Being a local to Chicago makes me one of the luckiest people when it comes to a staycation. Instead of airfare, I pay a round-trip price of $16 to get to and from the city and can plan a trip around hotel prices. Plus, the location can’t be beat. Even New Yorkers get out of their city when they take a staycation. I mean, that’s why the Hamptons exist, right? When I’m desperate to get away but don’t have the time or bandwidth to plan an actual trip, I’ll open Hotel Tonight or check a few of my favorite hotels in the city to see where I can find the best price…Read More
If you haven’t heard, Chicago is currently surviving another polar vortex. Temperatures dropped to a record-breaking number yesterday causing businesses to shut down and people to embrace the art of hibernation. Those of us who have the ability to hole up in our homes all day without having to leave for even a second don’t mind this one bit. However, anyone who has to brave the cold probably wishes they relocated anywhere else at this point. Regardless, if there’s one thing Chicago knows how to do, it’s survive winter. So whether you love it, hate it, or care less either way, the city has your back. One of the ways we survive the cold temps in Chicago is through fire...literally. Many restaurants, bars, and hotels have fireplaces to cozy up…Read More
It’s the most wonderful time to visit Chicago. Christmas in the city is nothing short of spectacular. The streets are lined with lit trees, decorations are everywhere, and there’s an undeniable spark in the air that you don’t get any other time of year. With so many things to do, I’ve put together five things not to miss this holiday season. I started this round up last year and it felt right to do it once again. With Christmas on the brain, why not?! Next week, I have two Christmas dinners with friends, one at the Walnut Room (pictures for sure coming) and one at Eataly because no one knows how to celebrate Christmas like the Italians...Read More
Colder weather calls for cozy get togethers. If there’s one thing Chicago knows how to do well (other than take advantage of summer), it’s survive winter and the colder months. We’re a social city! We like going out for brunch and meeting friends for a cocktail after work. Five months of bitter cold won’t keep us hibernating...well, not the entire time at least. We can appreciate a good occasional hibernation. For those colder months when the tips of your fingers start to turn blue and your nose goes numb, the cozier spot to meet up, the better. Cozy, by definition, means “enjoying or affording warmth and ease.” In my words, that translates to a fireplace, casual and/or comfortable seating arrangements like couches or comfy chairs, and a warm drink with alcohol optional…Read More
Fall in Chicago is a special time of year. The amount of time we have beautiful, brisk weather perfect for wearing cozy, chunky sweaters is limited as winter and summer fight over the milder season. The trees turn colors and the streets line with leaves of yellow, orange, red and brown. It feels magical and surreal at times that a city could be so gorgeous. If you’re visiting from out of town, hopefully you get to experience one of the more brisk days (like today). Experience what it's like to bundle up while roaming the streets of the Windy City. Whether you’re looking for a comforting bite to eat, need to warm up, or ideas for things to do...we’ve got the ultimate list for fall…Read More
Chicago is one of the best cities for self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs. Going off on my own almost four years ago now, I’ve had the chance to get to know the city in a different way. It became my office playground like many other people who are in similar career paths and work environments. I’ve explored different neighborhoods and found a few favorite spots to return to and a few spots that are better for casual coffees with friends. For a productive day “out of the office,” I learned quick that cafes and coffee shops with a strong internet connection are vital. It’s also a perk if they offer real food and not just snacks or pastries as well as plenty of outlets. To meet with colleagues or clients, it’s important to find spots with a lower noise level or at least moderate so you can have a conversation without screaming. Some of the best spots are tucked away in the neighborhoods of Chicago and others are right in the heart of downtown. All it takes is a little exploration to find the right ones!Read More
Brunch. America’s favorite weekend passtime. The perfect blend of breakfast and lunch. The gut-wrenching decision of sweet versus savory. It’s an excuse to drink before noon and a reason to sit and chat with friends for hours judgement free. During this time of year, it’s time to soak up the final rays of sunshine and warmth before the heat goes away and the cold creeps in. Are you a sweet or savory bruncher? Would you prefer to dig in to a giant stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes or a cheesy 5-egg omelet? Maybe you prefer having a combination of the two? I’m definitely the latter. Give me sweet and savory and I’m a happy girl. While the warmer days may be limited, Chicago will stretch patio season out well into fall as long as it’s not snowing. So whether you prefer an outdoor or indoor brunch, we’ve got a list of nine restaurants to indulge the favorite weekend meal. Dig in, Chicago!
Atwood | 1 West Washington Street - Loop
Located inside the gorgeous Alise Hotel, Atwood serves up contemporary American cuisine with local ingredients. With a menu leaning more towards the savory side of breakfast dishes, grab classics like Steak & Eggs to interesting twists like the Grilled Cheese featuring tomato jam and smoked gouda. The Atwood Omelet available for brunch and breakfast (lucky you), is a unique combination of ingredients that is delish. Bacon, caramelized onions, and Brie melt together in a fluffy, delightful omelet. For something sweet, dig into the Monte Cristo French Toast. It’s hard to deny raspberry preserves!
Brunch is available at Atwood Saturdays & Sundays and Breakfast is served weekdays.
Beatrix | 519 North Clark Street - River North
Beatrix has several locations around the city, one of them being in River North not too far from the Magnificent Mile. Known for having a great breakfast and brunch, Beatrix serves up healthier dishes that are still tasty. Each location also has a coffee bar with pastries so you can grab a latte on your way out! The Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs are an interesting change from more classic options. The tomato-basil sauce is a showstopper and you'll wish you had more of it to slather the egg and quinoa cakes with. It looks like a heavy meal but it’s much lighter than it seems. It’s equally fit for a hot day or cold winter day.
The Beatrix River North location offers Brunch Saturdays & Sundays from 8AM - 3PM and Breakfast is served weekdays from 7AM - 11AM.
FourteenSixteen | 14 West Calendar Avenue - LaGrange, IL
If you’re already in the suburbs or willing to make the trek outside of city limits, FourteenSixteen in LaGrange has got a bomb brunch. My closest friend from pre-high school days met me here one very hot summer Saturday for a brunch that had both of us clearing our plates. Disclaimer, you will have a terrible time choosing from the menu. Everything looks so good, especially if you see dish after dish come out of the kitchen. It’s practically impossible to make a decision and most likely accounted for half of our visit. The Pork Belly Hash is particularly fantastic. The pork melts in your mouth and everything from the avocado to queso fresco complement the dish beautifully. I have it on good authority that the Chicken Waffles and Beignets are worth a try too.
Weekend Brunch at FourteenSixteen is available Saturdays & Sundays from 10AM - 2PM.
Flo | 1434 West Chicago Avenue - West Town
Flo is a favorite brunch spot for locals. The first time I visited this New Mexican restaurant, I discovered the wonderful world of Fruity Pebbles French Toast. If you haven’t tried it yet, do so quickly. It’s the most amazing, unexpectedly delightful breakfast dish you’ll have. It was this dish that had me returning to Flo time and time again. I have branched out of Fruity Pebbles heaven though. The Bacon-Chocolate Pancakes are simply to-die-for, the Chorizo Scramble is my dream egg dish, and the Huevos Rancheros are also amazing. You’ll find classic brunch dishes here and a few way out of the ordinary. Regardless of your choice, the food is always outstanding and the experience casual. It’s more than likely those two reasons why locals keep going back for more.
Brunch is available at Flo Saturdays from 9AM - 3PM and Sundays from 9AM - 2PM. Breakfast is served weekdays starting at 8:30AM.
Jam n’ Honey | 958 West Webster Avenue - Lincoln Park - DePaul Campus
It’s time for a throwback. You know that one place you find in college that becomes the go-to for your close group of friends? Jam n’ Honey is basically that for anyone living on the DePaul University Lincoln Park campus. Don’t let the potential to run into crowds of college students deter you from trying Jam n’ Honey because it’s well worth it. From fluffy pancakes to a variety of eggs benedict, this corner restaurant on a college campus is offering comfort food, hangover food, and plain good-for-the-soul food. They’re also known for having an abundance of Nutella, one on each table to be specific. Have I sold you yet? I’ll meet you there!
Jam n’ Honey opens at 8AM every day.
Little Goat Diner | 820 West Randolph - West Loop
Stephanie Izard created a diner that Chicago didn’t realized it needed with Little Goat. I have been to one too many events during dinner time where the food has been scarce or non-existent. The first place that comes to mind every single time this happens is Little Goat. And while that may be dinner time, Little Goat offers a breakfast menu all day long so if you want an early breakfast, brunch or breakfast for dinner, you can have it! Little Goat Diner is SO good because you won’t find anything traditional on the menu. Instead of pancakes, you get Dark Chocolate Chip Crunch Pancakes. Instead of a generic egg hash, you get Smoked Corned Beef Hash with Eggs. Instead of French Toast, you get Bull’s Eye French Toast featuring crispy chicken and bbq maple syrup. Need I go on? It is brunch so if you’re feeling something a little more lunchy, dig in to one of the juicy, flavor-packed burgers. The Patty Melt is particularly mind-blowing. If that wasn’t enough, get a shake, get a cappuccino, get a pastry…and if you get there early enough, get one of their famous Cinnabuns.
Little Goat Diner opens at 7AM every day.
Lula Cafe | 2537 North Kedzie Avenue - Logan Square
Lula Cafe is at the heart of Logan Square’s culinary scene. One of the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement in Chicago, Chef Jason Hammel established a neighborhood restaurant that Chicagoans come from all over the city to visit. If you’re not a local, that means a lot because getting to the west neighborhoods is not easy if you’re not already in the western area. Their menu rotates seasonally using locally sourced ingredients and it’s rare you’ll hear someone say they didn’t enjoy a meal at Lula Cafe. Warning: this is a very popular spot and can get crowded fast. Reservations are only accepted after 5:30PM. If you plan to visit on the weekend, get there early or prepare to wait. It will be well worth it if you do.
Lula Cafe opens daily at 9AM, except Tuesdays when they are closed.
Marisol at the MCA | 205 East Pearson Street - Gold Coast
Another restaurant by Chef Jason Hammel, Marisol at the Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for the experience as much as the food. The best part of Marisol might just be the daily housemade doughnut. Flavors vary each day so it’s always a surprise what you’ll get but they are always delicious. Marisol also features a seasonal menu to embrace local ingredients and the best flavors of the season. While dining, make sure to take in the art around you. The restaurant was designed to be an immersive experience created by artist Chris Ofili.
Brunch is available at Marisol Saturdays & Sundays from 10AM - 2:30PM.
The Allis at Soho House | 113-125 North Green Street - West Loop
My home away from home. The Allis at Soho House is one of the hardest places for me to describe. The decor is a mix of vintage and elegance, rustic and modern, sophisticated and casual. The service is always friendly. The food is always spectacular. I genuinely mean it when I say that I’ve enjoyed every single bite at this restaurant and there have been many. From the French Toast to the Baked Eggs, every taste bud is tantalized. The espresso is spot on and their bread is worth a visit all on its own. Confession: I normally like to order egg dishes just so I can have the bread with jam.
The Allis opens Monday - Saturday at 7AM and Sunday at 8AM
Summertime in Chicago is fleeting which is why locals make the most of it. Now that it’s August, it’s time to soak in the remaining weeks of patio season. While most patios will stay open through September and maybe even October, this is more than likely the last full month of summer weather. Chicagoans will gather their tribe and head to their favorite spots to enjoy the hot sunny rays while sipping a cold cocktail or glass of wine. They’ll talk about any late summer trips they’ve planned and reminisce on all the shenanigans that have happened the last few months from festival memories to bad blind dates. As much as I really don’t enjoy the heat, it’s my favorite part of summer because you have this renewed energy to take advantage of things like patios and outdoor concerts. You want to wear all those cute summer dresses you’ve been accumulating before it’s time to break out the chunky, oversized sweaters. The entire city of Chicago has an energized spirit that is hard to ignore. Whether you’re a local looking for a new spot or a visitor in town for a few days, I’ve put together a list of 8 restaurants with patios to take advantage of in these final days of summer.
Bar Siena/Bombobar | 832 West Randolph Street - West Loop
For great Italian, head to Bar Siena. Chef Fabio Viviani created a dynamic space inside and out with this restaurant. Located on Randolph Street along Restaurant Row, the menu is inspired by Italian street food like pizzas and shared plates. It’s strongly recommended (by yours truly) to share because you get to try a little bit of everything and believe me, you’ll want to. Bar Siena is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner but most important, they serve dessert from Bombobar. Bombobar is a walk-up window on the side of the restaurant serving delightful bombolini, my kryptonite. Bombolini are Italian doughnuts, or more simply put, fried dough dredged in sugar. Stuff them with Nutella, seasonal jams, s’more flavors and more.
As far as dinner is concerned, try the Burrata to start or the Taleggio Focaccia followed by a pizza and a pasta. The Sausage and Brussels Sprout Pizza is a nice change from tradition but the Fireball Pepperoni is like a grown-up version of your childhood favorite. The Short Rib Lasagna is out of this world and the Sweet Corn Ravioli is summer on a plate. You see why it’s important that you share plates now? The staff is very familiar with the drink menu and is able to provide great pairings for your dinner, even if your dinner is all over the place with flavor profiles.
Caffe Streets | 1750 West Division Street - Wicker Park
This Wicker Park coffee shop has one of the largest patios I’ve seen for a coffee shop. Caffe Streets is a great spot to enjoy a patio while you need to get work done. The coffee shop offers free wi-fi, bomb espresso and a welcoming environment. It’s an independently run business serving brews from Metric Coffee Co., another local Chicago business. The patio is out front along Division Street and bordered by rustic wood railings with planters for a touch of homeyness. Even though Division is a busy street for the area, it’s not as loud and distracting as you’d think. I will say, this is a popular spot among locals so if you want to grab a seat, make sure to get there early. They don’t have a huge menu but they do have a variety of sweet and savory bakery items.
Cindy’s Rooftop | 12 South Michigan Avenue - Loop
Since opening not too long ago, Cindy’s Rooftop has established itself as a staple for Chicago bucket lists. Locals love it and out of towners have to visit if only to see the amazing views. Located in the Chicago Athletic Hotel, Cindy’s has a rooftop terrace with some of the best views of the city. Overlooking Millennium Park, get sweeping views of Lake Michigan, Michigan Avenue and more. It’s a spot that I take family from out of town and also meet friends for a drink. The outdoor terrace has fire pits to keep warm when the nights are cool and as fall creeps in. The doors to the terrace open wide to bring the outside in on a beautiful, sunny day.
Cindy’s is known for having an innovative craft cocktail menu and iconic brunch. Part of the reason you visit Cindy’s is to take a picture of your gorgeous cocktail with the view of the city in the background. If you head to Cindy’s for brunch, the Spiced Cinnamon Roll is worth getting sticky fingers for and the Avocado Toast is an elevated version of the popular dish. I’d get into the cocktails and drinks but there are so many options for every palate that we’d be here for days. If you’re like me and read a wine list better than a cocktail list, don’t be afraid to ask your server or the bartender for a recommendation. The whole point of craft cocktails is to provide a unique experience that you enjoy. Tell them what you like, what you don’t like and they’ll point you in the right direction.
City Winery on the Riverwalk | 11 West Riverwalk South - Chicago Riverwalk
For an ultimate patio experience, walk down the riverwalk and there is no shortage of spots to grab a seat. The riverwalk location is an extension of the larger City Winery on Randolph Street in the West Loop. The riverwalk is a newer development in the downtown area of Chicago. It used to be a place to avoid but now has a beautiful path on the south side of the river featuring restaurants, vendors, and activities like boat cruises and kayaking. City Winery offers wine on tap and by the bottle. The menu features shared plates, tours, charcuterie and cheese boards, paninis and more. On a hot day, I love to share the Schmear Plate with a friend or the Artisanal Cheese “Tour.” The Grilled Cheese is a stand-out sandwich for something more hearty featuring house-made apple butter and sun-dried tomato. Just trust me on this one.
Ema | 74 West Illinois Street - River North
Walking into Ema, it feels like you’ve entered Los Angeles. I’ve never been to the California mecca but I imagine that Ema is what LA restaurants feel like. It makes sense considering Chef CJ Jacobson is an Orange County native. He’s brought a taste of home to Chicago with Mediterranean-style cuisine using a California twist. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, Ema serves food that tastes great and makes you feel even better. Even though Ema is in a busier part of River North, the patio offers a little seclusion and separation from the rush of traffic. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a late summer day and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Plates are meant to be shared but that’s always ok with me as long as I get to try a number of dishes. Start off with one of their many spreads served with house made bread. The Garlic Hummus is a dream and the Avocado & Sweet Pea is a treat using the best ingredients of the season. A few other recommendations are the Sweet Corn Risotto, Grilled Pork Belly and Green Falafel. Enjoy plates both cold and warm, vegetarian and meaty. There’s seafood, kebabs, grains, and their famous Rotisserie Chicken that’s also available at the quick counter to-go.
Summer House Santa Monica | 1954 North Halsted Street - Lincoln Park
Another California-inspired restaurant, Summer House Santa Monica, won me over as soon as I experienced the clear ceiling that opens on dry days and lets all the sunshine in. This is another California-inspired menu with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients...my favorite! It’s an Instagram dream with all the natural lighting and bright, neutral colors. The food is amazing as well. From sushi to pasta to grilled proteins, even the pickiest of eaters will find something to eat at SHSM. The Ahi Tuna and Watermelon Tostada is fresh and flavorful while the Beyond Bolognese is a “meaty,” plant-based version of my favorite pasta. The restaurant is also known for a fantastic brunch which I have yet to experience but it remains on my bucket list! Don’t leave without dessert! Summer House Santa Monica shares a bakery with neighbor restaurant Stella Barra featuring fresh-baked cookies, pastries and more. Finish the night with something sweet and a little espresso. It sounds like heaven to me.
The Dawson | 730 West Grand Avenue - West Town
The Dawson has been a particular favorite of mine since it opened back in 2013. I’ve come here on many occasions for everything from dinner with friends to dinner for business. It’s a sophisticated dining experience with an elevated menu and gorgeous space. One of the best parts of The Dawson is the enclosed outdoor patio. It feels exactly how a backyard should but more grown-up. Pergolas, light landscaping, and string lights provide an ambiance that’s suitable for dinner with friends or an intimate dinner for two.
The Dawson’s menu doesn’t have to be shared but I always welcome any opportunity to try more than one dish. The Chorizo Fondue brings two of my favorite things together: cheese and chorizo. I’m not one to order fish but the Halibut with Zucchini and Harissa-Roasted Carrots is a dynamic summer dish. The House-Made Cavatelli with Pork Ragu is also sensational. One of The Dawson’s unique offerings is a selection of meals prepared over a wood-fired grill. It’s a traditional method of cooking and uses seasonal ingredients. The flavors are out of this world and the proteins cooked perfect. Final note for a side dish...order the Brussels Sprouts. You’ll never have them this good anywhere else.
Three Embers | 10 Marriott Drive - Lincolnshire, IL
If you’re willing to make a trip out to the suburbs, plan a visit to Three Embers at the Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort. I recently shared a full review of the restaurant but it deserves a place on this list as well. Serving up Midwest cuisine with locally grown and sourced, farm-fresh ingredients...the main reason Three Embers belongs on this list is the stunning Lakeside Plaza. More than a patio, this plaza has gorgeous views of the resort’s grounds including a small lake and fountain. With plenty of outdoor seating, gorgeous views, and live acoustic music, it’s one of the best patio experiences. I’d love to revisit in the fall because something tells me the changing colors in the trees will be even more breathtaking than they are now. If you have a chance to visit while they’re still serving the summer menu, I recommend going for the Honey Badger Glazed Pork Belly alone. The Blueberry Coconut Lemonade isn’t so bad either 😉.