This first appeared on MUNCHIES in November 2016.
Welcome to the MUNCHIES Guide to Chicago! We've got your tour of all the best fine dining, pizza, cocktails, dives, cheap eats, coffee, and other generally cool shit that the Windy City has to offer right here.
About that "cool shit": In every city, there are nooks, crannies, corners, and niche spots that are so unique, it's hard to label them as just another restaurant or bar or shop or bakery. Their coolness transcends.
Here's a look at eight places in Chicago that are a little wacky, a lot tasty, and most importantly, uniquely Chi-Town. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more to our city guide, so check out the full thing here.
The Top 8 Coolest Places to Eat and Drink in Chicago
- Billy Goat Tavern, several locations, flagship located at 430 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 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 good cheezborger?
- Oasis Cafe, 21 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60602
Even though it's just a block away from Millennium Park, we could maybe forgive you if you went to the park and then missed Oasis Cafe, the place in the Loop that's really worth a visit... considering that it's hidden in the back of a jewelry store. While both its host organism, the "Wabash Jewelers Mall," and the restaurant itself are a little frumpy, the menu is broad, the Mediterranean food is delicious (get the falafel), and the prices can't be beat.
- Calumet Fisheries, 3259 E. 95th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60617This red-roofed shack has been smoking fish on the South Side since the beginning of time—well, 1948, technically. One of the few surviving fisheries in Illinois, Calumet takes brining, curing, and smoking fish seriously, as evidenced by the dozens of meticulously-arranged salmon, trout, and whitefish that dangle from the smokehouse ceiling. Come with an appetite for smoke, a pocketful of cash, and a willingness to eat outside at a picnic table.
- Fat Rice, 2957 W. Diversey Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 6064
Despite the long wait and tight quarters, Chef Abraham Conlon's Fat Rice lives up to the hype. It's Macanese, a kind of Portuguese-meets-Chinese cuisine that will take the cringe out of the word "fusion." Order the arroz gordo, the restaurant's namesake dish of spiced Jasmine rice topped with every meat from linguiça sausage to chilli prawns to char siu pork, to share with a group.
- Eli's Cheesecake Company, 6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60634
Eli's is a Midwestern icon, not to mention a MUNCHIES icon (it's run by the family of former MUNCHIES producer, Elana Schulman), and for good reason. Even their discounted cheesecakes, known as "sweet imperfections," are flawless to us. Plus, the factory hosts a weekly outdoor farmers' market, and they'll throw you free breakfast pastries while you shop.
- Marie's Pizza & Liquors, 4129 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60630Thin-crust pies at Marie's are solid, but what makes this pizza shop next-level is the attached liquor store. Only here can you pick out a bottle of wine, bring it back to your old-school vinyl booth, and drink it with your pie for a mere $2.50 corkage fee. It's no wonder this place has been around for over seven decades.
- Maria's Packaged Goods, 960 W. 31st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60608This speakeasy-style bar has a lot going for it: good people, good ambience, and good drinks. But, the real reason you want to go is to meet Maria herself. Regulars refer to the 79-year-old bartender as "mom" because she'll serve you life and love advice all night, whether you ask for it or not.
- Big Joe's 2 & 6 Bar, 1818 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60640
Here's your quintessential cheap, sticky dive bar, right on Lincoln Square. It's usually packed to the gills, especially on Friday nights, when they host turtle racing—yes, literal turtles, racing. An $8 pitcher will get you a ticket to place a bet on a slow-ass reptile, which becomes surprisingly fun once you're a few beers deep.
Still hungry? We've got tons of tips of where to blow your bonus or get fadezies on the cheap in the Windy City. Don't miss the rest of the MUNCHIES Guide to Chicago!