Where to Eat and What to Do in Suburban Oak Park, IL

 

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I find that suburban Oak Park, which is eight miles west of downtown Chicago, has a great food scene and some of the best restaurants of any of the suburbs. You can drive, take the METRA Union Pacific West line train (UP-W) or ride the ride on the “L” from Chicago.  My top recommendations include:

Coffee, Ice Cream and Pastries 

Every time I am in Oak Park I find some great new bakeries and coffee shops. I have enjoyed visiting:

Courageous Bakery & Cafe: At 736 Lake St., this is a great bakery and cafe where you can grab coffee and a cupcake. They also have an extensive breakfast and lunch menu.  

 

Courageous Bakery Cafe

Not to be missed is Spilt Milk at 811 South Blvd. This is a popular sister-owned bakery specializing in artisan pies and pastries baked from scratch, with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. They also have a large selection of cookies, bread, coffee and tea drinks, soups, sandwiches, buttermilk biscuits and quiche. Their pantry and food items include wines, chocolates, jams and spreads, snacks and more. Opened in 2014,  Chicago Magazine named it having the city’s best pie in their August 2019 “Best of Chicago” feature. I loved my key lime pie and latte. I highly recommend the experience.

Spilt Milk

 

Spilt Milk

 

Spilt Milk

Nearby is Kribi Coffee at 1033 South Blvd. Their first location is in neighboring Forest Park, and a third is will open soon at 149 Forest Ave. in Oak Park. Now, Kribi Coffee is focused on sourcing green beans directly from our farmers in Cameroon, where the owner, Jacques Shalo, is originally from. In addition to excellent coffee drinks, they feature pastries, donuts and bagels from other local sources. I enjoyed the experience.

Kribi Coffee

Sugar Fixe Patisserie at 119 N. Marion St. is a great spot for a macaron or cupcake!

Sugar Fixe Patisserie

Across the street is a great new find Léa French Cafe at 106 N. Marion St. They have a great selection of pastries, croissants, cookies and tarts along with sandwiches, salads and quiche plus coffee drinks, tea and other beverages. I had never had a hazelnut croissant, so I had to buy one. It was one of the best I have had!

Léa French Cafe

 

Léa French Cafe

Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea, at 702 Lake St., is a colorful cafe offering tea, coffee drinks along with salads, sandwiches and pastries. I enjoyed my visit!! I have also been to their locations at 12 S. Michigan Ave. across from Millennium Park and 1330 W. Fulton Market in the West Loop

Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea

Recently opened in Oak Park is  the second area location of Publican Quality Bread. It is located at 211 Harrison St. The menu contains coffee drinks, breads, cookies quiche and pastries along with tartines, sandwiches, salads, pizza, beer and wine.

Publican Quality Bread

 

Publican Quality Bread

The day before I drove out to Oak Park, I read about Broken Tart at 1108 Chicago Ave. This is a small bakery featuring baked goods from cookies, scones and muffins along with a number of cakes and coffee drinks. I loved the olive oil cake that I bought for dessert the next night.

Broken Tart

Next door make sure to stop in for an ice cream break at Petersen’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream at 1100 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park. It is two blocks from the Wright Home and Studio and has been open since 1919 and in this location since 1931. I have been several times and loved the butter pecan and the peach!!!

Petersen’s  Ice Cream

 

Petersen’s  Ice Cream

 

Petersen’s Ice Cream

The Cultural Caffeine Tour in Downtown Oak Park, Illinois took place from April 22–28, 2024. The event celebrated the local coffee and tea scene by offering signature caffeinated drinks at participating businesses. I was out of town, but went in May over Memorial Day Weekend to visit a number of the 13 tour stops downtown. 

The first stop was for dessert at Crepas Culichi. Crepas Culichi is a French café with the flavors of classic Mexican dishes It has  a beautiful, classic design and lovely outdoor patio seating. It is open for daily brunch and dinner. They are known for their crepes both sweet and savory. I loved the sweet crepe with cajeta or Mexican dulce de leche with bananas and ice cream along with the cafe de olla or a Mexican style coffee with cinnamon and brown sugar. 1101 Lake St.

Crepas Culichi

 

Crepas Culichi

 

Crepas Culichi

Next was Khyber Pass at 1031 Lake St. This is a popular restaurant serving Indian dishes cooked in a tandoor or a hollow, barrel-shaped clay oven. The menu looked excellent, so I would like to go back for lunch or dinner. But on this tour, I enjoyed a traditional masala chai tea made with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and served with milk.

Khyber Pass

The next stop was Wise Cup at 1018 Lake St. They feature coffee drinks, baked goods and special Indian treats including samosas. With its Indian influence, I tried the  Kashmiri cardamom latte. It was very tasty.

Wise Cup

 

Wise Cup

I then enjoyed VIGO COFFEE at 1100 Lake St. I had been to their Chicago coffee shop in Lincoln Park in Chicago and recently read about their horchata latte, so on my visit to Oak Park, I really loved trying it. Don’t miss it when you are in town. It is made with espresso along with rice water, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It has a number of pastries and food items as well.

VIGO COFFEE

 

VIGO COFFEE

Top Restaurants

I enjoy trying new restaurants every time I am in town. My top recommendations include:

On a recent visit, I had a fun meal with friends at Victory Italian. Also in the Pleasant District at 100 S. Marion, this is a good place for Italian specialties with both indoor and patio seating. I enjoyed my mussels and tasty glass of red wine. They also have a large menu of pasta and other entrees.

Victory Italian

I enjoyed Sunday brunch before my Hemingway Birthplace Museum tour at Maya del Sol. I parked near the Museum and walked to the restaurant located at 144 S. Oak Park Ave.This is a popular casual and colorful restaurant that features Latin American cuisine. I enjoyed the service and my tasty huevos rancheros. They also have patio dining. 

Maya del Sol

Rustico, at 722 Lake St., is a popular Mediterranean restaurant featuring tapas, entrees, paella, pastas and pizzas in a rustic-chic setting.  I was very impressed with my beet salad,  the seafood paella and  a crème brûlée.

Rustico

Grape Leaves of Oak Park is a small Moroccan Restaurant featuring tagines and other Moroccan specialties. I recently went for lunch with a local friend and really loved my lamb shank tagine cooked with prunes, cinnamon, almonds and honey. 129 S. Oak Park Ave.

Grape Leaves of Oak Park

 

Grape Leaves of Oak Park

On my last trip I visited Q-BBQ Oak Park located at 124 N. Marion St. This is a rustic, casual spot with both indoor and outdoor seating. They have two other locations in suburban La Grange and Naperville. It is know for it pulled pork, ribs, brisket and other smoked meats. I had a great pulled pork sandwich with their sweet barbecue sauce along with slaw, hushpuppies and their brisket baked beans.

Q-BBQ Oak Park

 

Q-BBQ Oak Park

 

Q-BBQ Oak Park

For a great meal my same friend recommends La Notte Ristorante for old-school Italian specialties. They are now located in the Carleton Hotel at 1120 Pleasant St. in the popular and growing Pleasant District.

What to Do in Oak Park

Famed writer, Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, IL on July 21, 1899 in the Queen Anne home that was built in 1890 by his maternal grandparents and was the first home in Oak Park to have electricity. The famed Pulitzer Prize winning author spent the first six years of his life at what is now 339 N. Oak Park Ave. and later at his Boyhood Home at 600 N. Kenilworth, Ave. a few blocks north of his birthplace. He had a somewhat troubled childhood that had a definite impact on his life and career. His birthplace home is now the Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Museum.

I recently spent a fun Sunday touring the museum, seeing the Boyhood Home and exploring the Hemingway District with some fun restaurants, microbreweries, shops and cafes. Check out my information.

Hemmingway District Oak Park

The tree-lined suburbs of Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest are home to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous houses. You can tour his home and studio  and get a map of the houses nearby. I also recommend that you visit the famous Unity Temple. My favorites include:

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio - Oak Park, IL
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

You might also check out the movie schedule at the historic Classic Theaters Lake Theater at 1022 Lake St.

Classic Theaters Lake Theater

Also keep you eyes open for some of the downtown mosaics and murals. The Mini Murals are mainly along the retaining walls of the CTA Green Line Train on North and South Boulevard between Harlem and Austin.

Oak Park Mini Murals

Where to Stay in Oak Park

You can stay downtown Chicago and explore Oak Park for a day trip, or there are some places to stay in downtown if you want.

House Bed and Breakfast:  If  you want to stay in Oak Park, then consider the Harvey House which is a five-minute walk from the L train. It is a charming five room-inn that is an easy walk to downtown restaurants, shops and the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  With free parking, you can stay here and then take the train downtown to explore Chicago.

The Carleton of Oak Park is a local hotel that is a great spot if you want to spend the night when in town. It has a traditional, classic design. 1110 Pleasant St.

Downtown Oak Park

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