Victorian architecture, Second City comedy, and brick alleyways are some of the traits of Old Town, one of Chicago’s most-affluent North Side neighborhoods. Wells Street tends to get packed during fall weekends, with college football fans, shoppers, and tourists crowding the neighborhood’s main drag. There’s plenty to eat and drink in one of Chicago’s most-historic neighborhoods. Here are 15 best bets for food and drink, listed from west to east.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink in Old Town
Relaxing patios and one of Chicago’s premier dives
1. Old Town Social
While a younger crowd fills this Element Collective space on weekend nights with music pulsing and a make-shift dance floor emerging, Old Town Social has one of the best beer and cocktail lists in the neighborhood. The charcuterie is made in the kitchen, and the burger (get it with an egg) is a force. The front room feels like a fancy den and provides a refined spot to hang out with friends. It’s also good for sports fans who want more than typical pub fare.
A newcomer to the area, Forastero is a fast-casual spot along North Avenue that mixes Mexican food with Korean flavors. The chef-owner worked at Jane’s in Bucktown, and the BYO spot features tacos, rice dishes, and spicy “Kung Fu Wings” with habanero and apricot.
3. Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern
This historic restaurant was one of filming locations for Batman Begins, and it gives off a bit of a gangster vibe. Twin Anchors is known for its ribs. While they are broiled — not smoked — the pork is tender and the zesty sauce has built quite a loyalty. The bar also sports one of the better beer lists for the area.
4. Old Town Ale House
Old Town Ale House is one of the most-unique bars in Chicago, keeping a part of the city’s history alive until at least 4 a.m. every night. The spots evokes Chicago greats like Roger Ebert and Mike Royko. Several famous performers from Second City have tipped a few back at this dive. The artwork is quirky and obscene, the characters sitting the barstools have stories, and the bar attracts drinkers from all over the city.
5. Adobo Grill
Fire may have burned down the location on Wells, but Adobo has returned. The new spot around the corner features a large patio and outdoor bar. Far before Rick Bayless, Adobo was known for table-side guacamole, and some of the most-inventive Mexican dishes in Chicago.
Old Town can be homogenous at times thanks to a stretch of sports bars packed with recent college graduates. SteakBar carries some of those traits (they serve a Fireball Old Fashioned for the refined bros), but inside a gorgeous multi-level space with huge windows on the second floor that overlook Wells Street. Brendan Sodikoff’s team developed the menu for the space, which is run by Four Corners Tavern Group. The company also owns neighboring Benchmark.
7. cocoa + co.
This chocolatier is the perfect sugar rush on a stroll back from Lincoln Park. The fresh desserts, ice cream sandwiches, and truffles give Old Town an edge. They also pour La Colombe coffee.
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Nookies has locations in Edgewater, Lincoln Park, and Boystown. It’s a great morning spot for breakfast and brunch. While Old Town doesn’t have an abundance of quality diners, Nookies fills the void.
9. Topo Gigio Ristorante
For more than 30 years, this Old Town landmark has graced Wells and served Italian-American cuisine. The waitstaff is friendly and they’re pros at dealing with large crowds, private events, and customers just grabbing a drink on the patio. Kick back with a plate of pasta with a glass of red and people watch.
10. Old Jerusalem
This affordable Middle Eastern spot has been serving shawarma far before Tony Stark had ever heard of the meaty dish. The falafels are crispy, and there’s a nice selection of salads, wraps, and entrees. It’s great for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner. The hummus with chicken shawarma — add some hot sauce — is a winner.
One of Chicago’s oldest sushi spots (it opened in 1967) has found life at their new location. While other sushi spots may be more inventive with ingredients, Kamehachi has become a party restaurant for older customers. There’s karaoke and other themed nights to cater to more of the Old Town’s nightlife.
12. Glunz Tavern
This space was once the tasting room for The House of Glunz, the historic wine store located next door. It’s a neighborhood wine bar with rare spirits and a Bavarian-inspired menu that’s runs laps around the boring sports bar fare offered at most of the other restaurants on Wells. The Bavarian food is tasty, but the burger is a guilty pleasure.
13. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Old Town is home to one of four Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the chain with a cult following out of Ohio. Jeni Britton Bauer is a Beard Award winner, and her creative ice cream flavors are served in fresh waffle cones. Chicago’s newest location is a big hit in Old Town.
14. Orso's Restaurant
This restaurant may be the epitome of the neighborhood, with Italian-American classics and a nice patio tucked in behind Wells Street. Find old-school items like clams casino, an underrated Italian beef, and more.
15. Garlic & Chili
A gem of a Thai restaurant sits inside the Marshall Hotel. Garlic and Chili has served Old Town for years. The menu is standard compared to most Thai spots, the old suspects like pad Thai and satay are available. But the affordability and dependability make this an essential spot for the neighborhood.