Chicago

Where to Eat and Drink at Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport

Wheels up, Chicago.

As the country opens up and travel regains momentum, we are once again returning to a place many of us just love to hate: the airport. But if your closest departure zone happens to be Chicago’s O’Hare, things could be way worse. The country’s one-time business flight hub is stocked with a plethora of restaurants dishing up some of the city’s most beloved foods for locals and travelers alike. Home to dozens of dining venues across four main terminals, this travel metropolis boasts some spots so good, we may not even mind those pesky flight delays (hello, pandemic patience!). 

From iconic Chi-style pizza to world-famous popcorn, here are O’Hare’s best eats now.

Terminal 1

Berghoff Café

This restaurant first opened doors in Chicago’s Loop in 1898 and has been frequented ever since for its authentic German fare and classic pub feel. And when the team launched its ORD outpost 20 years ago, they modeled it after the original location in both menu and décor (right down to the celebrated stained-glass Tiffany windows), featuring specialty salads, omelets, and hand-carved sandwiches served on bread baked fresh daily at the main restaurant. Don’t miss the beer (or root beer)—it arrives fresh off the spout from the team’s Adams Street Brewery.

Beaudevin Wine Bar

You’ll feel instantly international upon entering this sleek wine bar, which also operates locations in Brussels, Paris, and Miami. Four different pour options (from a three-ounce taste to the whole bottle) make it easy to assemble a pre-flight “flight” that travels the globe with vintages from Spain, Italy, South Africa, and beyond. When hunger strikes, pair up those sips with any of the small plates, including a medley of specialty salads and sandwiches.

Tortas Frontera

After winning Chicagoans over for his take on authentic Mexican cuisine at several venues throughout the city, chef Rick Bayless brought those flavors to ORD with three locations, the first being Terminal 1’s Tortas Frontera. Right now, travelers can taste through tortas, soups, salads, and, of course, the restaurant’s famous chips and guac.  

Terminal 2

Summer House Santa Monica

Just like its perennially packed Lincoln Park location, this Lettuce Entertain You venture focuses on fresh, California-style cooking, offering travelers a lighter, healthier alternative to standard on-the-go grub. Case in point? Bright and sunny options like avocado toast, shaved vegetable salad, Baja fish tacos, and a hearty kale and spinach omelette.

Wicker Park Seafood

Gone are the days of needing to reach your final destination to dive into impressive plates of nigiri and sashimi—that’s thanks to this sushi staple, which showcases a fleet of Asian-inspired favorites. Order from more than 20 different kinds of maki, including a dozen specialty rolls with heightened add-ons (think:beef tenderloin or chicken teriyaki). And then there’s the sake menu, an entire page of pairing options for dinner and dessert (e.g. green tea tiramisu).

Uno’s Pizza Express

Those who came to Chicago and (somehow) missed their chance to try the city’s world-famous deep-dish pizza can get their fill at this pie haven’s airport offshoot. Ever since 1943, Uno’s has been delighting pizza-fiends with their take, comprised of a towering butter crust, signature spice blend, and loads of mozzarella (that pulls apart for days).

Macaroni Grill

Pasta is the go-to at this sit-down Italian chain, which has locations across 15 states nationwide. Opt for favorites like stuffed mushrooms, chicken parmesan, or lasagna Bolognese, and don’t miss their signature—the penne macaroni, complete with five kinds of cheese, truffle oil, and herbed breadcrumbs. 

Goose Island Beer Company

Chicago is now home to a bevy of breweries, but Goose Island continues to soar as one of the best known. Saddle up at the bar to quaff through a few of the local musts (AKA 312 Urban Wheat Ale or Matilda Belgian ale), and try the food, too, which spans paninis, salads, and wraps. 

Bubbles Wine Bar

There’s plenty to celebrate at this festive wine bar, where all things sparkling take center stage. Choose from seven different fizzy selections (or from a handful of less-effervescent red or white options), then spring for any of the small plates, including the smoked salmon tartine, shrimp cocktail, or charcuterie. From there, sit back and relax to the sounds of the player piano—a feature bound to beckon even the weariest of travelers with its upbeat siren song.

Hub 51

While the River North OG spot is beloved for its late-night eats, tunes, and bottle service, Hub 51’s airport spinoff reads a bit more AM. Their morning menu, an array of egg sandwiches, omelettes, and breakfast nachos, segue seamlessly into mid-day faves like tacos and French dips. Do try the pulled chicken nachos—with its mound of guac, jalapenos, and two kinds of cheese, it’s the menu’s bestseller.

R.J. Grunts

Nationally acclaimed restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You just celebrated its 50th anniversary—and travelers can now get a taste of the Lincoln Park original that started it all. The best part? Between crowd-pleasers like burgers, Chicago-style dogs, and chicken strips, the menu is bound to have something for everyone in your in-flight entourage.

Garrett Popcorn

A visit to Chicago isn’t complete without a stop at Garrett, the popcorn emporium that’s been responsible for out-the-door lines at any of its downtown locations for nearly 75 years. While the cheese or caramel flavors do just fine on their own, there’s no topping the Garrett Mix—a combination of the two mixed in perfect proportions by the popcorn masters themselves.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.
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