12 neighborhood restaurants that Chicagoans love

At The Duck Inn in Bridgeport, the signature dish is a whole rotisserie duck, served over greens with duck fat dripping potatoes and seasonal fruits. | Credit: The Duck Inn

Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, vibrant worlds of their own, teem with beloved restaurants. Sure, you can scope out the hottest new opening, hoping that a table appears. Or you can eat like a seasoned, Windy City local.

In Bridgeport, a 100-year-old, pre-Prohibition tavern is known for a legendary whole-roasted duck. A West Loop brewpub (one of the only ones in the area that doesn’t double as a nightclub) serves house-brewed beers, stellar cheese curds, and laid-back vibes. A longstanding French bistro brings a piece of Paris to Bucktown.

This guide highlights Chicago’s stand-out independent restaurants that consistently deliver comfort, familiarity, and top-notch plates. Read on to make a reservation at these 12 tried-and-true spots now.

Miki’s Park (River North)

This Korean-inspired bar opened just days before the pandemic forced Chicago restaurants to close indoor dining service. Despite the unfortunate timing of its opening, the vibrant atmosphere, creative menu, and distinctive cocktails have fueled its reputation as a neighborhood favorite and late-night hangout spot. Don’t leave without ordering the K-popcorn sticky chicken, the kalbi short rib barbecue bowl, and the Nutella beignets. The restaurant’s sleek, clubby dining room tends to fill up on busy nights and weekends, so reservations are highly recommended.

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Demera Ethiopian Restaurant (Andersonville)

Since 2009, Demera has dished up the vibrant flavors of chef Tigist Reda’s native Ethiopia. For many, the restaurant provides an introduction to northeastern African cuisine. Demera is also a source of comfort for those well acquainted with the berbere spice, a blend of cumin, cardamom, and coriander, and pillowy injeras (sour fermented flatbreads) that define Ethiopian cooking. Hungry Chicagoans flock here for family-style servings of traditional dishes such as doro wot (tender chicken stew) and many slow-cooked vegetarian options.

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Mirabella Italian Cuisine (Avondale/Irving Park)

Arturo Aucaquizhpi may have Ecuadorian roots, but one would never guess based on the chef’s precise renditions of Italian steakhouse classics. Aucaquizhpi spent 20 years at Chicago stalwart Gene & Georgetti before taking over a historic Avondale space in 2016. At Mirabella, Aucaquizhpi adapts his River North training for a more tranquil neighborhood. Despite following a long tradition of Chicago steakhouses, Mirabella’s distinctly Italian riff on ribeyes and other house specialties, such as roasted chicken with sautéed peppers and pepperoncini, feels fresh. A dinner here consists of heaping, peppery plates of fried calamari, rustic rigatoni, and expertly broiled New York strips that stand in staunch opposition to the small plates trend that has dominated restaurants for the last decade.

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The Duck Inn (Bridgeport)

Pork belly and scallops at The Duck Inn, a gastropub set in a century-old tavern. | Credit: The Duck Inn

The success of the much-lauded Duck Inn is a quintessentially Chicago story: Chef and owner Kevin Hickey has roots in the South Side neighborhood, lives a block away from the restaurant, and opened his gastropub (set in a 100-year-old, pre-Prohibition tavern) as a nod to his great-grandmother’s Depression-era restaurant. The Duck Inn gained attention for its succulent, signature rotisserie duck—but what also endears locals is the restaurant’s equally serious approach to Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, cheese curds, and other regional delicacies.

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Le Bouchon (Bucktown/Wicker Park)

Le Bouchon quells wanderlust for those missing the charm and sophistication of France. Eating here is like taking a mini-vacation to a quaint, Parisian nook. The charming, family-owned bistro has served French classics—think a decadent French onion soup and a lip-smacking beef bourguignon—since 1993. Le Bouchon is beloved by critics and neighbors alike for its commitment to timeless techniques and faithful favorites, including cassoulet, a hearty duck, sausage, and white bean stew, ideal for Windy City winters.

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Gallucci (Old Town)

Chef and owner Gianni Gallucci is an award-winning pizza chef who took the top prize in the Midwest U.S. Pizza Cup in 2018. After years of consulting, Gallucci 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 obsession with unconventional ingredients, including toppings such as smoked provolone, fried eggplant, and the black truffle-laden Tartufa. Bonus: the dough can be made gluten-free.

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Haymarket Pub & Brewery (West Loop)

Haymarket Pub & Brewery, which opened its doors in 2010, has outlasted many restaurants in the West Loop. | Credit: Haymarket Pub & Brewery

The West Loop is nearly unrecognizable from the neighborhood it was when Haymarket, a rustic brewpub, opened in 2010. What used to be an industrial corridor filled with meatpackers and warehouses now bursts with trendy restaurants and bars. That rapid expansion forced many longstanding establishments to close, but not Haymarket. The beloved pub still stands, thanks to a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of TVs, plus house-brewed beers served alongside a menu of fried cheese curds, smoked wings, and tavern-style pizza.

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Cafe Con Leche (Logan Square)

This modern Latin diner has satisfied Logan Square’s brunch cravings since 2001, joining other area stalwarts such as Lula Cafe and Cozy Corner. Cafe Con Leche stands out from the crowd for its flavorful Mexican American plates, including sopecitos benedict, a masa-forward take on the classic egg dish, challah French toast with lechera glaze, or a breakfast torta. The crowd-pleasing menu also features classic American standbys such as buttermilk pancakes and steak and eggs. Pair your plates with bottomless cups of cafe Americano, brewed to nutty perfection.

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Taxim (Wicker Park)

While 2022 saw a clutch of contemporary Greek spots opening in Chicago, Taxim, a modern Aegean spot, has held court in Wicker Park since 2008. Chef and owner David Nikolaos Schneider pays homage to dishes from the Anatolian peninsula’s Greek diaspora (including influences from Macedonia and Cyprus), with a robust selection of wood-grilled meats and seafood, innovative flatbreads, and housemade pitas. Taxim also prides itself on its Greek wine list, which the restaurant claims is one of the largest of its kind in the United States.

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Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery (Noble Square)

A rotating botanical brew menu and one of the best burgers in the city, all served in a beautifully renovated theater, fuels the ultimate, easygoing night out at this Noble Square lair. Forbidden Root became a must-stop along Chicago Avenue soon after opening in 2016. The sophisticated brewery takes an elevated approach to both its food and brews, offering sparkling rosé ale and duck and dumplings in its rustic dining room slash bar.

Community Tavern (Portage Park)

Since opening its doors in 2015, Community Tavern has prioritized its surroundings, hence the name. This no-frills restaurant is run by husband-and-wife team, Joey and Brenna Beato. Chef Joey combines seasonal, Midwestern ingredients with pan-Asian influences in dishes such as cheese fries topped with housemade kimchi and roasted chicken roulade with harissa squash. Bonus points for being super family friendly: Kids eat free Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays with the purchase of an adult meal.

Superkhana International (Logan Square)

Forget everything you thought you knew about Indian food. Superkhana International offers an inventive, global spin on South Asian classics with an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients. This philosophy comes to life via dishes such as its famous butter chicken calzone, mushroom masala fry, and chopped cheese bao. Don’t miss a weekly burger night, where the star player is an umami-rich, vegan mushroom patty that draws plenty of regulars. Feast on it all in a kaleidoscopic space filled with colorful textiles, neon lights, and a hidden courtyard.

Sarah Freeman is a food and drink writer by day and the host of one of Chicago’s most popular pop-up markets by night.

Ines Bellina contributed reporting to this guide.

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