Chow Down Chi Town
I go to Chicago every year. Whether it be the summer, fall, winter, or spring, I make a point to get to the best city in the United States annually. Maybe I am a little bias. But can you blame me? Chicago has EVERYTHING. The food scene is out of this world, the city is electric, and did I mention the views from the rooftop bars?! Good golly. Typically, I would give you a break down of the city, explain what I did day by day, & walk you through my trip. Well, I already did that and you can read about it here. This blog.. ha, this blog, is going to be one you can really… sink your teeth into. To write this one, I went to 15 different restaurants, & 2 ice cream shops to give you the inside scoop about eating your way through the Windy City. This post is not sponsored, I was not monetarily paid to visit, I simply reached out to 50 different foodie spots and picked the 17 I was most interested in visiting. These are my opinions on their service, ambiance, & duh, FOOD. Sit back, relax, and get ready to drool.
In no specific ranking or order, here are the 17 spots you HAVE to visit in Chi Town.
#1 Lou Malnati's
Lou Malnati’s is defiantly top 3 in the deep dish category. The crust is buttery goodness, the sauce is tomato-rich, and the toppings are fresh as can be. Between the cheese and fillings, everything is piled so perfectly in the pie you’re going to need to get a large. Don’t skip on appetizers either, their stuffed spinach bread and their house salads with made from scratch dressings are EVERYTHING. I get it, I get it.. It’s Chicago for crying out loud, there’s a pizza joint on every corner. Do yourself a favor, & take it from me, you can’t say you were in the city if you don’t go to Lou Malnati’s, it’s been around the longest ya know. Yup, 1971. Forty-eight years of pizza making goodness. Grab a beer while you’re at it, they’re serving up local brews on tap.
What’s pictured: Small cheese deep dish with extra cheese, fresh garlic, pepperoni, and traditional sauce, all on Lou’s signature butter crust.
Hands down my favorite restaurant I visited on this trip. Eataly is located in the heart of the city and has this whole Italian market vibe going on. By that I mean, Eataly sells pasta, wine, Italian snacks & desserts, kitchen utensils, exclusive oils & spices, and heck they even have a cooler of craft beer hanging out on the bottom floor. Oh yeah, there is an upstairs & downstairs. I had the pleasure of eating at La Pizza, La Pasta, which is located upstairs! I have to say, Eataly has the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life. You can taste the freshness and love that goes into the preparation of the dough, sauce, and plating. If you need an Italian fix in the city, look no further than Eataly.
What’s pictured: Margherita verace tsg (Pizza), Racioli di piselli (lighter colored pasta & my personal favorite), Lo spaghetto de pomodoro, & Arugula salad.
Katana was absolutely splendid. Honestly, the best service I had in the city. Katana is located in the Hotel Chicago and is nothing shy of an excellent addition to the sleek and modern establishment. Katana has locations in Los Angeles, Dubai, and Chicago, so if you’re in the city, it would behoove you to reserve a table. Coming from Florida, I was skeptical of the sushi and the quality of the fish. Quite to my surprise, Katana is on par with South Beach and even levels up with seafood I’ve had in Maine. Whether it’s drinks & light bites with the girls before a night out or full dinner with coworkers, Katana’s ambiance and menu can’t be beaten.
What’s pictured: Spicy tuna roll, signature skewers (Sea bass, salmon, chicken meatballs, ribeye, & wagyu), and Maguro carpaccio.
#4 honey butter
Honey Butter is fantastic. Fried chicken, brunch, and just far enough out of the city for a breath of fresh air. If you’re a chicken fanatic or a lover of scratch sauces, Honey Butter is for you. Any traditional sandwich can be… brunchified by adding an egg to the top. They even have mimosas, buffalo mac n’ cheese, and their signature corn muffins. Food aside, a trip to Honey Butter is more about more than their crispy fried goodness. Their employees won’t accept a tip. Yup, you read right. Honey Butter believes in giving their employees such a fair and competitive wage that the staff doesn’t have to work for tips. The employees also enjoy perks like health insurance, training, and well, being spoiled with the best fried chicken around.
What’s pictured: BLT brunch style fried chicken sandwich, buffalo mac n’ cheese, watermelon mimosa, house-made ranch, honey BBQ wings, the classic Honey Butter fried chicken sandwich.
#5 Bounce Sporting Club
Bounce is a high-end sports bar just a mile or two from the immediate downtown area. Bounce turns into a premier club at night but has a fabulous rooftop bar, drinks, and an extensive menu to enjoy during the day. I have to be honest, Levi found this gem flipping through some foodie pages and just so happened to stumble upon these flaming hot Cheetos crusted wings that he just had to try! Thankfully, we went & on a beautiful day to enjoy the views Bounce has to offer. Check their Instagram for fun events like Bachelorette Monday’s, Celebrity guest appearances, & new exquisite additions to their menu. Pro tip: if you like sweet drinks, try their wine spritzers. It’s topped with a strawberry and all.
What’s pictured: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos crusted wings, patron shots, smoked chicken pulled nachos, & their house salad.
#6 black dog gelato
BLACK DOG, ommggg. No sarcasm intended this is the best gelato I’ve ever had. Seriously, melts in your mouth is an understatement. This stuff is like perfect clouds of cream that dissolve on your tastebuds and make all your dreams come true. With two locations in the city, a food truck, and a rotating list of flavors make a point to stop at this gelato joint. Get a waffle cone & get some fruit loops on top. Snag a picture and hashtag #blackdoggelato for a chance to be featured on their page!
What’s pictured: Espresso chip on top and cookies and cream on the bottom in a waffle cone.
#7 Mini mott
If you find yourself near Logan Square, do not pass up on Mini Mott. This place is a smaller version of their flagship, Mott. Both restaurants excel in the Asian-American cuisine category and will blow your mind with the flavors, creations, and combinations that their creative staff comes up with. My favorite part? This waffle cone was made on a griddle right in from of me, my ice cream melted around the warm dough into a perfect god sent bite from heaven. Mini Mott has a great space with indoor and outdoor seating, perfectly located on the outskirts of Chicago in one of the more trendy burbs and is super quick and convenient.
What’s pictured: Miso jack tacos with jackfruit carnitas, egg, miso onions, & cilantro. Everything wings tossed in soy, jaggery glaze, dried chilis, seasame, poppy seed, and fried shallots. The ‘Beefy Cheesy’ braised shank, in house cheese sauce, dipped in au jus, on a hoagie roll. Blackberry ice cream in their signature taiyaki cone.
If you like tacos, and really, who doesn’t like tacos? Then you need to get over to Bistec. This is taco heaven. You get to make your own tacos! And not just like toppings and sauces, you get to grill the meat at your table, sizzle it to perfection, cut it, sauce it, top it, and devour it. This is a fun and unique dining experience and a new twist on a classic favorite. Let’s walk through the steps so you have a better understanding. First, pick 2 proteins. You can choose from shrimp, salmon, flank steak, skirt steak, rib-eye, and chicken. Then you pick 5 sides that you’d like to top your tacos with. Choices range from cilantro, Mexican rice, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, bell pepper, asparagus, queso fresco, cotija cheese, avocado, and so much more. Then you pick corn or flour tortillas. After you put in your order, the server will bring you your meat for you to cook right on your table-top grill. It can come pre-seasoned or naked based on your preference. They will give you some guidelines as to the recommended time to cook particular meats but it’s optional and completely up to you to determine how you want your meat cooked. When you’ve decided its ready to serve, you cut the meat to your desired portions, throw it on your warm tortillas, and top it with all the side dishes you chose. Seriously, taco magic heaven.
What’s pictured: Protein: rib-eye, skirt steak, chicken. Sides: avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, pico de gallo, & salsa verde.
Kanela, Kanela, Kanela. Where do I even begin? Everything Kanela makes is mouthwatering goodness and it’s no surprise that they are voted #1 breakfast in Chicago by USA Today. If you visit the city and only have one day to eat breakfast, GO HERE. I simply can not emphasize enough how great their food it, how cute the atmosphere is, and how friendly the staff is. I make a point to go to Kanela every time I visit the city and frequent the location by the Navy Pier the most! You know how everyone has their favorite breakfast meal? Like some people are eggs benny people, some stick to french toast, some folks are just eggs and potatoes types. Well, I encourage you to switch it up every time you visit Kanela because I have yet to find a plate I didn’t like.
What’s pictured: Cappuccino, California eggs benny, & traditional Kanela breakfast.
#10 nandos peri peri
If you’re a lover of grilled chicken and homestyle potatoes this is the place for you! Besides being known for their tangy scratch-made sauces, Nando’s take the cake on fresh chicken and loaded sides. This olive bowl?! To die for. Sangria?! Boozy and fruity. Chicken?! Seriously, don’t get me started.. you can cut it with a butter knife its that tender and juicy. The wings were even out of this world and I’ve had a lot of wings in my day. These wood-fired babies are melt in your mouth good and pack a little heat on their own. Order at the counter for this fast-casual dining experience and they’ll bring it to you. Don’t miss the sauce bar or pass on a drink, it’s all part of the Nando’s experience.
What’s pictured: Chicken breast in hot sauce, chicken breast in lemon & herb sauce, spicy mixed olives, mashed potatoes, french fries, wood-fired wings, side salad, red sangria, and local craft beer.
#11 Jojo’s Milk bar
Okay, where are my people with the sweet tooth? You’re going to want to tune in for this one. Jojo’s is the place to be for all your sweet treat needs. This isn’t just your average milkshake shop for a number of reasons. One, it’s in Chicago, the heart of the city so that’s special. It’s also poppin’ and just about any given time. By that I mean there are people hanging out, taking Neapolitan shots, yup, alcohol in ice cream it’s what I live for. They also rotate their menu so if you go a couple of times and you’re ready to.. shake it up, they’ve got you covered. Their shakes speak for themselves, I mean just look at that picture, good god. It’s also not just a good photo op, these shakes are seriously good. So what they’re like 2,000 calories, LIVE A LITTLE. I bet you can’t finish it anyway, issa whole meal.
What’s pictured: Three’s company shake. The ultimate trio of strawberry, banana, & pineapple filled with peanuts, milk chocolate, a dipped sugar cone, sugar cookie, & fruit chunks. Rocky IV milkshake with banana, peanut butter pieces, milk chocolate, chocolate chip cookie, A SOLID PEANUT BUTTER BOXING GLOVE, and a chocolate-covered marshmallow rolled in peanuts.
If you want an afternoon of fun and cheese you have to check out Chicago’s first grilled cheese restaurant with full bar & arcade games, Cheesies. If you’re not a grilled cheese fanatic, look next-door to Cheesies pizza, one of their joints are sure to fill your cheese void. Play a couple of games, write on your table with chalk, hang out at the bar that’s serving up local brews, and get to chowin’ down on their loaded grilled cheese sandwiches. Pro tip: mac n’ cheese bites are everything and Cheesies mac n’ cheese bites are everything x 6652945278. These little crispy balls of goodness are made to perfection and have the perfect balance of crisp and cheese. The drool is real. With locations all over the city, make sure you hit up Cheesies for an afternoon lunch and get the cheese while it’s hot.
What’s pictured: The melt stuffed with chicken, tomatoes, & two types of cheese. The tenderizer with crispy buffalo chicken, bacon, and CHEESE. Fried mac and cheese bites, french fries, side salad, cider, & buur.
#13 The Gringo
The Gringo is located right outside of downtown and is servin’ up brunch and tacos all at the same time. Taco bout heaven.. was that too punny? On a serious note, the tacos are flat out deliciousness. They’ve got all the favorites, Al Pastor, Carne Asada, Chicken, Chorizo, & Shrimp all with unique twists and toppings. They’ve got brunch on the weekends and specials like chorizo scramble, Mexican chopped salad, Gringo toast, and so much more. Don’t pass on the elote, best elote ever. Grab a beer on draft or check out their bottle & cans list to make the meal complete. For my wine & cocktail drinkers, they’ve got that too. There’s a lot of places to get tacos in the city, but The Gringo is doing it right.
What’s pictured: The gringo breakfast, eggs, bacon, potatoes, and tortillas. Elote & chips. Taco flight with al pastor and pineapple, sazon and citrus-marinated chicken, ancho chile marinated sirloin.
First, let me start by saying sorry to my vegan friends, I admire your strength to turn down meat. I, on the other hand, can’t say no to chicken wings little own veal the side of your head. BUT, let’s talk about Formento’s. This is the place for dating anniversaries, family dinners, anniversary parties, birthday dinner, or any other special occasion. Not that you need a special occasion to eat here, but damn you might need a small loan. It is nothing shy of perfection and every plate is something exquisite. Freshly made pasta every day, beautifully plated dishes, & don’t even get me started on those potatoes.. roasted to perfection. Just look at that veal. That veal is enough for three meals on its own and I’m not going to lie I ate it in two, and since our hotel didn’t have a microwave I ate it cold. You know what? It was better cold from Formento’s that warm at other places.
What’s pictured: Veal parmesan, roasted potatoes, New York strip, bucatini.
#15 Fulton galley
Fulton Galley was a pleasure to visit, not only is the location just outside the city by tons of scooters and fresh air, but it’s also a food hall! Yes, a whole food hall of five different kitchens, a full bar, 20+ craft beers, and a stellar cocktail program. And let me just say, it gets poppin’ for weekend brunch! You know, my favorite meal & time of the week. To get the full experience I had to go to each restaurant in the Fulton Galley. I mean, duh. So I started at Italianette and got pasta, made my way to Steingold’s for a bagel sandwich, over to Pink Salt for a fresh coconut filled with coconut milk, then past Taco Muncho for some chips & guac, and lastly to Fairview for some tasty wings that brought the heat. I have to say, the mimosas were great, the whole atmosphere is spacious and upbeat, the lighting is 100%, and the concept is just on the rise. The whole place is shared with all the restaurants and it certainly has something for everyone in your party.
What’s pictured: Roasted potatoes, smoked burrata ravioli with egg on top, BBQ wings, Margherita pizza, bacon/egg/cheese on a salt bagel, coconut milk in coconut, & brisket burger with egg.
Let's talk about Roti. Roti is a modern Mediterranean cuisine that hits the spot. This fast dining place is the chipotle of Mediterranean. A whole line of options that you build in a bowl as you go. Yes, this is heaven. With locations all over the city, and I mean ALL over the city, make sure you stop to get a quick bite here to satisfy your African-Caribbean needs. Pita, hummus, kababs, Roti does have it all. Don’t pass on the dill, yogurt, and cucumber sauce, that ish was 10/10.
What’s pictured: Rice-based bowls. One with salon, couscous, hummus, cilantro, feta, olives, broccoli & carrots, dill/yogurt/cucumber sauce, and pita bread. The other bowl with chicken, couscous, feta, hummus, cilantro, pita, and hot sauces on the side.
Quartino, Quartino, Quartino. The best place in the city to try everything Italian. By that I mean, ITALIAN TAPAS. Yes, small plates of Italian food to share with your whole table and they’re reasonably priced. Quartino is right in the city and has nearly every wine you could imagine. Wine lovers, this is the place for you. Check out Quartino with a group of 4 or more to get the experience of sharing is caring. Order a bottle for the table, go late at night, they’re open till 2 a.m. and enjoy the atmosphere of chaos happening all around you. If you’re looking for a fun experience, this is the place for you.
What’s pictured: Roasted chicken, gnocchi, signature alfredo.