Day Trips from Chicago, IL – Visiting Suburban Lake Forest and Lake Bluff







Lake Forest, IL

Lake Forest is a Chicago suburb, located in Lake County, 30 miles north of downtown Chicago. The 2010 census shows it with a population of 19,375. The affluent city is along the shore of Lake Michigan and is known for its beautiful homes. If you have time, you might visit and enjoy the small downtown area. You get the feel that you are in the English countryside with  its many Tudor-style buildings, restaurants and hotel. You can drive or take the Metra train which stops in the heart of downtown. I recently went back to meet a friend for brunch, for afternoon tea and to explore it on a sunny winter day.

Downtown Lake Forest


Market Square Court

As a result, my recent finds include:

Le Colonial Lake Forest: I have enjoyed this popular French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Chicago for several years. They recently opened one in Lake Forest at 655 Forest Ave. I went for lunch with a local friend and really enjoyed the decor,  the service and the food. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and a large menu. I highly recommend it. Just make sure to book your reservation on line to make sure you get the time that you want.

Le Colonial


Le Colonial

Don’t miss Sweet’s for chocolates or ice cream at 260 E. Deerpath Rd. This is a local institution featuring excellent ice cream along with chocolates, truffles, caramels and toffee. I was just back and loved the  coconut joy ice cream after my lunch nearby.




A few doors down is a local friend’s favorite, Left Bank, a casual restaurant, featuring hot dogs, sandwiches and salads. They are known for their “Left Bank Dog” and ‘Not-So-Sloppy-Joe.” 659 N. Bank Lane.

Left Bank

Starbucks: I normally don’t feature Starbucks, but the downtown Lake Forest location has one of the best interior designs I have seen. Hang out in the attractive lounge area, accented by a world coffee map, or on the patio in the rear. 672 N. Western at Deerpath Rd.

Starbucks Lake Forest

The Deer Path Inn: Opened in 1929, this is an award winning Lake Forest Institution. It was styled after a 15th Century English Manor Home and was recently renovated. You can sit in one of the sitting rooms by the fire, enjoy a meal in the English Room, an elegant afternoon tea on Tuesdays through Saturdays or head downstairs to their White Hart Pub. This proper English pub is a fun, casual spot. I would definitely try The Bar, a very popular spot on the North Shore, with a fun dining room and a large menu including sushi. 255 E. Illinois. Rd.

Deerpath Inn


Deerpath Inn


Deerpath Inn White Hart Pub

I just went back up from Chicago to have afternoon tea with a local friend. I loved being in the Garden Room of the English Room enjoying a great selection of teas along with scones, small sandwiches, tiny quiches, pastries and cookies. It was a really fun experience.

Afternoon Tea  at the Deerpath Inn


Afternoon Tea at the Deerpath Inn


Market Square Court

Also in downtown Lake Forest you can also find a number of design shops and clothing boutiques.

Make sure to stop in at the seasonal Amidei Mercatino for fruits, vegetables and flowers. 235 South Gate – Market Square.

Amidei Mercatino


Amidei Mercatino

M on the Square is a lovely store featuring gifts, table top, decor, home accessories, stationery and seasonal flowers.

M on the Square

If you love local, independent bookstores, you will love the Lake Forest Book Store located at 662 N. Western Ave. This is a local bookstore, opened in 1949, offering a large number of titles, plus some gift items. They offer book clubs, talks by authors and other programs. 

Lake Forest Book Store

Lake Bluff, IL

On my last trip north from the city, I also spent time in Lake Bluff which is the suburb just north of Lake Forest. Here you will find a growing number of shops, restaurants, coffee shops and even a microbrewery.  You can easily combine the two on your visit.

Downtown Lake Bluff

My top recommendations to explore include:

Inovasi: Inovasi is a contemporary bistro and bar in the heart of downtown. I have enjoyed it in the past with local friends. 28 E. Center Ave. Next door at 30 E. Center Ave, under the same ownership, is The Other Door. This is a very casual taqueria serving burritos, tacos, bowls and nachos. My friends say that the portions are huge! Inovasi is not open for lunch but The Other Door is. I also love the orange and blue walls!



The Other Door


The Other Door

Bluffington’s Cafe: This is a casual deli/bistro at 113 E. Scranton Ave. that perfect for a casual breakfast, lunch or coffee. I stopped in for coffee and loved the fun atmosphere.

Bluffington’s Cafe


Bluffington’s Cafe

Nearby is Prairie Espresso + Wine Bar at 91 E. Scranton, Ave. It is a small spot down Scranton Alley.  It is tiny! It is a great spot on a warm day when you can enjoy its great outdoor patio seating. They offer coffee, wine and food.

Prairie Espresso + Wine Bar


Scranton Alley

Hansa Coffee: Also fun spot for coffee is Hansa Coffee Roasters, now at 24 E. Scranton. Their roastery is in Libertyville.

Hansa Coffee Roasters


Hansa Coffee Roasters

Lake Bluff Brewing Co.: Founded in 2010, this is a small, local craft brewery and taproom featuring a rotating beer menu, bar bites and live music and events. They make all of their beer on site. They feature a number of stouts, ales, IPAs, witbiers, saisons, porters and ciders. I enjoyed tasting the  smooth Black Squirrel stout that was aged in a bourbon barrel. Their pub menu of sandwiches, snacks and salads is from the Mavery Public House next door. 16 E. Scranton Ave.

Lake Bluff Brewing Co


Lake Bluff Brewing Co,

Mavery Public House: This is an upscale tavern serving American comfort food, wines and cocktails.  Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, they have soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees for lunch and dinner and a good brunch menu. According to a recent review in the Chicago Tribune, “it’s well worth the trek for the hash and eggs, a fortifying pile of stubby french fries studded with cubes of smoked brisket, bits of charred peppers, and topped with two poached eggs and a splash of pickled-jalapeno remoulade. It’s meaty like a poutine, but better balanced — smoky, spicy yet grounded by an earthy sweetness.” 20 E. Scranton.

Mavery Public House


Mavery Public House