Lincoln Park is one of Chicago’s best neighborhoods with wonderful restaurants, great shopping and home to some of the best theater in the city.
Armitage Avenue is a great place to start. Here you will find:
Butcher and The Burger: Located at 1021 W. Armitage, this is a good casual, local’s spot for burgers including turkey, salmon and elk. Stop in after you walk the nearby stores.
Lori’s Shoes: At 824 W. Armitage, this is a great discount shoe store, which my friends rave about.
Tarantino’s: Located at 1112 W. Armitage, this is a great neighborhood Italian restaurant with great indoor as well as outdoor seating in the summer. The smoked chicken pasta dish is always good and my favorite choice.
Tabula Tua: A great store for table top and home accessories. It is at 1015 W. Armitage.
Sai Café at 2010 N Sheffield: A favorite sushi restaurant of many locals with great fresh items. It is my go-to place for sushi. I always order the six piece sushi combo which is the best! Dee’s Mandarin and Sushi Lounge at 1114 W. Armitage has been a good neighborhood spot for many years.
Recently opened at 100 W. Armitage at Sheffield is Le Pain Quotidien for great French/Belgian specialties. It is a bright, fun spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Dinner is also available.
North on Webster is the newly renovated White Oak Tavern & Inn. The former John’s Place restaurant has been totally transformed. The decor is stunning, the staff excellent and food really exceptional. The small and large plates are easily shared. We loved the roasted carrot and cabbage salad and the fall grains salad with brie, mushrooms, cranberries and apples. The pork collar with sweet potatoes, collard greens and apples was really excellent which was followed by a great pumpkin tart with creme fraiche, pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs. This quickly became one of my favorite spots in the city. Luckily I live 2 blocks away! They have a four-bedroom apartment above the restaurant available for rent. 1200 W. Webster.
Just east of White Oak at 1102 W. Webster is the Local Option. It is a casual brewpub offering a large selection of craft and house beers along with a large menu of creole-style and Mexican specialties. I recently enjoyed the crab cakes and an ale aged in scotch whiskey barrels. My friends like the shrimp and swordfish tacos. It has been featured in the NY Times and other publications as a great spot for beer. It has a fun atmosphere with a great staff.
Further south along Halsted are:
Summer House Santa Monica: At 1954 N. Halsted, this new restaurant has a wonderful light interior with really excellent food. It features California-influenced, American food and a wood-fire grill. Across the hall is Stella Barra Pizzeria, which has a great selection of salads and pizzas. It has a warmer, contemporary atmosphere with a lovely patio in the rear. Both are great additions to the neighborhood. A new doors north at 1962 N. Halsted is the new Oyster Bah, which features seafood for lunch, brunch and dinner. I just enjoyed the grilled fish tacos for lunch with friends. The casual Crab Cellar, downstairs, has the best decor in my opinion.
Alinea: If you can get in, make sure to try Alinea. Grant Achatz is an El Bulli trained chef and his restaurant is considered to be one of the best in the US. It is located at 1723 N. Halsted.
BOKA: The always popular and Michelin starred BOKA recently re-opened in a remodeled space at 1929 N. Halsted.
Trattoria Gianni: A small neighborhood trattoria near the Steppenwolf, at 1711 N. Halsted, that is always good. The new outdoor seating to the north is perfect during the Summer.
Vinci Restaurant: A long-time locals favorite for Italian, if Alinea is not in your budget. 1732 N. Halsted. Across from Vinci is the recently opened Willow RM. at 1800 N. Halsted in the space formerly occupied by Black Duck Tavern & Grill. I went the first week it opened and enjoyed the food and atmosphere.
Steppenwolf Theater: Try to see a performance of this Tony Award winning regional theater at 1650 N. Halsted. Recently it sent August: Osage County to New York which won the Tony for best play. Superior Donuts was another recent success that went to NYC. Their new Front Bar off the lobby is a great place for coffee during the day or cocktail before or after a performance. They also serve breakfast items and small plates, salads, pizza and sandwiches for lunch or dinner.
North of the Steppenwolf is the Roger Brown Study Collection. Roger Brown was a well-known Chicago artist and graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After his death he gave his collection and home to the school. The Roger Brown Study Collection (RBSC) is a house museum, study collection, and archive, located off campus, an 1888 storefront building. The RBSC is an intimate collection with an very large range of objects, including works by Chicago Imagists and other contemporary artists, self-taught artists, folk and tribal art from many cultures, objects from material and popular culture, costumes, textiles, furniture, travel souvenirs, and other things Brown surrounded himself with for artistic inspiration. The RBSC offers an in-depth contemplation of objects and collections, and serves as a laboratory for art historical, curatorial, and preservation studies. You can schedule a tour at 773-929-2452. 1926 N. Halsted.
North on Halsted are the popular Chez Moi at 2100 N. Halsted and long-time favorite, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reba for Spanish tapas at 2024 N. Halsted. Just south is Interurban Cafe and Pastry Shop. This is a walk-up window in the alley behind 2008 N. Halsted. You enter off of Armitage. It does have a small table to eat outside. They carry sandwiches, soups, salads, oatmeal, breakfast pastries and other sweets. The chicken wrap is very good and very fresh. The Athenium Room is also a great neighborhood spot offering Greek specialties. 807 W. Webster.
North of Chez Moi at 2142 N. Halsted is Read It & Eat, the new culinary bookstore that offers a great selection of books a number of montly cooking classes and culinary events.
Twin Anchors: Located at 1655 N. Sedgwick, since 1932, it is known for its great burgers and ribs. A favorite spot of Frank Sinatra’s, his music is still available on the juke box. A great place to go on a cold Chicago night. Scotch and Frank Sinatra is the best. Further north is Four Farthings Tavern and Grill, which has been a neighborhoold staple since 1963. Here you will find a good selection of wraps, salads and burgers. 2060 N. Cleveland.
For an afternoon snack don’t miss Sweet Mandy B’s Old Fashioned Desserts at 1208 W Webster or Café Floriole at 1220 W. Webster. The latter is great for lunch or a latte and a pastry! It was named recently as one of the best bakeries in the US.
Rickshaw Republic: At 2312 N. Lincoln, just north of Belden, is one of the first Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants in Chicago. The décor is stunning and the food awesome. The combination plates are the best.
TimeLine Theatre: Located on Wellington and Broadway, this is a theater company that continually gets great reviews for its productions. I have seen four plays in the last two years and the quality is really outstanding! Near the theater, is Bar Pastoral, the cheese and wine bistro.
Café 5411 Gourmet Empanadas: A fun, casual spot serving some great Argentinian empanadas. At 2850 N. Clark.
North Pond Cafe: Chef Bruce Sherman received the James Beard Award for Best Chef Great Lakes 2012. This is a wonderful restaurant in a perfect setting, overlooking the lagoon in Lincoln Park, in an Arts and Crafts style building. The menu reflects and supports local farmers. Great in the evening but perfect for Sunday brunch when you can see the great views of the Chicago skyline. 2610 N. Cannon Drive.
A short walk from North Pond is the traditional French Bistro, Mon Ami Gabi at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. It is a neighborhood favorite. The outdoor dining area in the summer is a highlight. Across the lobby is Intro Chicago, an upscale restaurant featuring tasting menus by guest chefs. The are open for Sunday brunch on special occasions. You also might enjoy Naoki Sushi, a high-end sushi bar, which is accessible thru the kitchen at Intro. It is on my list of places to try.
Not far from North Pond and Mon Ami Gabi is the Bourgeois Pig Cafe a local staple for over 22 years. They feature coffee and tea drinks plus sandwiches, salads, paninis, muffins, cookies, bagels, croissants, scones and ice cream. The old-world atmosphere is perfect for cold Chicago winters. 738 W. Fullerton.
The Hotel Lincoln: Recently opened, this is a good alternative to Loop, Michigan Avenue and Gold Coast Hotels. It is directly across from the Lincoln Park Zoo, near the Chicago History Museum. There is a local coffee bar on the first floor and the rooftop bar, is one of the most popular in the city. They recently opened their restaurant with a new concept, The Kennison. I enjoyed it for dinner with a friend. You can also easily walk to restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
Green City Market: Located in Lincoln Park on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer months. This is a fun spot to buy local produce, have a bite from a local cart, listen to music or attend a cooking demonstration. In the winter it moves to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Ricardo Trattoria at 2119 N. Clark Street, is a favorite for authentic Italian specialties. It has been featured in the Chicago Michelin Guide as a Bib Gourmand since 2011. According to Michelin, “chef/owner Riccardo Michi’s family is best known for its swanky Bice restaurants. When Michi opened his own spot he brought the family know-how, but put his name on the door. The result is a casual, Italian-style trattoria, perfect for either date night or a group dinner”. I was there recently and it continues to be excellent.
Across the street at 2116 N. Clark is his new, casual Ricardo Enoteca, or wine bar, that offers great wines, pastas, pizzas, salads and other meat and seafood items. The warm, contemporary atmosphere is a perfect addition to the neighborhood.
At 2075 N Lincoln, Gemini Bistro has just been relaunched as Gemini. This is a casual neighborhood bar and restaurant with modern American bistro dishes. I had not been impressed with the original concept, but had a very nice dinner with local friends. The heirloom tomato salad with watermelon and mozzarella in a champagne vinaigrette was excellent as was the Thai red curry mussels in a lemongrass and coconut broth with cilantro. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and they have great outdoor eating. It is open for brunch on weekends and for dinner. I will definitely go back.
Recently opened is the small, contemporary MFK at 432 Diversey Parkway, just west of the Park. It specializes in Spanish Tapas. Everything was so fresh and well-prepared. We loved the octopus, the scallops and the ceviche with the squid ink tostada.
A little of west of Lincoln Park is a great spot, Ada St. at 1664 N. Ada. They offer dinner only and is a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant. They have a creative menu of food and cocktails and offer small and large plates. I thought the carrot salad with Greek yogurt, feta, toasted pine nuts, harissa vinaigrette and a wild flower honey was good as well as the Little Gem Salad with blue cheese, fresh apricots, pickled shallots and crispy serrano ham. The arctic char with avocado mousse was very good also. It has a dark, warm atmosphere inside plus in the summer they have a great outdoor patio complete with ping pong table.
A block away is The Hideout, which is a fun local bar from 1934 located in a 100 year-old house. They offer music and entertainment. You might check out bingo night on Wednesdays during the summer months which draws a large crowd. 1354 W. Wabansia. Around the corner is Local Foods at 1427 W. Willow. A new addition to the neighborhood, this wholesale food distributor, featuring local products, has opened a sleek, contemporary retail grocery store, butcher shop and cafe. The cafe features a good selection of soups, salads and sandwiches made with fresh, local ingredients.
The Patio at Cafe Brauer: Located along the lagoon in Lincoln Park just outside the Lincoln Park Zoo, this is a lovely cafe that is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch from April to October. It is the perfect spot after visiting the park, the nature boardwalk, the lakefront, the zoo or the Green City Market.
Across from Cafe Brauer is the recently opened The Blanchard. Set in a sleek, elegant atmosphere, they feature a contemporary take on French brasserie inspired dishes. Our group of friends enjoyed escargot, a lovely chicken dish, boeuf bourguignon and a decadent chocolate dessert. 1935 N. Lincoln Park West. I highly recommend it but service can be somewhat slow.
For a traditional supper club feel, head to Millie’s Supper Club at 2438 N. Lincoln. Opened in April, 2106 it features traditional cocktails and traditional supper club fare from shrimp cocktail to white fish and walleye. The warm atmosphere was enhanced by live piano music the night we were there. The same owners just opened the casual Holy Taco at 953 W. Webster. The chef recently competed in Top Chef Mexico. I really enjoyed it.
Up from Millie’s Supper Club at 2470 N. Lincoln is De Quay, featuring Dutch/Indonesian comfort food in a warm, casual neighborhood space. I found the food really excellent. I went with local friends and we shared a perfect tuna tartare and mussels and shrimp in a coconut curry sauce. I also enjoyed the buttermilk and Indonesian marinated chicken breast with a Javanese style curry sauce, basmati rice with toasted almonds and dried apricot seroendang. The wine list was extensive.
The Victory Gardens Theater is one of the best local theater companies. They are now in the former Biograph Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln. Prior to a recent performance, I was so pleased to have found Acquitaine Restaurant at 2221 N. Lincoln, two blocks south. A new addition to the Lincoln Park restaurant scene, it features French specialties in a warm, inviting atmosphere. I loved the beet salad and the pan seared duck breast with creamy polenta, green beens, and a cherry balsamic gastrique. It is a perfect location for a pre-theater dinner.