Global City Hopping: Chicago

Trip: October 2016

City: Chicago, North America

Visited by: Francis Loughran

I first visited Chicago back in 1982 on my first transatlantic trip from London for my brother’s wedding. I was on my hotel management degree work-placement in London at the time. The world was my food-oyster and I could not wait to visit any new country so to experience their food, culture and architecture. Chicago made a big impression on me and fifteen visits later I still have a soft-spot for the Windy City. The sky scrapers, museums, the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright building and of course Shaw’s Crab House and Jazz Bar who still continue to serve some of the crab cakes I’ve ever eaten. 

Sure, this city has great architecture, museums and sports venues. But at its heart, Chicago is a food town. This is evident in the priority that good eating takes no matter the occasion. It is well known that locals will wait in a line (rain or shine) that snakes around the corner for dolled-up doughnuts at Doughnut Vault. And like any modern foodie around the world, they love to talk about their most recent meal. 

Even with the help of family and friends, navigating Chicago’s epic and ever evolving dining scene can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Use this list as your guidebook to the hottest places to dine in the Windy City right now and thank us later.  Many of the food spots I visited are new and noteworthy while others are neighbourhood gems we’d be remiss not to include. It’s no wonder that outdoor festivals are often centred on food, from Taste of Chicago in Summer which packs the grounds at Grant Park, to smaller celebrations like the German-American Fest in Lincoln Square, a mini-Oktoberfest in the Winter. 

Although the city has always had options on the extreme ends of the spectrum—from the hole-in-the wall Italian beef sandwich shops to the special-occasion spots—it's now easier to find eateries in the middle that serve seasonal menus with a farm-to-table mantra. For the budget conscious, it's also a great time to dine. Some talented chefs aren't bothering to wait for a liquor license, opening BYOB spots which turn out polished fare (My favourite? Ruxbin in West Town).

Ruxbin, West Town

Ruxbin, West Town

Expect to see more Chicago chefs open casual concepts—Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan, and Michael Kornick have a head start with their respective sandwich, taco, and burger spots. Yet the goal remains the same: to feed a populace that knows good food and isn't willing to accept anything less than the best. In my following list; you’ll find our top picks, from quick bites to multi course meals, in the city’s best dining neighbourhoods. Check out the following from my recent six day trip.

1. Au Cheval 

"A diner style bar and restaurant with a passion for eggs"

see the website

2. Rex Italian Deli on Harlem & Montrose 

"Counter-serve Italian entrees & sandwiches"

see the website

3. Lucia's Deli on North & Honore

" A casual BYOB eatery featuring homestyle Italian favourites"

see the website

4. Cindy's

"Rooftop restaurant and open-air terrace with panoramic views of Millennium Park"

see the website

5. Mercadito on Kinzie & LaSalle

"Cocktails and upscale Mexican eats keep this popular hangout bustling with a hip, young crowd"

see the website

6. Siena Tavern

"Siena Tavern focuses on traditional Italian with a modern twist, all made from scratch"

see the website

7. Parlor Pizza

"Industrial-chic pizzeria offering wood-fired pizza & a bar with craft beer"

see the website

8. Fountainhead

"One of my favourite bars featuring a long beer list & creative, organic pub eats plus a seasonal rooftop garden"

see the website

9. Map Room

"A map-lined watering hole touting more than 200 global beers, plus travel books for browsing"

see the website

10. Lagunitas Brewery

"A taproom offering beer tastings, snacks, a retail store & regular live music"

see the website

As the Future Food team continues to travel the world for business, projects and pleasure, we continue to experience and unlock the latest and most diverse culinary offerings from every corner of the globe. The Global City Hopping series is designed to share these experiences with you and open your eyes to what is happening in the food and beverage international scene.