Chicago’s Best Neighborhood Restaurants That Locals Love

Credit: The Duck Inn

Editor’s Note: At the time of publication, Chicago has closed indoor dining, but outdoor dining and takeout remain great options. Keep up with the latest restrictions on dining in cities across the U.S. and Canada.

It’s been said that Chicago is “the city of neighborhoods,” and most locals would agree. The 77 community areas that make up the third-largest city in the nation often feel like little worlds of their own, boasting their own commercial thoroughfares, distinctive heritage, and unique local restaurants.

In a year where small businesses are hurting and the restaurant industry continues to weather the uncertainty brought by a global pandemic, it has never been more important to support your local haunts. Thankfully, Chicago has always had a thriving array of neighborhood restaurants that offer exceptional quality at affordable prices. 

From jibaritos to roasted duck, injeras to pizza (of course), this list highlights the independent restaurants and mom-and-pop shops that make us feel at home. Let’s face it: true Chicagoans know that the best dishes the city has to offer doesn’t require a trip downtown, but a trip around the corner. Read on to make a reservation at a Chicago local favorite.

Jibaritos y Más (Logan Square)

This popular, casual Puerto Rican joint was a fixture in Logan Square way before anyone even spoke of the neighborhood’s dining scene. Owner Yelitza Rivera, originally from Venezuela, gained her culinary cred and the respect of the neighborhood’s Boricuas after years of working in the area’s Puerto Rican restaurants. Today, she uses her expertise to prepare island-sized portions of succulent lechón (roast pork), garlicky mofongo (fried and mashed plantains with various toppings), and a perfectly crisp jibarito, a plantain sandwich that actually originated in Chicago.

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

Jibaritos y Más offers delivery and takeout in all three locations, including the original in Logan Square. The restaurant’s menu has remained the same during the pandemic, with weekend specials like mondongo (tripe) continuing to be a big draw. Order now. 

Kumiko (West Loop) 

Japenese Katsu Curry

Credit: Kumiko

One of the reasons why Chicago is a great drinking town is because of bars like Kumiko — an intimate and elegant space that still feels like a neighborhood favorite. Taking inspiration from mixologist’s Julia Momose’s Japanese background, Japanese whiskeys, gins, and shochus are plentiful and deployed for new interpretations on daiquiris, gimlets, and old fashioneds. The bar’s food selection revolves around Japanese favorites such as soba bowls, crunchy tempura bites, and an unfussy breaded pork katsu sandwich. 

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

In addition to offering the restaurant’s superb beverages and food for takeout and delivery, diners can sign up for virtual cocktail classes, get in on a cocktail-for-a-cause, or purchase a bottle of sake. For those looking for something lower proof, there is an ample selection of café beverages and mocktails as well. Order now. 

Noon O Kabab (Albany Park)

This family-run Persian restaurant made a name for itself as a place for filling lunch specials, big group celebrations, and welcoming atmosphere. Though the vibe here is cozy and casual, the service is always excellent. This approach also translates to the restaurant’s food, where diners can find standbys such as juicy beef kababs alongside traditional dishes like adass polo (a hearty aromatic rice dish topped with lentils and raisins) or ghormeh sabzi (a comforting spinach and lamb stew). 

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

Delivery and takeout are available, with much of the menu remaining unchanged. The combination platters are an excellent deal, such as the family platter that serves four and includes an assortment of the restaurant’s signature kababs. Order now. 

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant (Andersonville)

Since 2009, Demera has been serving up the vibrant and exciting flavors of chef Tigist Reda’s native Ethiopia. The restaurant has become an introduction to the cuisine for many, as well a source of comfort for those well acquainted with the hints of berbere spice and pillowy injeras (sour fermented flatbreads) that define Ethiopian cooking. Hungry Chicagoans flock to Demera for family-style servings of traditional dishes such as doro wot (tender chicken stew) and the many slow-cooked vegetarian options.

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

The restaurant offers the entire menu for both delivery and takeout, including the popular combination platters that can groups of anywhere from two to eight, allowing diners to recreate the restaurant’s communal dining style at home. Order now. 

Mirabella (Avondale/Irving Park)

Arturo Aucaquizpi may have his roots in Ecuador, but one might never guess based on the chef’s precise renditions of Italian steakhouse classics. Despite following a long tradition of Chicago steakhouses, Mirabella’s nod to old-school Italian fare and big, fat ribeyes manages to feel fresh. A dinner here consists of heaping peppery plates of fried calamari, rustic rigatoni, and precisely executed broiled New York strips that stand in staunch opposition to the small plates trend that has dominated restaurants for the last decade.

Dining at the Restaurant

Mirabella has outdoor seating; reservations are required.

Takeout

For those nights when nothing but a steaming bowl of spaghetti diavolo will do, Mirabella is offering its entire menu for delivery and takeout.

Amaru (Bucktown/Wicker Park)

Though it’s a recent newcomer, Amaru has quickly become a neighborhood favorite in the trendy Wicker Park area with its inventive twists on Latin American fare. With a focus on small plates, diners can easily graze through some of the region’s greatest hits while finding new, unexpected favorites. A Peruvian solterito salad of tomatoes, corn, and queso fresco gets a refreshing addition of edamame, while the octopus boasts hints of smoke from both its char and grilled poblano peppers.

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

In addition to the regular menu, Amaru is now offering three-course meals for two for carryout and delivery that include salad, dessert, and a main course. Cocktails are also available to order. Order now. 

The Duck Inn (Bridgeport)

Pork belly and scallops

Credit: The Duck Inn

The success of the much-lauded Duck Inn is a Chicago story, through and through. Chef and owner Kevin Hickey has roots in the South Side neighborhood, currently lives a block away from the restaurant, and opened his gastropub as a nod to his great-grandmother’s own Depression-era restaurant. Though The Duck Inn gained attention for its succulent signature rotisserie duck, what really endears locals is the restaurant’s equally serious approach to Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, cheese curds, and other regional delicacies.

Dining at the Restaurant

The Duck Inn offers outdoor seating in heated tents. Reservations are required. 

Takeout

The Duck Inn’s entire menu is available for delivery and takeout. Though the menu changes with the seasons, the whole rotisserie duck is available both to cook at home and as a fully prepared dish. The restaurant also has a rotating selection of weekend specials and family suppers that serve four.

Jaipur (West Loop)

Jaipur was one of the first restaurants to bring upscale Indian food to Chicago in 2007. After a brief hiatus, it reopened in 2019, much to the relief of many in the West Loop who embraced the restaurant for its excellent value in a neighborhood where restaurant prices continue to climb. The menu is comprehensive, offering a vast array of samosas, curries, tandooris, biryanis, and vegetarian specialties.

Dining at the Restaurant 

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations. 

Takeout

Jaipur’s extensive menu is available via delivery and takeout, including the large selection of rotis and specialty beverage items such as masala chai and sweet lassi. Order now. 

Lizzy J Café (Ravenswood)

Lizzy J Café could very well be Ravenswood’s best kept brunch secret. Seasonal, made-from-scratch Southern breakfast items like shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and crab benedict beg to be chased down with Lizzy J’s very own brand of sweet tea. Everything about the spot, including the hospitality of the owner and chef Jamie Gilmore, is like being enveloped in a warm hug by a favorite auntie. 

Dining at the Restaurant 

Lizzy J. Café is not offering outdoor seating at the moment and is currently not accepting reservations. 

Takeout

Takeout and delivery are available for the restaurant’s breakfast and brunch specialties, which also include a kid’s menu. The café also offers grab-and-go homestyle lunches for busy weekdays, such as chicken marsala with green beans and mashed potatoes. Order now. 

Le Bouchon (Bucktown/Wicker Park) 

For those missing the charm and sophistication of France, Le Bouchon might help quell that wanderlust — eating here is like taking a mini vacation to a quaint Parisian nook. This charming, family-owned bistro has been serving up French classics such as decadent French onion soup and a lip-smacking beef bourguignon since 1993 and is beloved by critics and neighbors alike for the restaurant’s commitment to timeless techniques and tried-and-true favorites.

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

Le Bouchon is currently offering a pared-down a la carte menu for takeout and delivery, highlighting some of the restaurant’s most celebrated fare such as cassoulet, a hearty duck, sausage, and white bean stew. Feel like a picnic? Pick up one of the restaurant’s cheese and wine packages or homemade charcuteries. Order now. 

Tac Quick (Lakeview)

Owned by Thai chef Itti Damprapa, Tac Quick serves an excellent menu of well-known Thai dishes, alongside a not-so-secret menu for those seeking an expansive experience of Thai food. Stop by for dishes such as pad see ew with crispy tofu, or more intriguing choices like the pad pong karee talay (karee curry with shrimp and squid) or prikking crispy pork (stir-fried with string beans and jalapeño in red curry paste and lime leaf).

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

Tac Quick now offers the restaurant’s full menu for takeout and delivery, as well as to-go beer and wine. Order now. 

Roasted cauliflower

Credit: @maohcana

Ahjoomah’s Apron (Chinatown) 

Ahjoomah’s Apron appeals to those trying Korean food for the first time while meeting the high standards of those who grew up with it. Piping hot pots, sizzling pork belly, tender beef ribs, and the omnipresent kimchi are crowd-pleasers, and many main dishes come with an assortment of banchan: a rotating selection of small vegetable sides. 

Dining at the Restaurant

Ahjoomah’s Apron does not have outdoor seating and is currently not accepting reservations.

Takeout

The restaurant’s noodles, bibimbaps, bulgogis, and other traditional dishes are available via takeout or delivery. For dinner and a drink, choose from the broad selection of soju to-go. Order now. 

Fiya (Andersonville)

Andersonville’s Fiya specializes in modern Israeli dishes that showcase the tiny country’s ethnic and religious diversity. Diners can dunk warm pita breads into a wide variety of salatim (salads) and homemade hummus before digging into an outstanding smoked whole chicken.

Dining at the Restaurant

Fiya is currently taking reservations for private dining bubbles set up on the patio.

Takeout

The restaurant’s limited winter menu is currently available for delivery and takeout. Fiya also offers cocktails, beer, and natural wine to-go.

Gallucci (Old Town) 

Eponymous chef/owner Gianni Gallucci is an award-winning pizza chef, taking top prize in the U.S. Pizza Cup in 2018. After years of consulting, he has brought his talents to Old Town, offering 15 specialty Neapolitan-style pizzas divided by red or white styles. Gallucci’s pies showcase the chef’s impressive attention to ingredients, including toppings such as smoked provolone, fried eggplant, and the black truffle-laden Tartufa. A bonus? Dough can be made gluten-free. 

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant offers outdoor dining in heated tents and is currently accepting reservations. 

Takeout

Diners can also order pizzas and an assortment of antipasti, salads, and pastas for delivery or takeout.

El Berrinches (Pilsen)

Taking inspiration from the regional dishes of Mexico City and Oaxaca, El Berrinches brings gourmet-style Mexican cuisine to Pilsen. Chef Carlos Garcia leans on family recipes passed down from generations, while finding a way to put his personal stamp on them. Typical examples of the cuisines such as carne asada and al pastor tacos are available, but it’s creations such as the michelada tacos — ribeye marinated in michelada mix — that truly set El Berrinches apart.

Dining at the Restaurant

The restaurant offers outdoor dining and is currently accepting reservations.

Takeout

Delivery and takeout is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Diners can also order cocktails to-go.

Ines Bellina is a Chicago-based freelance writer, storyteller, and bon vivant. Follow her on Twitter: @ibwrites.