10 Neighborhood Gems Around Chicago

By Sarah Freeman  |  October 14, 2013

A neighborhood gem is that restaurant where the food is always good, the tables are usually filled with regulars and the ambiance can be described using one of the following words: cozy, quaint, rustic, warm or comfortable. Every neighborhood has at least one - here are 10 of our favorites.

  • Antico in Bucktown

    This coffeehouse turned cozy trattoria feeds this quiet neighborhood a heartwarming selection of housemade pastas and Italian wines. The limited menu showcases simple Italian preparations of veal rib chop and braised short ribs over saffron polenta. During the summer, the backyard is opened up into a quaint patio bordered by herb boxes.

    1948 N. Leavitt St.; 773-489-4895

  • ATK in Lakeview

    Bold flavors, exotic spices and the kicker - it's BYOB. Chef Andy Aroonrasameruang continues to prove that he is one of Chicago's masters of Thai cooking, with staples such as papaya salad and signatures like basil preserved egg: stir-fried, minced chicken with crispy basil served over a fried preserved duck egg.

    946 W. Wellington Ave.; 773-549-7821

  • Half Shell in Lincoln Park

    This long-standing seafood spot has been serving succulent king crab legs, fried catfish and jumbo shrimp since 1968. The experience here is not limited to the cuisine, however: low-ceilings, cash-only and no reservations are just some of the descriptors that fit the bill. But tasty crab legs served with a heaping side of fries makes it worth the trouble.

    676 W. Diversey Pwky.; 773-549-1773

  • Gather in Lincoln Square

    Whether it is a glass of wine with friends, sharing a flatbread on a date or sitting down for Sunday supper with the family, this adorable restaurant has all the charm of a well-decorated home. Don’t forget the brunch menu with brioche French toast and fried green tomato Benedict, or get up close and personal with chef Ken Carter by dining at the kitchen counter.

    4539 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-506-9300

  • Jam in Logan Square

    As Logan Square continues to be taken over by trendy bars and beer bistros, this brunch destination remains tried-and-true. Known for their fresh and modern decor, the restaurant serves an array of tempting items such as zucchini bread pancakes and the Jamburger. Although it is only open for breakfast and lunch, the space regularly hosts pop-up dinners by guest chefs.

    3057 W. Logan Blvd.; 773-292-6011

  • 312 in the Loop

    As far as Downtown hotel dining goes, the options are endless: Sable, Lockwood and The Florentine are just the tip of the iceberg. Hotel Allegro’s restaurant is one of the lesser-known Downtown destinations, but with dishes such as roasted chicken stuffed with fontina and prosciutto, perhaps it deserves more attention. The restaurant also offers a three-course tasting menu for $36 - quite a Downtown deal.

    136 N. LaSalle St.; 312-696-2420

  • Twin Anchors in Old Town

    Go for the saucy, fall-off-the-bone ribs and stay because it was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite eateries. The building dates back to the late 1800s and the restaurant has been feeding locals since 1910. Beware, the no-reservations policy means that the meat comes with a wait, but kill time with a beer and remember, “positively no dancing.”

    1655 N. Sedgwick St.; 312-266-1616

  • Bite Café in Ukrainian Village

    This funky west side eatery shares a wall with hipster favorite Empty Bottle. Its food is equally fresh with dinner specials that change daily and range from Banh Mi Monday to Fish Fry Friday. The exposed-brick walls and sky-blue chairs welcome diners, and fried challah bread pudding makes sure they stay for dessert.

    1039 N. Western Ave.; 773-395-2483

  • La Sardine in the West Loop

    Le Bouchon’s lesser-known sister spot serves French fare with just as much finesse. The more spacious restaurant specializes in bistro standards such as bouillabaisse in a lobster-saffron broth, ragout of rabbit, steak frites and escargots bourguignon. Wash it down with a bottle of wine, which are half off on Mondays.

    111 N. Carpenter St.; 312-421-2800

  • Birchwood Kitchen in Wicker Park

    The cozy cafe where everyone knows your name has been satisfying regulars since 2009. Sandwiches, salads, soups and weekend brunch are crafted from quality ingredients including slow-roasted meats, local produce and housemade sauces. It's strictly counter service, but diners are welcome to grab a seat near the open kitchen, in the dining room or on the patio.

    2211 W. North Ave.; 773-276-2100