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  5. Lincoln Park

Balena Italian - Temporarily Closed

4.4
4.4
2227 Reviews
$30 and under
Italian

Balena has been executing honest, Italian cooking in Lincoln Park since 2012. Led by Executive Chef/Partner Chris Pandel, the restaurant is the first collaboration between Boka Restaurant Group and B Hospitality. Balena's many accolades include Best New Restaurants in America by Gayot and Bon Appetit, 3 stars by the Chicago Tribune, and a James Beard semi-finalist nomination for Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards. In addition to its 150 seats, Balena contains a chef's table right across form the hearth of its brick oven. as well as a gorgeous 18 seat leather topped bar, and a section dedicated to walk-ins.

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Unfortunately, this restaurant is not on the OpenTable reservation network.

If you like, we'll notify you by email if this restaurant joins.


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  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Cuisines

    Italian, Pizzeria, Wine Bar

  • Hours of operation

    Monday: 5:00pm-9:00pm
    Tuesday-Thursday: 5:00pm-10:00pm
    Friday: 5:00pm-11:00pm
    Saturday: 4:30pm-11:00pm
    Sunday: 4:30pm-9:00pm

  • Phone number

    (312) 867-3888

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

  • Executive chef

    Chris Pandel

  • Neighborhood

    Lincoln Park

  • Cross street

    North Ave

  • Parking details

    $14 cash

  • Public transit

    The North/Clybourn Red Line stop is one block SW

  • Additional

    Banquet, Bar Dining, Beer, BYO Wine, Chef's Table, Corkage Fee, Full Bar, Gluten-free Options, Non-Smoking, Private Room, Wine

Menu

View menu on restaurant's website

What 2,227 people are saying

Overall ratings and reviews

4.4
4.4 based on all time ratings
  • 4.3Food
  • 4.3Service
  • 4.4Ambience
  • 4Value

NoiseModerate

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Filters

  1. TG

    TerryG

    Tampa

    3 reviews

    4.0

    3 reviews

    Dined on August 8, 2017

    overall4food5service5ambience4

    Great food, but a bit pricey. 2 pasta entrees, 2 beers, 1 wine, 2 desserts $120

  2. J

    Janine

    Detroit

    2 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on August 5, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Excellent! Would highly recommend

  3. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    2 reviews

    4.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on August 5, 2017

    overall4food3service4ambience5

    Wasn't impressed with the food. Expected more. Great ambience and decor.

  4. S

    Stephen

    Chicago

    4 reviews

    5.0

    4 reviews

    Dined on August 5, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    My girlfriend and I had a wonderful meal at Balena. Compared to other restaurants serving similarly high quality food, the value is good. The pasta is clearly made in house and is delicious, as were the vegetables and the spicy lamb meatballs. Great place to visit for great Italian food!

  5. N

    Nikki

    Orlando

    50 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    50 reviews

    Dined on August 5, 2017

    overall3food3service3ambience5

    This place is beautiful. Food could use some improvement. Pizza was just ok, pasta was alright. Food does not match the grander of the decor!

  6. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    23 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    23 reviews

    Dined on August 4, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    I think Balena is my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago. Everything we ordered was great. I loved the pasta especially the tagiolini nero and orecchiette. The spumoni inspired dessert was also excellent. Can't wait for it to reopen!

  7. SA

    StevenA

    Chicago

    11 reviews

    5.0

    11 reviews

    Dined on August 2, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    We had a delicious meal with great service. Highly recommended Italian fare.

  8. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    New York Area

    11 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    11 reviews

    Dined on August 1, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Great decor. Attentive server. Great food recommendations. Courteous staff and updates. Superb.

  9. KT

    KTEChicago

    Chicago

    8 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    8 reviews

    Dined on July 29, 2017

    overall3food2service4ambience4

    It's no where close to what it used to be. but it was decent.

  10. F

    Foodie

    Toronto

    19 reviews

    4.0

    19 reviews

    Dined on July 29, 2017

    overall4food4service4ambience4

    The menu was very interesting. Food fresh but way overly salted. Wine selected by waiter was very good. A little noisy due to high ceilings.

  11. J

    Jeff

    Washington DC

    8 reviews

    1.0

    8 reviews

    Dined on July 28, 2017

    overall1food3service3ambience2

    Poor service. Small pasta portions. Forgot birthday request

  12. B

    Boots

    Chicago

    7 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    7 reviews

    Dined on July 27, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Everything was delicious and the service was excellent!

  13. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Miami

    2 reviews

    vip
    2.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on July 25, 2017

    overall2food2service3ambience2

    We had nice service but meatballs were dry and the gnocchi had no taste. It also took too long, but waiter stopped by to say chef had overcooked it and was making another. Instead of comp'ing the dish, a second bland (arugula) salad was brought out. Was expecting more flavor and a more lively scene from a BOKA group restaurant. Was unimpressed and will not be back or recommending this restaurant to friends, unfortunately.

  14. QV

    QuasiVeganFoodie

    Chicago

    193 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    193 reviews

    Dined on July 24, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Calling all Italian-food lovers: go to Balena! The restaurant itself is beautiful, with rustic wood floors and and twinkling lights. The food is straightforward, healthy, and delicious. The house focaccia is a must-get starter, and the charred broccoli is a great side. As for pastas, you can't go wrong with any of them. Try the mafaldine with tomato fondue and basil and then go for a "craft your own" white pie. Pro-tip: this is a great place to go before or after theater at Steppenwolf, which is right across the street!

  15. S

    Sherry

    Louisville

    13 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    13 reviews

    Dined on July 23, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience4

    Thank you our Server was awesome! Sunday night- cannot remember her name she gave use great recommendations. Sherry

  16. J

    Joseph

    Chicago

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 23, 2017

    overall4food5service4ambience4

    Food was excellent. There's so many great options. Tables are a little close together but that was my only complaint.

  17. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 23, 2017

    overall5food5service4ambience5

    Great menu, changes seasonally. The dishes are perfect for sharing, we shared the spicy lamb meatballs, two pastas, and a salad (two of us). Lovely ambiance, be back!

  18. a

    artsyone

    St. Louis

    11 reviews

    5.0

    11 reviews

    Dined on July 23, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    This was before theatre dinner. The food comes quickly, (but not too)! Everything tastes great. The servers are well-informed. We split an arugala salad, the 1/2 roast chicken, and a truffle pasta. They were all great. (and we were not given the sometimes 'snub' nose you get when you ask to split). It is a relaxed atmosphere while eating good food. The menu is limited, which is fine and there were no specials, which was also fine. We've eaten there 2x and I will go back!

  19. AS

    AubreeS

    Los Angeles

    2 reviews

    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on July 22, 2017

    overall5food5service3ambience5

    The food was INCREDIBLE! Cocktail were tasty! Our waitress started off incredibly and somewhere in the evening a switch was flipped. She began literally dropping plates and beverages angrily on the table and stomping away. It was bizarre. Honestly, I'm hoping she was just have a rough evening. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, but not awesome. I would still definitely go back for the food.

  20. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 22, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    I chose to come to Balena with my sister and dad since it was right next door to the Royal George Theater where we were seeing Spamilton. I looked at a few nearby and picked this one based on the menu, as I hadn't heard of any of them. We were all so pleased!! I couldn't believe the luck of picking this awesome place. Our waitress was amazing, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere was beautiful! It wasn't too loud, and they were very accommodating with our show time - very fast with the check when we only had a little time before the show. I would highly recommend checking out Balena!

  21. HO

    HannaO

    Chicago

    6 reviews

    3.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on July 21, 2017

    overall3food3service2ambience2

    The food was mediocre. The main issue regarded the people sitting next to us that were so close and being very disrespectful to the other guests of the restaurant. Once our waitress came over she didn't address the situation throughout the evening even after they left. I couldn't enjoy anything about the experience based on how they were acting. We asked to be moved and they told us it would be an additional 30 minute wait. A frustrating experience...

  22. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    2 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on July 21, 2017

    overall3food3service2ambience2

    I found a hair in my food and a big fly came to say hello to me in the middle of my meal. Food was comped and free sorbet was given but I still feel nauseated.

  23. T

    Tayler

    Chicago

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 21, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Great atmosphere not too loud. Service staff was perfectly attentive and accommodating to a complicated dinner. Would highly recommend for any special occasion, date or nice dinner!

  24. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 16, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Our Balena experience was outstanding. I told our server, Stacy, that I was vegan. She knew which of the menu items were vegan-friendly. She was great. The food was delicious! I definitely recommend Balena.

  25. N

    Noreenc

    Chicago

    3 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    3 reviews

    Dined on July 16, 2017

    overall5food4service4ambience5

    would have liked more gluten free options but really enjoyed what I had and loved the ambiance.

  26. DL

    DanielleL

    Chicago

    33 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    33 reviews

    Dined on July 15, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    went here for a late dinner with a big group of friends. we split bottles of wine, ordered various pastas, and were there for 2.5 hours! this place is one of my favorite italian resturants in chicago. would recommend everything on the menu - and definitely split bottles of wine - great price and so worth it!

  27. p

    penguinperson

    Chicago

    55 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    55 reviews

    Dined on July 15, 2017

    overall3food3service5ambience5

    We have been several times and we're disappointed this time. The menu changes and we found very few things that seemed appetizing. The menu was very small. It's supposed to be a fish place and there was hardly any fish on the menu. The staff was nice and the ambiance is fun. May give it another try to see if they improve the menu.

  28. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    4 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    4 reviews

    Dined on July 15, 2017

    overall3food2service5ambience5

    There were 3 of us and we did not care of what we ordered although the restaurant was crowded and we had been told it was very good.

  29. RO

    RuthO

    Chicago

    15 reviews

    4.0

    15 reviews

    Dined on July 13, 2017

    overall4food4service5ambience5

    Good food and cocktails, and excellent service. Right across the street from Steppenwolf, and right on time. I loved the roasted cauliflower, and I had a lemony pasta with greens that was delicious. The cookie plate and lovely tea were a great end to the meal.

  30. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    6 reviews

    4.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on July 12, 2017

    overall4food4service4ambience3

    Good but food was over priced for quality. Great atmosphere though.

  31. N

    Neverpicky

    New York Area

    5 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on July 10, 2017

    overall3food4service2ambience4

    Food was actually very good, and the people were nice but the service can certainly be improved. I made a last minute reservation for my wife's birthday on opentable. We arrived with our 2 sons and were given a nice table. The restaurant was not crowded and our server was immediately attentive. We explained that we were not in a hurry, but after receiving our cocktails we felt pressured anyway to place our food order. We ordered our food and then my wife proceeded to open some cards and gifts at the table. The food started rolling out of the kitchen. My sons were splitting a pizza and I wish the server had taken a moment to realize that my young son had ordered the fennel sausage pizza, which included chili flakes. I like spicy food, but this was way spicier/hotter than most adults would ever tolerate. Kids should not order that pizza! The server never stopped by to check to see if our food was good - he pretty much disappeared when the food started coming. I had to give my gnocci to my son and eat his pizza. We waited patiently for my wife's hangar steak to arrive, and it never did...so she nibbled on the gnocci. Surprisingly, our server never actually asked if we wanted any desert - even though we had opened presents in full view. I would have loved to have a simple piece of cake and a candle for her (actually more for my kids since birthdays are important to kids) - but I barely had a chance to speak with the waiter. Finally the waiter came by and I simply asked for the check. I told him to make sure that I was not charged for the hangar steak since it never arrived. He barely apologized and just brought the check - what a lost opportunity to simply recognize the mistake and perhaps ask my wife if there was anything he could bring her. Anyway, this place has a nice ambience and nice people, but if our server was a little more observant then I think in time he can become an excellent waiter and probably do a much better job for the diners and the restaurant.

  32. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    2 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on July 9, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    The staff made our experience easy and enjoyable as we celebrated a friend's engagement. Our waiter was friendly, approachable and knowledgeable about the menu items.

  33. b

    boog

    Chicago

    96 reviews

    5.0

    96 reviews

    Dined on July 8, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Second visit and it is amazing again. Great drinks and the meal was outstanding.

  34. j

    jerc

    Chicago

    11 reviews

    5.0

    11 reviews

    Dined on July 7, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    menu selections were varied. There was something for everyone no matter what they favored Food was great and enjoyed by all

  35. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 5, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Pretheater. Great service, food, atmosphere, beverage.

  36. J

    Jaysac

    Atlanta

    63 reviews

    vip
    4.0

    63 reviews

    Dined on July 3, 2017

    overall4food4service5ambience5

    Nice neighborhood place.Very good service, nice ambience and decent prices.

  37. M

    Mrbeard

    Chicago

    20 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    20 reviews

    Dined on July 2, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience4

    Food was excellent. Very flavorful. Everything we ate was equally great. Server was very friendly and attentive.

  38. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Chicago

    1 review

    vip
    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on July 1, 2017

    overall5food5service5ambience5

    Excellent meal with outstanding waiter! All good was fresh and delish!!

  39. EB

    EmmaB

    Chicago

    6 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on June 30, 2017

    overall5food4service4ambience4

    The staff at Balena were great. They had asked if we were celebrating anything when they confirmed the reservation (it was my Dad's birthday) and there was a birthday card signed by Balena staff members on the table when we got there. They also made sure to get us out the door in time to see our show. I will definitely be returning.

  40. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    San Diego

    11 reviews

    4.0

    11 reviews

    Dined on June 28, 2017

    overall4food4service4ambience5

    Faccia bread was excellent, black pasta was to salty

FAQs

Balena Italian - Temporarily Closed is rated 4.4 stars by 2227 OpenTable diners

Not available on OpenTable

Unfortunately, this restaurant is not on the OpenTable reservation network.

If you like, we'll notify you by email if this restaurant joins.


Is this your restaurant?
Claim this listing
  • Cross street

    North Ave

  • Neighborhood

    Lincoln Park

  • Hours of operation

    Monday: 5:00pm-9:00pm
    Tuesday-Thursday: 5:00pm-10:00pm
    Friday: 5:00pm-11:00pm
    Saturday: 4:30pm-11:00pm
    Sunday: 4:30pm-9:00pm

  • Cuisines

    Italian, Pizzeria, Wine Bar

  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

  • Parking details

    $14 cash

  • Public transit

    The North/Clybourn Red Line stop is one block SW

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Executive chef

    Chris Pandel

  • Additional

    Banquet, Bar Dining, Beer, BYO Wine, Chef's Table, Corkage Fee, Full Bar, Gluten-free Options, Non-Smoking, Private Room, Wine

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  • Terms of Use
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  • Do Not Sell My Info (California)
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