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

Are you visiting Chicago for an industry conference or trade show? Stopping by the Windy City to meet with clients? If you are 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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  • There are a lot of great brunch spots, but one of my favorite spots is CRĪO. Great food, $15 bottomless mimosas, fun atmosphere, and never overly crowded. – Karie Miller

Fat Cat Restaurant & Bar

  • A low-key vibe to the common weekend fun, Fat Cat offers a brunch with an amazing Bloody Mary without the annoying wait and crowds. – Sean Francis

Longman & Eagle

  • Where else can you pair chicken & waffles with a multi-page whiskey list? – Brian Surdel

  • Longman and Eagle (and Revolution Brewing or Lula’s Cafe) are all truly delicious, a short walk from the Blue Line, and you’d get a taste of Logan Square’s hipster brunch culture which is unlike anything else in the city. – Laura Janota


  • The bookish, charming vibe of this Irish restaurant is truly delightful for get togethers with friends or family, and it’s some of the best food and drinks you’ll find in the city! – Phoebe Svoboda

Wyler Road

  • Wyler Road (Logan Square) has a great neighborly atmosphere and relaxing ambience, perfect for that slow Sunday morning/afternoon. – Alex Moritz

Happy Hour

Ceres Cafe

  • On a nice day, go sit outside and get a mixed drink then you’ll see why the loop folks love this place. – Nicole Poggensee

Cold Storage (Fulton Market)

  • $1 oysters + cheap drinks Mon-Fri 3-6 pm. Need I say more? – Alex Moritz

Hutch American Bistro

  • Their food and drink deals are perfect for catching up with friends. – Nicole Poggensee

Land & Lake

  • If you’re going to a show at House of Blues Chicago or a movie at AMC River East, you’ll want to stop at Land & Lake first for $5 cocktails and $6 burgers. Everything here is delicious, so spring for the cheese fries. – Phoebe Svoboda

Local Option

  • Located near DePaul University, Local Option serves up beers brewed on site as well as all the standard options. – Sean Francis

Lost Lake

  • Tropical drinks so good you don’t need to go to the Caribbean. – Brian Surdel


  • Prost! in Lincoln park, it’s styled after German beer halls, serving phenomenal German brews and gigantic pretzels that can be shared with four people or more. Your drinks can come in a variety of sizes but there’s nothing better than drinking out of a massive liter mug or a two-liter boot. – Kevin Malloy

Revolution Brewery

  • Famed Chicago beer producer with an epic space, great for burning an hour (or four). – Brian Surdel

Violet Hour

  • Violet Hour in Wicker Park is the best place for cocktails in the city. Go through the hidden door in an ever-changing mural and you enter a speak-easy-style sit-down bar where every cocktail is a work of art. Half priced drinks if you get there early between 6-8 M-F. – Laura Janota

Cheap Eats

Cheesie’s Pub & Grub

  • Cheesie’s has a few locations – in Lakeview, Wicker Park, and more, and it’s my favorite cheap eats restaurant. Grilled Cheese and 90s music are perfect snacks to pair with a night of boozing with friends. ( – Laura Janota

Taco Bell

  • Yeah, okay, it’s not unique to Chicago, but the recently opened Taco Bell Cantina near the Blue Magnet offices offers everything from frozen sangria drinks to your regular #LiveMas faves. If you’re looking to eat cheap but still have fun, this is your stop. – Phoebe Svoboda

El Pacifico

  • Their tacos are not only authentic and delicious, but also will also cost you a dollar or two/per. – Alex Moritz


  • I love a good diner! Eggsperience in Lakeview gives you a ton of breakfast food for a low price. – Nicole Poggensee


  • Their ribeye and green onions are the best in the city. Their salsas are phenomenal. Cash only. – Don Angelo


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

  • Though it’s since expanded its market beyond its humble Chicagoland origins, this hot dog shack on steroids offers some of the best dogs in the city, replete with all the appropriate toppings, including chili and liquid cheese. Their menu is simple, their pricing is low, and their hot dogs are excellent. – Matt Bitzer

  • A Chicago classic! – Brian Surdel


  • Slim’s, up on the North Side in Ravenswood. High quality burgers, fries, and classic Chicago Italian beef sandwiches. Your classic greasy lunch prepared fresh and fast. a very reasonable price. – Kevin Malloy

Small Cheval

  • If you want to try one of the best burger’s in Chicago, but don’t want to wait 3 hours, head over to Small Cheval. Small Cheval is the “little brother” of Au Cheval, labeled one of the best burgers in Chicago. Great place for a fast, cheap, but tasty burger! – Karie Miller

Wine & Dine

Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf

  • The best steak I’ve had in Chicago was at Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf. It’s completely worth it for a splurge dinner. – Karie Miller

Cafe Ba Ba Reeba

  • While Cafe Ba Ba Reeba doesn’t necessarily break the bank, getting enough tapas, sangria, and paella for everyone is imperative, so expect to spend at least $50 per person. Cozy atmosphere is perfect for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, or days that end in y. – Phoebe Svoboda

Fat Rice

  • The best Manganese (Chinese + Portuguese) food you will ever have. It blows the doors off of places that claim to be “fusion” . Order anything and you’ll leave happy. – Brian Surdel

  • If I want to splurge like a Chicago foodie, I’ll eat at Fat Rice in Logan Square and try a creative fusion of flavors I can’t find anywhere else. – Laura Janota

  • The fanciest and most delicious meal I have ever had in my entire life. All the flavors just blend so nicely together. – Nicole Poggensee

Girl & The Goat

  • Great food in a fun atmosphere where you can try shareable 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

GT Prime

  • GT Prime is a steak restaurant unlike the typical Chicago steak house. Expect amazing cuts of beef, served up pre-cut.– Sean Francis

The Peninsula Hotel

  • If I want to splurge like a princess downtown, I get high tea at The Peninsula Hotel while being serenaded by violinists. – Laura Janota

Tango Sur

  • Argentinian Steak house located in Lake View. Delicious, huge portions that won’t cost and arm and a leg. – Brian Surdel


Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar

  • Oh my gosh. Their wood fired pizza — delicious! Add some wine and a pasta dish and ooh la la. – Nicole Poggensee


  • This is a cliche answer, but if you’re in Chicago (and you want to try deep dish), you can’t go wrong with Giordano’s. – Stephanie Hilger

Jet’s Pizza

  • Their turbo crust (butter, Romano cheese, garlic, etc.) is to die for! (Quite literally, because it will for sure give you a heart attack if you eat enough of it.) – Alex Moritz


  • …because it’s the best deep dish ever. – Laura Janota

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria

  • 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

  • I’m from the East Coast, I stay out of the Chicago pizza debate. When I want a good East Coast slice I go to Piece. – Brian Surdel

Renaldi’s Pizza

  • Very classic, old-school Italian pizza. Some of the best thin crust in the city, hands-down. – Kevin Malloy

  • With only one location in Chicago, why should this pizza be any better than the chains? Simple – it’s the best thin crust pizza in the city, and they’re open until 2 AM on weekends. Just as good when you’re sober as it is when you’re drunk. – Phoebe Svoboda

Vito & Nick’s

  • Skip the deep dish – Chicago tavern style is king (thin crust, square cut). Southside wins with Fox’s fennel sausage pizza and Vito & Nick’s Italian beef giardiniera pizza. For northsiders, John’s Pizza does the job. – Don Angelo

Things to See & Do

Air and Water Show

  • You know, I really love the Air and Water Show every year. If visitors are in town that weekend, I make them head over to the lake to watch. – Laura Janota

Architecture River Boat Tour

  • I always take friends from out of town on an architecture river tour so they can get to learn fun facts as well as see a lot of our beautiful city in a short amount of time. – Morgan Adkins

  • Great for a sunny, warm day and get to see Chicago from a different view and of course learn some fun facts. – Nicole Poggensee

Check Out the Theatre Scene

  • Check out some local, storefront size theatre. Chicago has one of the biggest theatre scenes outside New York, and there’s some kind of show for everyone. A Chicagoan’s tip: check out Hot Tix for discounts on tickets and to browse shows you might not have heard of! They’re a local non-profit who’s been supporting the scene for 35+ years. – Haley Carmichael

Lincoln Park Zoo

  • Free! and a great place to take kids and adults alike. I would recommend trying to go on a nice day, as a good chunk of exhibits are outside. – Brian Surdel

Second City

  • Chicago itself may be known as the Second City, but it will always be first for comedy. The Second City Theater is a comedic experience unlike any other. Their brilliant sketch comedy is reminiscent of what you’d find on SNL, which makes sense considering so many great SNL alums (Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, Amy Poehler, Steven Colbert, Dan Aykroyd, etc) actually got their start on this very stage. – Matt Bitzer

Signature Lounge

  • 96th floor of the Hancock building, cost of admission is a drink at the bar and you avoid the tourists they charge $20 to be two floors lower! Amazing views of the city, good at night or day. Sunsets will not disappoint either! – Brian Surdel

The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

  • Take a leisurely stroll through the park and admire some beautiful, thought-provoking, and sometimes just weird sculptures. – Sean Francis

SNL Exhibition

  • Only here through the end of 2018, fans of Saturday Night Live and TV in general will love the SNL Experience at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in River North. Experience what it takes to make an episode of SNL, and even sit behind the Weekend Update desk with your favorite hosts. – Phoebe Svoboda

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 Wrigley Field to watch a Cubs game! – Stephanie Hilger

  • Hang out by Wrigley Field. Between the bars and now the beautiful Gallagher Way (Park at Wrigley), there’s a lot to do, eat, and drink. My favorite is grabbing a iced coffee from Starbucks and a cakeball from West End Bakery and then soaking up the sun in the park (on a non home game day). Go Cubs! – Nicole Poggensee

Visit Chicago’s Lakefront

  • Take a walk along the lake path. My favorite is walking south from Belmont Harbour (anywhere between that and the beaches is perfect) and stopping at the bend to take in the beautiful skyline view. It never gets old. – Nicole Poggensee

The 606

  • The Bloomingdale Line is Chicago’s best kept secret! The best part of walking down the trail is “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing over the coveted homes/decks in the Wicker Park area. – Alex Moritz

Best ________

Craft Beer: Half Acre

  • It’s one of the best independent breweries in Chicago with a unique style and a constantly changing menu of their latest creations. Every Saturday they host a tour of their facility on Lincoln Ave, for $10 per person. When you take the tour you get a pint glass to take home and three pours while a member of their staff talks about their history and brewing process. The taproom is great but you can also visit their shop for cool merchandise, a growler of whatever they have on tap, or to chat with their staff about beer. – Kevin Malloy

Donut: Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

  • Head to Stan’s Donuts & Coffee for the most delectable donuts in the city. Each donut is more than just fried dough–they’re mini cakes that are acceptable to eat for breakfast. My recommendation: try the Biscoff Pocket donut, a fluffy, doughy pocket that hides a mouthwatering core of Biscoff cookie butter. – Matt Bitzer

  • From glazed donut lovers to getting wild with Captain Crunch, there’s a donut for everyone. – Nicole Poggensee

Ramen: High Five Ramen

  • The place is tiny, so wait times can get a bit long, but their spicy ramen is delicious in every slurp. – Haley Carmichael

Wine Bar: Ella Elli

  • You can sit by the fireplace in comfy chairs while sipping on a glass of wine. It is so cozy in there and you feel like you’re in someone’s fancy home. – Nicole Poggensee

Honorable Mentions:

  • Chicago Style Hot Dog: Wolfie’s
  • Coffee: Dark Matter
  • Dessert: Bang Bang Pie Shop
    • Dim Sum: Cai
    • Fantasy/SciFi Theatrical Performances: Otherworld Theater
    • Ice Cream – Rainbow Cone, Margie’s, & Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
    • Tacos: L’Patron
    • Neighborhood Bar: The Grafton
    • Late Night Eats with a Side of Insult: Wiener Circle
    • Place to Get Malort: Any cash-only dive with a good jukebox (it’s probably Zakopane’s)
    • Thai Food: Andy’s Thai Kitchen

    Blue Magnet’s Favorite Places, Mapped

    Click on the open menu button to see all our recommendations!

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

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