Restaurant Guide–Chicago

Restaurant Guide Main Index


Illinois


  • Date indicates the most recent update of the restaurants listed
  • Bold indicates my recommendations; others come from what I consider to be good sources (see bottom of page for further explanation)

Arlington Heights

Johnnie’s Beef–1935 S. Arlington Heights Rd. (Sandwiches) Open Daily.  Italian beef and Italian sausage sandwiches. Many like it with sweet peppers. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Penang–1720 W. Algonquin Rd. (Malaysian) Closed Tue (and closed from 3 to 4:30 pm weekdays).  Cooks are from Penang and cook authentic food. It seems to have some dishes that are not so authentic, so the trick here is to get the Malaysian food. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Tugo Tea House–1285 N. Rand Rd. (Taiwanese) Closed Sun evening & Mon.  Said to be authentic. I think it is mostly Taiwanese street food. Has a good selection of bubble tea. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Brookfield

Dunav–8801 W. Ogden Ave. (Serbian) Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.  Said to be authentic Serbian food that is very good (they bill themselves as “Modern European.” Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Chicago

Berghoff–17 W. Adams St. (German) Open 11 am to 8:30 pm (closed Sun & Mon).  Open since the 1800’s, this is one of the city’s classic restaurants. Schnitzel, sauerbraten, and stroganoff are recommended, but what is really interesting about this restaurant is the wide variety of items that are available in Europe but missing in most US German restaurants. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Billy Goat Tavern–430 N. Michigan Ave. (Hamburgers) Open daily except Sun evening (open to midnight Thu-Sat).  This is the restaurant featured in the Saturday Night Live skit “cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” Most reviews don’t say the hamburgers are all that good, but I thought they were. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Byron’s Hot Dog Haus–1017 W. Irving Park Rd. (Hot Dogs) Open daily 10:30 am to 9 pm.  All beef hot dog with all the fixins is recommended. Map (Takeout only-outside picnic tables are available 12-1-21)

Calumet Bakery–2510 E. 106th St. (Bakery) Open 6 am to 5 pm (closed Sun & Mon).  Has kolaches–one of the original and best examples of Chicago style (different from Texas style). Map (Takeout only 12-1-21)

Dao Thai–230 E. Ohio St. (Thai) Open Daily.  This was one of my first experiences with “real Thai,” but reviews indicate there may be better places in Chicago (I think this one is very good though). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Frontera Grill–445 N. Clark St. (Mexican) Closed Mon (and closed from 2:30 to 4:30 pm weekdays).  Described by some as Rick Bayless’ mid-range restaurant. This is probably the place to try authentic Mexican dishes such as mole. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Garrett Popcorn Shop–625 N. Michigan Ave. (Popcorn) Open Daily.  Google maps lists 11 locations around Chicago, so this shows its popularity. It was recommended to me by the owner of The Heat in Edmond, OK (a native Chicagoan). Gil Garduño from Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog likes Chicago mix. Many people recommend caramel. Map (In-store shopping and pickup is available 10-20-21)

Gino’s East–162 E. Superior St. (Pizza) Open Daily.  Roadfood says this is one of the great deep dish pie institutions. They recommend the crumbled sausage and cheese pie with tomato sauce on top. It takes 45 minutes for orders to be prepared. There are two other locations. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Giordano’s–730 N. Rush St. (Pizza) Open Daily.  One of Chicago’s premier Pizza restaurants. I had such a good experience here that I have to put it on the list (even though quite a few people think there is better pizza in the city). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Hermosa–4356 W. Armitage Ave. (Cambodian) Closed Mon.  Signature dish is the Cambodian chicken sandwich, but they also have Cambodian plate dinners. Has dine-in, but I don’t know how many tables they have (dining room may be small). Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Irazu–1865 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Costa Rican) Closed Sun-Tue.  There are not many Costa Rican restaurants in the US, but reviewers say this is a delicious place to try it. The menu has traditional plates as well as items that are more like snack food (empanadas, etc.). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

JB’s Deli–5501 N. Clark St. (Deli) Mon-Fri 8 am to 7 pm; Sat & Sun 8 am to 5 pm.  Traditional Jewish deli with very good reviews and apparently very good quality of the meat. Gets recommendations over other Jewish delis partly because of the prices. Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Note: some say The Bagel Restaurant at 3107 N. Broadway is the best place for bagels & lox. Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Julius Meinl–3601 N. Southport Ave. (Austrian) Open daily 7 am to 6 pm.  Specialty is an authentic Vienna style breakfast (soft boiled egg, toast, and choice of ham or smoked salmon). Coffee is one of the main attractions. Also at 1920 W. Montrose Ave (but this location closes at 5 pm). Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Kasia’s Deli–2101 W. Chicago Ave. (Polish) Closes 7 pm weekdays, 6 pm on Sat (closed Sun).  Deli style Polish food. Good choice if you don’t want a buffet (can go to Red Apple for buffet). Here you look at the food and pick out what you would like. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Lao Peng You–2020 W. Chicago Ave. (Chinese) Open Thu-Sun 11 am to 9 pm.  Handmade noodles and dumplings. Reviewers say the dan dan noodles are some of the best anywhere. The only problem is that they do not currently have dine-in service (I think they did before the pandemic). Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Lao Sze Chuan–2172 S. Archer Ave. (Chinese) Open daily 11 am to midnight.  Authentic Sichuan cuisine–positive or negative reviews seem to depend on whether people like this style of cooking (not because of poor execution of the food). Reviewers say this is one of the top ten Chinese restaurants in the country. Lots of dishes are home style. There are three other locations in Chicago. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria–805 S. State St. (Pizza) Open Daily.  This is supposed to be the ultimate example of Chicago deep dish pizza. There are several locations throughout the Chicago area. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Nepal House–2601 W. Devon Ave. (Nepalese) Open daily 10:30 am to 9:30 pm.  Seems to be the best Nepali food in Chicago in terms of the reviews and depth of the menu (some places that serve only momo have very good reviews as well). Chow mein is popular. Also at 1301 S. Michigan Ave. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Old Fashioned Donuts–11248 S. Michigan Ave. (Bakery) Open 6 am to 6 pm (closed Sun).  Sells donuts, but its best item is said to be the apple fritter. If you get a donut, there is a good chance they will still be warm from the fry kettle Map. (Takeout only 10-20-21)

Opart Thai–1546 W. Chicago Ave. (Thai) Open Daily.  Reviewers say this is one of the most authentic Thai restaurants in Chicago. Another good feature is the variety of items that are available. Spice level is like it is in Thailand. Based on the items served and the presentation from the photos this looks like a very special Thai restaurant. Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Original Pancake House–22 E. Bellevue Pl. (Breakfast) Breakfast & lunch only (open daily).  Said to be better than the other restaurants in the chain. Dutch baby pancake and German pancake are oven baked, and are recommended. Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Pequod’s Pizza–2207 N. Clybourn Ave. (Pizza) Open daily (open late night). Known for its deep pan pizza (house special sausage, pepperoni and mushroom is popular). Has a carmelized crust that people like. Also at 8520 Fernald Ave. in Morton Grove. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings–2002 S. Wentworth Ave. (Chinese) Open 11:30 am to 9 pm (closed Wed).  Authentic Chinese dumplings, but some say the soup dumplings (XLB) are small (but there is a good selection of other types). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Red Apple Buffet–6474 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Polish) Open for dining 12 pm to 8 pm Sat & Sun only.  People like the food and the selection of items. During the week it is open for takeout or you can eat in the restaurant by reservation only. Sat & Sun it is open to the public and they have a family style dinner for 2 or more persons. (Before the pandemic they had a buffet which was considered by many to be the best Polish buffet in town). Map (Dining room is open 12-1-21)

Russian Tea Time–77 E. Adams St. (Russian) Open 11 am to 8 pm (closed Mon).  Upscale Russian restaurant that has items that will probably be very hard to find anywhere else in the US. Beef stroganoff is $29 on the Oct. 2021 menu, so it’s expensive but unique enough that I want to put it on the list. Only the caviar is off the charts expensive. Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Sayat Nova–157 E. Ohio St. (Armenian) Open Daily.  Mezza sampler (appetizers) is popular. Has lunch specials at what is a good price for downtown Chicago. Map (Temporarily closed 12-1-21)

Serai–2169 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Malaysian) Dinner Tue-Sun, lunch Sat & Sun.  The scoop on this restaurant is that Malaysian people consider it to be one of the best Malaysian restaurants in the US. Mee goreng, among other dishes, is said to be authentic and very good. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Smakosz–5619 W. Lawrence Ave. (Polish) Open 12 pm to 8 pm (closed Tue).  This looks like a very good place to get flavorful and authentic Polish food at a good price and a down home atmosphere. The Polish Food Assortment gives you a little bit of everything (to try different items). Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Southside African Rest–8311 S. Baltimore Ave. (Nigerian) Closed Sat evening & Sun.  Nigerian customers say it “tastes like home.” Conde Nast recommends suya (beef cooked over a woodfired grill seasoned with garlic, chicken boullion powder, paprika, and crushed peanuts). Many reviewers like egusi, a slow cooked soup of spinach and melon seeds, eaten with pounded yam. Map (Dining room is open 10-26-21)

Spacca Napoli–1769 W. Sunnyside Ave. (Italian) Closed Mon.  Has authentic Neapolitan pizza. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Spoon Thai–4608 N. Western Ave. (Thai) Open Daily.  For years this has been listed on web sites as people’s favorite Thai restaurant in Chicago. Reviews are still good, and I think a strong point is is the number of menu choices it has. One recommended dish is naem khao thawt (fermented raw pork sausage). Others include basil dishes, tom yum, pad see ew. Many recommend ordering from the daily specials board. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Sticky Rice–4018 N. Western Ave. (Thai) Closed Mon.  Northern Thai style of food, and many say this is one of the best Thai restaurants in the US. One recommended dish is the Northern Thai pork-tomato-chili dip (Nam prik ong) appetizer. One tip–do not ask for extra spice, take it as it is meant to be made. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Three Happiness Original Rest.–209 W. Cermak Rd. (Chinese) Open daily (open overnight until 6 am).  Traditional Cantonese food in the Chinatown district. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Topolobampo–445 N. Clark St. (Mexican) Dinner only (open Wed-Sat only).  The most upscale of the Rick Bayless Restaurants (and many say the best). I think this is authentic Mexican food made more upscale (such as with Wagyu beef) and it may be more of a one time experience than someplace you can come to try different dishes. Gayot (and probably others) say this is the best Mexican restaurant in the US (although the price makes it so that most can only come here on special occasions). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Tre Kronor–3258 W. Foster Ave. (Swedish) Closed Mon (they say their hours are subject to change week to week).  Serves traditional Swedish food for breakfast, lunch and dinner (but probably breakfast is most popular here). As of Oct 2021 they have indoor dining and heated outdoor dining in covered picnic shelters. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Tryzub–2201 W. Chicago Ave. (Ukrainian) Dinner Tue-Sun; Lunch Sat & Sun (closed Mon).  Looks upscale but less expensive than Russian Tea Time. Reviews say the pierogi is made in house and the food in general is very good. Map (Dining room is open 10-27-21)

Tuscany Taylor–1014 W. Taylor St. (Italian) Dinner only (closed Mon & Tue).  Restaurant in the Little Italy district that is supposed to be one of the best in the city. People say the food is on par with the now closed Spiaggia but it is less stuffy and expensive. Northern Italian style. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Udupi Palace–2543 W. Devon Ave. (Indian) Open Daily.  This is a vegetarian Indian restaurant located in the Little India district. South Indian style food with dosa and thali (but thali is the one they especially recommend). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Xi’an Cuisine–225 W. Cermak St. (Chinese) Open daily 10 am to 9 pm.  This is said to be authentic northern Chinese style street food. Mostly snacks (that you can combine with other items to make a meal). Most people, though, recommend the hand-stretched noodle dishes (which make a meal by themselves). The specialty here is the hand pulled noodles (that reviewers say have a noticeably better flavor than regular noodles you get in other restaurants). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Xoco–449 N. Clark St. (Mexican) Closed Sun & Mon.  One of the Rick Bayless restaurants. This one serves Oaxacan style street food (tortas, tacos, etc.). Has a seasonal menu. The menu I saw (Mar. 2019) did not have mole except for a green mole soup. Prices are good, and they have items you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Darien

Old Vilnius Cafe–2601 75th St. (Lithuanian) Open Daily.  Serves Lithuanian food. People who like Grand Duke’s in Downers Grove also like this place (the two restaurants are across the street from each other). Has a good selection of items, and has good reviews. Map (Takeout only 10-17-21)

Downers Grove

Grand Duke’s–980 W. 75th St. (Lithuanian) Open Daily.  This is a small family run restaurant that serves authentic food. Recommendations include stuffed cabbage, chicken Vilnius, zeppelins, potato pancakes, cepelinai, kugelis, and really just about anything on the menu. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Lao Sze Chuan–1331 Ogden Ave. (Chinese) Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.  Offshoot of the Chicago restaurant of the same name. Has both authentic and Americanized Chinese food. The attraction of this is being able to get this type of food in the suburbs. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Elgin

Burnt Toast–2492 N. Randall Rd. (Breakfast) Open daily (breakfast & lunch only).  Specialty is European style breakfast (eggs Benedict, crepes, blintzes, Belgian waffles, potato pancakes, etc.). Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Elmwood Park

Johnnie’s Beef–7500 W. North St. (Sandwiches) Open daily 11 am to midnight.  Roadfood says it is a must try for several items: Italian beef, Italian ice, sausage sandwich, and combo (beef, sausage, and giardiniera). Map (Takeout only 10-20-21)

Evanston

Kabul House–2424 Dempster St. (Afghan) Open daily except Sun lunch.  Good selection of dishes, including vegetarian. Looks as if they are serious about serving a good variety of Afghan food. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

NaKorn Urban Thai–1622 Orrington Ave. (Thai) Dinner only (closed Mon & Tue).  The owner cooks dishes she enjoyed while growing up, and they are a little different than at most Thai restaurants. Probably the thing to do here is order something you cannot find at other restaurants. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Shang Noodle & Chinese–608 Davis St. (Chinese) Open Daily.  Owner says it is authentic food from Sichuan, Shanghai, & Shandong regions. Specialties include Yu-Shiang pork or eggplant. Noodles are made in house. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Tapas Barcelona–1615 Chicago Ave. (Spanish & Basque) Dinner daily; Lunch Fri & Sat.  Tapas are about $5 to $10 each, and some say it takes about three items for a full meal (so the overall price is reasonable). Has tapas from all regions of Spain. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Lake Zurich

Ania’s Polish Deli–780 S. Rand Rd. (Polish) Open daily except Sat evening & Sun evening.  Has very good reviews for deli food. One of the biggest attractions is the deli, which appears to be huge from the photos. Map (Takeout only 10-17-21)

Bacchus Nibbles–800 W. Main St. (American) Open daily except Sun lunch & Mon lunch.  This came to my attention from Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling Blog) as a rather off the radar but good choice. Yelp calls it an American restaurant, yet some of its dishes include Thai style crispy duck with peanut sauce, coq au vin, goat cheese phyllo, and escargot. Going out on a limb as they seem to do can lead to true kitchen nightmares, but Gil says it all works and this is a judgment I trust and can pass on to others. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Kavkaz Grill–115 S. Rand Rd. (Georgian) Open Fri-Sun only.  Reviewers say it is good food (authentic Georgian cuisine which is Middle Eastern style). They also say it gets very crowded and that reservations are helpful. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Mount Prospect

Qulinarnia–1730 W. Golf Rd. (Polish) Closed Mon.  Upscale and “modern” Polish food. Looks good from the photos. Probably on the expensive side. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

Norridge

Edelweiss–7650 W. Irving Park Rd. (German) Closed Tue & Wed.  This is a German-American restaurant, meaning they have standard German dishes (schnitzel, bratwurst, etc.) plus American sandwiches. They also apparently have special dishes (such as asparagus) cooked German style. Map (Dining room is open 10-17-21)

River Grove

Gene & Jude’s–2720 N. River Rd. (Hot Dogs) Open daily (open late night).  There are no tables–you can eat in your car or standing up at counters around the edge of the dining room (but dining room is closed because of Covid). Roadfood says the hot dogs are worth it, though. This is said to be the home of the original Chicago style hot dog. They recommend that you get the ones with french fries piled on top. Map (Takeout only 10-17-21)

Shaumburg

Bisi–853 S. Roselle Rd. (Nigerian) Closed Sun dinner; closed Sun & Mon.  Conde Nast recommends the egusi, a slow-cooked soup composed of spinach and ground melon seeds eaten with pounded yam. Map (Takeout only 10-26-21)

Yu’s Mandarin–200 E. Golf Rd. (Chinese) Open daily (closed from 3 to 4:30 pm weekdays).  This is Korean-Chinese food and I do not know what this means, but some people really like this cuisine specifically. Some say that it has a “Chinese menu” that is separate from the regular menu, and that this has the best food. Map (Dining room is open 10-20-21)

Westchester

Westchester Inn–3069 Wolf Rd. (Czech) Open 11 am to 7 pm (closed Mon).  Pork tenderloin and chicken schnitzel are popular items (they have a small and large portion available of the entrees). I couldn’t find a dessert menu but it looks like they have fruit kolaches. Reviewers say the food here is made from scratch home made Bohemian food. Map (Dining room is open 10-22-21)

Wheaton

Pa Lian–254 E. Geneva Rd. (Burmese) Closed Sun (and closed from 2 to 4:30 pm).  Has tea leaf salad (probably the most popular Burmese dish I have seen on the Internet) but has a number of other authentic and popular dishes as well. Map (Takeout only 10-17-21)

 

 

Notes About This List:

This is a “master list” of restaurants that I have seen on the Internet or other sources and would like to try, or that I think would be of interest to others.  I do not mean for this to be an exhaustive list of every good place to eat, but it should represent a good sample of the most interesting or unique restaurants, along with a few that best represent an area’s regional cuisine.  My own recommendations are in Bold.

I am not looking to include:

  • Fine dining (unless they are unique because of regional specialties)
  • Low end restaurants that are popular with locals but may not be of much interest to travelers or people in general (everyone will have to use their judgment on this one)

Extra consideration for the following:

  • The food is organic, fresh, healthy, or farm to table
  • The restaurant serves a relatively hard to find type of ethnic food and reviews are good

In addition to the regular guidelines I try to include:

  • The best Asian restaurants in the area even if they are not totally authentic
  • Particularly good Mexican restaurants (this usually means the food is from a particular state in Mexico or it is one of the best examples of a U.S. regional style)

Please feel free to leave your own comments or suggestions.

 

Note About “50 States, 50 Cuisines” (Condé Nast)

Condé Nast published an article on Sep. 14, 2020 explaining how they set out to go beyond a previous article that had identified the signature dish for each state, and to find food that goes beyond the classics and “to highlight a cuisine worth traveling to each state for, much of which you truly can’t get anywhere else.” For Illinois it was Nigerian cuisine in Chicago, mainly found on the South Side.

Among them are Southside Restaurant (known for its suya, and Bisi Restaurant which is now in Schaumburg (and known for its egusi).

Sources:

Better.net (The Real Story Behind the Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich–Plus The 7 Best Places to Get One)

Chowhound (Chicago)

Condé Nast Traveler (50 States, 50 Cuisines: The Food Worth Traveling For in Every State)

Culture Trip (Top 10 Restaurants in Elgin)

Gil’s Thrilling (and filling) Blog

Google Maps

Roadfood (What To Eat in Illinois)

Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)

VPN Americas (Illinois)

Yelp (Chicago)

 

 

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