This is part of a series of late-night city guides supported by The Sexton Irish Whiskey and inspired by the The Sexton Midnight Club, an intimate event series for chefs who want to eat and drink well after a late-night shift.
There are people who claim you shouldn't eat right before bed. With all due respect, these people are wrong. As far as after-hours decisions go, doubling down on fat and carbs before heading home is, quite frankly, one of the tamest decisions you could make. And bonus: if you’ve been drinking, they might even help you feel better the next morning. Given that, your midnight snack is practically a matter of national health and safety. And though Chicago isn’t open all hours the way New York or LA is, you can still find many late-night, gut-filling options in The City of Big Shoulders.
1846 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
Machine caters to a wide range of needs with its imaginative menu, which changes three times a day. But the real stars are the Willy Wonka-like cocktails, where among their deep bench you can expect flowers frozen in ice, a crème brûlée-inspired sip complete with caramelized top, and puns like the “Alco-Hall & Oats.”
1250 S Union Ave, Chicago, IL 60607
The spicy, ultra-garlicky Polish sausages at Jim’s Original—established in 1939—are part of the city’s DNA. It also doesn’t hurt that the Union Street stand (original in spirit but not location) was the first to serve them with hot peppers, mustard, and grilled onions. Vegetarians need not apply.
660 W. Lake St, Chicago, IL 6066
A West Loop speakeasy serving classic cocktails and small plates right up until closing time. Come for the old-fashioned, stay for the disco fries. The owners insist it’s “just a bar,” which, given its general lack of pretension is exactly the selling point.
JoJo's Milk Bar
23 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654
Yes, there are sandwiches, soups, and salads at JoJo’s Milk Bar, but if you’re not ordering a side of fries solely as a vehicle to get a milkshake into your face, you’re doing it wrong. JoJo’s six signature shakes (with names like “Cheery Poppins” and “Girl Scout”) are an exercise in childlike giddiness, but for an extra six dollars, you can turn them into dessert cocktails.
White Palace Grill
1159 S Canal St, Chicago, IL 60607
An old-school diner (open since 1939 to be exact) with endless egg options, plus chicken and waffles and an ever-rotating, seriously meat-heavy slate of blue plate specials.
Another in Chicago’s pizza heritage sites. Skip most of the pages in their ridiculously opulent menu (five pages of tiny type), and head directly to the titular dish, served stuffed, thin crust, deep dish, or as a calzone.
High Five Ramen
112 N Green St, Chicago, IL
A ramen-only basement joint with a single 15-seat counter and only a handful of options (pork, seafood, and vegetarian.) For best results, go spicy—The “High Five” has melt-your-face-off levels of kick). Too hot? Don’t freak: their Coconut Painkiller Cocktail is there to put out the fire.
2207 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
A Chicago deep-dish education—just as long as you’re ready to wait for it. (They don’t take reservations, but you can call ahead to be added to the priority seating list upon arrival.) The secret here is the caramelized cheese crust, where a thin layer of mozzarella sits between the chewy dough and the cast-iron pot, blackened into a layer of crispy sweetness. You can satisfy your late-night cravings there until 2 a.m.
San Soo Gab San
5247 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
A Koreatown BBQ joint with large piles of meat and a well-stocked bar. They also offer a robust menu of kimchi-laced carbs which soak up whatever you've been out doing: the kimchi fried rice and kimchi pancakes are both top-notch.
Lawrence's Fish & Shrimp
3242 W 87th St, Chicago, IL 60652
Lawrence’s is where you go when you want fish, shrimp, chicken, and assorted seafood battered and fried to golden, heart-stopping perfection. Hit the Canal street location, where all this—plus slaws and sides (yes, there’s a green salad; no, we don’t know why)—can be yours 24 hours a day.
Owen & Engine
2700 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
If traditional English pub food is your comfort of choice, then Owen & Engine’s got you. The Logan Square eatery does the traditionally heavy, carb-filled, meat-centric food proud, with recognizable canon entries (including scotch eggs, Cornish pasties, and fish and chips) and what many consider Chicago’s best burger.
2971 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657
The subject of an extremely compelling episode of This American Life, and one of Chicago’s anchor locations for all-night food. Don’t expect anything too flashy from this Lakeview diner, but when you’re in need of middle-of-the-night comfort carbs, they’re always there.
738 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
David Choi’s Mexican/Korean fusion, where tacos are served with both a side of chips and queso, and kimchi in both its slaw and OG forms. Build a bridge between the two cultures by smearing secret “Seoul Sauce” (crushed sesame seeds and a wedge of lime) over everything. Open until 4 a.m.
2160 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
A neon-lit Chinese restaurant open until 4 a.m. on the weekdays and 24 hours on the weekend. If the lack of pretension doesn’t convince you, the spread will—the extensive menu contains a plethora of dim sum classics, most priced under $8, plus a huge variety of congees, if you're trying to get a jump on your hangover breakfast.
59 W Hubbard St #2, Chicago, IL 60654
Ramen-San is aimed squarely at fans of hot broth and cold beer. However, they’re happy to split the difference between traditionalists (tonkotsu ramen), and those looking for a twist on the theme, with possible ramen add-ins like fried chicken and buttered corn. Stick to their River North and Fulton Market locations for late-night eats.
2032 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 606659
There's a deep bench of super-cheap Indian options (the name translates to “helper of the poor,” which might explain it) at Ghareeb Nawaz; most menu items are priced under $7, which will facilitate that whole midnight snack, “why not both” vibe.
3640 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613
Wicker Park and Wrigleyville's Big Star offers tacos, bourbon, and tequila in quantities that range from reasonable snack to outright feast. Try the Walking Taco, a portable snack served inside a potato-chip bag. Vegetarians will appreciate the Taco de Zanahorias, topped with mole-spiced carrots.
2313 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, 60647
Logan Square’s best karaoke bar and low-key music venue is also home to some of the best vegan chili in the city. Other options from their all-vegetarian menu include wraps, grilled cheese, and hummus. Just don’t expect to tweet about it—to better facilitate human interaction, the wi-fi is cut after 6 p.m.
3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
A bar for gin fans—or even just the gin curious. Not feeling the cocktail lineup, which rotates every three months? Bartenders will blend something more to your liking. Dinner (available until 11 p.m.) features steak-house favorites such as lamb, bone marrow, and Caesar salad. Their snack menu and cheese/charcuterie boards are available all night.
Little Bad Wolf
1541 W Bryn Mawr Ave, Chicago, IL 60660
Little Bad Wolf is an American/Mexican/Chinese gastropub that sorts its menu into four somewhat inexplicable categories based on eating techniques: “pinch,” “fold,” “grab,” and “stab.” Come early (seating is somewhat limited), then feast with the self-discipline of Little Red Riding Hood’s nemesis, and stuff yourself silly with bao and tacos.
955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
A wine bar focusing on light bites that doesn't slide into cliché bacon-wrapped whatever territory. (Or sliders, for that matter.) Their theatrical list of cocktails is perfect for when you’re in the mood for fancy drinking. But if you’re looking to get standard sloshed, their sister speakeasy “The Office” (no relation to the TV show) will be happy to serve you any one of their classic mixed drinks.
2200 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Traditional quad-cities style pizza, because you can always use some non-deep-dish in your late-night eats index. Perks include vegan-friendly options plus some clutch sides, including hummus (don't ask why, you're drunk anyway) and fries.
Goose Island Shrimp House
1011 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642
It’s a hike from local transit, but a visit to this late-night seafood dive might even be worth getting a head start on the next day’s heartburn after a night out. Chicago’s oldest/cash-only shrimp house serves mountains of fried shrimp and fish by the pound. It’s the same utilitarian menu they’ve been serving since 1973, and perhaps the city’s greatest argument for “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Billy Goat Tavern
430 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Attracting everyone from tourists to lifelong Chicagoans to the very, very drunk, people file
into the Billy Goat Tavern as much for the legacy as the cheezborgers, Pepsi, and chips. It truly is an institution, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s cheap and open late. Plus, who can say no to a cheezborger?
71 W Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603
A Loop-area restaurant serving Italian standards with a humble-brag worthy level of wine options, Italian Village has a Tuscany-inspired, kitch-tastic dining room, but also offers delivery. We suggest you eat in, and try the manicotti. Open until 1 a.m.
935 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
If you’re lucky, you might meet the Tap’s namesake, who’s usually serving behind the bar. Stella’s establishment is unabashedly a sports bar, serving complimentary Cheetos and the kind of easy-to grasp food you need while cheering on a game or playing a round of pool.
2957 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Despite the long wait and tight quarters, Chef Abraham Conlon’s Macanese restaurant Fat Rice lives up to the hype. Order the arroz gordo, the restaurant’s namesake dish of spiced jasmine rice topped with a mountain of meat (from linguiça sausage to chilli prawns to char siu pork) to share with a group.
The Wiener's Circle
2622 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
If it’s late and you’re feeling saucy, you’re probably at the Wieners Circle, a hot dog stand known in equal parts for its super greasy offerings and banter between staff and customers. (This place also has its own episode of This American Life, though it’s not as uplifting as the Golden Apple Grill's.) Stem the tide of your upcoming hangover with pocket change.
2101 N California Ave, Chicago,IL 60647
You won’t leave this airy Tex-Mex bar with a desire to go cattle roping (unless you’re into that kind of thing), but you will leave full, thanks to well-appointed plates of tacos and nachos. For more drink options, visit their sister bar, Golden Teardrops, located in the dark basement below.
3204 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
This spot is a fancy sports bar with a heavy emphasis on vegetarian and vegan fare (but yes, there are meaty burgers, tacos, and salads aplenty.) Finish out your night with a round of rosé shots if you’re feeling fancy, pull a power move by ordering a pitcher of sangria for the table, or have some damn fine cold brew, brought straight from the Damn Fine Coffee Bar.