This tiny chicken joint in Lakeview is constantly packed, and for good reason. The chicken is fresh, of good quality and comes slathered in three different sauces: sticky barbecue, hot sauce–laced Buffalo and sesame-soy glaze dubbed “Seoul Sassy.” While we love the latter, even unadorned, the chicken stands out for its juicy meat and crunchy black pepper–dotted crust.
One of Chicago's most stylish food trucks translates to an unsurprisingly modern, clean storefront. It's tight in here (there are only 13 seats), but if you can score a four-top and bring some wine, you've got the makings for a great BYOB dinner. Start with veggie options, like the mushroom and blue cheese, and ease into the heavier meat options (beef simmered in malbec). And don't cheap out on the sauces. These empanadas are flaky, but they're nothing without chimichurri.
Andy Aroonrasameruang left his longtime perch at TAC Quick Thai Kitchen to open Andy's Thai Kitchen. Without a doubt, it's one of the best Thai restaurants in the city. Aroonrasameruang crafts his own funky pork-and-rice sausages, spoons his eggplant-studded green curry over omelets, turns out a silky tom kha soup, pairs Chinese broccoli with crispy bites of fried pork belly and throws together a fiery blue crab salad. This is what Thai food should taste like.
The second location of Kuma's has the same menu, but the Lakeview space is more of what you'd expect along the chains on Diversey. The room is brighter and the music is softer, but the burgers are the same thick patties piled high with ingredients, like the Iron Maiden, with cherry peppers, chipotle mayo, pepperjack, avocado and LTO.
Everything about this East Lakeview spot is inviting, from the aroma that rises from the squat wooden coffee barrels to the creaking floors to the colorful hand-labeled tea jars that stand in charmingly cluttered arrangements on shelves and countertops. But don’t let the laid-back atmosphere fool you. Doing its thing since 1975, Coffee & Tea Exchange offers up interesting herbals like milk thistle and refreshing blends like blood orange black. Bonus: The teas here can be purchased in small quantities, a good way to audition pricier varieties before committing.
Chef Giuseppe Scurato moved the restaurant to the old Frog N Snail space on Broadway and added a wood-burning pizza oven, an idea even smarter than changing locations. That pizza oven, located smack in the middle of the restaurant, is the star of Ceres’ Table. The lightly charred crust is thin, chewy and well-salted, and most are topped with fior di latte, a lovely mozzarella, as well as other toppings like a delicious combination of fennel sausage meatballs and crimini mushrooms. The pizzas are simple, but at $11–$14 apiece, they’re perfectly sized for one person to have with a glass of wine while sitting at the bar.
Even non-vegetarians know Chicago Diner. The everyday diner's giant menu is packed with soy milk, tofu and tempeh. Waits for weekend brunch can be painful (even though the menu is served daily), but patient patrons are rewarded with dense (and fairly flaky) soy margarine biscuits. Of the non-brunch options, the tofu and veggie-packed soul bowl is a healthy option. If you still have room, try the vegan caramel crunch torte for dessert.
This hopping brewery offers a rotating selection of house beers including IPAs, wheats and pale ales. The food menu encourages sharing with dishes like the bacon poutine with sausage gravy, Scotch eggs and frites with tangy "dragon sauce." The brunch menu boasts biscuits and gravy and omelets, but the sleeper hit is Captain Crunch French toast, which is made with rum-spiked egg and cream batter and bourbon maple syrup. Get there early or keep your eyes peeled for bar seats—DryHop gets crowded and waits for tables only make it feel more like the place to be.
The second location of this gourmet-leaning quick-service fish and taco spot is a little slicker than the original. The standout fish in the fish and chips is breaded and fried to order, burgers are made from angus beef and the French fries are larded with hunks of foie gras.
What would a soda fountain be without an outdoor spot from which to watch the world go by? Late-night hours (till 11pm weekdays, midnight weekends) mean you can take in nocturnal antics while sipping a caffeinated “cream express” milkshake (vanilla and espresso). Or go earlier in the evening, grab a scoop of the Lakeview Barhopper (chocolate ice cream with Jack Daniel’s), and get a jump on the night’s festivities.