How to Visit the Real-Life Chicago Locations in 'The Bear'
You won’t be hungry after.
When The Bear returned for a second season last week, it was a return, not just to one of the best depictions of a kitchen ever made for television, but a return to the city it's set in, creator and showrunner Christopher Storer’s native Chicago. The show was a summer hit in 2022, but it was also a lightning rod for Chicagoans who strongly felt “their” Chicago was being misrepresented. Critics complained that there were inaccurate representations of specific neighborhoods, that just geographically it was confusing, and that the entire premise of the show—that a fine dining chef would come to work at one of their beloved Chicago Italian beef sandwich shops and try to impose a brigade system—was unrealistic.
The second season appears to both run toward this criticism, and far away from it. There is one episode set in Copenhagen. There is one episode set in the confines of an imaginary, absurdly high-end fine-dining restaurant. The original shop itself is literally demolished and reimagined as its own slightly more casual fine-dining restaurant (while retaining a sandwich window for takeaway). That eponymous restaurant seems to be embracing a “Chaos Menu,” with nods to the city but seems more interested in the specific perspective of its menu-designing chefs Marcus, Sydney, and Carmen.
But there are plenty of local nods throughout, from the bars the chefs drink in to the dumpling spots and pizza parlors they hit up for inspiration, to the grocery stores they go to for ingredients to start making their ideas and inspirations real. So here is a brief guide to the Chicago spots featured in the show in season two, should you want to follow in their footsteps, and eat and drink like the chefs.
Alice’s is a beloved 40-year-old karaoke bar famous for staying open till 4 or even 5 am. During her season-long arc in culinary school, Tina transforms from a steely, stand-offish, hardass cook to a linchpin and leader on the line. The key beat in that evolution can be seen in episode five, when she joins her peers for after-school drinks at this dingey karaoke bar in Avondale. Karaoke requires a willingness to perform, and a degree of vulnerability we would’ve thought Tina incapable of in season one. When she crushes a rendition of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls“ by Freddy Fender, we see her growing into the head cook the restaurant will need her to be.
During her whirlwind food tour Sydney meets with restaurateur Donnie Madia at his oldest restaurant, Avec, which serves Mediterranean via Midwest cuisine including classics like their truffled focaccia and bacon-wrapped, chorizo-stuffed dates. Sydney gets to hang out for a menu rundown with chef Dylan Patel, and futilely attempts to poach some staff off Madia.
Chef David Posey’s Danish-influenced new American restaurant that features a regularly changing menu (and separate regularly changing tasting menu) Elske served as the refurbished eponymous restaurant in season two. It’s also where Ayo Edibiri trained and prepped for season one.
In episode seven, Richie goes to a fictional fine dining temple (run by “Chef Terry,” played by Olivia Colman) to learn the meaning of hospitality. The actual restaurant is Ever, a two Michelin-starred tasting menu establishment run by Chef Chris Duffy and his longtime collaborator Michael Muser.
Sydney goes on an epic food tour of Chicago trying to eat her way to inspiration working through a dish of marinated radicchio, burnt grapefruit, and chili. Her first stop is at this hit Filipino bakery/restaurant where she orders their famous breakfast sandwich with longaniza and a hash brown, with mushroom adobo and a mango tart (and a matcha latte). Kasama was an obvious reference for the show because chef/owner Timothy Flores is one of the only people who have managed to update and refine the Italian beef sandwich in an additive, innovative way (a question Chicago chefs have long struggled with). There’s a great Spielbergian close up on Sydney as the kitchen puts her order together, watching with wide eyes, and thinking.
A hit BYOB Northern Chinese shop owned by brothers Daniel and Eric Wat Sydney goes to town on during the episode three food tour. They’re famous for their in-house, freshly made noodles and dumplings, and liberal use of chili oil.
The titular “Sundae” of the third episode, we see Sydney going in on a towering Jackson Pollack of Whipped cream, ice cream, maraschino cherries, nut crumble, and liquid fudge. Margie’s is a candy store/creamery over 90 years old, famous for their monster sundaes.
The inspiration for season one, and still the dressed up storefront/edifice of the show, as well as where the entire pilot was shot. If it wasn’t for this institution of Chicago Italian beef sandwiches, The Bear might not exist.
During Richie’s week staging for Chef Terry in episode seven, a guest requests deep dish pizza, sending Richie running out to this spot known for its platonic rendition of Chicago’s famous, and infamous style pie (which won the Tribune’s 2022 poll for “Best Chicago Style Pizza”). It’s a reflection of the restaurant’s over-the-top, do anything philosophy of hospitality.
Sydney goes for a slice of roni cup topped pizza from Lobo, a New York-style pizzeria that is famous for a slice featuring pepperoni and Calabrian hot honey. It’s a burgeoning chain with clubby design and eclectic toppings.
Sydney gets an anatomy of beef and the exact location of the short rib, and a cautionary tale, from chef/butcher Rob Levitt during the episode three montage. Publican Quality Meats is an artisanal butcher that makes charcuterie in house, offers sandwiches, does pop-up dinners and offers to go packages for holidays.
When Richie’s daughter, Eva, recounts celebrating his ex-wife’s promotion in episode three, the gut punch is they got “the good cake from Weber’s,” possibly referring to the nearly century-old bakery’s famous buttermilk pound cake.