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Spicy & salted crab at Silver Seafood Bring a friend and get messy with a massive Dungeness crab, which is broken apart, deep-fried and tossed with onions and peppers. We wound up with crab in our hair, but who cares? $36.
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

The 14 best restaurants in Uptown

The neighborhood offers more than just Argyle Street—the best restaurants in Uptown range from an Ethiopian spot to a dazzling fine dining restaurant

By Morgan Olsen
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Most Chicago neighborhoods have their own distinct identity, but perhaps none is more singular or diverse than Uptown's, which results in one of the city's coolest dining destinations. The best restaurants in Uptown span the globe, from Vietnamese and Chinese to American and Ethiopian. Your journey starts on Argyle Street, a main artery of the area that's home to some of Chicago's finest Asian restaurants specializing in peking duck, pho and dim sum. You could easily fill up here, but then you'd miss out on the nabe's vegan Jewish deli, one of the best fine dining restaurants in Chicago and a fried chicken spot that serves its meals with milkshakes. They're all part of what makes Uptown one of the city's most delicious destinations.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more things to do in Uptown

Best restaurants in Uptown

Sun Wah
Photograph: Erica Gannett

1. Sun Wah BBQ

Restaurants Chinese Uptown

This no-frills joint tempts passersby with lacquer-skinned roast ducks hanging by their necks in the steamed-up window. The menu is expansive but inexpensive: The Pei Par BBQ duck and the Hong Kong–style barbecued pig are sublime in their simplicity, savory and slick with fat. Chinese broccoli arrives jade-green and crisp, and the beef chow fun comes out charred and tasting of the properly smoking wok. Even the egg rolls are notable, dotted with bits of roasted pork. Our advice? Order lots and eat the leftovers at home.

Demera ethiopian
Photograph: Courtesy Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

2. Demera Ethiopian

Restaurants Ethiopian Uptown

With more than a decade of experience under its belt, most Chicagoans know Demera on a first-name basis. The restaurant is a crown jewel of the city's dining scene and a must-visit for anyone who's craving traditional Ethopian eats. Owner Tigist Reda is backed by years of watching and helping the women in her family cook. If it's your first time, do like the regulars and order a shareable messob, which is loaded up with your choice of meat and veggie dishes to sample with a friend.

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Ba Le
Photograph: Jeff Catt

3. Ba Le Sandwiches

Restaurants Vietnamese Uptown

When the French controlled Vietnam, baguettes crossed cultures, and one of the finest results of this is the banh mi sandwich. They’re plentiful in this area, but this bakery creates most of the bread restaurants use, so go try the source, a cute and colorful counter-service spot with stimulation galore. Jump in line for the barbecue pork or the Ba Le special, which piles housemade pâté, headcheese and pork onto a baguette with tangy carrot and daikon slivers, cilantro and jalapeño. Grab a coconut custard (served in an actual coconut!) for an interesting ending.

4. Immm Rice & Beyond

Restaurants Thai Uptown

In Thai, Immm means "I'm stuffed," which is an appropriate name for this Uptown restaurant that has a mile-long menu of traditional delicacies. If you visit with a group of friends, it will ensure that you're able to try a bit of everything—from the refreshing green papaya salad that's studded with peanuts and dried shrimp to gaeng tae poe, a rich tamarind red curry with pork belly and spinach. Flank your meal with an order of fried shrimp wontons to start and mango sticky rice for dessert.

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Furama
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

5. Furama

Restaurants Chinese Uptown

For some, Sundays are for church. For others, it’s dim sum. This spot offers one of the largest selections in town and proves the most consistent overall. Families flock to the giant banquet space to settle in for the barrage of carts that wheel past, brimming with a dozen different dumplings (shrimp-peanut, chive and pork stand out), fluffy buns (barbecue pork and pan-fried veggie-pork are awesome) and various fried and steamed morsels of hangover-absorbing snacks. Don’t miss the taro puff, ribs, pot stickers and sweet egg-custard tarts.

Hopleaf
Photograph: Jason Little

6. Hopleaf

Bars Beer bars Uptown

Thought this was just a bar to belly up to with a Belgian brew in hand? One bite and you’ll know there’s much more. Our perfect night involves sampling the drafts at the bar while slurping down the famous ale-steamed mussels, but you could also class it up, grab a proper table and dig into seasonal rotations such as wood-roasted spring chicken with morels and favas, available in the spring. Beer geeks know this is the place in town to school their palate on craft brews, and they do come in droves.

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7. Nha Hang Viet Nam

Restaurants Vietnamese Uptown

It will probably take you longer to peruse the lengthy menu at this traditional Vietnamese restaurant than it will to scarf down your order when it arrives. It's all part of the charm. Skip the pho in favor of the deeply aromatic bò xảo ớt, or lemongrass chili beef stir-fried with hot peppers, onions and bell peppers. Save room for sometimes sweet to cap off your meal—the bánh chuối hấp nước dừa is a rich but satisfying steamed banana cake with sweet coconut milk sauce.

Mixed Beef Pho and Shaking Beef at Tank Noodle
Photograph: Erica Gannett

8. Tank Noodle

Restaurants Vietnamese Uptown

Known simply as "Tank" to most, this spot is the answer for indecisive diners wandering Argyle Street. For Vietnamese-food pros, authentic picks are done well; for novices, the staff is apt with helpful suggestions. Lotus-root salad is everything this cuisine can be—limey and minty with shrimp flavor, crunchy peanuts and a subtle chili kick. The pho is among the best around.

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Brass Heart
Photograph: Tom Gavin

9. Brass Heart

Restaurants French Uptown

What this fine-dining restaurant lacks in size it makes up for in decadence. Each course of the prix-fixe menu is expertly plated to showcase the freshest ingredients the kitchen can get its hands on—from spring peas and watermelon to trout roe and uni. It's the kind of place where each dish appears at your table as an edible masterpiece—begging to be adored before it's devoured. Brass Heart is also one of the only fine-dining spots in town to serve an entirely vegan tasting menu, though you must book at least 48 hours in advance. 

10. Sam & Gertie’s

Restaurants Jewish Uptown

Traditional Jewish delis are synonymous with carnivorous delights, from pastrami and corned beef to lox. Imagine our surprise, then, when a Jewish vegan deli opened in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. What could easily sway into blasphemy is made lovable by husband-and-wife team Andy and Gina Kalish, who painstakingly recreate the classics sans meat. Vegan versions of smoked whitefish, corned beef, pastrami and lox grace the menu, as do iconic add-ons like homemade bagels, latkes and giant black and white cookies.

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Dried Fried Beef at Siam Noodle and Rice.
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

11. Siam Noodle & Rice

Restaurants Thai Uptown

The unassuming restaurant feels more like the waiting room at a doctor's office—decor includes fish tanks and stacks of magazines—but the food transcends the surroundings. Start with fried dried beef, a more supple version of beef jerky that comes with an addictive lime, fish sauce and chili dipping sauce. The menu focuses on excellent pan-fried noodles and rice dishes, like pad kee mao, which has lightly crisp edges and spicy black bean sauce, and tender, roast duck tossed with basil and served over rice.

12. Lucy’s

Restaurants Soul and southern American Uptown

What started as a food truck has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar business with two locations (the other is in Humboldt Park). And it's not hard to see why—the indulgent eats at Lucy's deserve to be consumed while sitting down. Diners can indulge in stacked burgers, fried chicken, loaded fries and decadent milkshakes. Here for the poultry? Go with the spicy fried chicken sandwich, laced with cooling coleslaw and American cheese. Looking for something richer? The Juicy Lucy's double patties are hiding a pocket of melty American cheese. Get your sugar fix in the form of a milkshake, vintage soda or soft serve cone.

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Spicy and Salted Crab at Silver Seafood Restaurant.
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

13. Silver Seafood

Restaurants Chinese Uptown

Seafood’s the name of the game at this modest Chinese staple, so start off right with clams bathed in a spicy black bean sauce or a huge spicy-and-salted crab, deep fried and tossed with onions and peppers. Not feeling seafood? A dish of Szechuan string beans adds some green to the table, while the crispy chicken is a half or whole bird with golden, crackly skin and fresh lemon and spiced salt.

Tweet
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

14. Tweet

Restaurants American Uptown

Sure, it’s mostly known for brunch and rightfully so: You haven’t had a Bloody Mary until you’ve had one here with the corn arepas. But anybody who’s tried one of Tweet’s layer cakes (also served at the bar next door, Big Chicks) knows dessert here is a must. Whether red velvet or yellow cake with chocolate frosting, these cakes taste as if they were baked by a loving mother, or at least a loving den mother—which is exactly what Tweet’s owner, Michelle Fire, is.

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