It’s honestly a crime that I haven’t put together a Chicago restaurant guide at this point.
I think I’ve avoided doing it because there are literally SO MANY choices that the thought of narrowing the list down to just 10 spots is nearly impossible.
But, I am never one to shy away from a challenge. So I enlisted the help of my mom and highly discerning restaurant connoisseur - Linda Pawelski.
This is a list of our tried and true spots that we return to time and time again. We’re not ones to really ever go back to the same place twice. So the fact that we’ve frequented these spots multiple times over the years should certainly says something.
Also, this is Linda’s writing debut on the blog so let’s all give her a warm welcome! Don’t worry I told her she could only write 2 sentences for each spot so as to avoid having you read a full-on novel LOL.
Truly, when I think of a restaurant aesthetic that is 100% my vibe, I think of Beatnik. From the Bohemian eclectic accents to the ornate chandeliers that perfectly catch the natural light flowing into the restaurant - Beatnik certainly knows how to catch and hold your attention.
Beyond its looks, the food is fun, easy to share and most importantly delicious. Make sure to order the baba ghanoush and the curry meatballs. OOOO and if the weather is nice, check out Beatnik’s second location “Beatnik on the River” for stunning views of the Chicago River.
If you’re looking for a restaurant that seamlessly transitions from dinner to drinks with friends - you have to check out Boleo. The restaurant gets its name from a move in the Argentinian tango - and trust that the food is just as dramatic. Set at the top of the Kimpton Gray Hotel, Boleo brings South America right to the heart of Chicago.
Oh and did I mention, the restaurant is a year-round rooftop, SCORE! Make sure to try one of their creative cocktails and their mouth-watering empanadas.
Aba is a Lettuce Entertain You home run restaurant. I grew up going to iconic Lettuce Restaurants like Cafe Ba Ba Reeba and RJ Grunts - but now I like that the restaurant group is really expanding and experimenting with its offerings. Aba is one of them.
It’s a Mediterranean restaurant with a coastal cool vibe and killer menu. If the weather is nice, get there early and try and snag a table on the restaurant’s patio. But no matter where you wind up sitting - make sure to order the crispy short rib hummus, OMG I’M DROOLING.
This is an oldie but a goodie. Fun fact about this restaurant and yo girl. Every boyfriend I’ve ever had, I’ve made them take me here for a fancy fondue night LOL. Needless to say, it’s the perfect date spot but it’s also a great restaurant to frequent with friends.
Geja’s has been serving fondue to Chicagoans since 1965, so they know a thing or two about fondue. This ain’t no Melting Pot… There are tons of dining options but whenever I go we usually do the full experience (cheese, meat & chocolate) go big or go home right?
I love a restaurant with a theme and Paradise Park takes themes to the next level. Think trailer park meets Vegas night club circa 1980. Honestly, this place is awesome and they take decor just as seriously as their menu.
The drinks have fun names like Trashy Tea and Trailer Park Queen and their menu is separated into two sections: Pizza & Not Pizza. The vibe is cheeky and casual and it’s a great spot to hang with friends on a weekend.
I’m just gonna say it, I HATE deep dish pizza. Honestly, it grosses me out and I don’t get the hype. So when people ask for pizza recommendations in Chicago, I always turn them on to Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. This spot is a Chicago institution and has been making pizza since 1972.
The ONLY thing you should order when you go is their pizza pot pie. You might be wondering what the heck that is… Basically, it looks like a mini deep dish pizza filled with the most ooey-gooey cheese, garlic, onions, peppers, plum tomatoes, sausage, and mushrooms. TRUST ME when I say this is WAYYYY better than any Chicago deep-dish pizza you’ll ever have.
Beef is something I rarely consume. When I do decide to splurge, I like to go to a restaurant that knows how to properly prepare it. I also like to have amazing accompaniments to complement and enhance the steak. Maple and Ash has all that and such an open, yet intimate atmosphere.
They also have a diverse and exceptional wine list that requires careful study since there are so many incredible offerings. This is a great place to enjoy during the holidays with friends and family.
While I am somewhat over Molecular Gastronomy, I am still awed by the artistry and creativity which continues to inspire Grant Achatz and his cadre of award winning restaurants. I love their concept of choosing a region of the world and having the menu singly focused on that region for four to five months.
While you do not dine at Next to return home to recreate a recipe for something you thoroughly enjoyed, the memory of the textures and flavors that were creatively married and the challenges that were overcome to create each menu item never disappoint me when I arrive. A side benefit of the location of this restaurant is that Next guests get preferred access to its sister cocktail space the Aviary and its downstairs intimate speak-easy called The Office.
If there is one restaurant that provides me with all of the boxes checked, it is Carnivale. Atmosphere (one of my all time favorites); interesting yet tasty (and not too many “odd ingredients” that I have no idea what they are) cocktails; a menu offering familiar items, yet some additions that have become favorites, like their Churrasco (a beef tenderloin menu offering) and always excellent service.
I love their fusion of Mexican, Central American and South American cuisine. I have never tired of coming to this restaurant and that is saying quite a lot as I never like to repeat restaurant choices. Their guacamole is simply the best as is their coconut shrimp. Given the gorgeous and expansive dining room, it is such a great place for any type of celebration.
While there surely is a struggle going on with which Indian restaurant makes my favorites list, the name of this one surely conveys my love of Indian Cuisine. And the fact that pickled mango is India’s most favored condiment. While Mango Pickle’s menu spans the wide spectrum and diversity of India’s sub-continent cuisine, each dish has been slightly enhanced with a personal element that makes every dish interesting with the addition of unexpected but welcome flavors.
Whether you enjoy any of the curry dishes or something as familiar as butter chicken, you will not be disappointed by your selections. Try their Prix Fix menu to enjoy a diverse number of creative dishes. Even their cocktails are interpretations on classics with interesting and clever additions to old favorites. It is worth the drive to enjoy the colorful atmosphere and menu of this Edgewater restaurant.
While there are so many great locations for enjoying high tea in Chicago, my vote goes to The Langham. When high tea was first debuted at The Langham’s London hotel in 1865, they enjoyed many of the same elements that comprise this modern day version.
They include the private-selection of Langham’s teas and Wedgewood china that is used to serve these delicious items. The hotel’s location is perfect if you’re shopping on Michigan Avenue, enjoying the theatre or taking in the famous Macy’s windows at Christmas on State Street. Chicago is very fortunate to have this beautiful hotel and excellent spot for high tea within its midst.
WELL THAT WAS FUN!!! Wasn’t reading Linda’s big words so educational?!?!
Lol but for real, I think we’ll do these more often because honestly let’s just give Linda a platform to share her opinions and use big words. Any recommendations on what we should do next?!
If you’re looking for more Chicago recs these posts might help!
THANKS FOR READING!