All that sun. All those floats. All that vodka. Pride weekend in Chicago is a celebration of excess, and if you want to survive this thing, you better eat. Lucky for you (and all of us), there are plenty of great neighborhood restaurants around Boystown and along the entire parade route from Uptown to Lincoln Park. Here are some of our top picks for some good Chicago restaurants (including Mexican restaurants and some of the best diners in town) to have brunch, lunch, dinner or a post-bar snack near your Parade-watching perch.
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Where to eat near the Pride Parade route
The Korean-style chicken at this cheery storefront is fresh, of good quality and comes slathered in three sauces: a sticky barbecue, a hot sauce–laced buffalo and a sesame-soy glaze dubbed “Seoul Sassy.” There’s also a decent bibimbap (best ordered with “marinated” vegetables, beef, an egg and brown rice) and Korean-style burritos whose fresh vegetables benefit from a liberal slather of sweetish hot sauce, but the chicken is the thing.
We’re smitten with the burger at DryHop Brewers, and our love affair continues into brunch. The burger is available (and you can add an egg on it, of course). There's a brunch menu available too, and make sure your meal includes Grandma’s buttermilk potato casserole, with country ham and emmental cheese, a much better side dish than the too-dry biscuits with weak gravy. And you’re in a brewery, so you’re pretty much required to get a small pour of draft beer (we like the wheat IPA Shark Meets Hipster) alongside your bloody mary.
Even non-vegetarians know Chicago Diner. The vibe is normal, everyday diner, albeit with soy milk, tofu and tempeh on the giant menu. Waits for weekend brunch can get painful (even though the menu is served daily), but patient non-meat-eaters are rewarded with dense (and fairly flaky) soy margarine biscuits. French toast is a little soggy and lackluster—but after all, this is diner food. If you still have room, try the vegan caramel crunch torte for dessert.
With its small menu of simple but elegant seafood dishes, a dinner (or Sunday brunch or lunch, if you're lucky to work nearby) at mfk. is a welcome break from fancy plates and elaborate combinations of ingredients. Here, there are boquerones piled with peppers and fennel on a grilled baguette; easy vegetable salads; occasional crab feasts. At mfk., the kitchen proves that less is more.
The basic menu appeases the masses that flood the simple, minimalist room of this top-notch Thai joint. But the true standouts can be found on the translated Thai-language menu, with never-fail flavor explosions such as tart and smoky pork-and-rice sausage; ground chicken with crispy basil and preserved eggs; and warm sweet-and-sour beef jerky. Don’t disregard the specials board; promising rotations have included basil duck stir-fried with garlic and mushrooms, and lettuce wrap–ready deep-fried mackerel with apples, cucumbers, fish sauce and chilies.
5411 is the city's most stylish food truck, so the clean lines and mod furniture in its storefront are no surprise. 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 good BYOB dinner. Start with veggie options, like the thyme-heavy 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.
To the delight of bar-starved Uptown residents, this cozy spot offers 19 beers on tap, 12 wines by the glass, comfortable couches, a large-screen TV that folds away when the game is over and garage door–style front windows. Expect better-than-average bar food like tacos, burgers and grilled cheese. Ther brunch menu leans Mexican, including solid chilaquiles and brunch drinks.
Like Pastoral’s retail stores, the emphasis at this bistro is on cheese (it plays a starring role in the menu, in small-ish plates like roasted cauliflower with Emmentaler-Mornay sauce), small-production wines (all glasses are $10, with half-pours available for $5) and charcuterie (duck-rillettes parfait, housemade ham). Unlike Pastoral’s retail stores, someone else is responsible for assembling all this into a cohesive meal.
This vegan cafe in Lakeview focuses on food made with its house-made seitan, like a meatball sub or pizzas with seitan pepperoni. A very good veggie burger is made hearty with quinoa flour and soy protein added to roasted herbs and vegetables, while a weekly selection of desserts ranges from cake slices to cupcakes to fudge.
The simple grilled chicken is juicy and marinated with peri-peri, a South African pepper that imparts piquant heat before quickly fading. The chicken comes in whole, half or quarter pieces, and you select an additional sauce—medium, hot or extra hot peri-peri, or less spicy mango-lime or lemon-herb—to be slicked on. While you order at the counter, it's a step above fast casual, with booze and funky furniture making it a place you're happy to settle in for awhile.