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Samantha Nelson

Samantha Nelson

Samantha Nelson has written about dining, travel and entertainment for 15 years for publications including Time Out, Eater, IGN, Polygon and the Chicago Tribune. She's always happy to recommend a bar or restaurant and also loves to experiment with new ingredients and recipes when cooking at home. She currently lives in Amsterdam and is enjoying getting to eat her way around Europe.

Articles (64)

The best outdoor restaurants and patios in Chicago right now

The best outdoor restaurants and patios in Chicago right now

Chicagoans love to make the most of the warmest months by eating outside. Some of the best restaurants in Chicago offer alfresco dining every spring and summer with outdoor seating. When the weather is pleasant, you can grab a seat on a rooftop restaurant that affords great views of the skyline or on a huge enclosed patio at one of the best pizza spots in the city. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun in a lively atmosphere or want a chill outdoors bar, you’ll have plenty of options. So check the forecast and head to one of the best outdoor restaurants in Chicago for a fun and breezy time. RECOMMENDED: Scope out the best rooftop bars in Chicago

The best day trips from Chicago for an exciting adventure

The best day trips from Chicago for an exciting adventure

Sometimes, you just want a little escape from the city. If a weekend getaway isn't possible but you're still looking for new scenery and an adventure, there are plenty of options for a day trip within a few hours’ drive of Chicago. Spend an afternoon soaking up the rays on beaches along Lake Michigan, go hiking near Chicago in a state park or sample a variety of beers and cheeses up north in Wisconsin. The attractions are endless, ranging from amusement parks and Japanese gardens to museums and historic lighthouses. And the best part? Many of these destinations are also accessible by Metra. So get to planning with our guide to the best day trips from Chicago. RECOMMENDED: The most unique day trips from Chicago

The 25 best weekend getaways from Chicago

The 25 best weekend getaways from Chicago

Although we adore our city’s endless restaurants, museums and attractions, a change of scenery is always nice. Luckily for us, the Midwest has plenty to offer with exciting destinations only a few hours’ drive from Chicago. You can lounge in transparent waters and hike sand dunes in the “Malibu of the Midwest,” recharge at a bed and breakfast on a farm surrounded by friendly sheep, and marvel at modernist architecture in a small southern Indiana town. Many of these places are also great for a day trip or family-friendly getaway. So if you're looking to skip town, here are the best weekend getaways from Chicago. RECOMMENDED: The most unique day trips from Chicago

The best attractions and things to do in Andersonville

The best attractions and things to do in Andersonville

Just west of Edgewater and north of Uptown, Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood embraces its history while offering plenty of things to do that reflect the lively and contemporary life in the area. Andersonville has thrived in recent years, thanks to its mix of natural beauty, independent stores, local theaters and a burgeoning dining scene (we have some favorite Andersonville restaurants). Walk down Clark Street and you'll find one of Chicago's best record stores, thrift shops packed with bargains and a beloved Chicago plant shop. If you want to find out what makes it one of the best Chicago neighborhoods, plan a visit and check out the sheer variety of things to do in Andersonville.

The best restaurants in Wicker Park and Bucktown

The best restaurants in Wicker Park and Bucktown

Wicker Park and Bucktown are home to some of the best restaurants in Chicago, mixing institutions that helped solidify the city’s reputation as a culinary hotspot and new places opened by celebrated chefs and ambitious rising talent. Whether you live in the area, worked up an appetite cycling on the 606 or want some late night grub after an event, the neighborhoods offer a wide variety of cuisines and experiences. You can soak in the sun at one of the best outdoor restaurants in Chicago or enjoy some of the best takeout and delivery in the comfort of your own home. From tamales to burgers to tacos, our guide to the best restaurants in Wicker Park and Bucktown will satisfy all your cravings.

The best restaurants in Andersonville you need to try

The best restaurants in Andersonville you need to try

Known for its Swedish roots and large LGBTQ+ community, Andersonville is a hip neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side packed with charming shops, small theaters and a wide variety of bars and restaurants. You can find one of the best burgers in Chicago, an Irish pub with a lengthy whiskey list, and plenty of great options for brunch so you can have a hearty meal before spending the day shopping or visiting the Swedish American Museum. Whatever you’re hungry for, check out our guide to the best restaurants in Andersonville. RECOMMENDED: Discover the best things to do in Andersonville

The 34 best brunch spots in Chicago to try right now

The 34 best brunch spots in Chicago to try right now

The origins of this glorious medium between breakfast and lunch may be contested, but there’s no questioning Chicago’s admiration for brunch. From standards like pancakes and French toast to Southern staples like shrimp and grits to creative fusions such as royal breakfast pies, you’ll find brunch dishes at the best Chicago restaurants for every craving—or hangover. And whether it’s cozying up inside with close friends on a cold winter day, enjoying a Sunday Funday with a bottomless brunch or fueling up before exploring the city, there's a spot that has exactly what you need. So read on to discover our picks for the best brunches in Chicago. RECOMMENDED: Find the best breakfast in Chicago

The best restaurants in Chicago that don't accept reservations

The best restaurants in Chicago that don't accept reservations

While tables at the best restaurants in Chicago can book up months in advance, there are spots where planning ahead still won’t do you any good. Long lines don’t just form at the city’s hottest takeout spots, but also at the rare full-service restaurants that have taken an egalitarian approach to their popularity by only accepting walk-in customers. A few of the places on the following list allow reservations for big groups or during their quieter times, but if you want to sit down to some of the best pizzas, burgers and dumplings in the city, you should make sure to arrive early. RECOMMENDED: How to book the toughest reservations in Chicago

The best kid-friendly restaurants in Chicago

The best kid-friendly restaurants in Chicago

Chicago is full of amazing attractions for kids' entertainment, from interactive museums where they can get hands-on learning to vibrant parks and playgrounds for fun in the warmer months. Local restaurants and classic culinary staples are just as family-friendly, offering dedicated kids menus, free meals and even cooking classes. The list includes Chicago institutions specializing in kid-friendly meals as well as celebrated chefs serving safe bets for young palates while providing some more adventurous options. Bust out the strollers on your search for the best kid-friendly restaurants in Chicago. RECOMMENDED: The best weekend getaways for families

The 22 best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Chicago

The 22 best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Chicago

Chicagoans love their steakhouses, but that doesn’t mean that vegetarians and vegans are relegated to side salads when dining out. The city has a rich history of plant-based dining, with decades-old iconic restaurants showing off creative ways to use Midwestern produce, and it’s only gotten more welcoming in recent years with the addition of a Michelin-starred restaurant serving vegetarian and vegan tasting menus, a slick Asian fusion spot dishing out watermelon nigiri and a vegan food hall. You won’t miss the meat when you head to one of the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Chicago. RECOMMENDED: Discover the best vegan breakfast and brunch spots

The best Chicago speakeasy bars to discover

The best Chicago speakeasy bars to discover

The secret drinking days of the Prohibition era are long behind us, but Chicago is still home to a thriving network of underground bars perfect for grabbing a drink away from the crowds—and best of all, you (probably) don’t have to worry about the feds raiding these contemporary speakeasies. Venture beneath Chicago's most romantic restaurants, behind closed doors and through alleyways to find clandestine bars offering intimate, dimly-lit settings and cocktail menus dreamed up by some of the city’s best mixologists, plus live music and other tempting attractions. Ready to drink on the down low? Here are some of the best speakeasies in Chicago, no secret password required. RECOMMENDED: Uncover more of the best bars in Chicago

The best beer gardens in Chicago

The best beer gardens in Chicago

Sometimes a sunny day can only be made more perfect by sipping on a cold drink outside. The best Chicago breweries and taprooms offer plenty of space to try their latest beers fresh from the tap, while outdoor bars and beer gardens offer relaxed places to gather with friends and share some brews. Many beer gardens and outdoor spaces are dog-friendly, too, so don't hesitate to let your pup in on the fun of a beautiful day. Whether you're itching for better weather or want to create your own impromptu beer garden crawl, here are the best beer gardens in Chicago for a cold beverage on a warm Chicago day. RECOMMENDED: Discover even more of the best bars in Chicago

Listings and reviews (34)

My Pi Pizza

My Pi Pizza

A secret sauce recipe is at the heart of the deep dish and cracker thin tavern-style pizzas My Pi Pizza has been slinging since 1971. Start with some mozzarella-stuffed garlic bread before customizing your own pie or ordering a classic like Hawaiian or chicken pesto. My Pi also offers various vegan selections along with portabella posole from sibling spot Li’l Guys. BYOB to dine on the covered patio or order the pizza shipped anywhere in the country via Goldbelly.

Little Madrid Tapas Cafe

Little Madrid Tapas Cafe

Chef/owner Francisco Bolaños celebrates his hometown and his grandmother’s cooking by serving up traditional Spanish fare, including grilled octopus over fried potatoes; paella loaded with mussels, clams and shrimp; and churros with hot chocolate for dipping. Service is attentive and the low lights and emphasis on sharing make it a perfect date night destination. The spot is BYOB, so bring a bottle of Rioja or order a cafe con leche or non-alcoholic sangria.

Double Clutch Brewing Company

Double Clutch Brewing Company

Named for its collection of rare and classic cars, Double Clutch Brewing Company always has something going on from trivia to live music to bingo to brewmaster-led tours and tastings. The brewery, which has earned accolades from the Great American Beer Festival, focuses on German styles like helles lager and kolsch, which complement dishes like pork schnitzel, smoked brats and pierogies.

Zentli

Zentli

The owners of Skokie favorite Libertad opened Zentli in Evanston in 2023, with the more casual concept delivering the same creative approach to Mexican fare. Named for the Nahuatl word for corn, the restaurant offers a wide variety of tacos including housemade chorizo and a vegan mushroom tinga wrapped in blue corn tortillas and served with cilantro, onions and green and red salsa. Complete the meal with a Chicha, a mezcal cocktail made with purple maize, hibiscus and pineapple.

La Malinche Coffee & Tea House

La Malinche Coffee & Tea House

The bright colored walls, vibrant mural and local artwork at La Malinche Coffee & Tea House will help get you in a good mood in the morning, though the rest of the work will be done by a cafe de olla or one of their artisanal fruit teas. The blends of dehydrated fruits and flowers like strawberry & mango or the ponche-inspired guava punch are delicious hot or cold and you can even grab a bag to take home.

QuesaBirria Jalisco Tacos

QuesaBirria Jalisco Tacos

The only decision you’ll need to make at this casual counter-service joint is how many of the signature tacos you want and if you’d like to opt for chicken, shrimp or veggies instead of the traditional birria. Made with cheese quesadillas and corn tortilla soaked in fatty broth, the gooey tacos are served with a side of rice and beans plus onion, cilantro, green salsa and bussin sauce. They regularly sell out, so be sure to get your fix early.

DeNucci's

DeNucci's

The newest concept from Ballyhoo Hospitality opened across the street from the restaurant group’s first concept Gemini in 2023. It offers the same New York-style pies as Wilmette's Pizza By Sal, along with a small menu of Italian entrees like chicken parmesan. Swing by for truffle and prosciutto white pizza or a gluten-free Sicilian style-pie topped with spicy pepperoni and hot cherry peppers.

Laos To Your House

Laos To Your House

You’ll need to plan ahead to get a taste of Chicago’s only Laotian restaurant as the restaurant operating out of The Hatchery only offers pickup and delivery on Fridays and preorders close Wednesday night. Get a taste of their most popular items with a shareable meal for two including beef egg rolls, spicy green papaya salad and grilled chicken wings all meant to be enjoyed with sticky rice and sweet and spicy dipping sauces.

Paulie Gee's

Paulie Gee's

While Paulee Gee’s Logan Square outpost just offers a limited menu for pick up, you can grab just a slice to go or order a full pie delivered from the Wicker Park location. The chewy crust and generous portions of eclectic toppings like bacon jam, pickled jalapenos and vodka sauce make these pies among the best in Chicago, especially if you warm it up just a bit in your open at home to make sure it’s bubbling hot.

Casati’s Modern Italian

Casati’s Modern Italian

Husband-and-wife duo Melanie and Stefano Casati serve up light fare inspired by Stefano’s native Florence at their gorgeous neighborhood restaurant, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. When the weather’s too cold to dine on the patio, order in to get a taste of pinsa, a healthier alternative to pizza made with an imported Italian flour mix of water, rice, soy and wheat. Casati’s also offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options such as crispy brussels sprouts with fresno peppers, and seafood risotto.

Chicago Fair Trade Holiday Pop-Up Shop

Chicago Fair Trade Holiday Pop-Up Shop

Support economic and environmental justice at this 10th annual market in Lincoln Park that runs through December 24. More than two dozen Chicago businesses bring together works from artisans around the world, including glassware, ornaments, sweaters, coffee and candles.

Torchio Pasta Bar

Torchio Pasta Bar

Chef-owner Bill Varley and his wife Janice traveled across Italy to collect regional dishes to bring to the menu of Torchio Pasta Bar. The 100-year-old brick building provides a warm space for the traditional fare, which includes saffron arancini, roasted mushroom risotto and cacio e pepe. The pasta is made on the premises, though they also import gluten-free varieties from Italy so that no one’s left out. Start your meal at the copper bar with a classic cocktail or glass of Prosecco.

News (4)

This new bar at 360 Chicago boasts some of the city’s most stunning views

This new bar at 360 Chicago boasts some of the city’s most stunning views

Chicago has 77 neighborhoods, but tourists seldom make it out of the downtown area to explore them. 360 Chicago, which operates the 94th floor of the building formerly known as the John Hancock Center, is aiming to provide a taste of what they have to offer with a $2 million update centering on a new bar. “Central to all of our decisions around investments and concepting in the space is trying to find the opportunity to amplify Chicago's neighborhoods,” said Nichole Benolken, managing director of 360 Chicago’s parent company Magnicity. “We did that by identifying partners out in the neighborhoods that could bring influence to our food, our merchandise, and our cocktails.” The menu at CloudBar, which had its grand opening on September 14, lists a neighborhood inspiration for every dish and drink. Some are broad, like quesadillas and carnitas for Pilsen or margarita flatbread ascribed to Little Italy, but others are based on partnerships with local businesses. The cocktail menu features two exclusive cocktails from Lakeview’s Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club including the Heavenly Martini, a blend of lemon vodka, Alize and blue curacao topped with dry ice to provide a cloud effect. CloudBar already has a menu of eight more Kit Kat drinks that they will roll out slowly. Photograph: Courtesy of CloudBar at 360 Chicago “We have a broader vision for both the cocktail menu and the food menu that will expand and evolve over the next two or three months as we learn more about what our g

A seafood-centric Mexican restaurant debuts in Fulton Market

A seafood-centric Mexican restaurant debuts in Fulton Market

Seafood-focused Mexican restaurant Fora opened on the first floor of Fulton Market’s The Emily Hotel on August 11, but restaurant staff say they’re already planning to drastically change their menu. “We'll double [the number of dishes] in the next two weeks,” said chef Billy Caruso, who developed the restaurant concept. “Then we'll start doing the larger tableside proteins—some veal, maybe some large fish. We’ve got a couple secrets up our sleeve. We just took some baby steps. I'm really excited about what's about to come down the pipeline.” Served in a plant-filled dining room or at fire tables on the restaurant’s outside patio, Fora’s current small menu features dishes inspired by the fare of Tulum, Mexico City and Oaxaca including a light and spicy hamachi ceviche made with pomelo and avocado and a kanpachi aguachile with smoked beets that give the fish and earthy flavor. Another summery dish is the chayote, a Mexican plant that tastes similar to a green apple and is served in a salad with cilantro, mint and shiso. Many of the herbs used to season and garnish the dishes come from the hotel’s rooftop garden. But the real star of Fora is masa, which is ground in house using heirloom corn from Mexico and the rooftop. Executive chef Matt Danko’s menu uses it in a super crispy tostada topped with steak tartare and in blue corn tortillas that accompany pasilla-glazed bone marrow served with lime and pickled onions. Fora is also serving tetela, a triangle-shaped Oaxacan snack rem

A beloved Ravenswood rooftop patio been revived

A beloved Ravenswood rooftop patio been revived

Fountainhead’s closure during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic deprived Ravenswood of one of the few rooftop bars outside the downtown area. But after sitting vacant for nearly two years, the space is once again open for alfresco dining and drinking, thanks to the arrival of LM Restaurant Group's third Land & Lake location earlier this month.  “When we saw that this space was available, the owners came and checked it out and saw a lot of potential, especially with the rooftop, for doing something really cool,” says LM communications director Lauren Hammond. “They thought that Land & Lake, given its commitment to being very neighborhood centric, would do really well here.” The renovated rooftop has a huge covered bar with ceiling fans and umbrellas that provides space for 30 people, plus open seating for another 50 at banquettes and high top tables. The rooftop nearly doubles the restaurant’s interior space, which features an open kitchen best viewed from the 15-seat bar. The new owners also installed a dumbwaiter to make it easier to bring food and drinks to the roof.   Photograph: Courtesy LM Restaurant Group   “The rooftop has been a big hit,” Hammond says. “Everyone is really excited about it. To have that in the neighborhood with a very family friendly vibe really appeals to people.” The restaurant will largely have the same menu as Land & Lake’s locations in Andersonville and the Loop, serving classic American fare along with cocktails made with local spirits such a

11 reasons why you should move to Chicago

11 reasons why you should move to Chicago

Chicago may be known as the Second City, but to the people who live here it’s second to none. While some locals love to complain about the weather, traffic and corrupt politicians, the pride of residents runs so deep that many want to show it off wherever they go, wearing the city’s four-starred flag on shirts, hats and even inked into their skin. The city welcomes transplants from around the world, so long as you’re willing to learn the unofficial rules of living in Chicago, pick up a little Chicago slang and prepare to have you hot dog condiments scrutinized. If you’re considering a new place to call home, here are 11 reasons to move to Chicago. 1. The dining scene It’s impossible for a tourist with a few days in the city to fully explore the best restaurants in Chicago, which range from world-renowned chef-driven fine dining establishments to 80-year-old ice cream stands. Chicago helped establish the farm-to-table and tasting menu trends, but it also boasts plenty of casual establishments where you can save some money while enjoying everything from empanadas to Chicago-style hot dogs. You'll quickly learn how to eat like a local. 2. Midwestern warmth See someone on the street waving to you? Don’t panic and think it’s someone whose name you’ve forgotten—it’s probably just a stranger being friendly. While New Yorkers are known for bring brusk and Los Angelinos just want to peruse your IMDB profile, Chicagoans are typically a welcoming bunch that are usually happy to give you