Blue Magnet’s Definitive Guide to Chicago: Eating, Drinking, & Exploring



Are you visiting Chicago for an industry conference or tradeshow? Stopping by the Windy City to meet with clients? If you’re looking for the best places in Chicago, Blue Magnet has you covered. In order to help you work your way through Chicago’s fine dining & drinking scene, the Blue Magnet team compiled some of our favorite places to eat or drink and some hidden (and some not so hidden) gems to explore. We promise there is no shortage of exciting things to do in Chicago!

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Longman & Eagle

  • Incredible food, great drinks, and awesome atmosphere. Right across the street from the Blue Line. – Patrick McCarthy
  • OH MY GOSH – THE QUICHE! – Kelsey Nupnau

Anne Sathers

  • Gooey, yummy cinnamon rolls and awesome Swedish hospitality. – Michelle Laing

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba

  • Great food and a make your own bloody mary bar! – Karie Miller

Rockit Bar & Grill

  • The River North location has have excellent live music (same guy plays during brunch every weekend and you can request just about any song in the world), amazing cheese fries with melted brie, and a fantastic bloody mary bar! – Andrea Mann

Francesca’s Forno

  • Excellent eggs benedict with thick slices of ham, hot coffee cake skillet and intersection location that’s great for summer people watching in Wicker Park. – Matt Bitzer

More Blue Magnet Brunch Recommendations:

  • Southport Grocery and Cafe
  • Bite Cafe
  • Oak Tree Restaurant
  • Pump Room
  • Jam & Honey
  • Kingsbury Street Cafe

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Empty Bottle’s Honky Tonk Happy Hour

  • Every Friday from 5:30 – 7:30pm, the Empty Bottle turns into a honky tonk paradise. Free to get in, the Hoyle Brothers are the official Honky Tonk band and the crowd are the official best dancers in Chicago. They’ve got cheap beers, great music and if you’re lucky, the tamale guy will stop in towards the end. – Abby Heft

Townhouse Restaurant & Wine Bar

  • Great place to go and relax after a long day at work! In the summer they have outdoor seating which is always a plus! On Friday’s they have $5 Chicago Brews and great appetizer deals! You can’t beat that! – Maddy Fuller

DryHop

  • They don’t have a dedicated happy hour special, but DryHop is brewing the best beer in Chicago and selling it cheaper than any other breweries in the city. It’s a great place to grab a drink. – Chris Dean

The Bar at Siena Tavern

  • This newer restaurant is a great place to grab a drink and enjoy gourmet pizza or pasta after work. They have a pretty large bar area, but it gets crowded fast, so get there early to stake out a seat (or table if you’re lucky)! – Andrea Mann

More Blue Magnet Happy Hour Recommendations:

  • Cantina Laredo
  • Three Dots and a Dash
  • Violet Hour
  • Revolution Brewing
  • Dusek’s
  • Cedar Hotel

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Lou Mitchell’s

  • Cheap breakfast, historic spot. – Kelsey Nupnau

Triple Crown or Lao Hunan (Chinatown)

  • Unique, delicious food in an under-visited part of Chicago. – Patrick McCarthy

Portillo’s

  • Can’t come to Chicago without getting a Chicago dog or some great Portillo’s Italian beef. – Karie Miller

Cheesie’s Pub & Grub

  • The BEST grilled cheese sandwiches you’ll ever have.- Jourdan Dunn

Nha Hang Viet-Nam

  • I am a huge fan of Vietnamese food, and Chicago is home to some fantastic, inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants. Adventurous eaters should head to Nha Hang Viet-Nam in Irving Park for an authentic and delicious Vietnamese meal. They’ve got some of the best Pho and Bahn Mi in town for a great price! – Amanda Diamond

Belly Shack

  • Korean bbq and Puerto Rican fusion. What’s not to like? – Katharyn Vera

More Blue Magnet Cheap Eats Recommendations:

  • Litos Empanadas
  • Noodles in the Pot
  • Sultan’s Market
  • Andy’s Thai Kitchen
  • Morgan’s on Maxwell
  • Picante Taqueria

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Sunda

  • It’s delicious, quite an experience, and there is usually a celeb there. – Kelsey Nupnau
  • Delicious cocktails & sushi in convenient River North location. – Brittany Aller

Girl & The Goat

  • Fun cocktails, lots of different options for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, relaxed atmosphere. – Maggie Meyers
  • Great food in a fun atmosphere where you can try sharable plates of some creative cuisine. Get the Magic Beans–green beans like you’ve never tasted before. I used to hate green beans, but I was soon shown the error of my ways by the Girl and the Goat. Also, make sure you order the Pig Face–it’s delicious. It’s exactly what it sounds like, even if doesn’t look that way on the plate; Some people (including me, the first time) are scared away by the name, but you don’t have to worry about your food staring back at you while you eat it. – Matt Bitzer

The Publican

  • Simply one of the most enjoyable restaurants in Chicago. Incredible food, oysters, beer list, and ambiance. – Patrick McCarthy

Frontera Grill

  • Rick Bayless is one of the premiere chefs in the nation for a reason – his food is awesome. Gourmet Mexican fare and great drinks to match. – Chris Dean

More Blue Magnet Wine & Dine Recommendations:

  • The Gage on Michigan Ave
  • Longman and Eagle
  • Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
  • Joes
  • RPM
  • Takashi
  • Gilt Bar
  • Kai Zan Sushi

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Lou Malnati’s

  • The crust is the BEST and they honestly have the best deep dish in Chicago. – Kelsey Nupnau
  • I love their thin crust & deep dish…my favorite in the city for both options. I never grew up with deep dish, but after trying others, this is my favorite of that kind. – Brittany Aller

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria

  • New Haven style pizza (super thin crust, which is a nice change from Chicago’s typical gut bomb deep dish stuff) – that reminds me of home. – Michelle Laing
  • This is the #1 spot that Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame goes to eat when he’s in town. So, you have possible celebrity sightings, an insane beer list (they brew their own beers!) and delicious pizza. It’s also in trendy Wicker Park, with a lot to see and do before or after your meal. – Abby Heft
  • Excellent topping selections and combinations, monthly pizza specials featuring unique toppings and flavors, great brewery atmosphere, award-winning beers, live band karaoke on some nights. – Matt Bitzer

Giordano’s

  • This is a really cliche answer, but if you’re in Chicago, make sure to try Giordano’s (and order deep dish). – Stephanie Hilger

Pequod’s Pizza

  • The deep dish with crumbled meatballs and onions is unreal! Always packed on weekends. – Maggie Meyers
  • Skip the line at Lou Malnati’s and head straight to Pequod’s in Lincoln Park! Their deep dish pizza boasts a caramelized crust that cannot be beat. – Amanda Diamond

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

  • It’s not technically pizza, but their pizza pot pie is incredible. They mix melted cheese, sausage, and mushrooms with the best pizza sauce I’ve ever had and bake it all inside a house-made dough. – Chris Dean

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Second City

  • If you can get to a Second City show, do it – great comedy and there are some really good restaurants nearby. – Kelsey Nupnau
  • Another must-do in Chicago – attend a show at Second City. This is one of my favorite places to take out of town guests. Always hilarious and who knows – the folks you see perform might just end up on Saturday Night Live tomorrow! It’s great to be able to say, “I knew them before they were famous.” – Abby Heft

Sporting Events

  • Sporting events! Chicago is home to great teams with rich history! Check out the Bears at Soldier Field, but make sure you arrive early to get in on the tailgating action! Head over to the United Center to catch the Bulls or Blackhawks or to Wrigleyfield to watch a Cubs game! – Stephanie Hilger
  • I like to take visitors to a sports game whether its a Cubs/Blackhawks/Bears game. The fans in Chicago are so intense and it creates such a fun atmosphere! – Jourdan Dunn

Architecture River Boat Tour

  • Take a river architecture tour. It’s touristy, sure, but I’ve gone several times and it never gets boring. An enjoyable, different perspective of the city during nice weather. – Brittany Aller
  • Do the Wendella River and Lake tour, which is longer and cheaper than the others, and takes you out to the lake for great skyline views. Great, passive way to see the city. – Katharyn Vera

Chicago Parks

  • Chicago is simply the best place to visit any time of year (except winter!) and one of my favorite pastimes is going to one of the many Chicago parks. Whether just lounging and reading a book, soaking in the sun while it lasts, or playing Frisbee you can’t go wrong! Enjoy the beautiful Chicago weather on your next visit! – Maddy Fuller
  • If it’s in the summer, I always take out-of-town friends to the Lincoln Park Zoo and for a walk along the lake front. Seeing that side of Chicago always surprises them. – Maggie Meyers
  • It’s cliche, but everyone should still see the Bean. It’s unique. – Caroline Scanlon
  • Check out the concerts in Millennium Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo – Tim Dale

More Blue Magnet Things to See & Do Recommendations:

  • Music Box Theatre
  • Rosa’s Lounge
  • Eataly
  • Chicago’s Lakefront
  • The Signature Lounge on the top Hancock Building
  • Attend a taping of the NPR news show, “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”.

A few more Chicago recommendations that didn’t necessarily fit into any of the above categories, but we felt were still worth mentioning:

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Hopleaf

  • It’s hard to choose a beer off their list because there are so many worth trying. And it’s definitely worth staying for their food. – Caroline Scanlon

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Molly’s Cupcakes

  • Delicious and unique flavors of cupcakes that you can eat while swinging on swings in the bakery. So cool! – Michelle Laing

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The Doughnut Vault

  • The gingerbread stack is always a safe, delicious bet, but their seasonal flavors are typically spot on. Make sure you follow them on Twitter though. Once the Donut Vault is sold out, they are closed for the day, but they update their count per flavors throughout the day on Twitter! – Katharyn Vera

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Bub City

  • If you love wearing your favorite flannel shirt, rocking cowboy boots, sipping quality whiskey, all while jamming out to country top hits, then Bub City is for you. Live music on some nights starting around 10pm. Extensive whiskey bar and speciality cocktail list.  I recommend trying the Riverboat Gambler! – Andrea Mann

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North Avenue Beach

  • Favorite Beach?! Chicago has beaches?! Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, Chicago is home to a number of great beaches. If you’re visiting during the summer, I suggest stopping by North Aveune. It’s a great spot to watch (or take part) in a sand volleyball game. I also love going to Castaway’s (a big boat, ‘docked’ permanently on the beach – you can’t miss it). They have plenty of options for food and drinks and feature live music on the weekends! – Stephanie Hilger

Are we missing one of your coveted Chicago spots? Tweet us at @blue_magnet and tell us why it’s a Chicago favorite in 140 characters or less!