouse in Chicago with its brick floor, fireplace, and kitschy decor. There are high tops, comfy seats, and some communal tables. They serve pastries and sandwiches and the coffee and tea are always on point.
If you drop by now, you can enjoy the fully decorated, live Christmas tree! There is no cozier and quiet spot to get your work done and avoid the stroller set.
(1447 N. Sedgwick, just 1 1/2 blocks south of the Sedgwick ‘L’ stop on the Brown Line)
Woodies Flat is one of the new additions to Wells Street, the main drag in Old Town. This spot is a small and friendly spot to grab dinner during the week or brunch on the weekend. There is always a game on here.
I dropped by for a healthy salad with shrimp on Sunday before I went to Eva’s Cafe.
(1535 N. Wells, just 3 blocks east and 1 block south of the Sedgwick ‘L stop on the Brown Line)
Try to the lovely selection of soup like this hearty potato and bacon number served with a side of gooey grilled cheese.
Finish things off on the lighter side with the shaved butternut squash salad and add a protein such as grilled salmon.
Brunch here is also great as well as the fabulous sausage and peppers sandwich.
(832 W. Randolph St, just 3 blocks east and one block south of the Morgan ‘L’ stop on the Green and Pink Lines)
I always lament that my South Loop neighborhood does not have more great food options but Rylon’s Smokehouse is a new and promising addition. I have only been here once since it opened recently and I am looking to returning soon. It is not the best BBQ in Chicago (that would be Smoque) but I am optimistic and I will be back again.
I did enjoy my lunch of shrimp, brisket bourbon baked beans and mac ‘n cheese.
(67 E. Cermak Rd., just 1 1/2 blocks east of the Cermak-McCormick Place ‘L’ stop on the Green Line. So, if you are in town for a convention at McCormick Place, stop by for lunch or dinner)
OPA!! If you’re in a Mediterranean frame of mind and you are looking for some healthier eats with enough olive oil to make your skin glow, check out Santorini in Greektown.
Get the lemon-egg soup because it is so light and refreshing. I always feel sad when I reach the bottom of the bowl.
Another stand-out at Santorini is the angel hair pasta with shrimp. It is surprisingly light with a lemon profile in the sauce. Delish!
Fish at Santorini is a must-do. I loved the grilled swordfish.
(800 W. Adams – 3 blocks north of the UIC-Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Blue Line or 3 blocks west and 3 blocks south of the Ogilvie Transportation station on the Metra)
I love Davanti Enoteca for delicious Italian fare but if you fancy some Mexican food, check out Jarabe Mexican Street Food.
I was pleasantly surprised with Jarabe’s al pastor tacos and the earthy, garlicky mushroom burrito with cabbage.
(2255 W. Taylor St. Take the #12 Roosevelt bus to Oakley and walk 2 blocks north))
Bridgeport is a historic and down-to-earth, south side neighborhood in Chicago that has some fun dining options.
Antique Taco opened up a new location in Bridgeport this year and I am super excited. You don’t want to miss the garlic shrimp tacos with elote cauliflower and crispy kale. The al pastor is fabulous, too.
(1000 W. 35th St. Take the #8 Halsted bus to 35th St and walk west (you can connect at the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line).)
Another cool Chicago coffeehouse is Jackalope Coffee and Tea House. They make some creative coffee drinks like “The Dirty Ho” with espresso, horchata, and milk. It’s creamy and delightful.
Jackalope also has some great pastries and sandwiches available and free Wi-Fi. So, you can get some work done or enjoy a quiet conversation here.
(755 W. 32nd St. Take the #8 Halsted bus directly there (connect at the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange Line). Look for the colorful signage outside.)
OK, folks! I hope I got you excited to hop the rails (and buses) and traverse the city for some great Chicago dining options from the north side to the south side.
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 the best Chicago dining. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!