How to Eat Like a Local as a Tourist in Chicago

Chicago is a wonderful city, full of history, gorgeous architecture, and world-class museums, all situated right near the beautiful Lake Michigan. While you might come to the city for all of these exciting attractions, the Chicago food scene is what will truly make you fall in love with the city. If you’re coming to Chicago as a tourist or for your first time, you’ll likely stay downtown, so you want to make sure you experience the incredible restaurants, without getting stuck in mediocre tourist traps. As a Chicago resident, I am here to impart my wisdom for how to eat like us locals, even in the touristy neighborhoods.

The Loop

The Loop is home to many famous Chicago attractions like the Art Institute and Millennium Park. It’s easy to gravitate toward the plethora of chain restaurants with little culinary excitement. But have no fear! There are many excellent restaurants even in this touristy neighborhood! Trattoria No. 10 is a fantastic Italian restaurant, located in the cellar of an old building. You feel like you’re eating in a wine cellar! (I recommend the farfalle with duck; it’s out of this world!). Heaven on Seven is another great one. This restaurant has the best Cajun food outside of New Orleans, yet many locals don’t even know about it! You should also check out some of the food trucks that sit between Millennium Park and Grant Park. My favorites are The Happy Lobster (the lobster grilled cheese is to die for) and Jerk (Jamaican food).

Farfalle with Duck at Trattoria No. 10 in Chicago

River North

Just north of the Loop lies River North. While there are plenty of tourist traps here too, this neighborhood is also home to some of my favorite restaurants in the city. Union Sushi and Barbecue Bar is an excellent sushi restaurant with Japanese barbecue. They put modern twists on many traditional dishes and they also have great cocktails (and great happy hour specials!). Quartino is another great one if you’re craving Italian. They specialize in family-style pasta dishes, so it’s best to go with a group. I also love Public House, which has boozy milkshakes that are topped with slices of cake and cookies and beautifully decorated with candy! Hampton Social is another one of my favorites (especially for brunch). The restaurant has a beachy atmosphere with live music and upscale twists on traditional breakfast foods. Finally, Do-Rite Donuts and Chicken combines two of my favorite foods under one roof: donuts and fried chicken sandwiches.

There are many hidden gems like these all throughout Chicago. See my other posts and stay tuned for more so I can continue to show you how to eat like a local in Chicago! You can also follow my Instagram page @DiningConDanielle for more Chicago restaurant recommendations.

Danielle Coopersmith
Danielle Coopersmith
Food has always been my passion and my favorite restaurants are hidden gems. Join me on my foodie adventures around Chicago and the world!

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