Dining with good company is always fun but every now and then, a little "me time" is necessary. However, that doesn't mean having to settle for delivery or the contents of the fridge. Chicago restaurants are embracing the solo dining experience more and more and trying to make it enjoyable. Best of all, there's no arguing over what to order nor is sharing required. So the next time that date ditches you at the last minute, don't sweat it and check out one of these following spots for a delicious and accommodating meal.Read More
Where to Dine Alone in Chicago
These restaurants are the city’s best bets for solo dining
The only companion one needs at Hopleaf is a cold pint. The extensive beer selection can be overwhelming, but even the most seasoned drinkers will discover new favorites. Post up at a table in the bar area, order a brew and a serving of mussels cooked in Belgian-style beer served with frites and aioli, and get ready to have a good time.
Luella's Southern Kitchen
Step up to the counter at Luella’s Southern Kitchen to order a heaping portion of Southern comfort food from James Beard Award semifinalist Darnell Reed. A tribute to Reed’s great grandmother, who brought her recipes for gumbo and cornbread to Chicago from Mississippi, the spot is especially popular during weekend brunch when diners flock in for chicken & waffles and fluffy beignets.
Boonie's Filipino Restaurant
BYOB spot Boonie’s Filipino Restaurant began as a stall at Revival Food Hall before finding a spot in Lincoln Square in February. During lunch the restaurant serves a variety silogs, plates of garlic rice with egg and meat ranging from spam to baby milk fish for lunch while dinner offers traditional Filipino favorites like kalderata along with more modern spins like cured bluefish paksiw served in sour vinegar broth. Don’t forget the lumpia.
Chefs Emily Kraszyk (Farmhouse), John Lupton (Kasama), and Trevor Fleming (Rootstock) teamed up for one this year’s hottest Chicago restaurant openings, which doesn’t take reservations and gathers long lines until 1 a.m. Late-night diners looking for more than pizza or a hot dog will find a regularly changing menu that typically features oysters, steak and a giant dry-aged burger.
The Art of Pizza
There’s no need to argue about toppings when dining at The Art of Pizza, which offers thin, pan and stuffed pies by the slice and ready in a hurry. Decorated with a mural of the Chicago skyline, the counter service restaurant offers friendly service and affordable meals with signature pies like the Art’s Special loaded with sausage, onions, mushrooms and green peppers.
Ramen-san Lincoln Park
Grab a seat at the bar and slurp down a big bowl of noodles while grooving to ‘90s hip hop at Ramen-san, which also has locations in River North, Fulton Market, and Streeterville. The express lunch offers a great deal, combining ramen with a rice plate, a small salad and marinated cucumbers. Don’t need to head back to work? Pair the meal with a super cold Asahi draft or a glass of Japanese whiskey.
Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant & Catering
The sprawling patio and BYO spirit pina colada pitchers make Irazu a great place for groups, but the rails around the restaurant’s colorful restaurant are perfect for solo diners looking for a quick meal. Load their crispy beef & potato or spinach & cheese empanadas up with pico de gallo and salsa or dig into a hearty plate of skirt steak casado with sweet plantains and cabbage salad.
Get a taste of Cuba at Cafecito, which has four locations throughout Chicago. Skip the lines out the door common during lunch breaks in the Loop and instead visit their comfortable and laptop friendly Gold Coast spot. Stop in early for a pick me up in the form of a cafe con leche and a breakfast sandwich or wind down the day with a mojito and a plate of ropa vieja.
Grab a seat at the sushi bar, order a cocktail or a glass of sake and watch the chefs meticulously craft traditional sashimi, nigiri and maki along with novel bites like spicy Alaskan crab wrapped with marinated tuna or shrimp tempura with miso dressing. With three different omakase options available, there’s an option to suit any appetite or budget.
All Together Now
Who needs company when there are copious amounts of wine and cheese to enjoy? West Town cafe and bottle shop All Together Now is a warm and inviting place to hang out alone over a glass of wine and seasonal Midwestern-style plates and sandwiches. The ingredients are sourced from local farms, and the menu offers ever-changing delights like ricotta tortellini, shrimp dip, fried goat cheese curds, and crispy chicken confit. For folks looking to bring some goods home, the selection of artisan cured meats and cheeses can’t be beat. Online ordering is available here.
Even when the dining room is booked up, it’s usually easy for a solo diner to find a spot at the bar at Quartino, from the owners of Gibsons. Plates are small and affordable, making it easy to try a few dishes like Sicilian caponata spread over crusty bread or lightly spicy linguine loaded with clams. Service is fast but it’s a perfect place to linger with a spritz or a glass of sangria and pretend to be on an Italian vacation.
The massive bi-level marketplace and food hall is a one stop shop for all things Italian. Guests are welcome to sip on wine while perusing the goods and then refuel with pizza or pasta at one of the sit-down restaurants. There’s so much action going on that it’s almost like live dinner theater; solo diners won’t miss a conversational partner.
Good Ambler is carryout only during weekday lunch, but in the morning, afternoon and weekends, its comfortable chairs and couches provide a great place to get some work done while enjoying a kouign amann and a cappuccino. The best seats in the house are at the bar along the back, where there’s a view of the bakers and chocolatiers at work crafting gorgeous and equally delicious seasonal treats. They recently hired former Boka pastry chef Meg Galus to oversee the sweets.
Chicago French Market
Diners are spoiled for choice at the Chicago French Market, where more than 20 vendors offer food from around the globe including sushi, empanadas, crepes and biscuits. Grab a cold brew or a cold beer and stroll around crafting the perfect meal, leaving room for banana pudding or macarons for dessert. The market also sells groceries so a meal out can double as a shopping trip.
Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen
Venerable Jewish deli Manny’s has been open for 81 years and it’s easy to see how it has stood the test of time. The quality of the food has remained consistent throughout the years and regulars drop by each day to get their fill of hearty corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, potato pancakes, matzo ball soup, knishes, and more. The cafeteria-style service is also accommodating for solo diners who want to get in and out quickly. Online ordering is available here.
Head west of Chinatown proper to discover this gigantic Chinese grocery store. The food court houses several different stalls and visitors have a host of choices, including sushi, dumplings, barbecue, pastries, pho, and milk tea. The marketplace’s include full-service restaurants Qiao Lin Hotpot (which serves hot pot) and Holu (an Asian steakhouse). The sushi is handled by 312 Fish Market, which is a favorite of several Chicago chefs, including Kasama’s Genie Kwon and Tim Flores.
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Pleasant House Pub
Savory meat pies are the specialty of this British-American pub in Pilsen. The flaky, buttery pastries are well-portioned for solo diners and come filled with beef stew, chicken stew, mushrooms and kale, or zucchini and yellow squash. The rest of the menu leans heavily on staples from across the pond, such as Scotch eggs, bangers and mash, British-Indian curry, and fish and chips. Order online here.
The Duck Inn
Chef Kevin Hickey whips up an array of Midwestern comfort fare at Bridgeport gastro-tavern the Duck Inn but guests aren’t obligated to sit in the main dining room to try them. Instead, the bar is a great place for parties of one to chow on fried cheese curds, a Chicago-style duck fat dog, and duck wings. Book a table through Resy.
Enjoy a cold beer and a sizzling sausage at this recently relaunched restaurant located next to the Bridgeport bar Maria’s Packaged Goods. It’s counter service, so place an order before making friends at the bar and devouring some delicious drinking food. Sweet and spicy rice cakes and a bulgogi sandwich with Merkts cheddar are just a few of the pleasures that await. In the summertime, there’s a spacious patio as well.
Whether it’s a loyal customer or a first-timer, this beloved mom-and-pop joint provides a homey atmosphere that makes everyone feel like family. The Zaragoza’s hospitality is only matched by their mouth-watering birria — a roasted goat stew served with flavorful tomato consommé. Wrap it in corn tortillas and douse some fire-roasted salsa on top to build exceptional tacos. Place online orders here. There’s second location in Uptown, on the corner of Lawrence and Broadway.