There is no denying that Chicago is universally known as a top reigning culinary city. In 2018, Chicago was home to 22 Michelin star restaurants, including the three star, three-month-in-advance reservation required, Alinea. But beyond the notable hot-spots and the critic-praised eateries, the city is also home to some less-famed but still must-see restaurants, with offerings worth getting your hands on. Regardless of one’s individual tastes, Chicago is a city that undoubtedly has something for everyone.
Best All Around Experience
Boka Chicago | 1729 N Halsted St, Chicago | bokachicago.com
The Michelin star recipient and James Beard finalist for outstanding service is the kind of place that sticks in your travel memories for a lifetime. Service is observant but not overbearing and the menu, equally reliable and adventurous, but not painfully overwhelming in its risks. At the beginning of the meal, allergies and dietary preferences are acknowledged, making the tasting menu an available option to even those with choosier palates. The menu highlights include a 75 day dry-aged beef tartare and ricotta dumplings with goat gouda, and the ability to top any dish with shaved truffle. The ever-changing specials are also an opportunity to see the creativity of its culinary team. Thin ribbon tagliolini topped with lobster, black truffle and bathing in uni broth, is a dish that is likely to stay in my top tier of best tastes for a long time.
Geja’s Cafe | 340 W Armitage Ave, Chicago | gejascafe.com
A long time favorite, Geja’s Cafe is the Lincoln Park eatery that knows its value. Included on Open Table’s 2017 list of most romantic restaurants, the fondue spot is perfect for a date night, but also enjoyable for a dinner with family or friends. Non-chain fondue restaurants tend to be a rarity, but also offer a unique experience for its guests. Geja’s succeeds not only in its menu items, but in atmosphere. The small space is intimate and service is both attentive and enthusiastic, a reminder of the type of hospitality specific to the midwest. All parts of the meal are cooked tabletop by guests, including the entrees, although the true stars of the experience are the cheese fondue starter and chocolate fondue finisher. An ideal Saturday night spot for a memorable meal, Geja’s is a must for any first time visitor to Chicago.
Memorable Daytime Visit
The Palm Court Restaurant at the Drake Hotel
140 E Walton Pl, Chicago | thedrakehotel.com/dining/palm-court
Inside the centrally located and classic Chicago hotel is The Palm Court Restaurant, a perfect daytime spot to enjoy their historic and well-loved afternoon tea. Dating back to 1840, the tradition has been enjoyed by notable figures including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth II. Included in the experience is a three tier assortment of scones, pastries and sandwiches, along with your choice of tea. The grand dining room centers around a stunning fountain and serves as the backdrop for the adult tea party of your childhood dreams. Decor and live music ties the experience together with an atmosphere of true elegance.
Casual Lunch Favorites
If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat in between sight seeing, Chicago is home to a few favorites for lunch. Portillo’s hot dogs is a classic spot with multiple locations to swing by. Italian beef, Chicago-style hot dogs and salads are just some of their notable items. For sweet-tooth fanatics, the chocolate cake and the even richer chocolate cake milkshake are decadent necessities. For a sub that significantly beats out its competitors, Potbelly is the sandwich shop known at its various locations for its freshness and quality. Also offering malts, shakes and arguably the best chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, Potbelly is a place well worth the visit.