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Outside The Berghoff Restaurant
The Berghoff has been serving beer and sandwiches since 1898.
Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images

25 Classic Chicago Restaurants to Try

Give up your Chicago card if you haven’t dined at these icons

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The Berghoff has been serving beer and sandwiches since 1898.
| Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images

Authenticity is sometimes difficult to define, but when it comes to providing a true Chicago experience, these classic spots come to mind. There are trendier restaurants, but these are the places that capture Chicago’s soul, serving the same families for generations. But they’re equally welcoming to newcomers and tourists.

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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New York Bagel & Bialy Corporation

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Conveniently located just off the Touhy Avenue exit of the Edens Expressway, New York Bagel and Bialy has been serving up freshly baked bagels 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 1965. At less than a dollar apiece, they’re one of the best bargains in the city. Of course all the toppings and accoutrements like cream cheese and smoked fish are also available. There’s a second location in Skokie, though it sometimes closes.

Superdawg Drive-In

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Chicago is a great town for encased meats, and while the city has an abundance of hot dog stands selling Vienna Beef products with all the trimmings, Superdawg in Norwood Park is a truly unique experience. It’s the city’s only true drive-in with carhops serving customers in the comfort of their automobiles. The hot dog is a variation of the Chicago-style wiener, with relish, mustard, and a pickled tomato. It doesn’t get much more classic than this. There’s a second location in suburban Wheeling.

A drive throw with two giant fiberglas hot dogs on the roof. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Great Sea Restaurant

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This Albany Park Korean Chinese restaurant is credited with popularizing the lollipop chicken wing (the inventor ran a rival neighborhood restaurant), and still serves up some of the best around, tossed in a signature sweet and spicy sauce. But don’t miss out on classic Korean Chinese dishes like cha chiang mein, or black sauce noodles.

Podhalanka

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Though the Northwest Side has since become the center of the Polish community, the strip of Division Street near the convergance of Ashland and Milwaukee Wicker Park was once known as “Polish Broadway.” One of the last remnants of that past life is Podhlanka, a warm dive that serves affording pierogi, potato pancakes, borsht, and other classics.

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse

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Gibsons is in the upper echelon of the classic Chicago steakhouse — a Rush Street restaurant where folks still want to be seen, especially the classic dark wood bar in the dimly-lit first floor dining room where patrons can stroll up for a Manhattan. If customers aren’t stuffed by their mammoth steaks or chops, save room for a giant slab of cake. 

A brick building with a green roof attachment and a neon sign that reads “Gibsons.” Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta

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Chicago’s deep dish pizza lineage is fascinating if not a little convoluted. Pizano’s, a mini chain with four city locations and a fifth in the suburbs, was founded by Rudy Malnati Sr, who learned the trade while working at Pizzeria Uno’s and whose son Lou went on to found the chain that still bears his name. The well-seasoned dough is the star here; try it in deep dish form.

Mart Anthony's Italian Restaurant

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Red sauce Italian restaurants like Mart Anthony’s were once much more prevalent around Chicago. They feature similar cuisine and vibe — laid back, dim-lit dining rooms with large portions of pasta. Mart Anthony’s isn’t a cocktail lounge like Club Lucky or Club Lago or a tourist attraction like Italian Village. It’s a solid and unpretentious family-run spot with a good bar for hanging out with friends.

The Walnut Room

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Before Crate & Barrel and Lululemon, Marshall Field’s had a full restaurant inside its State Street store. Even though Field’s is now Macy’s, the wood-paneled Walnut Room endures, and it’s particularly popular at Christmastime when a giant tree takes over the center of the room. The chicken pot pie, allegedly invented by a millinery clerk back in the 1890s, is a classic dish.

The Walnut Room is all decked out for the holidays.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

The Berghoff

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Perhaps no restaurant in Chicago is more classic than the Berghoff. Established as a nickel beer joint in 1898, it turned into a full restaurant during Prohibition. After repeal, it received the first liquor license in Chicago. The bar was men-only until 1969. In 2018, it established its own brewery. Today, this time capsule, continues to serve traditional German food to tourists and locals alike.

Lou Mitchell's

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The iconic neon sign has drawn patrons into this historic diner near Union Station since 1923. Come for hearty, classic diner fare at breakfast and lunchtime, alongside baked goods and complimentary Milk Duds.

Al's Italian Beef

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Al's Beef has been a Chicago legend since 1938, and though it has branches of varying quality all over the city, the Taylor Street location is the original and always reliable and consistent. Order a beef dipped with giardiniera, and then assume the proper eating stance — hunched over — so you don’t drip gravy all over yourself.

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

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Manny's Cafeteria and Deli is the epitome of a Chicago classic, serving outstanding corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, potato latkes, and other Jewish deli favorites to an eclectic crowd. It’s also a favorite of local politicians for power breakfasts.

Jim's Original

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Jim's Original claims it was the birthplace of the city's "original" Polish sausage back in 1941. Although it moved from its Maxwell Street Market location in 1994 when the market closed, Jim’s still touts itself as the longest continuously-operating hot dog stand to have once done business on Maxwell Street. The Polish and hot dogs are can't-miss, but the pork chop sandwich is also a Chicago essential.

Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant

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“Carnitas culture” — the ritual of waiting in line indoors and watching workers prepare the pork delicacy — suffered during COVID-19, but slowly it’s returning, and family-run Carnitas Uruapan is one of the best places in the city to observe it. The pork is slow-cooked for two hours and then crisped up on the grill. Order it by the pound and then pile it onto tortillas for sublime tacos. There’s a second location in Gage Park.

Lindy's Chili & Gertie's Ice Cream

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Originally a 22-seat stand, this hot dog and chili spot launched in 1924 has expanded significantly and now operates several locations in the Chicago area. The signature chili can be served with or without beans and elbow macaroni at the customer’s discretion. The business changed hands in 1974 and owner Joseph Yesutis brought Gertie’s Ice Cream into the fold.

Birrieria Zaragoza

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There are few brighter spots in Chicago than this unpretentious Archer Heights restaurant. The menu is simple: stewed goat and handmade tortillas, which customers assemble into tacos. Don’t expect a gooey cheese pull to show off on Instagram. This is classic Jalisco cooking that never disappoints.

Valois Restaurant

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The gimmick at this Hyde Park landmark is the promise that customers can “see your food.” But for loyalists, Valois is no novelty: the cafeteria-style restaurant has been an essential part of the community since 1921. The items on the line rotate in and out throughout the day. Church groups assemble for breakfast and politicians make sure to be photographed here during election season. The restaurant has made loyal customers out of famous Chicagoans over the years, including former President Barack Obama and the late White Sox owner Bill Veeck. 

Weber's Bakery

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A South Side classic since 1930, Weber’s is still owned and operated by members of the Weber family. The bakery is a destination on Paczki Day, but it’s also celebrated for its chocolate doughnuts, banana split torte, and three-pound grandpa rye loaves, plus holiday and seasonal specials.

Daley's Restaurant

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This no-frills soul food diner is a South Side institution and the oldest restaurant in Chicago: it opened in 1892, came into the Zar family in 1918, and moved to its current location in 2019. Breakfast is served all day while the dinner menu includes fried chicken, jumbo shrimp, melt sandwiches, and burgers, all of which can be spiced up with the red pepper vinegar found on every table.

Daley’s Restaurant/Mike Zar

Lem's Bar-B-Q

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Many Chicago food enthusiasts exalt Lem's rib tips as the best barbecue in town, and its longevity — opened in 1951 — only supports that claim. The meats are cooked in an aquarium smoker and topped with a thick, tomato-based sauce. Folks who don’t know Lem’s are missing out on true Chicago-style barbecue.

A person ladling barbecue sauce over rib tips.
Rib tips are the focus at Lem’s.
Nick Murway/Eater Chicago

Josephine's Southern Cooking

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A popular stop for performers like Aretha Franklin, Josephine’s Southern Cooking is known for soul food staples like gumbo, fried catfish, and pork chop. But Franklin isn’t the restaurant’s most esteemed celebrity. That title goes to owner and chef Josephine “Mother” Wade, a figure so beloved that she has a street named after her.

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

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Tavern-style pizza sliced into squares is also known as Chicago-style thin crust or party cut, and it’s the specialty at Vito & Nick’s in Ashburn. Order a sausage, green pepper, and onion and enjoy it with a frosty Old Style.

Calumet Fisheries

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Don't miss this James Beard-honored monument to smoked fish on the far South Side, in business since 1948. Get a paper bag of salmon, shrimp, or black cod and be prepared to eat in the car or on the sidewalk.

Harolds Chicken 95th

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Harold’s is the fried chicken Chicago natives crave the most when they leave town, especially garnished with mild sauce. Since they’re all individually-owner franchises, each location is slightly different. But no matter the location, each order of chicken is fried to order, and there’s comfor tin that. There’s seating, but Harold’s is primary a takeout operation.

Home of the Hoagy

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The Chicago-style hoagy isn’t well known beyond the South Side communities where it originated. The sandwich isn’t made of the Instagram generation. It’s a sub roll (usually Turano) stuffed with thin-cut beef, onions, green peppers, and addictive sweet sauce. That all gets rolled up in paper, which compresses the entire thing. At Home of the Hoagy, be prepared to wait in line. The shop just moved into a larger location, and walking in it’s clear how important this restaurant is to the community.

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New York Bagel & Bialy Corporation

Conveniently located just off the Touhy Avenue exit of the Edens Expressway, New York Bagel and Bialy has been serving up freshly baked bagels 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 1965. At less than a dollar apiece, they’re one of the best bargains in the city. Of course all the toppings and accoutrements like cream cheese and smoked fish are also available. There’s a second location in Skokie, though it sometimes closes.

Superdawg Drive-In

A drive throw with two giant fiberglas hot dogs on the roof. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Chicago is a great town for encased meats, and while the city has an abundance of hot dog stands selling Vienna Beef products with all the trimmings, Superdawg in Norwood Park is a truly unique experience. It’s the city’s only true drive-in with carhops serving customers in the comfort of their automobiles. The hot dog is a variation of the Chicago-style wiener, with relish, mustard, and a pickled tomato. It doesn’t get much more classic than this. There’s a second location in suburban Wheeling.

A drive throw with two giant fiberglas hot dogs on the roof. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Great Sea Restaurant

This Albany Park Korean Chinese restaurant is credited with popularizing the lollipop chicken wing (the inventor ran a rival neighborhood restaurant), and still serves up some of the best around, tossed in a signature sweet and spicy sauce. But don’t miss out on classic Korean Chinese dishes like cha chiang mein, or black sauce noodles.

Podhalanka

Though the Northwest Side has since become the center of the Polish community, the strip of Division Street near the convergance of Ashland and Milwaukee Wicker Park was once known as “Polish Broadway.” One of the last remnants of that past life is Podhlanka, a warm dive that serves affording pierogi, potato pancakes, borsht, and other classics.

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse

A brick building with a green roof attachment and a neon sign that reads “Gibsons.” Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Gibsons is in the upper echelon of the classic Chicago steakhouse — a Rush Street restaurant where folks still want to be seen, especially the classic dark wood bar in the dimly-lit first floor dining room where patrons can stroll up for a Manhattan. If customers aren’t stuffed by their mammoth steaks or chops, save room for a giant slab of cake. 

A brick building with a green roof attachment and a neon sign that reads “Gibsons.” Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Pizano's Pizza & Pasta

Chicago’s deep dish pizza lineage is fascinating if not a little convoluted. Pizano’s, a mini chain with four city locations and a fifth in the suburbs, was founded by Rudy Malnati Sr, who learned the trade while working at Pizzeria Uno’s and whose son Lou went on to found the chain that still bears his name. The well-seasoned dough is the star here; try it in deep dish form.

Mart Anthony's Italian Restaurant

Red sauce Italian restaurants like Mart Anthony’s were once much more prevalent around Chicago. They feature similar cuisine and vibe — laid back, dim-lit dining rooms with large portions of pasta. Mart Anthony’s isn’t a cocktail lounge like Club Lucky or Club Lago or a tourist attraction like Italian Village. It’s a solid and unpretentious family-run spot with a good bar for hanging out with friends.

The Walnut Room

The Walnut Room is all decked out for the holidays.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Before Crate & Barrel and Lululemon, Marshall Field’s had a full restaurant inside its State Street store. Even though Field’s is now Macy’s, the wood-paneled Walnut Room endures, and it’s particularly popular at Christmastime when a giant tree takes over the center of the room. The chicken pot pie, allegedly invented by a millinery clerk back in the 1890s, is a classic dish.

The Walnut Room is all decked out for the holidays.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

The Berghoff

Perhaps no restaurant in Chicago is more classic than the Berghoff. Established as a nickel beer joint in 1898, it turned into a full restaurant during Prohibition. After repeal, it received the first liquor license in Chicago. The bar was men-only until 1969. In 2018, it established its own brewery. Today, this time capsule, continues to serve traditional German food to tourists and locals alike.

Lou Mitchell's

The iconic neon sign has drawn patrons into this historic diner near Union Station since 1923. Come for hearty, classic diner fare at breakfast and lunchtime, alongside baked goods and complimentary Milk Duds.

Al's Italian Beef

Al's Beef has been a Chicago legend since 1938, and though it has branches of varying quality all over the city, the Taylor Street location is the original and always reliable and consistent. Order a beef dipped with giardiniera, and then assume the proper eating stance — hunched over — so you don’t drip gravy all over yourself.

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

Manny's Cafeteria and Deli is the epitome of a Chicago classic, serving outstanding corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, potato latkes, and other Jewish deli favorites to an eclectic crowd. It’s also a favorite of local politicians for power breakfasts.

Jim's Original

Jim's Original claims it was the birthplace of the city's "original" Polish sausage back in 1941. Although it moved from its Maxwell Street Market location in 1994 when the market closed, Jim’s still touts itself as the longest continuously-operating hot dog stand to have once done business on Maxwell Street. The Polish and hot dogs are can't-miss, but the pork chop sandwich is also a Chicago essential.

Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant

“Carnitas culture” — the ritual of waiting in line indoors and watching workers prepare the pork delicacy — suffered during COVID-19, but slowly it’s returning, and family-run Carnitas Uruapan is one of the best places in the city to observe it. The pork is slow-cooked for two hours and then crisped up on the grill. Order it by the pound and then pile it onto tortillas for sublime tacos. There’s a second location in Gage Park.

Lindy's Chili & Gertie's Ice Cream

Originally a 22-seat stand, this hot dog and chili spot launched in 1924 has expanded significantly and now operates several locations in the Chicago area. The signature chili can be served with or without beans and elbow macaroni at the customer’s discretion. The business changed hands in 1974 and owner Joseph Yesutis brought Gertie’s Ice Cream into the fold.

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Birrieria Zaragoza

There are few brighter spots in Chicago than this unpretentious Archer Heights restaurant. The menu is simple: stewed goat and handmade tortillas, which customers assemble into tacos. Don’t expect a gooey cheese pull to show off on Instagram. This is classic Jalisco cooking that never disappoints.

Valois Restaurant

The gimmick at this Hyde Park landmark is the promise that customers can “see your food.” But for loyalists, Valois is no novelty: the cafeteria-style restaurant has been an essential part of the community since 1921. The items on the line rotate in and out throughout the day. Church groups assemble for breakfast and politicians make sure to be photographed here during election season. The restaurant has made loyal customers out of famous Chicagoans over the years, including former President Barack Obama and the late White Sox owner Bill Veeck. 

Weber's Bakery

A South Side classic since 1930, Weber’s is still owned and operated by members of the Weber family. The bakery is a destination on Paczki Day, but it’s also celebrated for its chocolate doughnuts, banana split torte, and three-pound grandpa rye loaves, plus holiday and seasonal specials.

Daley's Restaurant

Daley’s Restaurant/Mike Zar

This no-frills soul food diner is a South Side institution and the oldest restaurant in Chicago: it opened in 1892, came into the Zar family in 1918, and moved to its current location in 2019. Breakfast is served all day while the dinner menu includes fried chicken, jumbo shrimp, melt sandwiches, and burgers, all of which can be spiced up with the red pepper vinegar found on every table.

Daley’s Restaurant/Mike Zar

Lem's Bar-B-Q

A person ladling barbecue sauce over rib tips.
Rib tips are the focus at Lem’s.
Nick Murway/Eater Chicago

Many Chicago food enthusiasts exalt Lem's rib tips as the best barbecue in town, and its longevity — opened in 1951 — only supports that claim. The meats are cooked in an aquarium smoker and topped with a thick, tomato-based sauce. Folks who don’t know Lem’s are missing out on true Chicago-style barbecue.

A person ladling barbecue sauce over rib tips.
Rib tips are the focus at Lem’s.
Nick Murway/Eater Chicago

Josephine's Southern Cooking

A popular stop for performers like Aretha Franklin, Josephine’s Southern Cooking is known for soul food staples like gumbo, fried catfish, and pork chop. But Franklin isn’t the restaurant’s most esteemed celebrity. That title goes to owner and chef Josephine “Mother” Wade, a figure so beloved that she has a street named after her.

Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

Tavern-style pizza sliced into squares is also known as Chicago-style thin crust or party cut, and it’s the specialty at Vito & Nick’s in Ashburn. Order a sausage, green pepper, and onion and enjoy it with a frosty Old Style.

Calumet Fisheries

Don't miss this James Beard-honored monument to smoked fish on the far South Side, in business since 1948. Get a paper bag of salmon, shrimp, or black cod and be prepared to eat in the car or on the sidewalk.

Harolds Chicken 95th

Harold’s is the fried chicken Chicago natives crave the most when they leave town, especially garnished with mild sauce. Since they’re all individually-owner franchises, each location is slightly different. But no matter the location, each order of chicken is fried to order, and there’s comfor tin that. There’s seating, but Harold’s is primary a takeout operation.

Home of the Hoagy

The Chicago-style hoagy isn’t well known beyond the South Side communities where it originated. The sandwich isn’t made of the Instagram generation. It’s a sub roll (usually Turano) stuffed with thin-cut beef, onions, green peppers, and addictive sweet sauce. That all gets rolled up in paper, which compresses the entire thing. At Home of the Hoagy, be prepared to wait in line. The shop just moved into a larger location, and walking in it’s clear how important this restaurant is to the community.

Related Maps