This Where to Eat in Downtown Chicago post is part of one of my favorite “series” here on LM – a recounting of everywhere we ate on a trip. I get to relive the deliciousness and, you know, I love talking about food.
I’d been to Chicago at the end of undergrad, but it was for less than two days and we did not get to experience the city. I knew I had a lot to make up for on my recent trip to the Windy City. I was so excited by all of your fabulous recommendations on Instagram. Those combined with a long list of recommended stops from a dear friend and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it all on our short trip.
The Purple Pig :: Intelligentsia :: Tanta
My mom and I tried to hit many of the suggested places and discover a few of our own and I think we did a pretty good job. So here is my “Where to Eat in Downtown Chicago Guide” full of recommendations for food and fun in Chicago along with a list at the bottom of all the recommended places we didn’t get to try!
Frontera Grill :: Old School frontera Trio // Hub 51 :: Ahi Tuna + Avocado :: Cornbread // Quartino :: Italian Donuts
Where to Eat in Downtown Chicago
One of the most interesting things about all the recommended restaurants was the overwhelming turn to small plates. It seems that Chicago is ready for tapas no matter the cuisine. As light eaters who want to try lots of dishes, this was perfect for us!
Quartino was family-style Italian tapas. We ordered a two salads, bruschetta toasts, gnocchi, a head of cauliflower with pesto, and then Italian donuts. There were three of us at this dinner, to ease your concern, but it was still a lot of food…
At first bite (without the chocolate sauce), the Italian donuts we had for dessert weren’t my thing. Then I came to my senses and realized the chocolate donut combination was heavenly. I finally cut myself off at four. Well four and a half, but please don’t judge!
We stumbled into Hub51 one afternoon on the hunt for a late lunch. It’s a large bar and restaurant with tvs. The food was really good, however! The ahi tuna and avocado starter was fantastic. The turkey chili was perfect for the chilly (pun!) day. And that cornbread? Yep. gone. Luckily my mom helped. It seems rather expensive for just cornbread, but it’s huge and delicious. Don’t miss out!
My Favorite Restaurant in Chicago
I dragged my mom to The Purple Pig just after dropping our bags at the hotel. Luckily it did not disappoint and started our trip off on a culinary high point.
We shared the beet and goat cheese salad and the Greek cornbread that set my heart aflutter. (see my copycat homemade Greek Cornbread recipe here) For our main dish, we were brave and tried the blood sausage and lobster. I found out that I don’t hate blood sausage, but I certainly don’t like it. And I’m not sure this was a dish I’d suggest, even if you are a fan of blood sausage.
All of the other entrees served around us, however, looked perfect! It took self-control not to ask strangers for a taste. And you must save room for dessert. The Sicilian Iris – chocolate chip + ricotta filled brioche topped with powdered sugar – is scrumptious.
You could just go straight to dessert and there would be nothing wrong with that! They also have a great wine selection. A MUST for sure!
Tapas in Chicago
My other MUST is Tanta – a Peruvian tapas restaurant. They have a wide selection of entrees (which are large portions for sure), but we did the small bites and dessert thing. Their Pisco Sour was fabulous.
We shared the chicken empanadas (not listed separately on the menu – so be sure to ask), tuna + avocado yellow potato bites, and chicken skewers atop sweet potato and hominy. The plates look small, but we were so full with just these three dishes. Oh! And the plantain chips. Be sure to ask for those as well.
And for dessert? An apple bread pudding with golden quinoa ice cream (Was I in heaven?!?) and crispy quinoa. I still don’t even know what crispy quinoa is, but I assume quinoa is healthy, so this dessert was practically calorie-free. Needless to say, Tanta was a favorite of ours for sure. Be sure to make a reservation when you’re in town!
WHERE TO EAT IN CHICAGO
Eataly :: the Chicago version of this famous stop. It’s a market combined with various “shops,” including pasta, bread, meat, nutella, coffee, a cheese bar, wine tasting room, and so much more. A fun experience for sure
Scone City (closed)
*indicates my top picks
WHAT TO DO IN CHICAGO
Chicago River Architecture Tour
See a Play :: Broadway Performances usually start in Chicago before hitting NYC, so don’t miss out!
The Art Institute of Chicago :: Check out the miniatures room in the basement.
Walk along Lake Michigan
Watch a Baseball Game :: Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox
Walk through Millenium Park
Xoco (mexican food)
Rootstock in Humboldt Park
Longman & Eagle (fabulous drinks + Michelin star food)
Au Cheval (try the burger)
Girl and the Goat Diner
Three Dots and a Dash
Sportman’s Club (drinks)
Maude’s Liquor Bar (Try the Vodka Smash)
The Aviary (cocktails)
Chicago Distilling (local vodka + gin)
La Colombe (coffee)
Star Lounge (coffee)