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.
Lula Cafe // Logan Square // Without question, my favorite spot 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.
Income Tax // Edgewater // A perfect neighborhood bar and restaurant with one of the best wine lists in the city.
Cafe Marie Jeanne // Humboldt Park // 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.
Bad Hunter // West Loop // Super chic Randolph spot with a creative, basically entirely vegetarian menu. My bestie is the pastry chef here so I usually just opt for a flight of desserts in lieu of dinner (a strategy I'd recommend to anybody).
Passerotto // Andersonville // 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.
Ghareeb Nawaz // Roger's Park // 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.
Lindo Guadalajara // Ravenswood // 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.
Gather // Lincoln Square // This unassuming spot boasts one of my favorite breakfasts in town. The food is always eclectic and super affordable.
Piece // Wicker Park // 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.
Athenian Room // Lincoln Park // Chicken Kalamata Style dinner. Not much more you need in life.
Tank Noodle // Uptown // The best Vietnamese food I've ever had. The sizzling pork and shrimp crepe is the stuff dreams are made of.
Nhu Lan Bakery // Lincoln Square // 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.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken // Avondale // 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 // Logan Square // 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.
Publican Quality Meats // West Loop // 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.
Demera // Uptown // 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.
Spacca Napoli // Ravenswood // Old school Italian pizza joint right in my neighborhood. Always a wait for dinner, but I promise its well worth it.
Dove's Luncheonette // Wicker Park // 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!
mfk // Lincoln Park // 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.
Avec // West Loop // 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.
Coalfire // Lakeview // 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.
Pub Royale // Wicker Park // 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 // Bucktown // An old favorite of mine and great spot for a fancy, plated dessert.
Small Cheval // Wicker Park // Burgers just the way I like them. Simple, classic and unfussy served with fries and a shake.
Weiner Circle // Lincoln Park // 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.
Hopleaf // Andersonville // Huge beer list with some super interesting drafts and bottles. Been on a sour beer kick here lately.
Scofflaw // Logan Square // 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.
California Clipper // Humboldt Park // Cavernous and cool with a Negroni that can't be beat.
Estereo // Logan Square // Fun summer spot with their big open windows and extensive mezcal selection.
Red & White // Wicker Park // 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.
Billy Sunday // Logan Square // 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.
Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits // Ravenswood & Logan Square // 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.
Floriole // Lincoln Park // 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.
Spinning J // Humboldt Park // The old fashioned soda fountain vibe here is so charming as are the housemate baked goods, rotating pies, and homemade sodas and floats.
Loba Pastry + Coffee // Lakeview // The rebel child of the Chicago bakery scene. Lots of traditional favorites but with a signature Mexican flair.
Lost Larson // Andersonville // Since its opening this summer, I think I’ve visited this Scando-inspired bakery at least once a week. Not only is the space itself warm and inviting, but the baked goods are masterfully prepared, showcasing flavors both old and new. 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, enjoyed at one of the glowy window seats.
Middle Eastern Bakery & Grocery // Andersonville // 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.
Independent Spirits // Uptown // 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.
Green City Market // Lincoln Park // 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.
Logan Square Farmer's Market // Logan Square // A more intimate market relative to Green City, right in the heart of Logan Square. The best people watching around!
Pastoral // Lakeview // This place satisfies all of my former cheesemonger cravings with tons of imported/domestic cheeses and specialty products to pair.