Where to Eat and Drink at Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport
From Restaurant Row offshoots to quick-serve staples, there’s no going hungry at ORD.
At one point or another, we’ve all found ourselves pacing around the noisy halls of an anonymous airport, longing for the testy gate agent to please, please call our boarding class already. And no matter how hard we try to fool ourselves, no amount of peanuts or sticks of gum will change the fact that… well, we’re getting hangry.
While airport food gets a bad rap for being drab, some complexes break the mold with a thoughtful selection of grub and drinks that might just make you forget that you are, indeed, still within spitting distance of TSA. Chicago's O'Hare International is one of those daring airports, sporting a stellar lineup of dining venues sure to occupy your mind and body during those pesky delays. From polished gastropubs to ocean-fresh sushi bars, here are the absolute best places to eat and drink at ORD.
Closest gate: B10
After winning Chicagoans over with his take on traditional Mexican eats 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. Travelers can taste their way through tortas, soups, salads, and, of course, the restaurant’s famous chips and guac.
Closest gate: C1
Gone are the days of needing to reach your final destination to dive into impressive plates of nigiri and sashimi—and that’s thanks to this sushi staple, which showcases a fleet of Asian-inspired favorites. Choose 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 (aka Green Tea Tiramisu).
Closest gate: C17
You’ll feel instantly cosmopolitan 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.
Closest gate: C18
A Chicago institution, Billy Goat Tavern was first established right across from what is now the United Center all the way back in 1934. Although known for their famous “Cheezborger,” the tavern slings other all-day delights, too, like Steak and Eggs, Corned Beef Sandwiches, Polish Sausages, and more. Just remember—no Coke, Pepsi!
Closest gate: C26
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 vibes. And when the team launched its ORD outpost 20-odd years ago, they modeled it after the original location in terms of both menu and décor (right down to the 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.
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 fare. Case in point? Bright and sunny options like Avocado Toast, Harvest Kale Salad, Baja Fish Tacos, and a hearty Breakfast Burrito.
Closest gate: H4
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 Board. 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.
Closest gate: K1
An offshoot of one of Chicago’s most celebrated New American outposts, this inviting outpost from One Off Hospitality serves fantastic grab-and-go snacks as well as sit down all-day fare with a robust selection of craft beer and wine. If you have the time, consider snagging a table and lining it with tasty items like Smoked Salmon, Spicy Pork Rinds, Fish Sandwiches, and Avocado Salad. Despite its low-brow locale, this handsome addition manages to deliver without skimping on quality or service.
Closest gate: K2
Pasta is the name of the game at this sit-down Italian chain, which maintains locations across 15 states nationwide. Opt for heavy-hitters like Stuffed Mushrooms, Chicken Parmesan, or Lasagna Bolognese, and Lobster-stuffed Ravioli drizzled with Chardonnay cream sauce.
Closest gate: L4
Get your old-school Chicago Dog on over at Gold Coast Dogs. Among their long list of offerings you’ll find favorites like Jumbo Dogs, Char Dogs, Chili Dogs, and Cheddar Chili Dogs. No matter what you order, make sure to leave the ketchup out of it—you may be at an airport, but this is still Chicago, pal.
Closest gate: L10A
Chicago is now home to a bevy of breweries, but Goose Island continues to soar as one of the biggest and brightest. Saddle up at the bar to quaff a few of local musts—312 Urban Wheat Ale or Green Line Pale Ale—and make sure to try the food, too, which spans sandwiches, salads, and wings.
Closest gate: M10
Nationally acclaimed restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You has been, yes, entertaining since 1971—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.
Closest gate: M10
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 morning-centric. Their breakfast menu, an array of Egg Sandwiches, omelets, and Breakfast Nachos, segue seamlessly into mid-day perks like Tacos and French Dips. Go for the Pulled Chicken Nachos—with its mound of guac, jalapeños, and two kinds of cheese, it’s the menu’s bestseller.
Closest gate: M10
A visit to Chicago isn’t complete without a stop at Garrett, the popcorn emporium that’s been attracting 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.