Chicago is the most-visited city in the American Midwest, known for its expansive lakefront parks, record-breaking skyscrapers, gorgeous historic landmark buildings and shopping destinations along the famed Magnificent Mile. Windy City visitors can find a plethora of unique things to do in the city this summer, including walking culinary tours or performances at the newly-opened Chicago Magic Lounge. Some of the Midwest's most acclaimed restaurants are located within the city's downtown districts, including Michelin-starred dining spots helmed by James Beard Award-nominated chefs.
1.Chicago Food Walks
Chicago Food Walks take Chicago visitors on a culinary adventure, exploring the city's most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods and giving participants a taste of the city's gastronomy scene. The company was founded in 2004 by Chicago native Rebecca Wheeler, known for her experience as a top-level chef and culinary instructor. Tours explore areas such as the city's Uptown district, known for its Southeast Asian culinary scene, and its Devon neighborhood, known as one of America's best spots for Indian and Pakistani-style dining. All tours last approximately three hours, stopping at seven restaurants, cafes, or bakeries for food and drink tastings. Despite the walking distance, tours stop frequently and move at a comfortable pace, making the experience inclusive for participants of all mobility levels.
website, Phone: 773-368-1336
© Big Jones
Big Jones has been serving up excellent Southern heirloom-style cooking in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood since 1996. The restaurant, which is helmed by executive chef Paul Fehribach, brings the rich culinary diversity of coastal Southern traditions to the Windy City, highlighting dishes prepared with heirloom crops and sustainable seafood catches. Classic land and sea fare includes corn flour-breaded catfish, coconut milk-braised short ribs, fried chicken dinners, and hen and hominy platters with masa dumplings. Oyster po'boy sandwiches are also served, along with ya-ya-style gumbo, Pontchartrain blue crab cakes, and aged cheddar corn fritters. Most dishes are prepared according to historic 19th and 20th-century style, with cooking notes on menus citing family recipes and regional traditions.
5347 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640, website, Phone: 773-275-5725
Oriole is one of Chicago's most acclaimed restaurants, earning two Michelin stars and an AAA Five Diamond rating since its 2016 opening. The hip West Loop restaurant, which is owned by executive chef Noah Sandoval, is known for its intimate 28-seat dining room and elegant tasting menus, which are available throughout the week at dinner service. Gourmet tasting offerings include Scottish-style langoustine with lemongrass sabayon, Australian winter truffle capellini, Hudson Valley foie gras prepared with pink peppercorn and oxtail, and fava bean meagre with urfa biber and genmai. For dessert, diners can enjoy upscale delicacies such as delice de bourgogne souffle prepared with sesame and lemon. Specially-selected wine bottles are available for reserve pairings, including older vintages by iconic vintners.
661 W Walnut St, Chicago, IL 60661, website, Phone: 312-877-5339
Nana is a Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant serving up scratch-made Mexican-American fare at breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week. The charming cafe and patio has been operated by the Solis family since 2009, offering up delicious fare prepared with organic, ethically-sourced local ingredients. At breakfast, diners can choose from a selection of breakfast burritos and sandwiches or enjoy delicious plates like piña colada-style French toast. Lunch sandwich offerings range from vegetarian burgers and Cubanos to plantain sandwiches prepared with pulled chicken, cilantro lime slaw, and chipotle aioli. Diners can also share appetizers like avocado fries and pulled pork nachos or split slices of the restaurant's signature pistachio rum cake.
3267 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608, website, Phone: 312-929-2486
5.Horse Thief Brewing
© Horse Thief Brewing
Horse Thief Brewing was opened as a brewpub and brewing company in 2013 by Neil Byers, housed within a renovated space that used to operate as a carpet store. The popular South Side hangout, which is located within Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, showcases a full roster of house-brewed beers throughout the year, including favorites like the company's Little Wing Pilsner, Kitchen Sink American Pale Ale, Spoonful IPA, and Delta Hurricane Sweet Chicory Stout. Beer flights are served up alongside drafts, letting diners sample a selection of six four-ounce pours of their choice. Gastropub fare served up throughout the day includes housemade barbecue, fire-grilled burgers, artisanal sandwiches, and clever shareable appetizers like empanadas and short rib poutine.
10426 S Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60643, website, Phone: 773-779-2739
© Sugar Bliss
Sugar Bliss is one of Chicago's most acclaimed bakeries, opened in 2009 by Teresa Ging, the 2019 recipient of the city's Enterprising Women of the Year Award. Moreover, Teresa Ging was invited to the White House by President Obama when he signed the Executive Order to form the Women’s Council. The bakery is located within Chicago's Downtown Loop district and is known for its high-quality, inventive cupcake varieties, available individually or by the dozen. Standard flavors include Madagascar bourbon vanilla, red velvet, and gluten-free milk chocolate. A full roster of specialty flavors are also served up on select days throughout the week, including chocolate cappuccino, lemon coconut, orange creamsicle, and cinnamon carrot. In addition to cupcakes, the bakery also produces French-style macarons, cake pops, and unique breakfast cupcakes prepared with fruit and streusel topping.
115 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60602, website, Phone: 312-845-9669
© VGA Gallery
VGA Gallery is one of Chicago's most unique attractions, showcasing a collection of fine video game art prints created by game developers and artists around the world. The nonprofit gallery, which was opened in 2013, strives to increase cultural appreciation of video games, highlighting the artistic merit of the unique characters, cityscapes, and imaginary worlds showcased in popular and independent games. Regular exhibitions showcase giclees, posters, and sketches, including collections showcasing an in-depth look at game themes and mechanics. A collection of video games is also available for visitor play, including retro eight-bit games. Educational programming offered throughout the year includes lectures, game screenings, and student workshops.
2418 W Bloomingdale Ave #102, Chicago, IL 60647, website, Phone: 773-217-8054
8.The Chicago Magic Lounge
The Chicago Magic Lounge pays homage to Chicago's history of high-quality magic acts, which date back to the early 20th century. The unique performance venue was opened in 2015, evoking the atmosphere of classic magic bars like Schulien's, Houdini's Pub, and Ryan's Tap Magic and bringing back the art of magic as a high-quality nightlife option for adult audience members. Three theaters are showcased at the Art Deco-style lounge, including the 120-seat Harry Blackstone Cabaret Theater, which is home to a Hammond organ and cabaret-style seating. The 654 Club, which is named for the famed Sam the Bellhop magic routine by Bill Malone and Frank Everhart, Sr., offers 43 seats in a close-up setting, while a 1930s-style Performance Bar features speakeasy cocktails and intimate performances. A menu of classic bar fare evokes the menus of historic magic bars, serving up shareable shrimp cocktail, creative sliders, sausage boards, and locally-produced sweets by Katherine Anne Confections.
5050 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640, website, Phone: 312-366-4500
Delilah's is a lively bar in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood which has developed a stellar reputation for its drink offerings since its 1993 opening. The bar showcases an astounding lineup of more than 800 international whiskey offerings representing 15 countries, including bourbon, scotch, rye, and American craft whiskeys. Signature whiskeys bottled on site are served up, along with collaborations with companies such as London's Compass Box Whisky Company. More than 200 draft and bottled beer and cider options are also served up, along with a rotating list of seasonal drinks. Specialty beer tastings are offered throughout the year, including holiday tasting events and barrel-aged festivals. DJs spin an eclectic mix of music throughout the week, ranging from punk, ska, and rockabilly to soul, R&B, and metal. Other events include film screenings, live concerts, and contemporary art openings.
2771 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614, website, Phone: 773-472-2771
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10.The Scout Waterhouse and Kitchen
© The Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen
The Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen is a laid-back neighborhood pub in Chicago's South Loop, opened by Chris Bravos to fill the neighborhood's lack of sports bar offerings. The rustic bar and pub offers dining in a space evoking classic lodges, with plenty of televisions for sports game watching and seasonal outdoor patio seating during the warmer months. Elevated pub fare includes signature footlong grilled cheese sandwiches, available with delicious fillings like braised short rib, pickled jalapenos, smoked bacon, and honey mustard. House blend beef, turkey, and black bean burgers are also served up, along with shrimp po'boy sandwiches, gourmet mac and cheese, and shareable slider platters. Signature cocktails are served up throughout the day, along with an extensive list of craft microbrews.
1301 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605, website, Phone: 312-705-0595
© Peter Kim/stock.adobe.com
Headquarters Beercade is a fun arcade-style bar in Chicago's River North district, overseen by Machine Hospitality Group. The vintage-style barcade showcases more than 65 classic arcade and pinball games for visitors to play throughout the night, including throwback favorites spread over its bi-level space. Upscale pub fare is served from the bar's kitchen, including shareable plates like Jamaican jerk chicken wings, stuffed jalapenos, and deluxe pizza rolls. Savory artisanal flatbreads are also served, along with a full menu of gourmet burgers and artisanal sandwiches. More than 28 rotating craft beer drafts are available at any given time, along with more than three dozen regional and national beer and cider choices in cans.
213 W Institute Pl, Chicago, IL 60610, website, Phone: 312-291-8735
© Au Cheval
Au Cheval is an upscale diner on Randolph Street, opened in 2012 by restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff. The traditional-style diner offers elevated fare throughout the day, including decadent dishes like chopped chicken liver, roasted bone marrow, and honey-fried chili chicken. Signature burgers and sandwiches are also served up, featuring favorites like housemade fried bologna sandwiches. At brunch, diners can choose from options like chilaquiles, foie gras on toast, and crispy potato hash with duck heart gravy. A robust cocktail program showcases favorites like Horse's Necks and Hemingway Daiquris, paired with a varied regional and national draft beer list and the restaurant's signature housemade root beer on draft.
800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607, website, Phone: 312-929-4580
© The Gage
The Gage is an inventive American-style restaurant and pub overlooking Chicago's Millennium Park, housed in the historic 19th-century Gage Brothers and Company landmark building. The local favorite restaurant has become one of the city's hottest reservation spots since its 2007 opening by restaurateur Billy Lawless. Rustic European-American fare is served up throughout the day, including hearty options like gouda-topped venison burgers, Guinness-battered fish and chips platters, seafood coconut curry, and pan-roasted half chickens with poblano peppers and herbed yogurt. An elegant steak menu also features cuts that can be prepared charcoal-style or blackened with Creole-style crawfish butter. A lengthy international draft beer list is complemented by a selection of fine wines and unique house cocktails.
24 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, website, Phone: 312-372-4243
14.DMK Burger Bar
© DMK Burger Bar
DMK Burger Bar is a joint venture between James Beard Award-nominated chef Michael Kornick and restaurateur David Morton, who embarked on a yearlong quest to find America's best burger dishes before opening their restaurant in 2009. The restaurant, which has been featured on Food Network's popular show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, has been named as one of the best burger joints in America by publications such as Bon Appetit and Eater. 100% grass-fed beef, bison, and turkey burgers are served up on artisanal buns, available with unique toppings like roasted hatch green chiles, chorizo, Amish bleu cheese, and blueberry-infused barbecue sauce. Diners can also enjoy grown-up mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and the restaurant's signature hand-cut Great Chicago Fries, which are served with unique toppings like truffle cream and lemon tabasco aioli.
2954 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657, website, Phone: 773-360-8686
Arami is a contemporary-style sushi joint in Chicago's West Town, owned and operated by Ty Fujimura since 2010. Diners can enjoy a delicious menu of Japanese-style fare throughout the day, including a full sushi bar offering a la carte Tokubetsu-style sashimi, nigiri, and maki selections. Omakase-style chef's tasting experiences highlight a selection of daily rolls, cultivated by the restaurant's executive chef. Japanese robata charcoal grill offerings include Spanish octopus, shishito peppers, Amish chicken meatballs, and coffee-braised lamb belly. A full menu of Japanese beers, wines, and imported sake is served up throughout the evening, along with unique drinks like uni shooter with soy-soaked sea urchin.
1829 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, website, Phone: 312-243-1535
© Tied House
Tied House is a new restaurant offering from 2018 Top Chef Masters competitor Debbie Gold, opened in 2018. The Lakeview restaurant is named for the historic bars and saloons connected to pre-Prohibition breweries, which were operated as exclusive tavern tap houses. It is housed within the former Schuba's space, showcasing sleek, futuristic decor and a beautiful marble bar. Elegant large and small New American plates are available throughout the evening, including venison tartare, grilled octopus with squid ink risotto, roasted squab with black garlic mole, and pistachio mezze rigatoni. Signature bread service showcases soft seeded rye bread, house rolls, and oat porridge bread complemented with toppings like miso butter, chicken liver mousse, and green tomato marmalade. A fine wine list is complemented by house classic cocktails and regional Midwest draft beers.
3157 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657, website, Phone: 773-697-4632
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17.Ina Mea Tavern
© Ina Mea Tavern
Ina Mea Tavern is a funky New Orleans-style joint, known for its delicious seafood-focused fare and live music performances. The restaurant, which opened in 2018, is helmed by James Beard Award semifinalist Brian Jupiter, acclaimed for his stellar work in the Great Lakes region. Excellent fresh catch platters are served up broiled or fried, filled to the brim with selections like Gulf shrimp, blue crab claws, oysters, catfish, and crawfish. Signature fried chicken entrees feature hot honey butter and drop buttermilk biscuits, served up alongside classic Louisiana soups like gumbo ya-ya and shrimp Creole. An extensive menu of po'boy sandwiches fills fresh-baked French bread with diners' choice of fried or blackened shrimp, Nashville fried chicken, New Orleans gator sausage, or fried oysters. After dinner, visitors can stay at the restaurant's Beachwood Inn, which is located on the second floor atop the restaurant and offers private balconies and sleeping quarters.
1415 N Wood St, Chicago, IL 60622, website, Phone: 773-360-8320
© The Dawson
The Dawson is an historic favorite gastropub in Chicago that is housed within a bi-level space originally constructed in 1888. The restaurant was fully reimagined in 2013, bringing a brand-new gastropub dining experience to the city. Excellent dinner fare served up throughout the week includes wood-fired grill options like prime New York strip steaks, Texas-style redfish tacos, and steak frites with salmoriglio marinade and garlic pecorino aioli. Diners can also enjoy housemade pork ragu cavatelli plates, green coconut curry mussels, and the restaurant's signature Dawson Burger, prepared with bacon jam and dijonnaise and topped with a choice of bacon or lobster. Handcrafted cocktails include the Surfer Rosa, which infuses tequila and mezcal with chiles and blood orange.
730 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654, website, Phone: 312-243-8955
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© Dimo's Pizza
Dimo's Pizza is an outpost of Madison, Wisconsin favorite Ian's Pizza, originally franchised in the Windy City in 2008. Today, the popular pizzeria operates two locations throughout the city, including a Wrigleyville location opened in 2008. Unique signature pizzas are served up by the slice or by the pie, including The Mac, which is topped with macaroni noodles, mild and sharp white cheddar, smoked provolone, and parmesan. Other favorites range from chicken and waffles pizzas, penne-infused CPAs, ricotta white pies, and classics like Florentines and margheritas. A selection of vegan pizzas is available for diners with alternative diets, including vegan variations of signature pizzas like the Dad Bod and the BBQChickenCheddarRanch.
3463 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657, website, Phone: 773-525-4580
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Juno is a creative Japanese spot in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, opened by executive chef B.K. Park and restaurateur Jason Chan in 2013. The contemporary-style dining destination is known as a popular date night and dining-out spot in its neighborhood, serving up a delicious a la carte menu of sashimi, nigiri, and maki selections stuffed with unique ingredients like sweet red prawns, sea urchin, soy-marinated eel, and flying fish roe. Omakase selections are available with 24 hours advance notice, offering diners a choice of sashimi or nigiri offerings selected by the chef. Delicious hot and cold entrees are also available, including mushroom ramen, duck ochazuke, octopus takoyaki, and togarashi-style chicken wings.
2638 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614, website, Phone: 773-935-2000
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Todos Santos received the 2018 award for Best Specialty Bar by TimeOut Chicago, known for its artisanal mezcal cocktails, intimate lounge vibe, and eclectic live DJ performances. The bar is the vision of Mezcaleria Las Flores' Jay Schroder and has been located beneath popular Logan Square Mexican joint Quiote since 2017. An inventive menu of mezcal-based drinks is rotated throughout the year, featuring herbs and juices crafted from produce grown atop its sister restaurant's rooftop garden. More than 130 mezcals are also highlighted, including rare and ethically-sourced boutique variants. Drinks are served up in curated artisanal glassware crafted by local Chicago artists and collected from specialty markets around the world. Diners can also enjoy food truck fare from Quiote, including excellent street tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.
2456 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, website, Phone: 312-878-8571
21 Unique Things to Do in Chicago This Summer
- Chicago Food Walks, Photo: James/stock.adobe.com
- Big Jones, Photo: Big Jones
- Oriole, Photo: Oriole
- Nana, Photo: Nana
- Horse Thief Brewing, Photo: Horse Thief Brewing
- Sugar Bliss, Photo: Sugar Bliss
- VGA Gallery, Photo: VGA Gallery
- The Chicago Magic Lounge, Photo: zinkevych/stock.adobe.com
- Delilah's, Photo: Delilah's
- The Scout Waterhouse and Kitchen, Photo: The Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen
- Headquarters Beercade, Photo: Peter Kim/stock.adobe.com
- Au Cheval, Photo: Au Cheval
- The Gage, Photo: The Gage
- DMK Burger Bar, Photo: DMK Burger Bar
- Arami, Photo: Arami
- Tied House, Photo: Tied House
- Ina Mea Tavern, Photo: Ina Mea Tavern
- The Dawson, Photo: The Dawson
- Dimo's Pizza, Photo: Dimo's Pizza
- Juno, Photo: Juno
- Todos Santos, Photo: KCULP/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Foap.com/stock.adobe.com