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: Uptown.
Ceres' Table [Photo: Barry Breischen]
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: Magnolia Café
Address: 1224 W. Wilson
The low-down: From brioche French toast at brunch or braised beef short ribs with bacon cheddar mac ‘n cheese for dinner, Magnolia serves some of the neighborhood’s best food in a truly intimate atmosphere. The service is always excellent, and though it may be tough to get a table, it’s worth the wait. Be sure to save room for dessert.
Under the Radar: Tiztal Café
Address: 4631 N. Clark
The low-down: While fans swear by the chilaquiles or country fried chicken steak, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the fresh juice or oatmeal shakes that come in varieties like papaya mango or banana pecan.
Brunch: The Bongo Room
Address: 5022 N. Clark
The low-down: Whether you prefer your brunch sweet or savory, Bongo Room won’t disappoint. Go for the BLT Benedict (with applewood smoked bacon, baby spinach and basil-pesto hollandaise) or the chocolate tower French toast (bittersweet chocolate chunk bread stuffed with maple mascarpone, banana crème brulee sauce, bananas and shaved chocolate) if you plan on skipping lunch (and dessert). Tip: grab a spot on the sunny back patio.
Coffee: Baker & Nosh
Address: 1303 W. Wilson
The low-down: Start the day at this cozy coffee shop, complete with homemade sticky buns. Sit inside to watch the bakers at work, or get some sun on the lovely outdoor patio while enjoying your La Colombe coffee. Then come back later for fresh-baked bread, flatbreads, sandwiches and artisan groceries.
Address: 5020 N. Sheridan
The low-down: Meat lovers and vegans unite! Tweet boasts an extensive menu, featuring many organic ingredients, that appeals to any appetite (including gluten free) while serving traditional brunch and lunch fare. Need a Bloody Mary or mimosa? No problem.
Dinner: Ceres’ Table
Address: 4882 N. Clark
The low-down: Named after the ancient Roman goddess of the harvest, this Italian-inspired new American restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients in everything from the salads to the main dishes (even in the excellent Sicilian seafood stew). Other Sicilian influences are found in the homemade pasta, from the lasagna to the less-traditional strozzapreti (with wild boar ragu, spinach and mushrooms).
Pub & Grub: Fat Cat
Address: 4840 N. Broadway
The low-down: The menu says beers and burgers (the bean burger is one of the best veggie options around) but the ambiance isn’t so laid back. The cool retro vibe and booming music takes it a notch above your average local watering hole—and it's a perfect spot for pre- or post-show revelry at the Riv or Aragon.
Cocktails: The Bar On Buena
Address: 910 W. Buena
The low-down: Whether you’re craving a cocktail, a beer, wine or whisky, BoB is just the low-key place to have it. The bartenders are friendly and shake up excellent cocktails, but the whisky flights (over 20 to choose from) are the real specialty.
Wine Bar: Fontana Grill
Address: 1329 W. Wilson
The low-down: Enjoy a glass (or bottle) of vino on the lovely, dog-friendly side patio. Share a pizza – the quattro formaggi is a standout.
Sports Bar: Crew
Address: 4804 N. Broadway
The low-down: While sports bars are a dime a dozen in this town, this happens to be the city's top gay sports bar. Loaded with 20 flat panels, a massive beer list and quality grub (pulled pork, quesadillas and the aptly named Kickass Mac N' Cheese), Crew is a perfect spot to catch any game, anytime.
Chinese: Sun Wah Bar-B-Que
Address: 5039 N. Broadway
The low-down: If you're looking to have one of the best Beijing (or Peking) duck dinners served tableside (and some of the city's best egg rolls), this is the place to hit. Sun Wah is often packed early and doesn't take many reservations, but they do have a huge dining room and serve drinks (or you can BYO for a small fee) so waiting is usually never a problem.
Ethiopian: Demera Ethiopian Restaurant
Address: 4801 N. Broadway
The low-down: Chicagoans travel from all over the city for this truly authentic (and unique) dining experience. No utensils here, so be prepared for a hands-on meal with intense flavors in meat, seafood and vegetable varieties.
Vietnamese: Tank Noodle
Address: 4953 N. Broadway
The low-down: Somewhat of an anchor on Argyle, Tank offers up some of the best Vietnamese dishes with a few Chinese favorites thrown in for good measure. Prepare to wait for a table to get noodles, congee, pho, beef salad and more—all prepared with some of the freshest ingredients possible.
Banh Mi: Ba Le Sandwich Shop & Bakery
Address: 5014 N. Broadway
The low-down: Fortunately when Ba Le moved into a more modern storefront next door it didn't lose any of the charm or flavor of its revered banh mi served traditionally on crisp baguette with various meats (chicken, pork, meatball). But be sure to have a chilled, fresh-fruit smoothie like the mango or strawberry.
Asian Bakery & Bao: La Patisserie P
Address: 1052 W. Argyle
The low-down: This no frills bakery by a former head baker at the Sofitel offers up some of the best bao filled with everything from chicken to barbecue pork to red bean paste to butter cream and more. Have them fill a bag with croissants, eclairs, fresh fruit tarts and gorgeous Danish pastres and take it all to the beach.
Pizza: Gigio’s Pizzeria
Address: 4643 N. Broadway
The low-down: New York-style pizza from the inside out: a shabby shop, unfriendly employees and perfectly greasy, perfectly foldable thin-crust slices.
Late Night: Papa Ray’s Pizza & Wings
Address: 4757 N. Sheridan
The low-down: Impressively high-quality ingredients in deliciously lowbrow food. No better way to end the day than with a thin-crust Hawaiian BBQ pie (with Canadian bacon, pineapple, cilantro and red onions), spicy wings and cheesy garlic bread.
Eater intern Alison Kessler contributed this article.