Heading to Chicago for ALA? Bring your appetite!  It would be impossible to create an objective list of the best food in Chicago, so this post will focus on two categories: food near the McCormick Place convention center, and a small selection of some of the most iconic, representative, or renowned restaurants within reasonable distance of McCormick Place.  Be sure to ask other Chicagoans for recommendations when you’re here; you’re sure to hear something different from everyone!


Near McCormick Place

Unfortunately, McCormick Place isn’t in a great location.  Food choices near there are sparser than in many other parts of the city.  (Chinatown, one mile away, is a noteworthy exception.)  Still, there are some great options if you know where to look.  Below I’ve listed recommended restaurant names, addresses, and distance on foot from McCormick Place.

Baderbräu, 2515 S Wabash Ave, 0.7 miles

A large taproom and 11 beers brewed on-site.

Reggie’s Chicago, 2105 S State St, 0.8 miles

Live music, lots of beers, and tasty inexpensive pub food just a 15 minute walk from McCormick Place.

Acadia, 1639 S Wabash Ave, 1 mile   

This well-respected upscale restaurant serves contemporary American cuisine, including an excellent burger.  It’s a pricier option, but beloved of foodies.

Café Bionda, 1924 S State St, 1 mile

You can’t go wrong with Italian food, and Café Bionda is just a 20-minute walk from McCormick Place.

Harold’s Chicken Shack, 612 S Wabash Ave, 1 mile

This local fried chicken chain is known for their delicious selection of sauces.

MingHin Cuisine, 2168 S Archer Ave, 1 mile

The dim sum and pork dishes are highlights of this Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown.

Opart Thai House Restaurant, 1906 S State St, 1 mile

This family-owned restaurant serves authentic Thai food.  When I asked some friends their favorite restaurants in the city, this place came highly recommended, and it’s only a mile from McCormick Place.

Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling, 2002 S Wentworth Ave, 1.4 miles

Dumplings including a huge variety of meats, with vegetarian options too.  The lamb is especially liked by customers.

Bongo Room, 1152 S Wabash Ave, 1.5 miles

Bongo Room is the place to go for breakfast and brunch.  Try the White Chocolate and Caramel Pretzel Pancakes or the Chocolate Tower French Toast.

Go 4 Food, 212 W 23rd St, 1.5 miles

Delicious Chinese-fusion food at great prices in Chinatown.


Worth a Trip

These restaurants will require a longer commute, but they’re well worth it!  If you want to venture out and experience some of the best Chicago has to offer, give these a try.

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, 805 S. State Street, 2 miles

If you try one local dish in Chicago, make it the deep dish pizza.  There’s a lot of debate about where to get the best pie, but Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is one great option not too far from McCormick Place.

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, 1141 S Jefferson St, 2.3 miles

President Obama is a fan of this Jewish Deli serving gigantic corned beef sandwiches.

Portillo’s, 520 W Taylor St, 2.5 miles

The quintessential Chicago fast food joint, known for hot dogs, Italian beef, and chocolate cake.  Be sure to try the Cake Shake (basically a giant helping of cake and ice cream liquified).  I’ve listed the Portillo’s location closest to McCormick Place.

Billy Goat Tavern, 430 N Michigan Ave., 2.9 miles

The Curse of the Billy Goat was supposedly placed on the Cubs by the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in 1945.  Now the curse is broken, but you can still get a Cheezborger at the Billy Goat Tavern, which served as the inspiration for the Olympia Café on Saturday Night Live.

Ramen-san, 59 W Hubbard St #2, 3.1 miles

I asked my friends for suggestions on what restaurants to include in this post, and the name I heard most was Ramen-san.  In addition to ramen and other Japanese dishes, they have a wide selection of beer and sake

Frontera Grill, 445 N Clark St., 3.2 miles

Chef Rick Bayless has served creative Mexican fare here for 30 years. It was named best restaurant in the U.S. by the James Beard Foundation in 2007.  Reserve a table well in advance.

Girl and the Goat, 809 W Randolph St, 3.7 miles

This is the restaurant everyone seems to be talking about over the past few years.  Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard and her colleagues serve up global-inspired dishes.  If you want to go, make your reservation now. (I’m not kidding. By the time you read this, it may already be too late.)

For more eating-out ideas, check out Time Out Chicago, Thrillist, and Eater Chicago.


About Kylie Peters

Kylie Peters is the Middle School Librarian at Geneva Public Library in Illinois. She is passionate about building relationships and community, social justice, comics, middle school literature, gaming, technology, and reader’s advisory. She writes about middle school literature at http://www.flashlightchronicles.com.

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