Living here is a weather shitstorm, but I do admire the gastronomic reasons Chicagoans like to call this city home. We all know the key touristy attractions, Willis Tower, Millennium Park, deep dish pizza (YUM), but don’t you want food experiences off the beaten path? As a roving college student, I’ve encountered a few (frankly) cool places to check out. Mind you, most of these places are on the North Side because I gravitated around my home base of DePaul University. So if you have other recommendations, comment below!
Regardless of whether you’ve never been to Chicago or lived here all your life, these places are worth checking out.
1. George’s Ice Cream
What makes this ice cream parlor so good? The huge variety of course! Who wants an ice cream place with a small selection? George’s offers more than 2 dozen flavors, a section of baked treats and chocolate-dipped splendors, crazy Italian soda floats, and FREE popcorn! There’s board games and a bit of hopscotch for the kids too. The high ceilings and festive decor make this place feel like a true ice cream parlor.
This is a Japanese BBQ restaurant is perfect for groups of people. With a grill in the center of the table, you can grill your own meats and vegetables. Gyu-Kaku has two locations in West Chicago and just north of the Loop. I have only gone to the city center location, but I always find myself going back. There are three levels in the restaurant with traditional-style seating at the top. If you want a unique lunch or dinner experience, this would be perfect to try!
3. Bourgeois Pig
On the outside, this place literally looks like a house, which makes it even more cozy for those who like a quiet and charming getaway to do work. This place also boasts excellent sandwiches and coffee.
4. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
While I have not been here yet, there is something to be said when the typical wait is 2 HOURS on the weekend and they’re usually open just for dinner. What I do know is they have to-die-for pizza pot pie, which is their signature menu item.
5. Hop Cat
This place is a utopia for beer aficionados. They offer over 100 beers ON TAP and even more in bottles. They have good food to boot with award-winning french fries (a.k.a. “Crack Fries”) that are fried in beer batter and served with a beer cheese dip.
6. Sappori Trattoria
This Italian restaurant is perfect for a romantic date. While it is a bit on the pricey side, their pasta is hand-made while the quality of food might tempt you to lick the plate. Aaaand I might be a bit biased because I went on my first date with my partner there.
During the cool summer evenings, this ice cream “hole in the wall” has a line around the block. Their all-natural Italian ice is smooth and they offer a huge variety of yummy (and sometimes odd) flavors. Also, they have Nutella milkshakes, which is a plus for me!
8. Galway Arms
Searching for a good Irish pub? This is as authentic as you can get. To my credit, I have been to a few pubs in Ireland before. So when I walked inside, I felt like I was transported back there. The layout is windy with a few nooks to have a quiet drink with a friend. The woodwork is beautiful and you have to walk downstairs to the bathroom (yes, that’s a key characteristic of traditional Irish pubs). They serve traditional Irish food and alcoholic staples like Guinness and Smithwick’s.