Whether you’re killing time before a flight or just want a taste of the South Side, take note: The area surrounding Midway Airport boasts some of the city’s best eats, from top-notch taquerias to pizza that will make you rethink your allegiance to deep dish.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to the Midway area
Restaurants near Midway
If you’re new to eating goat, there’s no finer place to get your feet wet than this bright, welcoming Archer Heights spot. It’s won a passionate following for its signature birria tatemada, or mole-rubbed goat that’s slowly steamed and then roasted. In its most traditional format, this rich, faintly funky meat is served up in a bath of comforting tomato consomme, with a stack of hefty housemade tortillas for good measure; it also anchors the house tacos and quesadillas. Stone molcajetes of warm fire-roasted tomato salsa make for a nice side.
Anyone with an interest in Mexican cooking will delight in this petite wonderland of a shop, where every shelf and case is bursting with all manner of ingredients and tools central to our southerly neighbor’s cuisine. Expect such treasures as complex moles (roughly a dozen of them), ribbons of Queso Oaxaca, house made chorizos, terracotta atole cups, old-school wooden tortilla presses and out-of-this-world cajeta—a syrup made from caramelized goat's milk.
Friendly servers and Caribbean tunes create an easy-breezy vibe at this Marquette Park spot, which showcases the cuisine of Belize’s Garifuna people. Don’t miss the panades, crisp little masa pockets packed with buffalo fish, as well as the soul-satisfying stews and soups; particular standouts are the earthy, supremely tender Belizean Stew Chicken and the Hudut Baruru Falumou, a traditional soup of kingfish in a fragrant spiced coconut milk broth. The beverage menu leans toward rum-soaked tropical cocktails.
This teensy tumbledown white shack, now in its 44th year, is a South Side icon for its hot dogs, both classic and extreme. A prime example of the latter is the extravagant Mighty Dog, a tasty mess consisting of a David Berg skinless beef wiener topped with cheese, chili and a dense tamale. Traditionalists will appreciate the red hot, dressed Chicago style but for a plank of cucumber that’s subbed in for the classic pickle. These dishes are on the small side, so you may want to order a few.
This long-running Garfield Ridge spot could kindly be described as a hole in the wall—but with fried chicken this good, who cares about atmosphere? The signature item is beloved by area locals for its sturdy coating of butter-infused crust, which conceals a tender bird bursting with juiciness. Each fried-to-order batch takes 30 minutes, so call ahead if you’re pressed for time.
With its dim lighting, rustic wooden booths and an artwork collection that skews toward maces and paintings of men in armor, this Lithuanian tavern could be a waypoint along the Kingsroad in Westeros. (As it happens, it’s located to the west of Midway, in the mystical land of suburban Summit.) The menu is long and the fare exceedingly hearty, so to get a taste of the restaurant’s greatest hits like kugelis, a custardy potato pudding flecked with smoky bacon, and zeppelins, gargantuan ground pork-stuffed potato dumplings—a good strategy is to bring friends and focus on the multiple combination platter offerings. A respectable selection of Lithuanian beers is available; they’re excellent paired with the kepta duona (or “fried bread hill”), deep-fried wedges of pumpernickel heaped on a platter and doused with a garlicky cheese sauce.
This cheerful strip mall storefront does one of the city’s best renditions of the torta ahogada, a zippy, sauce-drowned sandwich indigenous to Guadalajara that will make sense to any Chicagoan who knows their way around a dipped beef. The version here features juicy shredded pork, beans, and red onion packed generously into a crusty roll; the whole thing is then doused with a thin, brightly acidic tomato salsa, the flavor of which can be amped up with the addition of fiery chile de arbol sauce. The crunchy, bean-filled taco dorado that’s served alongside the signature sandwich is a tasty little touch.
Since 1973, this snug, family-owned Gage Park shop has been cranking out an outstanding example of the square-cut tavern-style pie that dominates South Side pizza offerings. The crust has a bit more heft and chew than the cracker-thin base at peers like Vito & Nick’s, giving it the fortitude to hold up to multiple toppings—a quality perhaps best realized in the excellent King Arthur pie, dressed with mushroom, onion, diced green pepper, and succulent, fennel-laced house sausage.
This Garfield Ridge institution is perpetually packed, and with good reason: It consistently nails it on a huge range of baked goods, from breakfast favorites like tender cake donuts and fresh, buttery Danish to fudge brownies and cupcakes to tangy sauerkraut rye. As the seasons change, keep your eyes peeled for special offerings like apple cider donuts, paczki, and pastel-hued Lenten hoska bread.
Even on a stretch of Pulaski Avenue that claims some of Chicago’s finest taco offerings, South Side mini-chain Zacatacos stands out in not just one, but two categories: carne asada and al pastor. The former, beautifully char-kissed and juicy, is an uncomplicated pleasure with just a sprinkling of cilantro and onion and a spritz of lime for garnish; the latter, shaved fresh from the sweating trompo, offers up magnificent textural contrasts of melting fat, crispy bits, and meaty pork.
Find more of the best restaurants in Chicago
Chicago is a town that cares as much about Grant Achatz's newest concept as where to find the best burgers. Hence it's with an equal passion for worthwhile splurges and cheap eats that we present our picks for the best restaurants in Chicago. (Tip: Begin or end your culinary adventures at one of Chicago's best cocktail bars.)