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Where to Find Great Appetizers in Chicago

Feast on addictive opening courses and the ultimate game day bites

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Tom Brady is back in the Super Bowl.
| Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A good appetizer can set the tone for the rest of the meal. Start things off right by making sure the first bites are memorable ones. These Chicago restaurants offer exceptional apps that arguably outshine the dishes that follow them. The varied lineup includes wings, nachos, mozzarella sticks, fries, dips, and much more. They’re also perfect for snacking or as part of a party spread. Read on to discover the essentials.

As of January 23, Chicago restaurants are permitted to serve customers indoors with a 25 percent maximum capacity per room, or 25 people — whichever is fewer. At the same time, despite winter weather, a number of Chicago restaurants continue to offer outdoor seating. Regardless, the state requires reservations for indoor and outdoor dining. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as an endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Village Tavern & Grill

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901 W Wise Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60193
(847) 891-8866
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There are plenty of spots for great fried chicken in the city but the region’s best chicken fingers necessitate a visit to Schaumburg. Village Tavern’s famous starter features a tempura-style batter and secret recipe honey mustard dipping sauce. They’re also available in flavors like coconut, barbecue, buffalo, and habanero. A second outpost is located in Carol Stream. Orders can be placed online.

2. Uru Swati

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2629 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 381-1010
Visit Website

West Rogers Park’s Devon Avenue is an oasis for vegetarians. The neighborhood is full of Indian restaurants, several of which are exclusively meatless. Uru Swati focuses on dishes from the country’s northern and southern regions, and masala dosa and samosa chaat are can’t-miss appetizers. The latter is a popular street food featuring savory fried pastry topped with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, and chutney. Online ordering is available here.

3. Little Bad Wolf

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1541 W Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 942-6399
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Burger enthusiasts know and love this Andersonville bar for its outstanding offerings. For folks who prefer smaller bites or wish to share, Little Bad Wolf’s burgers are available as sliders topped with American cheese, pickles, and red onion mayo. Online ordering can be done here.

4. Big Jones

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5347 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 275-5725
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Owner and chef Paul Fehribach celebrates Southern cuisine by faithfully recreating heritage recipes at his Andersonville restaurant. Among the many traditional dishes is an excellent version of pimento cheese, a spread made of Hook’s cheddar, Duke’s mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and roasted pimentos. It’s served with homemade benne crackers. Skillet cornbread and buttermilk biscuits are stellar starters too. Online orders for carryout or delivery can be placed here.

5. Great Sea Restaurant

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3253 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 478-9129
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The longtime Chinese-Korean eatery has gained a cult following for its lollipop wings. This style of chicken consists of drumettes with the meat pushed down the bone for easy handling. The wings are coated in a sweet and spicy sauce and deep fried to perfection, making them the ideal game day food. Click here to order carryout or delivery.

6. Sfera Sicilian Street Food

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3517 N Spaulding Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(847) 957-3045
Visit Website

A new virtual restaurant featuring Sicilian street foods has arrived in Avondale. Sfera’s menu offers staples like arancini — deep fried balls of risotto. The quintessential Italian snack is stuffed with cheeses and other fillings such as garlic, beef ragu, and porcini mushrooms, and served alongside dipping sauces. Orders can be placed online.

A bowl of arancini and marinara sauce.
Enjoy fried risotto balls from this ghost kitchen.
Sfera [Official Photo]

7. Smoke Daddy

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1804 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 772-6656
Visit Website

Smoked meats are undeniably the star of the show at this barbecue spot but the nachos shouldn’t be overlooked. Warm tortilla chips are topped with barbecue sauce, chili, cheeses, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and choice of brisket, pulled chicken, or pulled pork. It’s a glorious mess of deliciousness. Click here for carryout and delivery.

A plate of nachos.
Smoked Daddy’s barbecued meats finds their way onto nachos.
Smoke Daddy [Official Photo]

8. Kasama

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1001 N Winchester Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 697-3790
Visit Website

Lumpia Shanghai, the addictive Filipino spring roll, is eminently scarfable. Though it’s generally eaten as an appetizer or snack, stopping after just one or two is a tall order. At Timothy Flores and Genie Kwon’s Ukrainian Village restaurant and bakery, the crisp, crackly rolls are filled with pork and complemented by a sweet chili sauce. Online orders can be placed here.

9. Roots Handmade Pizza

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1924 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 645-4949
Visit Website

Mozzarella sticks are a top-tier appetizer and Roots has the best in the city. The local pizzeria makes its sizeable sticks from scratch and breads them in a special seasoning. Pull the cheese apart and dunk it in marinara for a satisfying experience. Carryout and delivery orders can be placed online.

10. Tempesta Market

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1372 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 929-2551
Visit Website

Charcuterie boards are an irresistible opening salvo when hosting guests. The ones from West Town deli Tempesta Market can feed six-to-eight people and are composed of artisanal Italian cured meats, cheeses, spreads, pickled veggies, and other accoutrements. Smaller portions are also available. Order here.

A charcuterie board.
Load up on Italian cured meats from Tempesta Market.
Tempesta Market [Official Photo]

11. Swift & Sons

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1000 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9420
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Boka Restaurant Group’s opulent steakhouse is the place to go to feast on classic appetizers. The menu boasts steak tartare, Caesar’s and wedge salads, and chilled shellfish from sibling restaurant Cold Storage. Order here for carryout and delivery.

12. avec

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615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 377-2002
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One Off Hospitality’s Mediterranean-influenced restaurant has been one of the city’s hottest destinations for almost two decades thanks to an impressive selection of wine and terrific small plates. The chorizo-stuffed and bacon-wrapped medjool dates bathing in piquillo-tomato sauce are the kitchen’s magnum opus and a must-order with every meal. Avec is accepting carryout and delivery orders here.

13. 5 Rabanitos Restaurante & Taqueria

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1758 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 285-2710
Visit Website

Head to this Pilsen spot for homey Mexican cooking from chef Alfonso Sotelo, a vet whose resume includes stints at Topolobampo and Xoco. His freshly-made guacamole is one of the finest of its kind but for a rich dip, try the queso fundido loaded with al pastor. Fresh ceviche is a winner as well. Place carryout and delivery orders here.

14. HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

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1800 S Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 999-1800
Visit Website

Thai Dang’s modern Vietnamese restaurant highlights a host of traditional dishes, such as fish sauce wings. The chef fries whole wings until they’re perfectly crisp and tosses them in a caramelized fish sauce glaze along with chilies. The mouthwatering chicken then arrives on a bed of fries. Order for pickup or delivery via Tock.

A bowl of chicken wings.
Fish sauce is the difference maker in HaiSous’ wings.
Jaclyn Rivas/HaiSous

15. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

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2002 S Wentworth Ave #103
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 799-1118
Visit Website

Dumplings are extremely versatile and can be enjoyed as an appetizer or main course. This Chinatown dumpling specialist produces a variety of options filled with pork, lamb, beef, chicken, seafood, veggies, and other ingredients. The kitchen offers them boiled, steamed, fried, or frozen to cook at home. Place orders here.

A plate of dumplings alongside sauces, side dishes, a teapot, and utensils.
Explore a world of dumplings at this Chinatown favorite.
QXY Dumplings [Official Photo]

16. Friistyle

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5059 S Prairie Ave
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 548-5375
Visit Website

Fries are a universally loved food but seldom the main attraction. This Bronzeville spot gives Belgian-style pommes frites the attention it deserves by topping the potatoes with an array of proteins. Options include Italian beef, smoked wings, roasted lamb, jerk salmon, and lobster. Orders can be placed for carryout or delivery via third party services.

17. Lindy's Chili & Gertie's Ice Cream

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6544 W Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 229-1512
Visit Website

The strange-yet-alluring combination of chili and ice cream has been a South Side specialty for decades. Lindy’s — first opened in 1924 — cooks a first-rate chili that customers can order with or without beans. It’s sold by the bowl, pint, quart, or five-pound bucket for large parties. There’s also a location in Bridgeview.

18. Garifuna Flava

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2518 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 776-7440
Visit Website

The city’s only Garifuna restaurant offers up a taste of the Caribbean. Diners will find tasty appetizers like fried plantains, conch fritters, and panades, which are empanada-like corn patties packed with sautéed buffalo fish. Orders for pickup or delivery can be placed here.

A plate of panades.
Fried Belizean foods make for great appetizers.
Garifuna Flava [Official Photo]

19. 5 Loaves Eatery

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405 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 891-2889
Visit Website

Locals adore this Jean Banchet Award winner for its lineup of Southern staples. The salmon croquettes — available fried or grilled — are a particular favorite, especially the spicy version. Get them by ordering carryout or delivery here.

20. Al Bawadi Grill

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7216 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455
(708) 599-1999
Visit Website

Located in Bridgeview and Niles, this Palestinian restaurant is known for its wood-fired meats and exotic atmosphere. Before diners get to the entrees, though, it’s highly suggested they start with some apps. The hummus is a crowd-pleaser and can be enhanced with meat and roasted almonds. Falafel and baba ghanoush are notable as well. Click here to place orders for pickup and delivery.

1. Village Tavern & Grill

901 W Wise Rd, Schaumburg, IL 60193

There are plenty of spots for great fried chicken in the city but the region’s best chicken fingers necessitate a visit to Schaumburg. Village Tavern’s famous starter features a tempura-style batter and secret recipe honey mustard dipping sauce. They’re also available in flavors like coconut, barbecue, buffalo, and habanero. A second outpost is located in Carol Stream. Orders can be placed online.

901 W Wise Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60193

2. Uru Swati

2629 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659

West Rogers Park’s Devon Avenue is an oasis for vegetarians. The neighborhood is full of Indian restaurants, several of which are exclusively meatless. Uru Swati focuses on dishes from the country’s northern and southern regions, and masala dosa and samosa chaat are can’t-miss appetizers. The latter is a popular street food featuring savory fried pastry topped with chickpeas, potatoes, yogurt, and chutney. Online ordering is available here.

2629 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659

3. Little Bad Wolf

1541 W Bryn Mawr Ave, Chicago, IL 60660

Burger enthusiasts know and love this Andersonville bar for its outstanding offerings. For folks who prefer smaller bites or wish to share, Little Bad Wolf’s burgers are available as sliders topped with American cheese, pickles, and red onion mayo. Online ordering can be done here.

1541 W Bryn Mawr Ave
Chicago, IL 60660

4. Big Jones

5347 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

Owner and chef Paul Fehribach celebrates Southern cuisine by faithfully recreating heritage recipes at his Andersonville restaurant. Among the many traditional dishes is an excellent version of pimento cheese, a spread made of Hook’s cheddar, Duke’s mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and roasted pimentos. It’s served with homemade benne crackers. Skillet cornbread and buttermilk biscuits are stellar starters too. Online orders for carryout or delivery can be placed here.

5347 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640

5. Great Sea Restaurant

3253 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

The longtime Chinese-Korean eatery has gained a cult following for its lollipop wings. This style of chicken consists of drumettes with the meat pushed down the bone for easy handling. The wings are coated in a sweet and spicy sauce and deep fried to perfection, making them the ideal game day food. Click here to order carryout or delivery.

3253 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

6. Sfera Sicilian Street Food

3517 N Spaulding Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
A bowl of arancini and marinara sauce.
Enjoy fried risotto balls from this ghost kitchen.
Sfera [Official Photo]

A new virtual restaurant featuring Sicilian street foods has arrived in Avondale. Sfera’s menu offers staples like arancini — deep fried balls of risotto. The quintessential Italian snack is stuffed with cheeses and other fillings such as garlic, beef ragu, and porcini mushrooms, and served alongside dipping sauces. Orders can be placed online.

3517 N Spaulding Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

7. Smoke Daddy

1804 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
A plate of nachos.
Smoked Daddy’s barbecued meats finds their way onto nachos.
Smoke Daddy [Official Photo]

Smoked meats are undeniably the star of the show at this barbecue spot but the nachos shouldn’t be overlooked. Warm tortilla chips are topped with barbecue sauce, chili, cheeses, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and choice of brisket, pulled chicken, or pulled pork. It’s a glorious mess of deliciousness. Click here for carryout and delivery.

1804 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622

8. Kasama

1001 N Winchester Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Lumpia Shanghai, the addictive Filipino spring roll, is eminently scarfable. Though it’s generally eaten as an appetizer or snack, stopping after just one or two is a tall order. At Timothy Flores and Genie Kwon’s Ukrainian Village restaurant and bakery, the crisp, crackly rolls are filled with pork and complemented by a sweet chili sauce. Online orders can be placed here.

1001 N Winchester Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

9. Roots Handmade Pizza

1924 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Mozzarella sticks are a top-tier appetizer and Roots has the best in the city. The local pizzeria makes its sizeable sticks from scratch and breads them in a special seasoning. Pull the cheese apart and dunk it in marinara for a satisfying experience. Carryout and delivery orders can be placed online.

1924 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

10. Tempesta Market

1372 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
A charcuterie board.
Load up on Italian cured meats from Tempesta Market.
Tempesta Market [Official Photo]

Charcuterie boards are an irresistible opening salvo when hosting guests. The ones from West Town deli Tempesta Market can feed six-to-eight people and are composed of artisanal Italian cured meats, cheeses, spreads, pickled veggies, and other accoutrements. Smaller portions are also available. Order here.

1372 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642

11. Swift & Sons

1000 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

Boka Restaurant Group’s opulent steakhouse is the place to go to feast on classic appetizers. The menu boasts steak tartare, Caesar’s and wedge salads, and chilled shellfish from sibling restaurant Cold Storage. Order here for carryout and delivery.

1000 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

12. avec

615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

One Off Hospitality’s Mediterranean-influenced restaurant has been one of the city’s hottest destinations for almost two decades thanks to an impressive selection of wine and terrific small plates. The chorizo-stuffed and bacon-wrapped medjool dates bathing in piquillo-tomato sauce are the kitchen’s magnum opus and a must-order with every meal. Avec is accepting carryout and delivery orders here.

615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

13. 5 Rabanitos Restaurante & Taqueria

1758 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

Head to this Pilsen spot for homey Mexican cooking from chef Alfonso Sotelo, a vet whose resume includes stints at Topolobampo and Xoco. His freshly-made guacamole is one of the finest of its kind but for a rich dip, try the queso fundido loaded with al pastor. Fresh ceviche is a winner as well. Place carryout and delivery orders here.

1758 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

14. HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

1800 S Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60608
A bowl of chicken wings.
Fish sauce is the difference maker in HaiSous’ wings.
Jaclyn Rivas/HaiSous

Thai Dang’s modern Vietnamese restaurant highlights a host of traditional dishes, such as fish sauce wings. The chef fries whole wings until they’re perfectly crisp and tosses them in a caramelized fish sauce glaze along with chilies. The mouthwatering chicken then arrives on a bed of fries. Order for pickup or delivery via Tock.

1800 S Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60608

15. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

2002 S Wentworth Ave #103, Chicago, IL 60616
A plate of dumplings alongside sauces, side dishes, a teapot, and utensils.
Explore a world of dumplings at this Chinatown favorite.
QXY Dumplings [Official Photo]

Dumplings are extremely versatile and can be enjoyed as an appetizer or main course. This Chinatown dumpling specialist produces a variety of options filled with pork, lamb, beef, chicken, seafood, veggies, and other ingredients. The kitchen offers them boiled, steamed, fried, or frozen to cook at home. Place orders here.

2002 S Wentworth Ave #103
Chicago, IL 60616

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16. Friistyle

5059 S Prairie Ave, Chicago, IL 60615

Fries are a universally loved food but seldom the main attraction. This Bronzeville spot gives Belgian-style pommes frites the attention it deserves by topping the potatoes with an array of proteins. Options include Italian beef, smoked wings, roasted lamb, jerk salmon, and lobster. Orders can be placed for carryout or delivery via third party services.

5059 S Prairie Ave
Chicago, IL 60615

17. Lindy's Chili & Gertie's Ice Cream

6544 W Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60638

The strange-yet-alluring combination of chili and ice cream has been a South Side specialty for decades. Lindy’s — first opened in 1924 — cooks a first-rate chili that customers can order with or without beans. It’s sold by the bowl, pint, quart, or five-pound bucket for large parties. There’s also a location in Bridgeview.

6544 W Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60638

18. Garifuna Flava

2518 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60629
A plate of panades.
Fried Belizean foods make for great appetizers.
Garifuna Flava [Official Photo]

The city’s only Garifuna restaurant offers up a taste of the Caribbean. Diners will find tasty appetizers like fried plantains, conch fritters, and panades, which are empanada-like corn patties packed with sautéed buffalo fish. Orders for pickup or delivery can be placed here.

2518 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629

19. 5 Loaves Eatery

405 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619

Locals adore this Jean Banchet Award winner for its lineup of Southern staples. The salmon croquettes — available fried or grilled — are a particular favorite, especially the spicy version. Get them by ordering carryout or delivery here.

405 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619

20. Al Bawadi Grill

7216 W 87th St, Bridgeview, IL 60455

Located in Bridgeview and Niles, this Palestinian restaurant is known for its wood-fired meats and exotic atmosphere. Before diners get to the entrees, though, it’s highly suggested they start with some apps. The hummus is a crowd-pleaser and can be enhanced with meat and roasted almonds. Falafel and baba ghanoush are notable as well. Click here to place orders for pickup and delivery.

7216 W 87th St
Bridgeview, IL 60455

Related Maps