The Chicago Guide, Part One

Happy Spring y'all! It's been over two years now that Kollin and I have called Chicago home and one of my favorite things to do with friends or family visiting is give recommendations based on our favorite things about this amazing city. 

After more and more people began to ask I thought why not put together a post?! This list mainly revolves around food & cocktails, but so does my life so it seemed appropriate! I've broken up the post into categories so it's easier for you to find what you're looking for! Apologies in advance for how long this post is, but there is just too much goodness here!

Our Favorite Spots:

  • The Lincoln Park Conservatory
  • John Hancock 96th Floor Bar
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • The view from the Planetarium
  • 3 Arts Cafe

Favorite Restaurants (Lunch & Dinner):

Chicago has the most amazing restaurants and experiences! This list consists of only places we've been to, but I'll share our bucket list as well! 

  • Blue Door Kitchen
    • $$-$$$
    • A good friend of ours used to be the pastry chef here and we had the best time! Fixed in the old carriage house of the victorian mansion it sits behind, Blue Door Kitchen is a farm-to-table sanctuary located in the heart of Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. With a quaint aesthetic and delicious fried chicken, sea scallops & hummingbird cake for dessert, you cannot go wrong. I've also heard the brunch here is amazing (on our bucket list)!
  • Duck Duck Goat
    • $$-$$$
    • Serial restaurant owner & Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard, is the chef behind Duck Duck Goat and the well-known Girl in the Goat. Duck Duck Goat's Asian fare is exquisite. It is nestled in what is considered the best restaurant space in the city, The West Loop. I highly recommend the Xiao Long Bao, a shrimp and pork soup dumpling, the beef and short rib bone marrow pot stickers, Dan Dan Noodles, and the Red Braised Pork. 
  • Sun Wah BBQ
    • $-$$
    • This little gem is located in our old neighborhood, Uptown, about a 10-15 drive north of the Loop. This restaurant goes through 1,000 ducks per week and they know what they are doing! As someone who generally doesn't like duck, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this place. Our first time there we went with another couple and ordered the whole duck dinner. The dinner comes with, you guessed it, a whole duck, soup, fried rice and all the dressings for the duck (relish, veggies, sauces and bao). So good!
  • RPM Italian
    • $$$-$$$$
    • Kollin makes fun of me for how much I love this place! I'd heard about it before we moved here from my days of watching E News and Giuliana Rancic's TV show. She, her husband and another couple own RPM Italian and RPM Steak in Chicago's River North neighborhood. I have loved everything I've had there, literally everything. But I highly recommend the lobster ravioli, squid ink pasta, prime beef meatballs, lobster caprese, wood roasted octopus, and prosciutto tortelloni. And you have to get the bomboloni (homemade donuts with sugar and nutella)! 
  • Velvet Taco
    • $-$$
    • When I asked my boss what his favorite tacos in the city are, he named a few places on the south side, but Velvet Taco was high on the list. This cute little joint is in the heart of Gold Coast and he was right, some of the best tacos I've had in the city! You have to try the Picnic Taco, Rotisserie Chicken Taco, Angus Brisket Taco and a margarita! 
  • Ricardo Trattoria
    • $$-$$$
    • I took Kollin here for his birthday and it was one of the best Italian meals I've ever had. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, it is a small, intimate spot perfect for date night! We ordered the prosciutto and mozzarella burrata, gnocchi, and the veal and pork ravioli. With an extensive wine list and endless bread, this spot is everything you could want in an Italian restaurant.
  • XOCO
    • $-$$
    • This one was Kollin's find and we came here for lunch one day. One thing to note - it is popular! Make sure to take into account having to wait because it is always packed! They specialize in sandwiches and soups, but this Mexican style street food restaurant founded by the famous Rick Bayless, is anything but simple. I highly recommend the Choriqueso sandwich torta and the carnitas caldo. 
  • Tanta
    • $$-$$$
    • For the past two years, my boss has taken the company here for our holiday party dinner and it never disappoints! The amazing cocktails, ceviches and empanadas are just the start in the extensive menu. You have to check this place out and try the chaufa aeropuerto and adobo nikei. 
  • Prime & Provisions
    • $$$$
    • Prime & Provisions was one of our first date night spots here in the city. We went here for our 3rd anniversary, the first one we could celebrate together. Structured as a traditional steakhouse, everything is done so well. I highly recommend the lobster and crab cake, filet mignon, mac and cheese and asparagus! And for you fellas reading, there is a cigar menu that Kollin really enjoys!
  • Au Cheval
    • $$
    • Dubbed as the best burger in Chicago, you do not want to leave town without trying Au Cheval. The burger is just the start at this unique, tiny spot in the West Loop! Make sure you get there early because waiting is apart of the experience here. I've even seen people have to wait 7 hours for a table (yes, you read that right!). They don't take reservations, but go early on a weekday and you'll have a chance to try the bone marrow, burger, and chicken liver with toast (sounds gross, but so good trust me!). 
  • Mercadito
    • $$
    • This unique place is a traditional mexican fare with tacos, guac, ceviche & delicious sangria. Most everything is tapas style so it is the perfect place to go with a group! I love the tacos and shrimp ceviche!
  • Eatly
    • $-$$
    • Structured like the perfect Italian grocery store, enjoy shopping for authentic Italian breads, wines, gelato, sandwiches, etc. while also eating at the various restaurants inside. With a number of events and specials happening daily, this is the best break from shopping or walking down Michigan Ave and they also carry great options for souvenirs or gifts!

Favorite Brunch Spots:

  • Kanela
    • $$
    • Our go-to spot when we need a mimosa and don't feel like cooking! Kollin loves the crab cake benedict and I love the monte cristo. 
  • Lou Mitchell's
    • $-$$
    • I've not been here, but it is a favorite before school breakfast for Kollin. He loves the made from scratch biscuits and the turkey sausage omelet "hobo style" and a side of coffee cake.
  • Yolk
    • $$
    • When it comes to traditional brunch, this is the spot. With a huge menu and plenty of locations across the city, you'll definitely find something you love here!
  • The Hampton Social
    • $$
    • The breakfast sandwich, crab cake and french toast are some of my favorites at this adorable East Coast vibe restaurant. 
  • Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba
    • $$
    • We've been here for dinner and brunch and both options are delicious! I've only had the pre fixe brunch menu here, but the scrambled eggs, banana bread waffles & mimosas are some of my favs!
  • The Bellwether
    • $$-$$$
    • Located just down the street from us, this place is so good! The crab cake benedict (one of Kollin's favorite meals if you can't tell), the biscuits and gravy and protein omelet are our favorites.
  • The Bristol
    • $$
    • You have to order the cinnamon roll (it's big enough to feed 3 people!) and the Chicken and biscuits. 
  • Do Rite Donuts
    • $
    • When I say these are the best donuts I've had in Chicago, I mean it! The Streeterville location also serves chicken sandwiches with the donuts and you have to try them! Our favorites are the blueberry donut, cinnamon raised donut and the CBR chicken sandwich.
  • Vanille
    • $
    • If you know anything about me, you know that I love macarons. While macarons aren't really brunch fare, they are for me and I had to share my favorite macarons with y'all! The blueberry, red velvet, champagne, & raspberry falvors are my favorite.

This is part one of a Chicago series I'll be doing over the next couple of months! The most common questions I get from people visiting pertains to where to eat so I started there. Next up will be rooftop bars, activities and the best unknown spots in the city! Thank you so much for reading and I'd love to hear your favorite Chicago spots!