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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.