The Most Overlooked Mediterranean Paradise in Europe
Best burgers: Burger Bar Chicago
1578 N Clybourn Ave
Conveniently located steps from the North/Clybourn red line stop, this laid-back resto has everything a quintessential burger joint should: a build-your-own burger option for people who don't like menus, milkshakes (with the $3 non-negotiable option to make ‘em boozy), an impressive craft beer selection, and a bevy of preconceived “stackers,” like the Italian-inspired Fa-Getta-Bod-It -- a half-pound patty with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil mayo, and a perfectly runny fried egg.
Best pizza: Pequod’s Pizza
2207 N Clybourn Ave
It may not check all the boxes of classic Chicago-style deep dish, but the thick-pan ‘za at this Clybourn Ave institution is a Chicago tradition in its own right. Thanks to a layer of thinly sliced cheese that coats the deep pans they get baked in, each pie sports a seriously sexy, lacy caramelized cheese crust. Load it up with your choice of toppings and give into the seduction, crust-first, while watching the Blackhawks.
Best tapas: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
2024 N Halsted St
Long before Lincoln Park’s posh shopping district popped up along Armitage and Halsted, the folks at Lettuce Entertain You opened the neighborhood’s first Spanish tapas restaurant. Nearly three decades later, this lively joint is still slinging some of the best bacon-wrapped dates, patatas bravas, and hand-carved jamón Ibérico in town. And with refreshing sangria available by the glass, half-pitcher, and pitcher, you’d better come thirsty, amigo.
Best Italian: Riccardo Trattoria
2119 N Clark St
Quaint and unassuming, this neighborhood-y joint is the spot for traditional, simply prepared Italian fare. Antipasti burrata con speck and black mussels Livornese will rev your appetite, while hearty, house-made pastas and risottos -- like pappardelle ai porcini, spaghetti chitarra carbonara, and risotto pescatora -- will have you loosening belt notches. Just keep your pants on while you house the tiramisu.
Best farm-to-table: Perennial Virant
1800 Lincoln Ave
The menu at this Paul Virant (Vie, Vistro) helmed restaurant changes regularly, but you can always count on the seasonal and locally sourced fare -- like venison carpaccio with smoked cherry jam, massaged kale, pickled sunchoke, Parmesan mayo, and bagel chips -- to be perfectly balanced by house-pickled and preserved ingredients.
Best Middle Eastern: Sultan’s Market
2521 N Clark St
Don’t let the fast-casual vibe fool you: the mostly vegetarian eats at Sultan’s Market’s Lincoln Park outpost are remarkably fresh and authentic. The menu pulls inspiration from all over the Middle East and includes everything from baked spinach pie and baba ganoush to falafel sandwiches and lamb shawarma.
Best sushi: Juno
2638 N Lincoln Ave
It's hard to hate the fresh, velvety cuts of sashimi and artfully plated nigiri of Chef B.K. Park's omakase, but other standouts include Ora Sake (King Salmon nigiri with pickled garlic and micro-wasabi), and ao ebi (Hawaiian blue prawn nigiri with seared spicy aioli and pineapple salsa).
Best bakery: Floriole
1220 W Webster Ave
Breads, pastries, and sweet-tooth-satisfying delectables abound at this quaint counter-service bakery and café. Stop in for a pain au chocolat breakfast, take out fudgy brownies and canelés de Bordeaux for a midday sugar fix, or linger over an indulgent grilled cheese with raw milk organic cheddar, Butterkäse (a semi-soft cow's milk cheese), and horseradish on house-made brioche.
Best date spot: Balena
1633 N Halsted St
Lady and the Tramp that special someone with tagliolini nero tossed with crab, uni, and chili flakes, or with the mortadella pizza with pistachio pesto, which is a little bit harder logistically, but still doable. Then cross the street for a show at the Steppenwolf Theatre, which probably won’t be playing Lady and the Tramp.
Best outdoor seating: Homeslice
938 W Webster Ave
The only thing better than pizza is pizza devoured al fresco, and the lantern-strewn patio at Homeslice is prime for doing just that. The outdoor space is lined with wood paneling, and includes a vintage airstream trailer-turned-seating-area. There's also an illuminated motivational sign that reads, “Be Awesome," which is exactly the kind of encouragement you want from a pizza place.
Best restaurant for a super-fancy occasion: Alinea
1723 N Halsted St
So including world-renowned Alinea on this list was almost TOO obvious, but the greater crime would be ignoring Grant Achatz’s three Michelin-starred, game-changing restaurant that remains on the shortlist of the most influential modernist kitchens in the world. Yes, you’re going to drop some serious bills on the tasting menu, especially if you factor in the wine pairings (and you will!). But such is the price you pay for singular experiences like apple-flavored balloons and salsify jerky hidden within a bird’s nest. You have to get your tickets (yes, tickets) way in advance, but it's well worth it.
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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.
1. Burger Bar Chicago1578 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago
2. Pequod's Pizza2207 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago
3. Café Ba-Ba-Reeba2024 N Halsted St, Chicago
4. Riccardo Enoteca2116 N Clark St, Chicago
5. Perennial Virant1800 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
6. Sultan's Market2057 W North Ave, Chicago
7. Juno2638 N Lincoln, Chicago
8. Floriole Cafe & Bakery1220 W Webster, Chicago
9. Balena1633 N Halsted St, Chicago
10. Homeslice938 W Webster Ave, Chicago
11. Alinea1723 N Halsted St, Chicago
Burger Bar is doling out delicious patties, brew, and always have a burger of the month that's exceptionally delicious.
Pequod's should be on everyone's bucket list for deep-dish pizza in Chicago. The Lincoln Park mainstay specializes in cast-iron pan pizza with a caramelized cheese-topped crust. The lacy and blackened edges are a Pequod's signature, and the crust is crunchy and dense, while the cheese is sharp and tangy. The Clybourn Ave restaurant is open until 2am, so it's got your late-night pizza needs covered.
This tapas joint is satiating Chicago with their small plates, like bacon wrapped dates (warrants a second date, for sure), goat cheese in a tomato sauce w/ garlic toast, and pitchers (after pitcher) of sangria. Call ahead to make a reservation and thank us later.
This laid-back Italian in Lincoln Park turns out medium-thick pan pizzas from a wood-burning oven as well as hearty, house-made pastas and risotto, and Northern Italian meat specialities like veal Emiliana and chicken Milanese. The wide range of simply-prepared but rich dishes on Riccardo Enoteca's menu means it's hard to disappoint, and the wine list and dessert specials (tiramisu! ricotta cheesecake!) kick everything up a notch.
Taking the title of its Green City Market-neighboring predecessor and tacking on the last name of the Michelin-starred, farm-to-table-fixated chef now manning the kitchen, PV's an "urban garden" thanks to copious greenery interspersed amongst tables of aged oak, which explains why he was so easy to rough up in Vegas.
Sultan's Market is the best on-the-go spot for falafel, babaganuj, curry basmati rice, and anything else Middle Eastern/Mediterranean. It's not too expensive, and you can BYOB. Score!
Juno is Lincoln Park’s acclaimed contemporary sushi restaurant from Chef BK Park. The front room is just the bar, with an abbreviated snack menu and a beverage list that flaunts beer, wine, and of course sake, which is the foundation of many of the craft cocktails. Behind the bar you’ll find the dining room, with a menu that is more than just artfully sliced sashimi and signature maki. Start your meal with uni shooters and Toro tartare, and hot dishes like king crab with uni butter and confit chicken wings. Chef Park’s talent and precision are in high demand: if your evening ends with omakase, you’re required to make it known, one full day ahead.
Floriole Café & Bakery’s beginnings were confined to a 10-by-10 tent at Green City Market, where the menu was limited to pastry alone. Today, from its two-story Lincoln Park-based brick and mortar, Floriole continues to sell its French pastries, en masse, but with an expanded inventory. Now, you can enjoy your pastry with coffee, quiche, breads, sandwiches, salads, and more. The levain, canelé, and other French delicacies may rival those actually made in France -- the baker cut her teeth at San Francisco’s acclaimed Tartine Bakery, after all -- and the quiche is served in shells that are like golden-brown butter sculptures, and are not to be missed.
The menu at this acclaimed collaborative effort between Boka Restaurant Group and B. Hospitality Co. showcases executive chef/partner Chris Pandel's modern-yet-homey interpretation of Italian cuisine, and spans from hearth-fired pizzas and burrata di panna to far-from-ordinary house-made pastas, including tagliolini nero tossed with crab, sea urchin, and mint, and walnut pesto-coated Sardinian gnocchi. The concept also offers an exceptional brunch program packed with sweet and savory dishes.
Homeslice is a retro log cabin pizzeria boasting 30 signature thin crust pies made with six base sauces (BBQ, ranch, spinach ricotta... ). The interior is incredibly rustic, with 400 pounds of exposed Douglas Fir tree beams that Oregon natives imported from the Northwest.
Alinea, the three-star Michelin restaurant in Lincoln Park, is a pinnacle of technique and creativity. If the ticketed reservation system tells us anything, it’s that a night at Alinea is more than just a meal: it is an unforgettable culinary experience featuring modern molecular gastronomy at its finest. And if its slew of accolades tells us anything -- namely that it is consistently included in the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants List” -- it’s that Alinea is one of the best restaurants in the world. The revolutionary restaurant on Halsted is the brainchild of acclaimed Chef Grant Achatz -- who cut his teeth under Thomas Keller -- and the dining room is his stage to fuse art and science into dynamic, sensory-evoking menus. Deep pockets required.