maddie's chicago favorites
I adore a good meal out, and Chicago has no shortage of fantastic spots worth a visit. Since I'm regularly being asked by friends and family about my go-to restaurants/bars/bakeries/groceries, I felt a list would be a fitting reference. This is by no means comprehensive but rather a snapshot of my Chicago favorites that have been vetted through countless visits over the years.
Roger’s Park // Edgewater
Ghareeb Nawaz: Possibly the best steal in the city. Insanely cheap and super tasty Indian and Pakistani food. They have an enormous menu so bring lots of hungry friends with you.
Income Tax: A perfect neighborhood spot with, in my opinion, the best wine list in the city.
Independent Spirits: You're always bound to find something new at this charming Edgewater shop. I love their apertif/digestif selections and seemingly endless array of wines.
Andersonville // Ravenswood
Passerotto: You might not think that Italian and Korean cuisines could easily fuse, but Andersonville’s newcomer, Passerotto, shatters that notion in the most innovative way. The food here highlights the simplicity of Italian cooking along with the bold flavors and techniques of Korean cuisine to create its own genre entirely. Always surprising and always delicious.
Little Bad Wolf: Our go-to neighborhood spot for late night dinners and one of the best cheese burger/French fry combos in town.
Lindo Guadalajara: Tiny, divey Mexican restaurant with some of the best tacos I've had in Chicago. The chorizo and chicken are musts, washed down by an ice-cold Topo Chico.
Spacca Napoli: Old school Italian pizza joint right in my neighborhood. Always a wait for dinner, but I promise its well worth it.
Hopleaf: Huge beer list with some super interesting drafts and bottles. Been on a sour beer kick here lately.
Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits: The most wonderful place to live two blocks away from. I crave their fancy grits on the regular. The biscuits and pies don't suck either.
Lost Larson: Since its opening this summer, I think I’ve visited this Scando-inspired bakery at least once a week. I’m partial to the Tebirke, a not-too-sweet croissant loaded with marzipan and topped with a layer of poppy seeds. The necessary accompaniment to a frothy cafe au lait.
Middle Eastern Bakery & Grocery: I could roam through this place for hours, loading up on bulk spices, halvah, olives and housemate pitas/hummus. The falafel and schwarma at their neighboring restaurant are also a great, cheap lunch option.
Lincoln Square // Uptown
Gather: This unassuming spot boasts one of my favorite breakfasts in town. The food is always eclectic and super affordable.
Tank Noodle: The best Vietnamese food I've ever had. The sizzling pork and shrimp crepe is the stuff dreams are made of.
Nhu Lan Bakery: Bahn mi of my dreams, with the crustiest, fluffiest bread, made in house. Lemongrass chicken is my preferred, but the menu has over 20 options to suit any taste.
Demera: Ethiopian food is right in my "pseudo-vegetarian" wheelhouse with their enormous mixed platters. Plus you get to eat with your hands and pile everything into copious amounts of flatbread.
Logan Square // Avondale
Lula Cafe: Without question, my favorite restaurant in Chicago and one of the pioneers of "farm to table" dining in the city (before it was the hip thing to do). Beautiful, inspired, vegetable-forward food with good vibes all around.
Middle Brow: New Logan Square spot with tremendous brick oven pizzas, craft beer and seasonal veg.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken: Its hard to go wrong when you pair perfectly executed fried chicken and impeccable customer service. An absolute must if you're hankering for comfort food. The honeycomb shaped corn muffins are also CRAZY addicting.
Cellar Door Provisions: A little piece of California hip right here in Chicago. While all of the savory breakfast and lunch options are terrific, the kouign amann is a must.
Scofflaw: A truly exemplary bar in my book. Super reasonably priced cocktails that change monthly, lots of room to stand/sit and friendly bartenders to boot.
Estereo: Fun summer spot with their big open windows and extensive mezcal selection.
Billy Sunday: Where I go to satisfy my stomach-settler kick. One of the best apertif/digestif selections in the city and a staff that has the knowledge to guide you through the experience. Bring friends and ask your server to bring you a flight of their favorites.
Logan Square Farmer's Market: A more intimate market relative to Green City, right in the heart of Logan Square. The best people watching around!
Lakeview // Lincoln Park
Athenian Room: Chicken Kalamata Style dinner. Not much more you need in life.
mfk: An often forgotten tiny nook of a restaurant churning out fantastic tapas and Spanish-inspired plates. I'd come for here for the crunchy prawn heads alone, but the seasonally inspired menu is always full of winners.
Weiner Circle: My old neighborhood hotdog stand and go-to for Chicago dogs. Proceed with caution if you're heading here late night as the staff is notorious for getting rowdy with customers.
Floriole: Best pastries in Chicago. Hands down. All of the croissants are laminated to perfection and the pot de creme/passionfruit tart are as gorgeous as they are delicious.
Loba Pastry + Coffee: The rebel child of the Chicago bakery scene. Lots of traditional favorites but with a signature Mexican flair.
Pastoral: This place satisfies all of my former cheesemonger cravings with tons of imported/domestic cheeses and specialty products to pair.
Coalfire: Yes, this is the third pizza place on this list. My most visited within the bunch and one of the better pepperoni pizzas I've ever had. The pistachio pesto pie is equally as impressive.
Green City Market: The creme de la creme of Chicago Farmer's Markets. Take a few hours on a summery Saturday morning and just roam, snack, shop, repeat.
Wicker Park // Bucktown
Piece: The pizza I treat myself too when I just need a greasy (in a good way), thin crust slice. Be sure to bring along a buddy because their pies are massive.
Dove's Luncheonette: Cool diner vibes with down-home Mexican fusion food. Their "back to life" seafood cocktail is a must, served in an ice cream sundae glass with a side of saltines. Killer!
Pub Royale: English-style beer hall with a beautifully curated selection of Indian food (plus a badass burger). Be sure to try the salt cod samosas and eggplant curry.
Mindy's Hot Chocolate: An old favorite of mine and great spot for a fancy, plated dessert.
Small Cheval: Burgers just the way I like them. Simple, classic and unfussy served with fries and a shake.
Red & White: I adore this minimalist wine bar. The staff is super knowledgable and always manages to find the exact glass you're looking for even when you don't know yourself.
Cafe Marie Jeanne: I normally hate eating brunch out (why pay $15 for bacon and eggs when it costs nickles and dimes to make at home), but Cafe Marie Jeanne does it so well that I make an exception. Their a la carte menu lets you get exactly the fixings you want, without any fluff. I tend to opt for the scrambled egg, hashed browns, fresh fruit combo with a side of hot smoked salmon and whatever pastry looks the prettiest that day.
California Clipper: Cavernous and cool with a Negroni that can't be beat.
Spinning J: The old fashioned soda fountain vibe here is so charming as are the housemate baked goods, rotating pies, and homemade sodas and floats.
Publican Quality Meats: My go-to when I'm in a meaty mood. I tend to go the charcuterie board and beer route here and it never disappoints.
Avec: The original "small plate" Chicago restaurant that always hits the spot. The sleek decor and cozy ambiance make it an ideal date night or special occasion spot.