Dining options in Chicago’s Lincoln Park run the gamut from delicious deep-dish pizza to Michelin-star, multi-course feasts. Culture Trip’s list of the best restaurants in the neighborhood has a dining option for every hankering and occasion.
Restaurant, South American
Lito’s does only one food item – the empanada – and it does it really well. Inspired by Mexican street food, these fried snacks come stuffed with piping-hot marinated meats, flavorful herbs, molten cheese or sweet fruit and are designed to pair with four house-made dipping sauces. In the morning, try the egg-based breakfast empanadas, and if you have a craving for something sweet, the moreish Nutella-banana and caramel-apple turnovers will hit the spot.
You’d better book well in advance if you want to dine at Alinea, a multi-award-winning restaurant that frequently makes it onto lists of the world’s best dining establishments. Chef Grant Achatz aims to provoke an emotional response with his dishes, playing on memory with nostalgic flavors and evocative scents. It’s pricey, starting at $190 per person and going all the way up to $395 for a seat at the private kitchen table. Don’t miss Alinea’s most famous dish: an edible balloon made from inverted sugar and filled with helium so that it floats above your plate.
Boka has garnered multiple awards since it opened | Courtesy of Boka
Chandeliers and an art-laden moss wall make Boka an ambient dinner spot. The restaurant has garnered a slew of Michelin stars and a James Beard Award in 2019 with its pared-back, expertly executed American dishes, such as the dry-aged beef tartare, ricotta dumplings and the olive-oil-poached halibut served with roasted mushroom broth, bloomsdale spinach and artichoke. Imbibing with your meal is encouraged at Boka, and the drinks menu is extensive. Try local beers, recommended wines and unique cocktails such as the One Hour Photo – Evan Williams white label bourbon, brown butter, madeira and salted demerara.
Immaculately plated sushi is what’s on offer at Juno – a sleek Japanese restaurant that lays its sashimi and nigiri on beds of ice, or meticulously arranges them atop banana leaves. No detail is overlooked here, with the menu even listing each fish’s country of origin. Also, the omakase pre-reserved group dinner put together by the chef is highly recommended. Definitely add one of Juno’s signature smoked dishes to your order – they come shrouded in a cloche full of aromatic smoke.
Restaurant, Sandwich Shop, Korean, Mexican, BBQ, Fast Food
Korean barbecue tacos steal the show at Del Seoul. Think white corn tortillas overflowing with tempura cod, barbecue pork, grilled short rib, blackened tofu and the fan-favorite panko shrimp with a sesame-chili aioli. The menu here is inspired by eclectic takes on Korean street food from across the world, so you’ll see bento box dinners alongside a calamari stir-fry and crusty bánh mì sandwiches. The vibe at Del Seoul is fast-casual with efficient counter service, making it a great pit stop for a group dinner before you head out for the evening.
North Pond highlights local and organic ingredients | Courtesy of North Pond Restaurant
North Pond’s idyllic location overlooking the Lincoln Park pond, with views of the Chicago skyline to the south, is a draw in and of itself. The restaurant’s menu, featuring creative and pristinely presented American dishes made with seasonal ingredients, seals the deal. North Pond is a special-occasion spot, so expect elaborate plates such as avocado terrine with sweet-pea-sorrel puree and flax seed toast; cornmeal-crusted crab with fresh mango and tortilla soup mole; or grilled pork tenderloin, crisp rillettes and a dollop of sweet-tart cherry jam. Struggling to pick? Opt for the $95 seasonal tasting and try a little of everything.
Fans of Chicago deep dish will appreciate the go-to order at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.: the pizza pot pie. It’s a bowl-shaped crust filled with tomato sauce and a huge glob of melty mozzarella, which you order by the pound or half-pound. The restaurant itself is rumored to have been the lookout point for Al Capone’s men during the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, when seven members of Chicago’s North Side Gang were gunned down right across the street from where Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. stands.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s shareable tapas and pitchers of fruity sangria were made for big group hangs. Assemble your besties and load the table with pintxos (small plates you find at bars in Northern Spain) such as chorizo-wrapped medjool dates and deviled eggs with crispy jamón serrano, plus tapas classics like silky burrata, spicy potatoes with tomato aioli, and fried calamari doused in lemon juice. The giant pans of aromatic paella are also perfect for splitting multiple ways.
Don’t expect too much in the way of an ambient atmosphere when you visit Athenian Room – this is very much casual dining – but the large portions of delicious, delightfully affordable food more than make up for it. It serves classic Greek fare such as hunks of tart feta cheese, flaky spinach pastries, and warm pita pockets filled with gyro meat. The restaurant’s signature dish, the chicken kalamata dinner, comprises a half chicken with a fresh side salad and a hearty portion of Greek fries (steak fries drenched in a mouthwatering olive oil and vinegar sauce).
Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, but if you’re a diehard fan of thin crust, then Pizzeria Bebu is for you. It’s swapped the clichéd checkered tablecloths for industrial metal, and the pies are perfectly crispy and delicious. Try the Ode to Rubirosa – vodka sauce with nutless pesto and fresh mozzarella – named after the classic New York pizza joint. Or, if you like a more exotic pie, pick from the “shhhhhhh” menu. The Peter Piper, for example, comes with house-made Italian sausage, mozzarella, banana peppers, pickled fresno and jalapeño.