We came back from a five-day culinary-inspired trip to Chicago a couple of weeks ago. We had the best time exploring the city, looking for the must-try-eats in town. But, of course, some cheeky cocktails and lots of Americanos sneaked their way in too!
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Here is my list of top 10 recommended cafes, bars and restaurants in Chicago:
1. Toni Patisserie & Cafe
This rustic little Parisian Cafe is by far my favourite in town. Nestled in the busy downtown loop of Chicago among the many skyscrapers, this place transports you in body, mind, and soul to Paris. Their baked goods from the Patisserie are divine and are made fresh each day.
We tried their lemon bar and the salted caramel chocolate bar with our Americanos, and it was pure heaven on earth. In addition, I was impressed by their affordable French-inspired lunch menu and their picnic basket option for those wishing to picnic at Millenium Park. What a fantastic idea!
2. Elephant & Castle Pub
A few of these little Irish charms dotting around Chicago, and I was impressed by their ale and British-/Irish-inspired food quality. We had just dropped in for a cheeky ‘pint’ after our 16-mile city walk, and we ended up having dinner here as well.
We shared a side of sweet potato fries at first, and then without much convincing required, I tried their Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Mashed Potatoes. Again, all homemade and all delicious, and it made me nostalgic for home.
3. Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop
Chocolate heaven! The smell entices you in, then the free samples draw you further, and then it’s downhill to no self-control after that. Fabulous Sundaes, Fabulous Icecream, Fabulous Hot Chocolate, Fabulous everything! Of course, instead of sharing, we were greedy, ate a whole sundae each and then went without dinner. It was worth it!
4. Cafe Descartes
I realized early on that there is a vast French culinary influence in Chicago. This was an unexpected and splendid treat for me on this recent trip! French cuisine is my ONE weakness!
We just so happened to walk past this coffee shop at 7 am on our morning stroll to Millenium Park. I love a good old Starbucks as much as the next person, but there is always a sense of curiosity that attracts me to the independent gems that stand out like this one did that very morning.
Working hard, surrounded by the chains, they have every right to stand tall beside the rest. From their delightful French-themed decor, cakes and pastries, and espresso, we were wowed.
We voted that this place had the best breakfast in Chicago! So we rented bicycles for the day and cycled to Lincoln Park to find out if this place deserved all the raves it was getting. I’m happy to say that we agreed.
It doesn’t look much at all from the outside, but on the inside, the staff are amicable, and they cook up some of the best food in town. Their freshly squeezed juices of many a variety are a steal at just $4 a glass. I had the Apple & Mango combo, which went down a treat before brunch, after a 10-mile bicycle ride!
We had the Chorizo Hash with a perfectly fried egg placed on top, with sauteed potatoes and salad for brunch. It was phenomenal, and the Chorizo is locally made, which they proudly promote on the menu. Hats off to all of you amazing people behind this place.
6. RPM Italian
A reservation is a must for this iconic spot. We booked ours three weeks in advance and got their last table at 9:30 pm. Phew! The ambience is excellent, packed to the absolute brim of satisfied customers.
The best part of the menu for us was the Mushroom Arancini with Diablo Sauce. Made to absolute mouth-watering perfection, these little balls of heaven were crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside, filled with rice, mushrooms and cheese.
They have made Sicilian street food proud, in our opinion. Their pasta dishes were also good, but for us, their array of Cicchetti/antipasti dishes by far exceeded all else. We even got a glance at Mr Bill Rancic himself! That just topped off the night for me!
I think if I had had a few more glasses of wine, I would have plucked up the star-struck courage to say hello–but then the wine would have done the talking, and it would have been not very comfortable, I’m sure!
7. The Signature Room at 95th
Having previously taken the advice from other Chicago food enthusiasts to drink and not eat here, we were delighted to experience just cocktails at the Signature Room at 95th before heading to RPM Italian for Dinner.
Although it was super busy, we could snag a window table overlooking the fantastic views of downtown Chicago. We enjoyed sipping our cocktails while trying not to feel queasy looking down. It was well worth the experience, and we would go again in a heartbeat.
It took me FOREVER to pick out a Pizza restaurant famous for Chicago style deep dish pizzas. We finally chose Giordanos, and we ate there for lunch one day. We both ate their double cheese crusted deep dish pizza and were stuffed after probably only three bites.
They rightly deserve the reputation they have, as the food was excellent. In addition, we were intrigued by the restaurant’s history and its expansion throughout the City over the past 50 years. That’s what hard work, quality food, and service get you–loyalty! They were one of the only places we found that stayed open until midnight too, and all while offering delivery.
9. Epic Burger
Epic indeed! For approximately $9 for a meal, including a drink, we were so impressed by the giant juicy burgers and hand-cut fries that were mouth-watering to the last bite.
It was packed full when we went, but the service was still fast, organized and this didn’t appear to affect the quality of food at all. We had stopped here for a bite on a whim, and I was so impressed, I went back to the hotel and did some research on the place afterwards.
This is what struck me from what I found out – “Non-processed, all-natural food at a reasonable price”. People, it’s that simple! How long have we known the negative implications on our health relating to many fast-food burger joints? Bravo Epic Burger. Here’s hoping you’ll grow big enough to come down to Florida!