The Top 10 Restaurants In Elgin, Illinois
Elgin has a diverse restaurant scene | © DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images
As one of Chicago’s outlying suburbs, Elgin often finds itself dwarfed by its larger neighbor, but exploring this charming town’s restaurant scene is a highly satisfying venture. Elgin restaurants cater not only to international tastes, but also to those looking to really get back to the roots of American cuisine. Culture Trip takes a look at 10 of the best restaurants in Elgin.
Restaurant, European, American, Vegetarian, Vegan
Burnt Toast is very much your typical friendly American diner
, but many of their menu options bend towards that of a chic European café. For example, they have a dozen riffs on eggs benedict, and a pancake selection that includes not only your typical pancake stacks, but also Ghirardelli chocolate pancakes, and potato latkes – a favorite across Central Europe and a well-known staple of Jewish cuisine. Their menu also extends to include crepes, blintzes and Belgian waffles, the latter adorned with all manner of toppings. Their egg choices, like the gyros omelette or the chicken fajita omelette, keep their breakfast leagues ahead of the competition.
Chicago Pizza Authority
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
It would be a crime to come to Chicagoland (as the city and its suburbs are affectionately called) and leave without trying the notorious Chicago Pizza Authority in Elgin. The key to loving this unique rendition of pizza is thinking of it as an entirely different dish from the pizza you know and love, because, put simply, it is. Chicago pizza
is deep-dish pizza, typically at least an inch thick and sometimes even thicker, and always laden with gooey mozzarella. If you’re feeling even bolder and you’re willing to wait a little longer, try the stuffed pizza, which has even more cheese and toppings stuffed between two layers of dough, with more sauce and cheese on top. The best thing about this pizza is that you can never finish a whole pie in one meal, so you’ll have deep-dish leftovers for days.
Delicia Tropical Café
Restaurant, Puerto Rican
Delicia Tropical Café is a no-frills establishment that offers a great selection of comforting, familiar food that also stays well-spiced and lively enough to keep things exciting. They specialize in the food of Puerto Rico
, which, if it does in fact become the next American state as has been debated for so long, will bring a whole new set of influences to the country’s cuisine. They have barbecue ribs and pork that promise a different set of flavors from the tried-and-true methods of the American South. You’ll find accents of plantain in unexpected places, like in the pork and plantain sandwich. They often have stews with tropical root vegetables, and most dishes come with special Puerto Rican rice, spiked with tomatoes and achiote paste. It gets cold in Elgin in the winter, so stop by Delicia and allow them to bring you the warmth of the tropics.
Elgin BBQ Pit
Restaurant, American, $$$
Elgin BBQ Pit offers a more traditional rendition of that great staple of American cuisine
, but with its own unique twist. The Pit gleefully embraces Latin touches in its style, adding jalapeño to its slaw and mixing up daring sauces like habanero and mango, or tamarind and garlic – near-blasphemy to a barbecue purist. They have an impressive array of Southern side dishes, which include collard greens, cornbread or mac and cheese, sitting alongside more typically northern flavors, like their buffalo chicken sandwich. If you feel like going even farther south, they even offer Jamaica’s most iconic dish, jerk chicken. All of the meat is brought in fresh and cooked to barbecued perfection.
Elgin Public House
Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
The town of Elgin was founded by a homesick Scottish immigrant, who would have sought solace in the warmth and comfort of somewhere like Elgin Public House. EPH, as the locals call it, has a mouthwatering selection of pub grub, with options both for those who have come specifically for a meal, and for those who are just looking for something to accompany their beer. The beer list is a veritable all-star team, with options for beer beginners and experts in the field; if you know a thing or two about beer, you’ll be especially excited about their rotating drafts and seasonal beer choices. Their daily specials include a Sunday roast, guaranteed to make any British immigrant or visitor feel perfectly at home.
Original Country Donuts
Original Country Donuts may not look like much and their menu might not be too extensive, but what they do, they do to the highest standard. What could be better than a fresh, hot donut with chocolate frosting, or a glistening cinnamon bun that looks so delicious you can hardly wait until you get home before you eat it? It’s a long established fact that any occasion is more festive with donuts, and while Country Donuts is a bit out of the way, they’ve been in the business for long enough that the trip is well worth it. From crullers to Boston crèmes, they’ve got something for every taste.
Ray's Family Restaurant
Restaurant, American, Dessert, Ice Cream
Going to Ray’s Family Restaurant is like a trip to Pleasantville
. The typical diner options on the menu harken back to a simpler time in America, and the staff’s welcoming attitudes contribute to the feeling. Starting with the ‘breakfast anytime’ menu, there is something for everyone, no matter your tastes or your dietary needs. As difficult as it might be when you’re deciding between a steaming stack of fresh pancakes or one of the skillet specials, it’s always a good idea to save room for dessert at Ray’s, as they make their own ice cream and transform it into a number of creations. Anyone watching the banana splits going by their table will have a hard time not ordering one for themselves.
Sammy's Mexican Grill
Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
Sammy’s Mexican Grill certainly has the basics that you expect when you come to a Mexican restaurant – enchiladas, tacos, fajitas and fantastic guacamole. Sammy’s doesn’t limit itself to what you’d expect, however. They bring a new level of authenticity from the Mexican street market directly into Elgin, with a plethora of tasty dishes for those who want something a little bit more specialized. Try, for example, their cochinita pibil
, which involves a special method of pit cooking that’s very difficult to find outside of Mexico, or their specialty dish for at least two people, Sammy’s parrillada
, which involves, among a large selection of grilled meats and vegetables, grilled cactus. For a little pick-me-up, have a look at their tequila and margarita selection – it is sure to leave you relaxed and satisfied.
Restaurant, Asian, $$$
When you walk into Toom Toom, the warm red light reflecting off the mostly red decor immediately welcomes and invigorates you, which is just the beginning of a superb dining experience. When you open the menu, you’ll find a difficult choice before you. The pad thai, of course, is always a good choice, but they also have more exotic options, like crab curry or basil chicken. They also offer you the freedom to create your own salmon or catfish dishes with whatever sauce you like the best. The dessert menu, often ignored at Asian restaurants, is also worth a look, as they have purple rice – a special variety of sweet rice that can be served with mango, banana pudding or ice cream. It’s a dinner without comparison in Elgin.
Grumpy Goat Tavern
Restaurant, Cajun, $$$
If you’re wanting a taste of New Orleans in the heart of the Midwest, there’s nowhere better than the Grumpy Goat Tavern, where the Big Easy vibes and hearty Creole cooking will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into Mardi Gras. Make straight for the selection of deviled eggs – a Louisiana staple that’s tweaked by the chef every week – before settling into a mammoth po’ boy sandwich with strips of fried grouper fish with a sharp citrus aioli. A glass of bourbon on the rocks should settle you into high spirits; a second glass should get you raring to go for the night ahead – there are 60 bourbons to choose from, so you’re sure to be spoilt for choice.
Additional reporting by Kieran Morris.
These recommendations were updated on February 27, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.