In a new weekly series, Summer in Chicago, Eater is highlighting places to eat and drink—sometimes lesser-known spots—in different neighborhoods for when your out-of-town friends come to visit. This week: The South Loop.
Waffles Chicago [Photo: Barry Brecheisen]
Summer in Chicago – the season that makes all those awful winters worth it. Also the season that out-of-towners pounce on our metropolis, eager for all the deep dish and hot dogs they can stomach. But not this time, tourists. Every week, Eater will provide a list of the different places throughout each neighborhood and break it down into categories—the famous, the hidden gems and more—to guide your summer culinary journeys and arm you against the typical tourist traps.
Famous: Mercat a la Planxa
Address: 638 S. Michigan
The low-down: For an authentic taste of Barcelona – from tapas and paellas to seasonal sangrias – Mercat la Planxa is one spot worth the wait. The bacon-wrapped dates and sizzling shrimp are go-to’s, while the flatbreads offer a different and delicious take on Catalonia-style fare.
Under the Radar: Lawrence’s Fisheries
Address: 2120 S. Canal
The low-down: Ordering by the pound (or half pound) has never been so delicious. Lawrence’s serves up the tastiest fried frog legs, oysters, shrimp or catfish on the South Side, always accompanied by its beloved hot sauce. Don’t expect any bells or whistles, but you can’t do much better than $10 or less per pound of seafood goodness.
Address: 1400 S. Michigan
The low-down: Everyone’s had waffles, but none quite like this. A favorite in the neighborhood, Waffles serves up Liege (richer, denser and sweeter) and Brussels (lighter, thicker with larger pockets) style, in sweet and savory styles like red velvet (red velvet waffles with cherry compote and whipped cream cheese); green tea (green tea waffle with lemon ginger chantilly cream, topped with ground pistachio); albondigas (pork and lamb meatballs in a spicy tomato stew atop an asiago mint waffle); and the chicken and bacon (bacon waffle, fried chicken drumstick and thigh with a spicy maple syrup).
Lunch: The Gage
Address: 24 S. Michigan
The low-down: Across from Millennium Park and in the hub of the city, The Gage is a great lunchtime stop along your Chicago tour. Sophisticated sandwiches, soups and salads make it a crowd pleaser, but the fish and chips is the real standout.
Pub and Grub: Hackney’s
Address: 733 S. Dearborn
The low-down: This place has been serving some of the city’s best burgers since 1939. The inside out burger (stuffed with bacon and cheddar cheese) and bleu cheeseburger (stuffed with bleu cheese) are still favorites, while the original French fried onions puts regular sides to shame. The addition of an impressive craft beer list keeps Hackney’s visitors thoroughly, uh, hydrated.
Cocktails: Brasserie by LM
Address: 800 S. Michigan
The low-down: This French bar and restaurant has a sophisticated yet unpretentious vibe, perfect for its classic cocktails and impressive wine list. And if you can’t hold off till dinner, the charcuterie and fromage are always a great accompaniment.
Dinner: Custom House Tavern
Address: 500 S. Dearborn
The low-down: An upscale American tavern, Custom House delivers traditional fare in an innovative way. The sea scallop and veal sweetbread and short rib pot roast are both mouthwatering (not to mention generously portioned) while the wide assortment of appetizers and sides (like oysters, chicken liver pate, braised collared greens and potato boulangere) lend a touch of refined comfort foods.
Sweets: Eleven City Diner
Address: 1112 S. Wabash
The low-down: Skip right to the Soda Jerk, Pie & Cake page of the menu at this neighborhood favorite. From the shakes, malts and banana splits to the towering red velvet cake, Eleven City only serves the most decadent (and enormous) desserts.
One to Watch: Square One
Address: 1400 S. Michigan
The low-down: This wine bar (complete with self-service wine stations) is set to open any day. Decorated in warm wood and aged leather, it will also offer a simple menu of charcuterie, cheeses and spreads.