CHICAGO IS THE BUSINESS. Just because you moved to New York two years ago from Muncie, Indiana doesn't earn you license to start shouting "Second City", tough guy. Hell, you were still wearing a white belt & a trucker hat last week.
When messengers first arrive in town (especially if you arrive early), we invariably get asked, "so where does everyone hang out downtown?" Here are some good hangouts spots as well as some good easy sightseeing.
Thompson Center: 100 W Randolph (between Clark and LaSalle)
Food court is downstairs. Hangout on the wall on Randolph
Merchandise Mart (the Mart): 222 N Wells (the river and Kinzie)
Food court on the Wells side (and some of the cleanest open bathrooms). More likely, you'll find people hanging out on the couches off the south entrance.
Hobart's Alley: ask a local.
Shotgun a beer.
Chase: 21 S Clark (between Madison and Monroe)
Food court downstairs, lots of ourdoor spots to hang.
- Lower Wacker: (Enter from Garland or Post St off Lake St) Under Upper Wacker in the loop. Try to check out lower lower wacker. See if you can find the secret liquor store.
- Cloud Gate: (Grant Park) more commonly known as the Bean. Probably super hectic, but go take your token picture
- The Signature Lounge: (875 N Michigan Ave) Top of the Handcock Building. Drinks are a hefty $10, but just visiting the Observatory is $15, so you might as well get a drink while checking out the views.
- Chicago Cultural Center: (78 E Washington) Free all the time and has rotating, typically impressive exhibits.
We do not play when it comes to watering holes. In fact, contrary to popular rumors, we invented alcoholism. Like New York and Cali, smoking is prohibited in bars and restaurants so you can make new friends on the sidewalk when the urge to puff hits you. Most weekday bars close at 2am, with select bars open till 3 or 4am by special license. While this isn't a definitive list of where you should be throwing them back, it's where we spend most of our time.
The Blue Frog: 676 North LaSalle (LaSalle and Huron) | 11:30 a.m.-Midnight Mon-Thurs 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday | 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday | Closed Sunday.
Food, including cheap specials. Go for the grilled cheese, we tell ya. A downtown after work messenger hangout, featuring cheap eats, cheep brews, board games and the periodic bought of karaoke.
Goldstar: 1755 W Division (Division and Wood) | 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday through Friday | 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
Oh Wicker Park. Where have you gone... Even though the rest of Division has turned into boutiqueville and stroller central, you can still put it down at one of Chicago's longest running and well loved bars. Mondays feature $2 drafts of Guiness and Stella and the jukebox is still one of the best in the city. If you're the sporting type there's a decent pool table (which is free). Plus, free extra salty popcorn and snappy dialog with frat-dudes on the sidewalk while you smoke.
Skylark: 2149 S Halsted (Halsted and Cermak) | 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday through Friday | 4 p.m.-3 a.m.
Two words. Tater-Tots. In Pilsen, the Skylark is huge and roomy, with food, cheep booze and pinball. The kitchen stays open hella late and the more you knock 'em back the better people start to look. It's just about perfect.
Simone's: 960 W. 18th St (at Morgan) | 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday through Friday | 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
Simone's is a bar and grill located in the Pilsen neighborhood. It's a great place to grab a craft beer, cocktail or quality grub (their homemade vegan burgers are highly recommended). With a nice outdoor patio on the Morgan side, it's perfect for an afternoon hang out. The loud factor scales hugely in the evenings with regular DJs Thursday-Saturday.
Stella's: 935 N Western (Western and Walton) | 1 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Friday | 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
Maybe you want to escape hipsters with riser-bars and candy colored deep-v's. Maybe you just want to have a Bud or a Zywiec, watch the game at a bar that's never to crowded and knows how to treat a fellow. Stella's is the spot. A classic Ukranian Village dive Stella herself still tends bar, and will school you on your weak pronunciation of Polish beers.
Cole’s: 2338 N Milwaukee Ave (just west of California) 5:30pm-2am Mon-Fri | 3:30-3am Sat | 4pm-2am Sun |
A favorite neighborhood bar, blasting an array of local bands all weekend as well as one of the best Open Mic nights in Chicago on Wednesdays. They carry a decent selection of draft craft beers, with the always-affordable PBR and Tecate specials. Cole bartends himself a few nights a week and might surprise you with a free Malort shot. Or if you’re lucky, you’ll find a plate of cookies out on the bar courtesy of Travis’ mom.
Banger’s and Lace: 1670 W Division (at Paulina) Sunday 11 am-2 am | Saturday 11 am-3 am | Mon-Fri 2 pm- 2 am
A little fancier than your typical haunt, but with Augie routinely tending bar, you’ll feel right at home. With an impressive selection of beers (32 on tap!), they also offer a good selection of down home bar food and high-end cocktails. Though it becomes fantastically busy on the weekends, it’s an ideal spot for an after-work beer at the bar or Sunday bloody mary.
The Owl: 2521 N Milwaukee (at Logan Blvd) 7pm-4am Sun-Fri | 7pm-5am Sat
A sister bar by the same guys who own Easy Bar and Estelle’s, and also tauts a 4am close time. Similarly offers $2 Tuesday, with a beer list rife with craft brews. A huge space with a long bar, plenty of seating and a nice selection on the jukebox.
Bullhead Cantina: 1143 N California (south of Division) |
A newer addition to Humboldt Park. A long list of craft beers to choose from, but you should probably just go with the daily $5 deal: PBR tallboy/shot of whiskey/taco of choice deal. Seriously. Oh and you whisky snobs? You'll be impressed.
Also recommended: Boiler Room, Easy Bar (on Tuesdays), Revolution Brewing, Blind Robin, Longman and Eagle, Small Bar, Continental (4am bar), Bar DeVille, Rainbo, Matchbox, Happy Village (best back patio), Whirlaway...
You will break your stuff. You will taco a wheel. You will drunkenly decide to take apart your headset and lose all your bearing. And when that happens you can go to these places and they will fix it for your dumb ass.
- Yojimbo's Garage: 1310 N Clybourn (between Larrabee St & Mohawk St) | Sundays: noon-4pm | Mondays: 2pm-7pm | Tuesday-Thursday: Closed | Fridays: 2pm-7pm. Saturdays: noon-4pm. This is THE Chicago bike shop if you happen to think track bikes are the thing. Marcus Moore, arguably Chicago's best bike mechanic and wheel builder, set up his shop back in 1997 in the shadow of Cabrini Green. It's like wandering into a cave of bike porn. Nito parts stacked around, piles of Bareknuckle, DeBenardi and Gan Well Pro frames (plus a nice selection of Fuji's), and rims in every color of the rainbow (we know how you kids roll). Marcus has been wrenching for the messenger community for over a decade, as well as being the gateway to sanctioned racing for the alleycat jet set. He is the man. You should go to his shop.
Upgrade Cycle Works: 1130 W Chicago Ave (Just West of Milwaukee) | 8am-9pm Monday-Friday | 10am-6pm Saturday-Sunday.
A long stand out in the Chicago messenger scene (On Time's offices used to be above it) Upgrade has earned it's reputation as a solid, dependable, sometimes belligerently drunk shop with master mechanic James. Drop in and say hi to Allison.
Boulevard Bikes: 2535 North Kedzie (Kedzie and Milwaukee where Logan intersects) | Tues-Wed 12pm-7pm | Thurs 12pm-8pm | Friday 12pm-6pm | Sat 10am-5pm | Sunday 12pm-5pm | Closed Monday.
Logan Square's long running and best bike shop. Kevin Womac has been holding it down here next door to the popular (and tasty) Lula Café and it features a host of long-time Chicago wrenches like Adrian Red and Nate. They take care, no doubt.
Smart Bike Parts: 3031 W Armitage (at Whipple) | Mon-Fri 11-7 | Sat 10-6 | Sun CLOSED.
If you swing in after 5pm, chances are someone will hand you a PBR. A solid shop of solid dudes who tend to toss around some pretty good deals.
Comrade Cycles: 1908 W Chicago Ave (at Winchester) | Mon-Thurs 10-8 | Friday 10-7 | Saturday 10-6 | Sunday 11-5 |
Chicago's only worker owned shop. A neighborhood bicycle shop offering expert repair and sales. They cover the gamut of bicycles, parts, and accessories, custom bike builds, and more. Seriously. Everything. From basic flat fixes to repairing your cracked steel frame. Grab a donut from Bleeding Heart next door and go hang out with Bailey, Jesse or Steve. They're good company to keep.
Johnny Sprocket's: 3001 N Broadway (at Wellington) | Mon-Fri 11-7 | Saturday 10-6 | Sunday 11-5 |
Great spot when you're on the northside. Rawny and Mia hold it down behind the bench and you can oogle all the fancy Cervelos while you wait.
- Ciclo Urbano: 2459 W Division (at Campbell) | Mon: Closed | Tues-Thurs 11-7 | Fri-Sat 11-6 | Sun 11-5 | A full service store in Humboldt Park. Part of the shop is West Town Bikes which that also offers open shop hours in it's workshop in the back in addition to it's various youth programs . If you utilize open shops hours (Tuesday 7-10 and Saturday 12-6) make sure to put some cash in the can to support their local youth bike education programs.
Yes, there are more than Brauts in Chicago. In fact, we rule the school when it comes to food. You want it, we got it. We'll break it down style by style for yins. Oh yeah, just so you know, in Chicago cash is king. Which means lots of bars and restaurants only take cash. So stuff that mad roll in your sock before you head out or be prepared to be washing some dishes.
Vegetarian / Vegan
Handlebar: 2311 W. North (North and Oakley - just west of Damen/North/Milwaukee)
Mon-Fri 11:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m. | Sat 10:00 a.m.-2:00 a.m. | Sun 10:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m. Global/Fusion/Eclectic, Vegetarian/Healthy.
Bike themed with specials for messengers on Mondays ($1 PBR pints and $1 malort shots). The food is reasonably priced and vegetarian/vegan friendly: most entrees are under $10, and the only meat option is fish. The kitchen also does a bang-up job with comfort food: seitan and tofu sandwiches come with a variety of sides including a respectable vegetarian version of southern collard greens and a totally addictive smoked Gouda mac 'n' cheese. Dining on the big ass back patio is the best.
Quesadilla: 2235 N Western N. Milwaukee (Western and Lyndale)
Vegetarian/Mexican. Lunch, dinner: Mon-Thurs. 10 am-11pm | Fri 10am-6pm | Closed Saturday | Sun 10am-10pm
100% Vegetarian. Tacos and ginormous burritos offered with vegan daiya option, they also offer a full juice bar. Super reasonable prices which rules when you want to try every faux meat taco.
Chicago Diner: 3411 N. Halsted St (Halsted just North of Belmont)
Vegetarian/Healthy. Lunch: Mon-Fri. Dinner: seven days. Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Chicago's original vegetarian / vegan restaurant. A little pricey, but not bad if you're in for a real meal. Dishes made with eggs and dairy are indicated on the menu, and vegan substitutions are often available upon request.
Soul Vegetarian East: 205 E. 75th St (West of Hyde Park)
Southern/Soul Food, Vegetarian/Healthy. Breakfast, Lunch: Mon-Sat. Dinner: seven days. Sunday brunch.
For the last 25 years Soul Veg has been handling it with the best vegan and vegetarian soul food - barbecued wheat gluten, stir-fried meatless "steak," tofu tidbits. Watch local vegan kids eyes light up like it's Christmas when you mention that you're thinking about going there. This is not some hippie shit. This is real, putting it down South Side Chicago soul food shit. Worth. The. Trip.
Karyn's Cooked: 738 N. Wells (Wells just off Chicago)
Vegetarian/Healthy. Lunch: Mon-Sat. Dinner: seven days. Sunday brunch.
If Soul Veg is a bit to far south for you this River North spot can provide a decent substitute. Just about everything's Vegan and the BBQ ribs will fool eve die hard meat eaters. Good comfort and soul food, ranging from an excellent (vegan) flat bread pizza to lasagna and sandwiches. A little heavier on the pocket, though, with the average tab, if you buy booze (all organic) running about $20.
Kramer's Health Foods: 230 S Wabash (Wabash and Adams)
Vegetarian/Healthy. Mon-Fri: 8:30-5:30 | Sat 9:30am-6pm
Old school downtown Chicago health food store/restaurant. Max sez: "The Rocket Fuel shake gives you mad sexual powers." Yeah! Yeah! This is the spot for a filling lunch special: $6.99 for entree, soup, and small fresh juice.
Victory's Banner: 2100 W Roscoe (at Hoyne) Mon, Wed-Sun 8am-3pm
Even with the weird, culty, good-vibe videos playing in the background, the breakfast is worth the trip. All vegetarian/vegan with mostly organic ingredients. On a bright corner in Roscoe Village (you might have to dodge a stroller or two) and only open until the early afternoon, get there in time to enjoy their french toast.
Also recommended: Urban Vegan, BonBon, Chickpea, Heartland Cafe, Arya Bhavan, Dharma Garden, Sticky Rice, Mana, and Native Foods
Open Late / 24hr
Arturo's Tacos: 2001 N. Western (at Armitage)
Mexican. Open 24 hours every day.
It's a 24hr spot. Full bar with plenty of seating. Get the tacos. Eat in and to score free chips and salsa at the table.
Pick Me Up Cafe: 3408 N. Clark (Clark and Newport)
American, Vegetarian/Healthy. Open late: Friday & Saturday open 24 hours, other nights till 3 AM.
This place has been around for ages, servicing late night Lakeview crowds staggering home from shows at the Metro. It's pretty much got everything you could ever want, with excellent breakfasts served anytime. While it might be a little away from where you're crashing it's way better food than just about any other all night spot and probably the best bet for your Vegetarian and Vegan friends (has vegan pancakes. And vegan french toast. Hell yeah). Or just stick to giant plates of fries, bacon omelets and calamari. And now, at long last, the Pick Me Up serves beer. Sweet sweet beer...
Super Sub: 1048 N. Ashland (Ashland between Division and Augusta)
Sandwiches, subs, Phili Cheese. Open late: 9 a.m.- 5 a.m. Sunday-Thursday | 9 a.m.-6 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
Fine Ass Matt, who used to live around the corner, sums it up: "I recommend against it". That didn't stop him from eating there, but consider yourself warned. With it's thick, bulletproof plexiglass and the enticing smell of french fries and ammonia setting the mood, few places make better sandwich while perpetually talking on their wireless phone in Urdu and nobody charges less, even if the price on the menu and the price you pay seem to have no relation to one another. 4am is when it really gets going here, with half-asleep drunken fights and thugs playing grab-ass with your girlfriend. But it's open and cheap.
Mr Greek Gyros: 234 S. Halsted (Halsted south of Adams)
Greek, Gyros. Open 24 hours every day.
The best gyros in the city and their chicken burrito is fucking amazing. Gets nice and rowdy late nights as well.
Steak and Egger: 1174 W Cermak (24 hours)
They "doze but never close". Cash only. It's like a dive bar, but a restaurant. So super greasy and amazing.
Northdown Taproom: 3244 N Lincoln | 11am-2am | Mon-Fri | 9am-3am |
Sister restaurant to the great Comet in Milwaukee. Serving up brunch and staying open until late dinner and featuring a whole lot of veggie/vegan options. They also offer a full bar with a wide selection of craft beers on tap and bottled.
Take-Out / Sandwiches
Bari Foods: 1120 W. Grand Ave (between Ashland and the Kennedy)
American, Italian. Breakfast: seven days | Lunch: Mon-Sat. A grocery and deli (takeout only)
Bari is the business for authentic Italian sandwiches. Subs stuffed with corned beef, roast beef, Italian sausage, or Italian deli meats, but a favorite is the fresh mozzarella and prosciutto sub. Available at 9 or 12 inches, the sandwich packs ultrathin slices of melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto and hunks of squeaky cheese between the halves of a loaf of French bread crisp from the ovens next door at D'Amato's Bakery, and dresses it up with shredded lettuce, onion, and tomato, with a dash of oil and Italian seasoning. Pick up a jar of their ultra-hot hand made giardiniera.
Sultan's Market: 2057 W. North (North just west of Damen/North/Milwaukee)
Middle Eastern. Lunch, dinner: seven days.
The best, cheep and amazing falafel sandwich in Chicago. Throw in a bowl of lentil soup or some lentils and rice topped with fresh tabbouleh and you are good to go. Seating outside and in, or take it to go and eat in the park. With booze.
The Brown Sack: 3581 W. Belden (cash only)
American, Ice Cream. Breakfast, Tues-Fri: 11am-7pm Closed Sunday and Monday.
A sunny Logan Square/Humboldt Park spot with hearty down-home standards like a gooey grilled peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich and beefarific chili laced with head-clearing handfuls of cumin and chile (a vegan version is also available). The Reuben, a popular choice, comes piled with thick folds of corned beef topped with the traditional Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss, plus grilled onions. There's also rich mac 'n' cheese, meatball subs, Goose Island root beer floats, and daily soup, sandwich, and dessert specials.
Fontano's Subs: 20 E Jackson (Jackson between State and Wabash) Subs, Deli.
The loop location of this local chain produces some of Chicago's finest subs (or hoggies, or grinders or whatever you out of towners call 'em). The Meatball and Italian Beef are top notch, with a 6" setting you back around $4.95. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they do a killer homeade breaded eggplant for $6.
Taza: 176 N. Franklin (Franklin and Lake)
Middle Eastern. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday | closed Saturday-Sunday.
Cheap (relative for downtown) falafel, baba ghanoush, hummus, and gyros. They make a damn good shawarma platter. Becomes pretty busy around lunch-time but perfect to take out and sit by the river or the wall at 333 W Wacker.
Jim's Original: 1250 S. Union (Union just south of Roosevelt)
Encased Meats. Open 24-hours | Carry-Out Only. Cash Only.
The best place for a polish in the city. People will try to sell you gently used pornography as you eat. Owner Gus Christopoulos says he does not use any old store-bought Polish, he has them custom-made with his own blend of spices. Another bestseller is the bone-in pork chop sandwich, which Christopoulos' father-in-law James Stefanovic, who ran the eatery until 1976, started serving in the late '40s. These sandwiches, which come loaded with mustard, onions and sport peppers are now a Chicago classic.
Oasis: 21 N Wabash | Mon-Sat 10am-6:30pm |
The loop's best kept secret. Yes, it's sort of difficult to find (they put the sign at waist level in the corner of a jewelry store window) but walk past all those jewelry cases to the end of aisle. Their daily specials are so tasty and affordable, it's totally worth the search.
Burgers/Brats/Red Red Meat
Kuma's Corner: 2900 W. Belmont (Belmont just west of California)
Bar/Lounge, Burgers. Open late: Saturday till 3, Monday-Friday till 2, Sunday till midnight. We're going out on a limb here and saying this is the best burger in Chicago. First off, all 26 different burgers are named after metal bands. That's right. You can order a Slayer (a pile of fries topped with a half-pound burger plus chili, cherry peppers, andouille sausage, onions, jack cheese and anger) or a Mastodon (BBQ Sauce, Cheddar, Bacon, Frizzled Onions). There's make your own mac & cheese, with will freak you out, and beer beer beer beer. So many beers. The bartenders are awesome (shout out to our boys Alex and Big Black) and the waitresses are hot, surly, tattooed and crush worthy. If you go at on hours though, be prepared to wait
Hot Doug's: 3324 N. California (California and Roscoe)
Encased Meats. 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday | closed Sunday.
Award Winning Encased Meat Emporium Hot Doug's is a Chicago legend. It's original location burned down a few years ago, but the new spot is rocking. Polishes, brats, Thuringers, andouille, and Chicago-style dogs, dressed and cooked to customer preference--whether char-grilled, deep-fried, steamed, or fried then grilled. There are also daily gourmet specials and a "game of the week" sausage: gator, boar, rattlesnake, rabbit, duck, kangaroo, or duck sausage with foie gras. Fridays and Saturdays fresh-cut fries are cooked in duck fat. Lunchtime there can be a line, but it's worth the wait.
Harold's Chicken Shack : 636 S. Wabash (Wabash south of Harrison) & 1361 N. Milwaukee (Milwaukee west of Division/Ashland)
Fried Chicken. 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday | 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
Amazing fried chicken w/ 2 slices of white bread. Extra white bread is .10 cents per slice. There are about a dozen more of these around the city, and they're all killer.
Feed: 2803 W. Chicago (Chicago and California)
Fried Chicken, BBQ. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday | 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday | 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. | BYOB Damn good side dishes. Damn good chicken.
Calvin's BBQ: 2540 W. Armitage (Armitage west of Milwaukee)
Barbecue. 11 a.m-9 p.m Sunday-Thursday | 11 a.m-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Pulled pork heaven. Don't even think about getting anything besides meat here.
Asian (Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc)
Star of Siam: 11 E. Illinois (Illinois just east of State)
Thai. 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday | 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday | 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday.
If you find yourself downtown this joint offers reasonably priced Thai food (particularly for the loop) in classier-than-usual surroundings just west of Michigan Avenue. Most entrees are $7.25, with the Pad Thai coming in at a bargain $6.75. Good for take-out and boasts a pretty damn good green curry.
Zen Noodles: 1852 W. North (North just east of Wolcott - Right by Rapid Transit)
Thai/Japanese/Pan-Asian. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday | 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday | closed Sunday.
A popular favorite of the Wicker Park working set (Rapid Transit kids seem to live off it) it's your pretty typical Pan-Asian fair. In case you've been gone a while this is the place used to be Hi Ricky. The sushi isn't the best, so stick to Thai. Portions are impressive, the Tangy Peanut Noodles being enough to split between two people. There are a couple cool crispy noodle dishes you won't find elsewhere as well. Prices hover around the $7-$9 (it is Wicker Park after all) and they've got booze. Right next door to Quimby's, Chicago's best 'zine and alternative media shop.
Joy Yee Noodle: Chinatown Square - 2139-41 South China Place (North of Cermak, east of Canal)
Chinese. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. seven days a week. | BYOB
Chinatown can be a little daunting, since it's chocked full of options. If yr feeling adventurous by all means jump into just about anywhere you see. But this popular spot, recently moved to larger digs, features a massive menu that feels like a phonebook and does it authentic with ample portions served in oversized Asian bowls, bamboo pots, stone bowls, hot pots, and even a halved pineapple. Bubble teas --the iced tea-drink laced with tapioca pearls and sipped through a fat straw--are the preferred beverage.
Hachi's Kitchen: 2521 N. California (California just south of Logan)
Japanese, Sushi. 4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4:30 p.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday; 3:30-10 p.m. Sunday.
Logan Square sushi joint featuring creative maki like the spicy white tuna crunch and cooked fare like Chilean sea bass sautéed with jalapenos and onions. While not bargain basement prices, their average of $6 a roll and entree's for $19 are (big city) reasonable. It's sushi and yr in Chicago, so you know what yr getting into.
Joy's Noodles & Rice: 3257 N Broadway (Broadway and just north of Belmont)
Thai, Pan-Asian. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. | BYOB
This Lakeview joint, just a couple blocks from Belmont Harbor, is pretty amazing. It's one of those spots that you'd never know about unless you knew someone who had lived in the neighborhood (and we got people everywhere dog). For how good everything is it's shockingly cheep. Lunch specials are $5 and include an egg roll and cucumber salad, with everything else sticking under $9 the rest of the day. Their Drunken Noodles are about the best in the city.
Thai Butterfly: 1156 W. Grand (Grand and Racine)
Thai, Sushi. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday | 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday | noon-11 p.m. Saturday | noon-10 p.m. Sunday. | BYOB
Looks and tastes expensive but isn't. Free miso soup. Entrees are split between Japanese and Thai; look for choices like green curry, cashew chicken, steak teriyaki and chicken katsu and there's plenty of a la carte sushi. Shit is under $9 generally. No joke.
El Taco Veloz: 1745 W. Chicago (Chicago between Wood and Hermitage)
Mexican. Open Late every night until 2am.
An extensive (and inexpensive) menu offering tacos, burritos, huaraches, and gorditas, but it's best known for the Jaliscan dish carne en su jugo, "meat in its own juices," a bowl of stewed beef, bacon, beans, avocado, onion, and radishes. Posole and menudo are available only on weekends, but you'll find other specialties like cecina and barbacoa seven days a week. Awesome for takeout, but with plenty of booth space if you want to take a load off. The horchata is some of the best in the city.
Tecalitlan: 1814 W. Chicago (Chicago and Wood)
Mexican. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days. Open Late Friday & Saturday till 3a.m.
Come for the margaritas (half priced pitchers on Wednesdays) and stay for the free chips and salsa. This place is huge and good - perfect if you're rolling deep. Steaming combination platters, hefty burritos, and the usual array of a la carte tacos, tortas, tostadas - everything piled with fresh avocado.
Irazu: 1865 N. Milwaukee (Milwaukee just east of Western)
Costa Rican. Lunch, dinner: Mon-Sat (closes at 9p.m.). Closed Sunday.
Tiny and always crowded, Irazu is Chicago's best Costa Rican spot, serving food that's cheap, tasty, and plentiful. Standouts are the burritos (big enough to feed two) with optional mushrooms and hot peppers, and interesting nonalcoholic drinks like the tart, refreshing tamarind shake. Plenty of Vegetarian options. Make sure to try the Casado, thin rib eye steak or chicken breast caramelized with onions, served with white rice, black beans, sweet plantains, an over easy egg & cabbage salad.
Nuevo Leon: 1515 W 18th (18th just east of Ashland)
Mexican. 7 a.m.-midnight daily. | BYOB
This Pilsen institution has been steady slinging since 1962, with inexpensive lunch specials, killer mole and it's BYOB. The Enchiladas Suizas (three corn tortillas dipped in mole sauce, red chile ancho sauce or green tomatillo sauce rolled and filled with ground beef or chicken and topped with cheese) come highly recommended.
Taqueria Moran: 2226 N. California (California and Milwaukee)
Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban. Lunch, dinner: seven days.
Located right under the California Blue Line stop, with capably prepared Mexican classics, Puerto Rican jibaritos and Cuban sandwiches. You can come for breakfast chilaquiles and machaca (the dried beef of northern Mexico) or hit up late night Denver omelets and fajitas.
Carbon: 300 W 26th (26th under the Dan Ryan Expressway) | Mexican. Lunch, dinner: seven days.
It's hard to miss this 20-seat Bridgeport quick-serve restaurant, sitting under the Dan Ryan Expressway. Just look for that enormous mural on the side of the building featuring an oversized, flame-enhanced "Carbon" logo. They've got all the standards, but the real reason you're here is for the fish tacos, which are excellent. Don't mess.
Habana Libre: 1440 W. Chicago (Chicago east of Ashland)
Cuban. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday | 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday | noon-10 p.m. Sunday. | BYOB
The best motherfucking Cuban sandwich in the city. Whatever is on special is guaranteed to be greasy as hell and smothered in garlic.
El Faro: 3936 W 31st St. (east of Pulaski) Mexican, Vegetarian | Mon-Thu 5am - 10pm | Fri-Sat 5am - 11pm | Sun 7am - 10pm |
A often overlooked southside spot. Featuring authentic Mexican fare, as well as an entirely seperate vegetarian menu. Everything I've had on the menu is amazing, from their horchata and fresh squeezed juices to their burritos. Get the Cuban Torta. $5 for so much goodness.
Coffee / Café's
Atomix: 1957 W. Chicago Ave (Chicago and Damen)
Coffee/Sandwiches. 6:45 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday though Friday | 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
A long loved local spot, featuring excellent fair trade coffee and tea, plus make your own sandwiches (hot or cold), vegan baked goods, veggie chili and grilled soy cheese.
Cafe Jumping Bean: 1439 W. 18th (18th just east of Ashland)
Coffee/Sandwiches. 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday | 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
A Pilsen standby for the last 10 years. During the day, the bright blue walls make the room an inviting space with cheep gourmet coffees, bagels, sandwiches and zesty soups. At night hit up ritzy desserts and revel in world music. Plus, extra bonus, they've got one of the last pay phones that only costs a quarter.
Kristoffer's Cafe & Bakery: 1733 S. Halsted (Halsted & 18th)
Coffee/Mexican/American Nuevo Latino/Bakery. 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Husband-and-wife-owned cafe bakery featuring Intelligentsia coffees and fresh-baked tres leches (three milk) cake and chocoflan (chocolate cake topped with flan). Other menu items include soft Mayan tamales wrapped in banana leaves and chorizo or spinach quesadillas, all for under $7. The breakfast menu features cheep (averaging $4.50) breakfast sandwiches, like the Spanish Classic (Scrambled eggs w/chorizo - spicy sausage) as well as $4 French Toast.
Bleeding Heart Bakery: 1916 W Chicago Ave (at Winchester) Coffee/Bakery/Diner | Mon-Thurs, Sun 6am-8:30pm | Fri-Sat 6am-11pm
Self proclaimed "punk rock bakery", they offer a variety of vegan/vegetarian options and the cake balls are amazing. There's a large dining room and they have a limited beer selection. The service is never stellar, but it's ideal to hang out in one of the booths with a group of friends. Go for the chilaquiles.
Wormhole: 1462 N Milwaukee Ave (between Evergreen and Honore) Monday through Sunday 7am-11pm
Delorean? Check. Cult classic 80s posters? Check. Original NES and couches? Oh yeah. With some of the best baristas in Chicago and guest spotting coffee from all over, this Milwaukee Ave café stands out from the rest. They offer free coffee if you roll in with a helmet before 8:30am. Did we mention they have vegan donuts? Yum.
Filter: 1375 N Milwaukee (at Wood) Mon-Wed: 7am-10pm Thurs-Sat: 7am-9pm Sun: 8am-9pm
Nothing can fully replace the Filter that existed at the corner of Milwaukee and North Ave but this one is a decent replacement, with similarly absurd people watching. Full breakfast and lunch menus and it also shares a doorway with the Dutch Bike Co.
La Columbe: 955 W Randolph (corner of W Randolph and N Morgan) | Mon-Fri 7am-7pm | Sat & Sun 8am-7pm |
Downtown’s best option for cheap and still incredibly good espresso. This spot never becomes too busy with a gorgeous interior and plenty of seating. Plus, they sell re-sealable bottles of strong strong iced coffee to keep you going.
Intelligensia: 53 W Jackson (at Dearborn) | 6am-5:30pm Monday-Friday |
Now with 3 locations (downtown on Randolph or north on Broadway) but we like this one best. Satisfy all your hobnobbing coffee ways. Rotating in seasons roasts and seriously good cold brewed iced coffee.
- Also check out: Cafe Mustache, Ipsento, New Wave, Buzz, Bridgeport Roasting, Bagel, Rewsters, Star Lounge, Cafecito, Bang Bang, Asado, Fritz Pastry, Jupiter Outpost, Efebina's, Caffe Streets, Knockbox, Big Shoulders, Robust Coffee Lounge, Swim Cafe... (I really like coffee, ok?)
Pizza Metro: 925 N Ashland (Ashland north of Chicago)
Italian, Pizza. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday | 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday. | BYOB
There's another Pizza Metro over on Division Ave, but that's the mean one. This is the nice one. The pizza's are authentically Italian, rolled out to rise on well-oiled 32-inch-square pans; they're covered with toppings that include potato and rosemary, grilled chicken and vegetables, and blue cheese. In addition to pizza, Pizza Metro offers a short menu of sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastas, including a version of lasagna made without ricotta.
Village Pizza: 2356 W Chicago (Chicago and Western)
Italian, Pizza. Open Late: 11 a.m.- 3 a.m. Monday through Sunday.
Don't be fooled by the pretender across the street with the Bacci sign. This is the original "stagger out of (Old)Tumans, get screamed at by Johnny Bacci, talk to homeless dudes and winos and get free pop" joint. For reals, it's worth a trip to watch Johnny drop mad f-bombs. Huge ass slices slung out for a couple bucks, with a side menu of pasta and sandwiches. But really you're here for the pizza. And our man Johnny.
Pequod's: 2207 N. Clybourn (Clybourn at Webster)
Pizza. Open Late: Monday-Saturday till 2, Sunday till midnight.
Real deal Chicago style Pizza. Don't be suckered into Uno's or Duo's. This is the spot. The pizzas have a special 'caramelized' crust that is different than anything else you've ever had and if you order sausage, beware; the sausage topping is made from huge chunks of meteorite meat. The beer is cold and the pizzas are huge and cheesy.
Piece: 1927 W North Ave (just east of Damen)
Pizza. Brewpub | Mon 11pm–2am | Tue 9am–2pm | Wed-Fri, Sun 9–2am | Sat 9–3am
Featuring beers brewed in house as well as numerous guest taps. Some of the best thin crust pizzas with lots of customizable options.
Bite Cafe: 1039 N. Western (Western and Cortez, just north of Augusta)
American Contemporary and Vegetarian. 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday | 7:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday | 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturday | 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday | 8 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch Saturday and Sunday. | BYOB
Located next door to the Empty Bottle (one of our best music spots), this smallish cafe has one of the best brunches in town, augmented by one of the best Bloody Mary's available next door at the Bottle (there's a shared door, so you just roll on over to the bar while you wait for your food). Chris and Augie get brunch there a lot, but never together. Kind of creepy. Good for meaties and veggies alike and featuring some strong ass coffee.
Flying Saucer: 1123 N. California (California just south of Division)
American Contemporary. 8 a.m.-3 p.m., daily | Saturday and Sunday, brunch only. | BYOB
This Humboldt Park spot fills up fast on weekends, but is worth a bit of a wait. Breakfast options include huevos volando (eggs hash over corn tortillas with guajillo sauce) and omelet specials, each accompanied by home fries, mixed field greens or spiced apples (think apple pie, but without the crust). Coffee is good and everything's affordable.
Township: 2200 N California (at Milwaukee)
American/fusion. Mon-Fri 8am-12pm coffee, 5pm-2am dinner | Sat & Sun 9am-2pm BRUNCH, 5pm-2am food and shows!
Dark matter coffee served up in the morning. Outdoor patio on Palmer is quiet with plenty of people/commuter watching with the Blue Line nearby. Saturday and Sunday serves up a very reasonably priced brunch. They feature an ample beer menu as it shares a space with the bar next door that hosts punk shows almost nightly.
- Listed elsewhere (maybe) but also good for breakfast: Handlebar, Prasino, Chicago Diner, Tweet, Northdown, Pick Me Up Cafe, Atomix, Bleeding Heart, Kristoffer's Cafe & Bakery