Chicago’s restaurant writers dish on the dining neighborhood in 2021 as part of Eater’s ongoing tradition of polling the city’s experts for their year-end takes.
Brenda Storch, Eater Chicago contributor: Difficult to choose. Whether it is picaditas in Rogers Park, grasshoppers in Uptown or pozole in Pilsen, Chicago is an exciting place of culinary convergence and discovery.
Nick Kindelsperger, Chicago Tribune: I’ve spent more time this year picking up food from commercial kitchens in industrial areas than ever before. So maybe it’s the year of untraditional dining areas?
Lillian Stone, The Takeout: I’m a ride-or-die Andersonville resident, largely because you can get in pretty much anywhere without a wildly long wait. But late 2021/early 2022 is also bringing a ton of exciting prospects up north — the new Forbidden Root space, the new Pizza Lobo and Dimo’s outposts, et cetera. Plus, you can park anywhere, and you don’t have to worry about encountering roving bands of trendy teens in upcycled denim and tiny, tiny sunglasses.
Mike Zoller, Porch Drinking: Maybe it’s cliche but I still really love to go out in the West Loop/Fulton Market area. I don’t want to say it’s the best, but it’s my favorite. There’s just so much variety and you can go fancy or more low-key and I like that flexibility. Get a sandwich at J.P. Graziano or eat at Girl & the Goat.
Sarah Spain, ESPN: I wasn’t loyal to any one area this year, but I’d have to say the Riverwalk area played host to a lot of my meals. Especially for out-of-towners and before indoor dining felt safe. Nothing like a great table along the river at Chicago Cut or RPM Seafood to appreciate being in downtown Chicago.
Amy Cavanaugh, Chicago magazine: West Town. I was constantly heading to the area to dine in and pick up takeout at spots like Kasama, Elina’s, Lao Peng You, Jeong, Split-Rail, Tempesta Market, and many others.
Titus Ruscitti, ChiBBQKing: Chinatown remains a place where new spots are always opening and for that it’s always exciting. The fallback answer for when I don’t feel that any other neighborhood really stood out.
Janice Scurio, Sports Illustrated and South Side Sox: Releasing myself back into the dining world like an animal being reintroduced to the wild, I revisited the neighborhoods with my all-time favorite spots: Bridgeport, Chinatown, Pilsen.