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Best diners in Chicago

For late-night breakfast, milkshakes, greasy burgers and other no-frills fare, head to a top Chicago diner

Photo: Martha Williams
White Palace Grill is a top Chicago diner.

We're torn on the best time to go to our favorite diners. Is it for an early breakfast at Lou Mitchell's before heading to work? Two in the morning at the Diner Grill, when we're tempted by the Slinger? Hangover weekend brunches at Nookies Tree? No matter what time you choose, a top Chicago diner can give you everything you're looking for—burgers, late-night snacks, breakfast, milkshakes, comfort food—in a no-frills spot.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

Best diners in Chicago

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant

Thinking of spending your Sunday morning at this classic Chicago diner? Better check the weather: The line snakes out the door and onto Lou Mitchell Way well into the afternoon. Customers are treated to fresh, sugar-dusted doughnut holes (and, if you’re a woman, Milk Duds) while they wait, but the real feast starts when you sit down. Stacks of “meltaway” pancakes are perfectly browned, omelettes come in hot skillets (try the sweet, rich apple-and-cheese variety) and juicy, gooey patty melts seem too big to finish. But as with the rest of the irresistible dishes, you’ll find room.

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West Loop

Nookies Tree

We’ll admit it: We’ve never really considered trying the food here when we were sober enough to taste it. No. 3 in the local “chain” of diners has always been a 3am favorite of Boystown barhoppers, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that, in the light of day, this place can cook. Fruit-filled pancakes and French toast are hits, as are the frittatas (try the combo of bacon, mushroom, cheese and onions). It’s a great way to start the day—or end the night.

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Lake View

Edgebrook Coffee Shop

People go to other diners for greasy bacon and eggs, fatty hamburgers and limp french fries. But they come to this one, a tiny charming room whose walls are covered with ’50s-era nostalgia, for food they can watch being made to order in the open kitchen. Sitting at the long counter, you can witness the eggs being cracked for your fluffy omelette, the batter being stirred for your thin and airy pancakes, and, if you’re there on the weekend, the rich, sausage-studded gravy being spooned over dense, buttery biscuits.

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Sauganash, Forest Glen

White Palace Grill

The waitress calls you doll, hun or honey. You’ll let her call you whatever she wants if it means getting some of the—hands down—best diner food in town. A scoop of soft butter and warm syrup transforms a stack of plain pancakes, and they’re flanked by the city’s only diner bacon worth its fat.

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West Loop