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Valois Cafeteria
Valois Cafeteria
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19 Restaurants That Define Chicago's South Side

Devoid of glitz, yet full of flavors

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Valois Cafeteria
| Yelp

The culture of the South Side is often viewed as the hardworking, gritty, and blue-collar. The lack of glitz may be why some diners skip the South Side. Often ignored and underrepresented, the South Side offers more than the typical cliches.

Most South Side restaurants eschew fancy design preferring to serve food with a no-nonsense demeanor, an attitude locals have grown accustomed to, and one the rest of the city has seemingly yet to pick up upon. Simple, quick and to-the-point, South Side cuisine can be defined by age-old family recipes of Pilsen carnitas or the tacos of Archer Heights. Or perhaps maybe it's southern comfort food that remind you of home that you can find on the East Side. Yes, Chicago has an East Side.

It's the food you grew up with, dishes that also define you. Sure, there are tweaks as recipes evolve, but the food doesn't change radically. The following restaurants best represent these qualities. Listed in alphabetical order. If there's restaurants that should make the list, leave suggestions in the comments.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. 5 Loaves Eatery

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405 E 75th St
Chicago, IL 60619
(773) 891-2889
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Homestyle food with a loving touch is the formula at 5 Loaves. Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and other soul food items are available for breakfast and lunch at this Banchet award-winning restaurant.

Ashok Selvam

2. Birrieria Zaragoza

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4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 523-3700
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There’s only one thing on the menu here. Your only choice here is a small or large plate of organically-raised, several-hour-roasted goat on handmade-to-order tortillas with hot salsa and tomato consommé. You are naturally intimate with other diners in this cozy Archer Heights 20-seater, as you enjoy the layers of flavor and complexity that make up one of the most unique taco dining experiences the South Side has to offer.

Birrieria Zaragoza

3. Calumet Fisheries

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3259 E 95th St
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 933-9855
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Just about as far east as you can go on 95th Street in the South Deering neighborhood, Calumet Fisheries has been serving up the freshest, tastiest smoked fish in Chicago. There’s no negotiation here: no seating, no bathroom, no parking and cash only. Even as unreasonable as it may sound, you’ll agree with the James Beard medal hanging on the wall and wonder why you haven’t tried driven here sooner.

4. Daley's Restaurant

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809 E 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 643-6670
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A Chicago community mainstay, families, church groups, locals and folks needing a late-night bite crowd into Daley's on the South Side.

Nagle Photography

5. Don Pedro Carnitas

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1113 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 829-4757

Not only does Don Pedro’s define South Side, it also defines Pilsen. This 30-year-old South Side staple serves everything pork. You’ll only find carnitas on the menu during most days, with limited menu expansions on weekends that include menudo and brain tacos. $10 can feed two people, just make sure you arrive early because they open early and often close before 6 p.m.

6. Donald's Famous Hot Dogs

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2325 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 254-7777

Just south of The Heart of Italy, you’ll find the self proclaimed “Best Beef in Chicago.” Southsiders will all agree that Donald’s is worth seeking and may even help you forget another beef king that resides nearby.

7. Fat Johnnies

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7242 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60636
(312) 737-6294
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This famous Marquette Park staple has been serving hot dogs to locals, travelers and celebrities alike for countless years—all from a shack. As the popularity grew over the years, the concept and principles have remained the same, simply serve everyone the best hot dog possible. There is a large variety of hot dogs to choose from—or go with the classic Chicago style.

8. Home Of The Hoagy

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1312 W 111th St
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 238-7171

Customers form long lines out the door to sink their teeth into a steak sweet, a steak sandwich with onions and the signature sweet sauce.

Yelp

9. Leon's Barbeque

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4571-4583 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60632

Brighton Park is where you can get grilled, smothered and fried in one to-go box. Leon’s is one of the original barbecue joints of the South Side and has been going strong decade after decade. Since 1940, Southsiders have pledged their allegiance to grilled ribs and sausage. If racks and links aren’t your thing, be sure to try their fried fish.

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

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3685 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60609
(773) 927-7807
Visit Website

Since 1924, McKinley Park has been the home for arguably the best chili in the city. Their legend has grown into large plates of chili cheese fries that Southsiders swear by, and gigantic milk shakes that take two to three people to tackle. You can get a hot dog or a tamale instead, if you’re feeling more tame than usual.

11. Mini Hut

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6659 W Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 586-2115

Unless you already knew about Mini Hut, you wouldn’t know about Mini Hut. There’s no website, the phone number works when it wants to, and the address is incredibly misleading. Though listed on Archer Avenue in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, Mini Hut’s entrance is actually half a block down Normandy. One thing is for sure though—everyone loves the fried chicken and people travel from all over to try it. Wait times can be long, but are worth it.

12. Nickys the real Mccoy

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5801 S Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60629
(773) 436-6458
Visit Website

Since 1979, Nicky’s has been serving the Gage Park neighborhood with some of the best hot dogs, hamburgers and Grecian chicken available on this side of the city. The Real McCoy separates itself from other Nicky’s that try to mimic the same iconic greatness. A taste of all of the South Side is available under one roof at Nicky’s. Be sure to try their Big Baby Burger that made them famous.

13. Parisi's

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6216 W 63rd St
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 586-5611

Clearing is the home to one of the oldest drive-ins on the South Side. Since the 1950s, Parisi’s has been serving some of the best beef on the South Side with little changes along the way. May of the diners here have been coming for nearly half a century and swear by the authenticity this diner brings to the South Side. Check out why many people call this place home.

14. Ricobene's

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252 W 26th St
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 225-5555
Visit Website

Regularly regarded as the best sandwich in America, Ricobene’s has been serving the Bridgeport area since 1946 without ever losing a step. Their breaded steak sandwich is the standout that has made them famous and everlasting. The sandwich is known to be messy.

Ricobene's

15. Top-Notch Beefburgers

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2116 W 95th St
Chicago, IL 60643
(773) 445-7218
Visit Website

Beverly is home to the burger that is nearly 75 years old. A classic diner spot that serves burger of various weights and great milk shakes to go with it. Top Notch is another place that boldly claims the best burger in Chicago.

16. Valois

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1518 E 53rd St
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 667-0647
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Not only is this Hyde Park cafeteria always bustling with people, it’s bustling with buzz whenever President Barack Obama is in town. Known as one of his favorite places to have breakfast and lunch, Valois is the spot for any hungry Southsider from any political party. Don’t hesitate to try some of the dishes and platters dedicated to the 44th President.

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  • 17. Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

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    8433 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago, IL 60652
    (773) 735-2050
    Visit Website

    The best thin crust pizza in Chicago is the Ashburn neighborhood. Not just thin, but paper thin. Thin to the point in which you are just eating delicious toppings. A cash-only joint for nearly 80 years, Vito and Nick’s Pizza is a local favorite that is nationally recognized as a destination spot for pizza travelers. Enjoy your pizza with Old Style on-tap.

    18. Weber's Bakery

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    7055 W Archer Ave
    Chicago, IL 60638
    (773) 586-1234
    Visit Website

    One of the oldest bakeries in Chicago is on Garfield Ridge. German heritage bakery that carries a variety of sweets and baked goods that range across all of Europe and Central America. Weber’s is famous for their donuts, kolaczis, and paczkis. Their Fat Tuesday line for paczkis is known to wrap around the block. Get there early, because most days, they run out of goods by mid-afternoon.

    19. Zacatacos

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    5925 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago, IL 60629
    (773) 581-9481
    Visit Website

    You know you’re near a Zacatacos if you’re driving with the windows down—the smell of char-grilled steak and chicken fills your car hundreds of feet away. This West Lawn favorite is arguably the standard when it comes to all things taco. They are known for their char-grilled chicken and overstuffed vegetarian tacos that will please most carnivorous taco junkie and surprise any person that has never ventured south before.

    1. 5 Loaves Eatery

    405 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619
    Ashok Selvam

    Homestyle food with a loving touch is the formula at 5 Loaves. Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and other soul food items are available for breakfast and lunch at this Banchet award-winning restaurant.

    405 E 75th St
    Chicago, IL 60619

    2. Birrieria Zaragoza

    4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632
    Birrieria Zaragoza

    There’s only one thing on the menu here. Your only choice here is a small or large plate of organically-raised, several-hour-roasted goat on handmade-to-order tortillas with hot salsa and tomato consommé. You are naturally intimate with other diners in this cozy Archer Heights 20-seater, as you enjoy the layers of flavor and complexity that make up one of the most unique taco dining experiences the South Side has to offer.

    4852 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago, IL 60632

    3. Calumet Fisheries

    3259 E 95th St, Chicago, IL 60617

    Just about as far east as you can go on 95th Street in the South Deering neighborhood, Calumet Fisheries has been serving up the freshest, tastiest smoked fish in Chicago. There’s no negotiation here: no seating, no bathroom, no parking and cash only. Even as unreasonable as it may sound, you’ll agree with the James Beard medal hanging on the wall and wonder why you haven’t tried driven here sooner.

    3259 E 95th St
    Chicago, IL 60617

    4. Daley's Restaurant

    809 E 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60637
    Nagle Photography

    A Chicago community mainstay, families, church groups, locals and folks needing a late-night bite crowd into Daley's on the South Side.

    809 E 63rd St
    Chicago, IL 60637

    5. Don Pedro Carnitas

    1113 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

    Not only does Don Pedro’s define South Side, it also defines Pilsen. This 30-year-old South Side staple serves everything pork. You’ll only find carnitas on the menu during most days, with limited menu expansions on weekends that include menudo and brain tacos. $10 can feed two people, just make sure you arrive early because they open early and often close before 6 p.m.

    1113 W 18th St
    Chicago, IL 60608

    6. Donald's Famous Hot Dogs

    2325 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60608

    Just south of The Heart of Italy, you’ll find the self proclaimed “Best Beef in Chicago.” Southsiders will all agree that Donald’s is worth seeking and may even help you forget another beef king that resides nearby.

    2325 S Western Ave
    Chicago, IL 60608

    7. Fat Johnnies

    7242 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60636

    This famous Marquette Park staple has been serving hot dogs to locals, travelers and celebrities alike for countless years—all from a shack. As the popularity grew over the years, the concept and principles have remained the same, simply serve everyone the best hot dog possible. There is a large variety of hot dogs to choose from—or go with the classic Chicago style.

    7242 S Western Ave
    Chicago, IL 60636

    8. Home Of The Hoagy

    1312 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643
    Yelp

    Customers form long lines out the door to sink their teeth into a steak sweet, a steak sandwich with onions and the signature sweet sauce.

    1312 W 111th St
    Chicago, IL 60643

    9. Leon's Barbeque

    4571-4583 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60632

    Brighton Park is where you can get grilled, smothered and fried in one to-go box. Leon’s is one of the original barbecue joints of the South Side and has been going strong decade after decade. Since 1940, Southsiders have pledged their allegiance to grilled ribs and sausage. If racks and links aren’t your thing, be sure to try their fried fish.

    4571-4583 S Archer Ave
    Chicago, IL 60632

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

    3685 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60609

    Since 1924, McKinley Park has been the home for arguably the best chili in the city. Their legend has grown into large plates of chili cheese fries that Southsiders swear by, and gigantic milk shakes that take two to three people to tackle. You can get a hot dog or a tamale instead, if you’re feeling more tame than usual.

    3685 S Archer Ave
    Chicago, IL 60609

    11. Mini Hut

    6659 W Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60638

    Unless you already knew about Mini Hut, you wouldn’t know about Mini Hut. There’s no website, the phone number works when it wants to, and the address is incredibly misleading. Though listed on Archer Avenue in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, Mini Hut’s entrance is actually half a block down Normandy. One thing is for sure though—everyone loves the fried chicken and people travel from all over to try it. Wait times can be long, but are worth it.

    6659 W Archer Ave
    Chicago, IL 60638

    12. Nickys the real Mccoy

    5801 S Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60629

    Since 1979, Nicky’s has been serving the Gage Park neighborhood with some of the best hot dogs, hamburgers and Grecian chicken available on this side of the city. The Real McCoy separates itself from other Nicky’s that try to mimic the same iconic greatness. A taste of all of the South Side is available under one roof at Nicky’s. Be sure to try their Big Baby Burger that made them famous.

    5801 S Kedzie Ave
    Chicago, IL 60629

    13. Parisi's

    6216 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL 60638

    Clearing is the home to one of the oldest drive-ins on the South Side. Since the 1950s, Parisi’s has been serving some of the best beef on the South Side with little changes along the way. May of the diners here have been coming for nearly half a century and swear by the authenticity this diner brings to the South Side. Check out why many people call this place home.

    6216 W 63rd St
    Chicago, IL 60638

    14. Ricobene's

    252 W 26th St, Chicago, IL 60616
    Ricobene's

    Regularly regarded as the best sandwich in America, Ricobene’s has been serving the Bridgeport area since 1946 without ever losing a step. Their breaded steak sandwich is the standout that has made them famous and everlasting. The sandwich is known to be messy.

    252 W 26th St
    Chicago, IL 60616

    15. Top-Notch Beefburgers

    2116 W 95th St, Chicago, IL 60643

    Beverly is home to the burger that is nearly 75 years old. A classic diner spot that serves burger of various weights and great milk shakes to go with it. Top Notch is another place that boldly claims the best burger in Chicago.

    2116 W 95th St
    Chicago, IL 60643

    Related Maps

    16. Valois

    1518 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615

    17. Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

    8433 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60652

    The best thin crust pizza in Chicago is the Ashburn neighborhood. Not just thin, but paper thin. Thin to the point in which you are just eating delicious toppings. A cash-only joint for nearly 80 years, Vito and Nick’s Pizza is a local favorite that is nationally recognized as a destination spot for pizza travelers. Enjoy your pizza with Old Style on-tap.

    8433 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago, IL 60652

    18. Weber's Bakery

    7055 W Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60638

    One of the oldest bakeries in Chicago is on Garfield Ridge. German heritage bakery that carries a variety of sweets and baked goods that range across all of Europe and Central America. Weber’s is famous for their donuts, kolaczis, and paczkis. Their Fat Tuesday line for paczkis is known to wrap around the block. Get there early, because most days, they run out of goods by mid-afternoon.

    7055 W Archer Ave
    Chicago, IL 60638

    19. Zacatacos

    5925 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60629

    You know you’re near a Zacatacos if you’re driving with the windows down—the smell of char-grilled steak and chicken fills your car hundreds of feet away. This West Lawn favorite is arguably the standard when it comes to all things taco. They are known for their char-grilled chicken and overstuffed vegetarian tacos that will please most carnivorous taco junkie and surprise any person that has never ventured south before.

    5925 S Pulaski Rd
    Chicago, IL 60629

    Related Maps