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A bowl of soup that holds chopped tomato, shredded chicken, sliced eggs, and more in broth.
Soto ayam for the soul.
Minahasa

20 Sick Day Standbys to Order in Chicago

Soups, smoothies, grilled cheese, dal — and hot chicken wings to clear the sinuses

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Soto ayam for the soul.
| Minahasa

Even in years when the omicron variant isn’t surging, winter is the season of sickness: stuffy noses, raw throats, pounding heads and throbbing sinuses, and queasy stomachs. The only sensible response is to crawl into bed and stay there until the illness passes. But a human cannot live on NyQuil alone. Here’s a guide to dishes at Chicago restaurants that may not be able to cure everything that ails you but can certainly make recovery more pleasant.

Patrons who are ill or experiencing symptoms can help keep hospitality workers safe by arranging for contact-free takeout and delivery.

As of January 3, the city has mandated that those ages 5 and up be fully vaccinated and masked at public places indoors while not actively eating or drinking. For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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1. Egg Sandwiches at Smack Dab Chicago

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6730 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626
(872) 241-9111
Visit Website

The most wonderful thing about the egg sandwiches at this Rogers Park bakery — described by the owners as “life changing” — is that customers can order them any way they want. Vegan? Sure, have the tofu. Gluten-free? Order it on cornbread. There are nearly 30 bread and topping options, so something is bound to appeal.

2. Seolleongtang at Han Bat Restaurant

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2723 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 271-8640

Hidden away in the back of a parking lot on Lawrence Avenue, this unassuming Korean spot specializes in ox bone soup. Called seolleongtang, the milky white broth is known as a hangover remedy because of its simple-yet-comforting flavor. Each bowl also contains choice of brisket, flank steak, tripe, tendon, or tongue. It’s accompanied by rice and kimchi and can be seasoned to taste with salt, chopped green onions, and chili paste.

3. Grits at Luella's Southern Kitchen

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4609 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 961-8196
Visit Website

Southerners find grits immensely comforting because it appeals to their most primal memories. But even for Yankees, they’re an excellent sick food: they’re warm and creamy and bland, and they slide down the throat with little effort. Louella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square prepares an especially good specimen, and patients who are feeling a little better can order them with shrimp.

4. Chicken in the Pot at The Bagel Restaurant and Deli

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3107 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 477-0300
Visit Website

The Chicken in the Pot at the Bagel in Lakeview is exactly what it sounds like: a chicken (well, half a chicken) in a pot of broth, with a matzo ball and kreplach and noodles, and also carrots and potatoes because vegetables are necessary for good health. Even better, it yields plenty of leftovers, perhaps enough to sustain a person for two or three days. It’s the next best thing to having an actual Jewish mother on call.

5. Pierogi at Staropolska Restaurant

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3030 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 342-0779
Visit Website

Pierogi are essentially carbs — mashed potatoes — wrapped in more carbs — dumpling skins — and then coated in butter or sour cream or both. Can they possibly be any more comforting? There’s plenty of pierogi in heavily-Polish Chicago, especially along Milwaukee Avenue, but some of the finest specimens come from Staropolska in Logan Square.

6. Dal at Mild 2 Spicy

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714 W Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 661-6778
Visit Website

Dal — the soft, slow-simmered pulses (lentils, peas, beans) stew found across many South Asian countries — has long served as comfort food for millions. Versions vary significantly from kitchen to kitchen, and Mild2Spicy has three strong contenders on the menu: daal makhani (black lentils, kidney beans, split chickpeas, tomato and onion gravy), daal palak (spinach, split chickpeas), and daal thaduka (yellow lentils, curry leaves).

7. Turkey Sandwich at Lula Cafe

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2537 N Kedzie Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-9554
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Longtime local favorite Lula Cafe knows how to tug at heartstrings, leveraging a rotating menu and impeccable produce to achieve excellent renditions of the classics. The cozy vibe is neatly encapsulated in the Lula ’99 turkey sandwich, layered with avocado, tomato, red onion, and sprouts. Those who feel up to gilding the lily can add cheddar and bacon.

8. Grilled Cheese at The Fat Shallot Lincoln Park

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2468 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 661-6335
Visit Website

It’s easy to make a grilled cheese, but very hard to make a good one. The Fat Shallot, the food truck that has found a permanent home in Lincoln Park, has a very good one: it packs ooey gooey melted muenster cheese with sautéed spinach and caramelized onions. And then order a bowl of tomato bisque soup to dip it in.

9. Pollo Guisado at Ponce Restaurant

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4313 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 486-3148
Visit Website

Tender chicken can be just the thing for folks feeling under the weather, and Puerto Rican destination Ponce in Hermosa squarely hits that target with its pollo guisado — a stew of potatoes with chicken legs and thighs that fall off the bone.

10. Pho at Phodega

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1547 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8187
Visit Website

This Wicker Park noodle shop and convenience store has some extremely comforting pho, in chicken, beef, and vegan varieties. It comes ready-made or in kits for assembling at home. But if, for some reason, a bowl of pho does not appeal, Phodega also has Hainan-style chicken rice: poached chicken and seasoned rice that can be dressed up with chili and garnishes depending on your appetite. It also comes with a bowl of soup.

11. Peanut Sauce Lover at Opart Thai House - West Town

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1546 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 988-0986
Visit Website

Sickness notoriously kills the appetite, but the sauce in the signature dish at this West Town standby is rich and spicy and, for a peanut butter-lover, completely addictive — the sort of thing you want to keep eating, to the point of licking the plate. It comes with a choice of protein and six different spice levels and garnished with green onions and cashews.

12. Souffle Pancakes at Hanabusa Cafe

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Heyworth Building, 29 E Madison St
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 584-0455
Visit Website

Illness causes many people to revert to a needy, infantile state. When that happens, the best thing to do is to eat nursery food, like pancakes. But the Japanese souffle pancakes at Hanabusa are lighter and fluffier than American diner pancakes, which makes them more soothing, and they’re served covered in chilled whipped cream and custard.

13. Soto Ayam at Minahasa

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125 S Clark St
Chicago, IL 60603
(773) 770-6169
Visit Website

Soto ayam is chicken noodle soup Indonesian style. This means it has some extra spice from sambal; texture from fried shallots, bean sprouts, and tomatoes; and anti-inflammatory properties from a dose of turmeric, all bathed in a deep and delicate chicken broth. Find it at Minahasa, the mother-and-son-run regional spot inside Revival food hall.

14. Juice at Belli's

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1307 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 307-7305
Visit Website

Conventional wisdom says that vitamin C is the best thing to beat back a cold. This Pilsen standby, proudly woman-owned since 2013, has vitamin C in spades in the form of all the citrus juices: orange, of course, but also grapefruit and lemon. There’s also turmeric and ginger and honey, all mixed into various concoctions to soothe a variety of illnesses and boost immune systems.

15. Dry Chili Chicken at Lao Sze Chuan

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2172 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-5040
Visit Website

There’s nothing like a hot pepper to clean out the respiratory system, and there are no hot peppers like Sichuan peppers. The dry chili chicken is one of the signature dishes at Tony Hu’s empire — which has eight locations in the city and suburbs — and the chefs are not messing around.

16. Creamy Tomato Soup at Mustard Seed Kitchen

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49 E Cermak Rd
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-0062
Visit Website

Celebrated Chicago chef and restaurateur Erick Williams (Virtue) in 2021 debuted Mustard Seed Kitchen, a takeout-only restaurant starring American “everyday eats” — salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees like salmon and skirt steaks. Williams also applies his expert touch to a smooth, blended tomato basil soup that shouldn’t be missed.

A bowl of smooth tomato basil soup topped with croutons and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
An all-ages favorite for generations.
Mustard Seed Kitchen

17. Chicken Wings at Honey 1 BBQ

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746 E 43rd St
Chicago, IL 60653
(773) 285-9455

It’s conventional wisdom that there’s nothing like honey to soothe a sore throat, and that surely must apply to honey barbecue chicken wings. Even if the magical properties of honey are dulled by the presence of other ingredients, the barbecue sauce is still spicy enough to clear out blocked nasal passages, and that’s important, too.

18. Birria at Birrieria Zaragoza

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4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 523-3700
Visit Website

One of the classic recommendations for a cold is hot consomme, which happens to be a key ingredient in birria, and the goat birria at Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights is some of the city’s best. Order a large, steaming bowl, and let it do its work.

19. Coconut Conch Chowder at 14 Parish

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1644 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
(312) 291-8379
Visit Website

Caribbean-inspired 14 Parish in Hyde Park does belly-warmers island style. Grounded Chicagoans who are under the weather can find respite in its creamy coconut conch chowder, a light yet filling nod to warmer climates.

20. Belizean Stew Chicken at Garifuna Flava: A Taste of Belize | Jerk Chicken Chicago

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

In Garifuna Flava’s rendition of the national dish of Belize, chicken is marinated in bell peppers, paprika, and other spices and stewed until it’s soft and so tender that, even if you don’t feel like eating, you’ll eat.

1. Egg Sandwiches at Smack Dab Chicago

6730 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626

The most wonderful thing about the egg sandwiches at this Rogers Park bakery — described by the owners as “life changing” — is that customers can order them any way they want. Vegan? Sure, have the tofu. Gluten-free? Order it on cornbread. There are nearly 30 bread and topping options, so something is bound to appeal.

6730 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60626

2. Seolleongtang at Han Bat Restaurant

2723 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Hidden away in the back of a parking lot on Lawrence Avenue, this unassuming Korean spot specializes in ox bone soup. Called seolleongtang, the milky white broth is known as a hangover remedy because of its simple-yet-comforting flavor. Each bowl also contains choice of brisket, flank steak, tripe, tendon, or tongue. It’s accompanied by rice and kimchi and can be seasoned to taste with salt, chopped green onions, and chili paste.

2723 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

3. Grits at Luella's Southern Kitchen

4609 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Southerners find grits immensely comforting because it appeals to their most primal memories. But even for Yankees, they’re an excellent sick food: they’re warm and creamy and bland, and they slide down the throat with little effort. Louella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square prepares an especially good specimen, and patients who are feeling a little better can order them with shrimp.

4609 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

4. Chicken in the Pot at The Bagel Restaurant and Deli

3107 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657

The Chicken in the Pot at the Bagel in Lakeview is exactly what it sounds like: a chicken (well, half a chicken) in a pot of broth, with a matzo ball and kreplach and noodles, and also carrots and potatoes because vegetables are necessary for good health. Even better, it yields plenty of leftovers, perhaps enough to sustain a person for two or three days. It’s the next best thing to having an actual Jewish mother on call.

3107 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657

5. Pierogi at Staropolska Restaurant

3030 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Pierogi are essentially carbs — mashed potatoes — wrapped in more carbs — dumpling skins — and then coated in butter or sour cream or both. Can they possibly be any more comforting? There’s plenty of pierogi in heavily-Polish Chicago, especially along Milwaukee Avenue, but some of the finest specimens come from Staropolska in Logan Square.

3030 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

6. Dal at Mild 2 Spicy

714 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614

Dal — the soft, slow-simmered pulses (lentils, peas, beans) stew found across many South Asian countries — has long served as comfort food for millions. Versions vary significantly from kitchen to kitchen, and Mild2Spicy has three strong contenders on the menu: daal makhani (black lentils, kidney beans, split chickpeas, tomato and onion gravy), daal palak (spinach, split chickpeas), and daal thaduka (yellow lentils, curry leaves).

714 W Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614

7. Turkey Sandwich at Lula Cafe

2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

Longtime local favorite Lula Cafe knows how to tug at heartstrings, leveraging a rotating menu and impeccable produce to achieve excellent renditions of the classics. The cozy vibe is neatly encapsulated in the Lula ’99 turkey sandwich, layered with avocado, tomato, red onion, and sprouts. Those who feel up to gilding the lily can add cheddar and bacon.

2537 N Kedzie Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647

8. Grilled Cheese at The Fat Shallot Lincoln Park

2468 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

It’s easy to make a grilled cheese, but very hard to make a good one. The Fat Shallot, the food truck that has found a permanent home in Lincoln Park, has a very good one: it packs ooey gooey melted muenster cheese with sautéed spinach and caramelized onions. And then order a bowl of tomato bisque soup to dip it in.

2468 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614

9. Pollo Guisado at Ponce Restaurant

4313 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60639

Tender chicken can be just the thing for folks feeling under the weather, and Puerto Rican destination Ponce in Hermosa squarely hits that target with its pollo guisado — a stew of potatoes with chicken legs and thighs that fall off the bone.

4313 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60639

10. Pho at Phodega

1547 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

This Wicker Park noodle shop and convenience store has some extremely comforting pho, in chicken, beef, and vegan varieties. It comes ready-made or in kits for assembling at home. But if, for some reason, a bowl of pho does not appeal, Phodega also has Hainan-style chicken rice: poached chicken and seasoned rice that can be dressed up with chili and garnishes depending on your appetite. It also comes with a bowl of soup.

1547 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

11. Peanut Sauce Lover at Opart Thai House - West Town

1546 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Sickness notoriously kills the appetite, but the sauce in the signature dish at this West Town standby is rich and spicy and, for a peanut butter-lover, completely addictive — the sort of thing you want to keep eating, to the point of licking the plate. It comes with a choice of protein and six different spice levels and garnished with green onions and cashews.

1546 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60642

12. Souffle Pancakes at Hanabusa Cafe

Heyworth Building, 29 E Madison St, Chicago, IL 60602

Illness causes many people to revert to a needy, infantile state. When that happens, the best thing to do is to eat nursery food, like pancakes. But the Japanese souffle pancakes at Hanabusa are lighter and fluffier than American diner pancakes, which makes them more soothing, and they’re served covered in chilled whipped cream and custard.

Heyworth Building, 29 E Madison St
Chicago, IL 60602

13. Soto Ayam at Minahasa

125 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60603

Soto ayam is chicken noodle soup Indonesian style. This means it has some extra spice from sambal; texture from fried shallots, bean sprouts, and tomatoes; and anti-inflammatory properties from a dose of turmeric, all bathed in a deep and delicate chicken broth. Find it at Minahasa, the mother-and-son-run regional spot inside Revival food hall.

125 S Clark St
Chicago, IL 60603

14. Juice at Belli's

1307 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

Conventional wisdom says that vitamin C is the best thing to beat back a cold. This Pilsen standby, proudly woman-owned since 2013, has vitamin C in spades in the form of all the citrus juices: orange, of course, but also grapefruit and lemon. There’s also turmeric and ginger and honey, all mixed into various concoctions to soothe a variety of illnesses and boost immune systems.

1307 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608

15. Dry Chili Chicken at Lao Sze Chuan

2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

There’s nothing like a hot pepper to clean out the respiratory system, and there are no hot peppers like Sichuan peppers. The dry chili chicken is one of the signature dishes at Tony Hu’s empire — which has eight locations in the city and suburbs — and the chefs are not messing around.

2172 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

Related Maps

16. Creamy Tomato Soup at Mustard Seed Kitchen

49 E Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60616
A bowl of smooth tomato basil soup topped with croutons and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.
An all-ages favorite for generations.
Mustard Seed Kitchen

Celebrated Chicago chef and restaurateur Erick Williams (Virtue) in 2021 debuted Mustard Seed Kitchen, a takeout-only restaurant starring American “everyday eats” — salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees like salmon and skirt steaks. Williams also applies his expert touch to a smooth, blended tomato basil soup that shouldn’t be missed.

49 E Cermak Rd
Chicago, IL 60616

17. Chicken Wings at Honey 1 BBQ

746 E 43rd St, Chicago, IL 60653

It’s conventional wisdom that there’s nothing like honey to soothe a sore throat, and that surely must apply to honey barbecue chicken wings. Even if the magical properties of honey are dulled by the presence of other ingredients, the barbecue sauce is still spicy enough to clear out blocked nasal passages, and that’s important, too.

746 E 43rd St
Chicago, IL 60653

18. Birria at Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632

One of the classic recommendations for a cold is hot consomme, which happens to be a key ingredient in birria, and the goat birria at Birrieria Zaragoza in Archer Heights is some of the city’s best. Order a large, steaming bowl, and let it do its work.

4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632

19. Coconut Conch Chowder at 14 Parish

1644 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615

Caribbean-inspired 14 Parish in Hyde Park does belly-warmers island style. Grounded Chicagoans who are under the weather can find respite in its creamy coconut conch chowder, a light yet filling nod to warmer climates.

1644 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615

20. Belizean Stew Chicken at Garifuna Flava: A Taste of Belize | Jerk Chicken Chicago

2518 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60629

In Garifuna Flava’s rendition of the national dish of Belize, chicken is marinated in bell peppers, paprika, and other spices and stewed until it’s soft and so tender that, even if you don’t feel like eating, you’ll eat.

2518 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60629

Related Maps