Lito’s operates according to a simple principle: empanadas (or stuffed, fried dough) are delicious. It’s a tiny place with hardly any seating, but none of this detracts from the ultimate product. You simply choose between their offer of empanadas, which come in meat, veggie and sweet varieties, and once you receive your fresh pastry, you’ll hardly be able to wait until it’s actually cooled down enough to eat. For some extra heat, try some of their homemade spicy sauce on the side. This is hardly a gourmet experience, but it’s one that you’ll want to have over and over again.
Lito’s Empanadas, 2566 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 857 1337
Immediately upon entering Boka you’ll know that you’re in for a treat. The menu at Boka changes seasonally, and a lot of thought goes into designing it, so what this menu lacks in length, it entirely makes up for in inventiveness. Whatever you decide upon, the plate that arrives in front of you is sure to mix colors, flavors and textures in the most unusual and innovative way. They also have an excellent pastry chef, so the dessert menu, instead of being an afterthought, is a key part of the meal. This exciting take on American cuisine is a great choice for a special night.
Boka, 1729 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 337 6070
Juno this is not your average sushi joint. One look at the menu will reveal the abundance of thought that has gone into creating the dishes. The nigiri and sashimi menu, for example, explains to the reader exactly where each variety of fish has come from. Those searching for a true cultural experience should try the Omakase, a special pre-reserved group dinner entirely put together by the chef, allowing the patrons to entrust their meal to the expert.
Juno Sushi, 2638 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 935 2000
As a fondue restaurant, Geja’s Café offers more than just a meal. While it’s possible to order specific courses from their cheese or chocolate fondue options, the full experience only comes when you get one of their premier four-course meals. Everything starts with the cheese fondue, which is a glorious sauce made of Gruyere blended with wine, brandy and spices. Next comes a salad to cool and cleanse your palate, because the main dish that follows deserves your full attention. You have the choice of various meats and seafood to cook in either vegetable oil or meat broth and after that comes the sweet reward, the chocolate fondue.
Geja’s Café, 340 West Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 281 9101
Del Seoul offers a stimulating take on Korean street food right in the middle of Lincoln Park. Their primary draw is the Korean BBQ tacos, which include not only BBQ beef and pork but also fish and vegetarian options. They also offer several other Korean specialties, like chicken bulgogi and that colourful Korean classic, bibimbap. In a crossover with Vietnamese cuisine, they also have Korean versions of Banh mi sandwiches. You can’t go wrong at Del Seoul and as it’s meant to evoke the fantastic flavour of street food, you can guarantee delicious food at affordable prices.
Del Seoul, 2568 N Clark St, Chicago, IL, USA +1 773 248 4227
Italian food at its best is supposed to be simple, letting the quality of the ingredients and the method of preparation speak for themselves. The chefs at Sapori Trattoria subscribe to this philosophy and to great effect, the result is a concise but strong menu of simple yet mouth-watering Italian dishes. The portions are beautifully plated and not overly large, so you can truly savour every bite, noticing the freshness of the flavours. If you save room (only a little is necessary) for one of their light desserts, you can enjoy lemon or coconut sorbet. Instead of weighing you down, a meal from Sapori Trattoria will leave you refreshed and ready to explore the city.
Sapori Trattoria, 2701 North Halstead St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 832 9999
North Pond Restaurant
Simply put, North Pond has everything. Its location on a pond facing south towards downtown Chicago and therefore granting visitors an iconic view of the city, is the first major draw. The building that houses it, therefore, is the next one, as it is reminiscent of the style of that great Chicago architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The menu, which offers changing seasonal options, does not include names of dishes, but instead just has the main ingredients listed. Guests have the option of set menus for dinner or brunch in addition to the full menu that they can choose from. Don’t forget the cocktails, which are just as carefully crafted and exciting as the food.
North Pond Restaurant, 2610 North Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 477 5845
Brunch is rather a cultural phenomenon these days, so it’s impossible to single out one brunch place as the best, but Toast certainly makes a good case for itself. Who, after all, can say no to stuffed French toast, five choices of eggs Benedict, or enough egg scrambles to scramble your brain while you’re trying to choose? There are also soups, salads, and burgers for those who would rather turn brunch into lunch. The wait can get a little long at peak times, but if you’re willing to put up with it, you’ll be rewarded with great service, a delicious meal and overall, an extremely pleasant experience at Toast.
Toast, 746 West Webster Ave, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 935 5600
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! turns any event into a party. This festive restaurant has special menus for Friday lunch and weekend brunch and they even have an entirely gluten-free menu. The Spanish food purists will find all of their favourites on the dinner menu, all made with Café Ba-Ba-Reeba’s typical flair. If you have a birthday, a reunion, or another exciting life event to celebrate, this is the perfect place to come.
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, 2024 North Halstead St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 935 5000
Molly’s brings out the kid in everyone; where else can you eat a cupcake while sitting on an indoor swing? Some of the cupcakes are more than they seem, Molly’s is famous for their centre-filled cupcakes, which include choices like the cookie monster (vanilla chocolate chip cake, cookie dough centre, buttercream icing with tiny chocolate chip cookie on top) in addition to seasonal choices like strawberry shortcake in the spring and summer and, of course, pumpkin spice in the fall. If, for whatever reason, these haven’t convinced you, you can also build your own cupcake and watch them prepare it in front of you.
Molly’s Cupcakes, 2536 N Clark St, Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 883 7220