With one of the most innovative food scenes in the country, Chicago’s culinary exploration is as varied as it is ethnically diverse. If you don’t want to eat greasy Italian beef, hot dogs from a cart or the carb-bomb that comes with infamous deep dish, or conversely, have the funds or ability to secure reservations at some of the best restaurants in the world with Alinea, Sixteen or Schwa, here are some reliable go-tos for best all around eats.

We promise, these are all foodie tested, foodie approved local favorites.

"Donuts" by Stu Spivack via Flickr Creative Commons

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate a fun and fresh restaurant serving a mix of comfort foods and really innovative dishes. But, what makes this a firm locals favorite is the eight different types of hot chocolate and their incredible desserts. Go for The Study, which is a sampling plate of a cocktail, drinking chocolates, and desserts, for $15.

Photo Credit: AJ Schuster


Looking for a unique breakfast option? With locations all around the city, Orange is known for their seasonally-flavored pancake flights and frushi—sushi made with fresh fruit that’s been artistically arranged atop coconut-flavored rice.

"Mussels" by Jennifer Brandel via Flickr Creative Commons


One of the notable Paul Kahan restaurants, the Publican claims to pay homage to beer, pork and oysters, but we really love it for it’s selection of charcuterie. With shared tables, it’s easy to make friends over meat and craft beers.

"Pig's Ear with Crispy Kale, Pickled Cherry Peppers and a Fried Egg" by esimpraim via Flickr Creative Commons

Purple Pig

Located right on the Mag Mile, the Purple Pig can get a bit touristy, but it’s worth the wait. A collaboration of 
big wig chefs that include Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia,
 Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos Jr.
 of Heaven on Seven, its Mediterranean small plates are paired with an extensive
 yet accessible wine list.

GT Fish & Oysters

With a fresh and inventive approach to seafood-centric small plates, G.T. nails it on everything from the lobster roll to the chowder, and, of course, those oysters.

"Peking Duck at Sun Wah Bar-B-Q" by Vxla via Flickr Creative Commons

Sun Wah BBQ

Located a little further afield on Argyle street, if you’re into ethnic foods, there is no better deal than the Beijing Duck dinner. Carved tableside, it serves four people for less than $30 with three different preparations with the option for either a noodle or fried rice dish. Be warned though, you must pre-order a duck at least 24 hours in advance.

"Big Star" by Cherrylet via Flickr Creative Commons

Big Star

Tacos and whiskey? Sign us up. This casual late-night honky-tonk in the heart of Wicker Park is known for it’s gourmet tacos, extra strong margs, and single barrel bourbon. Hipster? Definitely, but oh so worth it.

Photo Credit: Miyuki Mouse

Bongo Room

Say it with us, white chocolate caramel pretzel pancakes. Quite possibly the most decadent brunch you could ever eat, one little known tip is you can actually order just one of their ridiculous sweet creations on the side, while opting for a savory benedict for balance (the BLT gets our vote).