Food & Drink

The Best Restaurants and Bars in Chicago Right Now

Published On 05/27/2015 Published On 05/27/2015
ANJALI PINTO

In the eternal struggle to know where to head for the best food and drinks in Chicago, it'd be nice to have a quick list of surefire places around town. Yup, that'd be great -- somebody should definitely get on that... WAIT A MINUTE! This is that list. From a Tiki haven in Logan Square, to the best new thing to hit Bridgeport, these are the hottest restaurants and bars in Chicago right now.

Clayton Hauck/Lost Lake

Lost Lake/Thank You

Logan Square
What you’re getting: Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri and soy-glazed chicken wings
This twofer from Chicago’s Tiki torch bearer Paul McGee and Land and Sea Dept. promises rum-drenched cocktails outfitted with tropical garnishes and plenty of stick-to-your-ribs Chinese offerings, like fried rice and soy-glazed chicken wings, to soak up the aforementioned cocktails.

Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope

Logan Square
What you’re getting: The Monte Carlo cocktail
To dance, or to Skee-Ball, that is the question. Luckily for you, at delightfully dive-y Slippery Slope, you can have your cake and eat it, too; the bustling, red-lit dance hall always has tunes blaring, comes equipped with a few Skee-Ball lanes, and serves up plenty of cocktails and snack food favorites like Frito Pie.

Rockit Ranch Productions

Duck Inn

Bridgeport
What you're getting: Fried cheese curds and rotisserie duck
From upmarket bar snacks like fried cheese curds splashed with Bloody Mary ketchup and hoppy mayo, to date-night approved rotisserie duck for two, Kevin Hickey’s latest gastro-tavern concept offers more than a few reasons to believe that Bridgeport is the next up-and-coming dining scene.

Parachute

Parachute

Avondale
What you're getting: Bing bread
Husband-and-wife team Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim have created a cuisine fusion all their own: American-Korean, wherein authentic Korean flavors collide with familiar, comforting forms. Don’t even think about visiting without ordering the famous baked potato bing bread studded with bacon and scallions and served with sour cream butter.

Furious Spoon

Furious Spoon

Wicker Park
What you're getting: Signature Furious Ramen
The ramen trend hits its peak at Shin Thompson’s small-but-mighty Furious Spoon, where the Japanese beer flows and bowl after bowl of scratch-made ramen soothes the collective hunger of ramen enthusiasts and noobies alike.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Bohemian House

River North
What you're getting: Bacon buns and the pork schnitzel sandwich
Undeniably Chicago’s most buzzed-about Czech restaurant, BoHo lives up to the hype with its gigantic pork schnitzel breakfast sandwich, salt and vinegar chips with horseradish-onion dip, grilled chicken paprikash, and whimsical atmosphere.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Dusek's Board & Beer

Pilsen
What you're getting: Dutch Baby Pancakes for brunch, iron roasted P.E.I. mussels for dinner
Equipped with iron roasted P.E.I. mussels, saffron poached squid, Dutch Baby Pancakes topped with apple butter, bacon, lardons, and bourbon sugar, and a swath of on-point alcoholic beverages, Dusek’s proves that Pilsen is a culinary force to be reckoned with.

Kari Skaflen/HOGSALT

Au Cheval

West Loop
What you're getting: The single burger (which is actually a double) or a fried bologna sandwich
Everyone and their mothers flock to this diner-inspired resto for its coveted double-patty burger, but before you sip the Kool-Aid, consider this: the rest of the menu, including a fried house-made bologna sandwich, after-midnight chilaquiles, and a bevy of knockout cocktails, is every bit as mouth-watering.

mfk.

Mfk.

Lakeview
What you're getting: Cantabrian salt-cured anchovies and speck croquettes
Coastal Spanish cuisine is the name of the game at this quaint, garden-level spot on Diversey. Your best bet is to bookend your meal with Cantabrian salt-cured anchovies and basque cake, and gorge yourself with as much octopus a la placha, manchego and speck croquettes, and loup de mer as you can in between.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Avondale
What you're getting: Honey butter fried chicken
You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the magic of crispy fried chicken drenched in sweet, sticky honey butter at this ingenious, sustainability-driven Southern comfort food joint; throw some corn muffins and bacon-laced collard greens into the mix for a balanced meal.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Lincoln Park
What you're getting: Sweetheart deal for two (full rack of pork ribs and your choice of sides)
This popular New York-based barbecue chain has made a quite splash since opening earlier this spring; the sweeping space on Weed St comes complete with a light-strewn beer garden, smoked meats galore, seriously dreamy mac & cheese, and the promise of live musical acts.

Sink|Swim

Sink|Swim

Logan Square
What you're getting: Shrimp toast tea sandwiches and pickled mussels
New from the guys that brought you Scofflaw, this seafood-focused eatery offers a real-deal modern costal experience, complete with charming maritime décor, shrimp toast tea sandwiches, and don’t-knock-‘em-‘til-you’ve-tried-‘em pickled mussels.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Formento's

West Loop
What you're getting: Nonna’s meatballs and a slice of chocolate cake
Armed with one of the best slices of chocolate cake in town and an arsenal of old-school-meets-new-school Italian eats crafted by chef/partner Tony Quartaro, Formento’s is prime for slaying hunger --and looking good while doing it.

Anthony Tahlier Photography

Seven Lions

Loop
What you're getting: 7L burger and fried chicken skin & pickles
Master Sommelier Alpana Singh’s latest venture is refined yet approachable (hello, wild boar chop, fried chicken skin & pickles topped with Sriracha honey mustard and pickled mustard seeds, and a note-perfect cheeseburger), making it a worthy destination for power lunch-goers, tourists, and everyone in between.

Flickr/Bing

Parsons Chicken & Fish

Logan Square
What you're getting: A Negroni slushy and Parson’s hot chicken
Between a lively patio (which is converted into an ice-skating rink in the winter months) and refreshing Negroni slushies, there’s no better place to get a fried chicken fix -- alfresco-style -- than Parson’s.

Anjali Pinto

Intro

Lincoln Park
What you're getting: Everything on the tasting menu
Change is the only constant at the latest addition to the ever-expanding Lettuce Entertain You roster; the innovative concept showcases a revolving door of acclaimed chefs (including inaugural chef C.J. Jacobson and current chef Erik Anderson), operates on a ticket-based reservation system, and promises a wholly new and different dining experience every few months.

Flickr/Joselito Tagarao

Dove's Luncheonette

Wicker Park
What you're getting: Chicken fried chicken
The latest from One Off Hospitality, counter-service Dove’s slings a mash-up of Mexican and Southern fares (think: buttermilk fried chicken smothered in chorizo verde gravy and grits garnished with queso fresco and hot sauce) guaranteed to send you blissfully on your way to a food coma.

Presidio

Presidio

Wicker Park
What you're getting: Tommy’s Margarita and the lamb loin
Take your taste buds on a trip to Nor-Cal by way of Damen Ave at this chic cocktail bar and lounge, where everything from the bar’s name, to a litany of Bay-area classics -- like Tommy’s Margarita -- on the drinks menu nod to the West Coast state.

Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Charlatan

West Town
What you're getting: Focaccia, pig’s head for two and/or black pepper rigatoni with wild boar ragu
If picking at the crispy, succulent face of a roasted pig is your idea of a good time, park yourself at this Midwest-meets-Italian spot and let your freak flag fly. If it’s not, don’t sweat it -- a faceless feast of house-made pastas like black pepper rigatoni with wild boar ragu, focaccia with roasted garlic butter and Maldon sea salt flakes, and half a guinea hen awaits.

Sean Cooley/Thrillist

The Garage

West Loop
What you're getting: Something new every day
If you're the type of luncher who's up for whatever, The Garage is your temple of worship. The food truck hub rotates its menu daily, hosting dishes from fellow trucks or even guest chefs from around Restaurant Row, so you may find a chicken fried burger one day and then a crab tostada the next. 

HOGSALT/KARI SKAFLEN

California Clipper/CC Ferns

Humboldt Park
What you're getting: A Manhattan/coffee and doughnuts
This speakeasy/coffee shop duo from Brendan Sodikoff and the Hogsalt folks is paving the way for what promises to be a Humboldt Park food/nightlife renaissance; stop by California Clipper for a stiff cocktail or three, and make CC Ferns your daily destination for coffee and Doughnut Vault doughnuts.

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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.

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1. Lost Lake 3154 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

Chicago Tiki mogul Paul McGee (of Three Dots and a Dash) is behind Lost Lake, a temple to all things Polynesian in Logan Square. The cocktail bar serves rum-soaked classics and originals, including daily daiquiri specials and group punches, in tiki mugs and volcano bowls. Decorated like the original Don's Beachcomber Cafe, Lost Lake is decked out with banana leaf wallpaper and thatched bamboo but doesn't have the kitschy vibe of many tiki bars.

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2. Slippery Slope 2357 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

Skee-ball, tamales, and and an expansive, crimson-lit dance floor await at this two-story club made to replace what Bonny's once was. The beer is cheap, the wine is boxed, and we promise this will probably be one of the only times you'll hear "Mother-In-Law" (a tamale-chili combo) and not be filled with dread.

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3. Duck Inn 2701 S Eleanor, Chicago, IL 60608 (Bridgeport Sox)

The name of this spot might conjure up images of a cute bed and breakfast, but in reality, The Duck Inn is a stylish restaurant decked in bare brick and orange accents that specializes in -- you guessed it -- duck. They aren't playing around here: The seasoned rotisserie duck, four-course chef's tasting menu, and creative dishes like potted foie gras and scallop and clam stew earned it a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2016.

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4. Parachute 3500 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (Avondale)

From Chefs Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim, Parachute takes a soulful American approach to Korean cuisine. The husband-and-wife team cranks out innovative dishes like boudin noir with kohlrabi, apples, and seedy salad; dolsot bibimbap whose ever-changing toppings range from tuna and n’duja to short rib and foie gras; and salt & pepper ribs with a yuzu-chili pepper glaze. The family-style Avondale restaurant is drawing diners en masse, and the 40-seat dining room has a lofty list of reservation hopefuls vying for a table in the intimate space. Start with an order (probably two though, to be safe) of the addictive baked potato bing bread, made with bacon, scallions, and sour cream butter.

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5. Furious Spoon 1571 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

Shin Thompson's small-but-mighty Furious Spoon in Wicker Park stands well above the rest of Chicago's ramen shops for its bowls of handmade noodle soups. The menu features a few kinds of ramen with suggested toppings, like the house apple chili sauce. The signature Furious Ramen, a soul-warming blend of tonkotsu broth and spicy miso, pairs well with a Surly Furious Beer. The restaurant is sleek and narrow with a minimalist, artsy vibe that fits in perfectly with the trendy neighborhood.

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6. Bohemian House 11 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

This River North spot is an ode to Bohemian culture in all its manifestations, with rustic-meets-glam décor and eclectic fare that’s rooted in Central Europe. The menu, created and executed by Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, features small plates like salt and vinegar chips and knackwurst in a blanket, large plates like spatzel and skirt steak, and unforgettable sweets like caramelized plum kolacky and an inventive take on coffee and donuts with hazelnut brittle.

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7. Dusek's 1227 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608 (Pilsen)

Helmed by Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth, this Michelin-starred restaurant in Pilsen serves upscale American pub food. Dusek's takes everything you love and makes it better, whether that's cooking French fries in beef fat or topping a juicy hamburger with bacon marmalade and serving it on a house-baked pretzel bun. There are more than two dozen beers on tap -- some are from Chicago, others are from abroad -- and daily beer specials. The late-night menu serves the aforementioned burger and fries until 1am every night.

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8. Au Cheval 800 W Randolph, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

This upscale West Loop restaurant is known for its European flair and sophisticated American diner-style eats. Au Cheval usually has a wait out the door at peak dinner hours because it's home to iconic signature items like the fried house-made bologna sandwich and the so-called single burger, which actually comes with two thin patties and is topped with American cheese, house Dijonnaise, pickles, and if you know what's good for you, the optional bacon and fried egg add-ons. The brasserie-like space includes an open kitchen and a bar where local, domestic, and international beers are all on tap.

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9. mfk. 432 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lakeview)

This seafood-focused restaurant transports you to a coastal Spanish fishing village with its simple, rustic dishes. Small plates range from light Cantabrian salt-cured anchovies served atop butter bread, to hearty, deep-fried manchego and speck-stuffed croquettes with a roast garlic aioli for dipping. And with the kitchen open to midnight on Friday and Saturday, you can treat yourself to a true Spanish-style dinner.

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10. Honey Butter Fried Chicken 3361 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (Avondale)

This Avondale quick-serve is a fried chicken lover's mecca that's doing great things for fast-casual dining and antibiotic-free, cage-free, humanely-raised chicken. The menu includes stellar sandwiches complemented with toppings like jalapeño mayo, Thai green curry, and the namesake honey butter; plus two, four, and eight-piece fried chicken plates served with corn muffins. There are quintessential Southern sides (we see you, pimento mac & cheese), plus dump cake for dessert. A balanced meal indeed.

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11. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que 923 W Weed St, Chicago, IL 60642 (Lincoln Park)

This New York-based franchise produces of some of the finest barbecue North of the Mason-Dixon line. Its Chicago spot is a massive, two-level storefront in Lincoln Park with special only-in-Chicago menu items like the Pork 3-Way.

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12. Sink | Swim 3213 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

From the good people that brought you the gin-focused Scofflaw and the dance-ready Slippery Slope, nautical-themed Sink|Swim proves its seafood game is on point with affordable yet refreshingly inspired offerings like a shrimp toast tea sandwich and monkfish liver torchon. As for the digs? Charming, with whitewashed walls, teal tufted seats, and framed ocean-themed paintings hung along the perimeter.

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13. Formento's 925 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

Executive Chef Stephen Wambach heads up this bright and expansive Italian restaurant. His menu keeps things classic, offering quality dishes like a four-cheese tortellini and a prosciutto-wrapped veal filet. The white tablecloths add to the traditional feel of the space, and collect crumbs from Formento's must-try chocolate layer cake. No, really, try it -- it comes with chocolate pudding frosting and hazelnut praline.

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14. Seven Lions 130 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 (Loop)

Elegant yet approachable, this new American clubhouse concept from Master Sommelier Alpana Singh (The Boarding House) is exactly what its Michigan Ave space called for. Chef Chris Curren’s menu is equal parts accessible and inspired, with starters ranging from fried chicken skins and pickles paired with sriracha mustard to Brussels sprout and burrata toast. Entrées run the gamut from comforting short ribs to perfectly flaky black cod with acorn squash, ricotta gnocchi, and Maitake mushrooms. And don't worry, there's alcohol, starting with Singh’s curated list of all-American wines.

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15. Parson's Chicken & Fish 2952 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Logan Square)

Parson's Chicken & Fish in Logan Square knows a thing or two about deep-frying -- the menu features chicken, fish, hush puppies, and cheese curds in all their breaded and battered goodness. Not everything is deep-fried though; there's a small raw bar selection and small plates to share. The spot is upscale for a quick-serve spot, and its large outdoor patio is one of the top summer hang spots in Chicago.

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16. Intro 2300 N Lincoln Park W, Chicago, IL 60614 (Lincoln Park)

Intro has a roster of "chefs-in-residence" that rotates every few months, bringing a completely new menu, focus, and experience to the table each rotation.

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17. Dove's Luncheonette 1545 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Wicker Park)

One Off Hospitality's 41-seat counter service restaurant pushes Southern-inspired Mexican cuisine like chicken fried chicken smothered in chorizo verde gravy, smoked brisket taco Norteño, and chili con carne, along with craft cocktails and tequila galore.

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18. Presidio 1749 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (Bucktown)

This cocktail-focused lounge in the old Bluebird space keeps things California breezy with exposed brick walls, plush couches and chairs, and a West Coast-leaning beverage program. Pick your poison from a selection of CA wines, beers, and cocktails inspired by Bay Area classics such as the Tommy’s Margarita and Pisco Punch. The food menu (crafted by Chef Shaun Connolly) is similarly influenced, with California-grown ingredients like sunchokes, kumquats, and Meyer lemon adding interesting touches to dishes like scallops, wild salmon, and olive oil cake.

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19. Charlatan 1329 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642 (West Town)

The guys behind Three Aces unleashed this spot in West Town. While Charlatan may lack the raucous vibe of its sister restaurant, it doesn't lack the fantastic cuisine: American farm-to-table and Italian influences produce standouts like Slagel Farm beef carpaccio, skate wing, house-made pastas, and pig’s head for two.

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20. The Garage 116 N Aberdeen St, Chicago, IL 60607 (West Loop)

If you're the type of luncher who's up for whatever, The Garage is your temple of worship. The food truck hub rotates it's menu daily, hosting dishes from fellow trucks or even guest chefs from around Restaurant Row, so you may find a chicken fried burger one day and then a crab tostada the next.

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21. California Clipper 1002 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (Humboldt Park)

California Clipper, an iconic Humboldt Park hideaway, is still as charming today as it was in the 30s. Though more recently revived by Hogsalt’s Brendan Sodikoff, California Clipper’s dim, red lighting and old-school jukebox help the decades old dive retain its vintage reputation. As well does the beverage list, which is over 20 pages long, designed with the30s in mind, and features staff favorites, punches, long drinks, shaved ice, and ice cream drinks, as well as beer, wine, and other spirits. Enjoy a bowl of punch over conversation, or grab a can of beer to and listen to the live music, multiple nights a week.

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