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Jason LittleTagliolini Nero at Balena

The best restaurants in Old Town and Goose Island

Old Town & Goose Island are home to some of the best restaurants in the city, from fine dining to taco spots

Written by
Elizabeth Atkinson
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From fantastic fine dining to contemporary American to spots to grab tacos and late night eats, Old Town and Goose Island have plenty of restaurant options to choose from. So whether you're looking for a fancy spot for a celebration or just grabbing a quick bite on the way home, check out these neighborhoods when your stomach begins to growl.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Old Town and Goose Island

Best restaurants in Old Town

Alinea
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 4 of 4

Regularly lauded as the best restaurant in Chicago, if not the country, Alinea lives up to the hype. The restaurant recently underwent a total remodel, ditching the old menu for a new one by chef and mastermind Grant Achatz. Guests can now choose from three separate experiences, a 10–14 course tasting menu, a 16–18 course menu or a private kitchen table for six guests for an intimate experience. Whichever you choose, the innovative menus are sure to be a dining experience unlike any you've had before.

Boka
  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 3 of 4

Lee Wolen holds the helm in the kitchen at Boka, one of Chicago's most well-loved restaurants. The must try dish is the roasted chicken with broccoli, almond and foie gras. But don't skip dessert—pastry chef Meg Galus is regularly praised for her delicious and interesting desserts, which you could definitely share but can probably eat all by yourself.

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The Blanchard
  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 3 of 4

The Blanchard reminded us of why we love French food so much, particularly Dover sole, foie gras and classic French desserts. The team of chef Jason Paskewitz, sommelier David Bohula and pastry chef Carolanne Vann is among the city's most talented, and the Blanchard has rocketed to the top of our list for celebratory fancy dinners.

La Fournette
  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Old Town
  • price 1 of 4

Pierre Zimmermann (baking champion and instructor at the French Pastry School) has done an admirable job giving this long, narrow bakery (which he runs with his family) a French sensibility. Rows of croissants, macarons, baguettes and other breads fill the shelves here, and they practically beg to be ordered and consumed on the spot with a cup of coffee. It’s hard to make a mistake with what you order. In fact, the worst mistake you can make is not ordering something—specifically, the lovely, pan bagnat–ish tuna sandwich.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Between the warmth of the room and the compelling simplicity of Chris Pandel’s food, there is something especially comfortable about Balena, a collaboration between the Bristol and the BOKA Restaurant Group. Settle in with a few amaro cocktails, share a pizza (mortadella with chili oil), don’t miss the chicken liver mousse bruschetta or gorgeous tagliolini nero, an uni, crab and chile pasta, and wrap things up with the tiramisu (a light and sophisticated take on the staple). Finally, fall asleep on a banquette. With any luck, nobody will wake you up.

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Old Town
  • price 1 of 4

For more than 20 years, this Old Town spot has dished out good-quality, reasonably priced Middle Eastern food in a neighborhood not exactly known for bargains. With a few exceptions (including the tart, garlicky, blended fava beans, commonly called foul) the menu's not terribly adventurous, but they do a great job with standards like hummus, flavorful falafel and well-seasoned kefta kebab. Service is indifferent, and the rickety old chairs and scuffed red banquette running along the wall don't inspire diners to linger over their Arabic coffee, but desserts, like warm honey cake, can always be taken to go.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

The regularly changing dinner menu at Paul Virant's restaurant always includes thoughtful vegetable dishes and excellent charcuterie, but our favorite time at the restaurant is brunch. While the brunch menu, too, is seasonal, there will always be a doughnut, like a recent version with carrot jam and cream cheese vanilla glaze, and an excellent Bloody Mary garnished with an elk, pickle and cheese stick. A hearty plate of corned beef hash with poached eggs came with tangy creamed pickled beets, a surprising brunch side that made us willing to try anything Virant puts out in the morning.

Kingsbury Street Cafe
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • River North
  • price 1 of 4

Seasoned catering and baking company Work of Art has moved its operations—and opened a daytime café—to this location, which, no joke, is perhaps the loveliest breakfast spot in Chicago. As sunlight pours through the windows, you’ll dig into tender whole wheat–carrot pancakes, hearty omelettes and tall glasses of cool melon-ginger juice. All that may fill you up, but if there’s one rule at Kingsbury, it’s to never leave empty-handed: Pick up seasonal baked goods from the pastry case on the way out, especially the pumpkin whoopie pies, which kick cupcakes to the curb.

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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Old Town
  • price 1 of 4

The yuppie crowd at this glamorous bar might have other things on its mind, but to come here and not order chef Jared Van Camp's charcuterie is to miss the point: More than a dozen varieties are cured in house, including standouts like the fennel-scented finocchiona. And the kitchen doesn't stop there—everything from the hot sauce to the hot dogs is made from scratch.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Duck carnitas tacos and tall margaritas. Does the human race need anything more? Actually, yes: we need the cochinita taco too, the pork paired with pickled onions and habanero salsa. And come to think of it, the barbacoa (savory braised beef) tacos are pretty necessary too.

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