Chicago loves to eat. Food isn’t just gut-filler in Chicago — we take it seriously. Meals give us moments in our lives that we share and remember. Memories come from great food. Thankfully, Chicago’s got the best food around — and don’t forget it!
Right now, Chicago’s undergoing a restaurant revolution. Chefs from around the globe heard our rumbling stomachs and came running. World-class restaurants erupt from every Chicago street, and they’re not stopping. Our voracious appetite for more and better restaurants isn’t slowing down.
Of all the Chicago districts experiencing a surge in amazing restaurants, Lincoln Park stands out. Lincoln Park restaurants push the boundaries of the Chicago food scene. The quality of Lincoln Park restaurants demands special attention.
We at Giordano’s appreciate good restaurants. After all, we stake our reputation on knowing good food. To help you set out exploring, we put together a list of the best restaurants near Lincoln Park Zoo. But first, let’s get to know this Lincoln Park a little bit.
Lincoln Park and the Zoo
Lincoln Park lies on the north end of Chicago, near the lake. In the 1850s, the area underwent a transformation into park land. The 60-acre swath of land was called Lake Park until city officials renamed it for Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln Park was born.
Following the rebranding, the Lincoln Park received funding for a zoo. Founded in 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo stands as one of the oldest zoos in America. This free-admission zoo houses a bounty of animals including gorillas, monkeys, penguins, giraffes, reptiles, polar bears and an Amur Tiger named Pavel.
The Lincoln Park Zoo makes for an excellent — and free! — way to spend an afternoon. The zoo represents Lincoln Park’s proud history as a unique part of Chicago. Go and check out some beautiful and exotic animals while working up an appetite.
Don’t worry about travelling far on an empty stomach — some of Chicago’s best restaurants are near Lincoln Park Zoo. In fact, all of our top restaurant picks are all walking distance from Lincoln Park Zoo. So hoof it from the zoo to these champions of the Chicago food craze.
Best Greek Food – Athenian Room
When it comes to delicious comfort food, you can’t beat Greek. If you want hearty Mediterranean food that soothes the soul, look no further than the Athenian Room. The food at this landmark Chicago restaurant will make you want to smash a plate and yell “Opa!”
The prices at the Athenian Room make it a choice spot for local Chicagoans. But their inexpensive appetizers and entrées don’t sacrifice quality or taste. Don’t take it from us — SNL star Tina Fey famously raved about the Athenian Room.
Fey knows her Chicago restaurants. As a legendary Second City talent, she’s sampled her share of Chicago cuisine. But only the Athenian Room can boast serving Fey her “favorite meal in Chicago.”
We think Fey’s recommendation speaks for itself: “You need to go to a place called the Athenian Room on Webster. You need to order the roasted chicken. It’s cooked on a spit, it comes on a bed of steak fries and the chicken juice gets into the fries. Unbelievable.”
Her enthusiastic endorsement of the Athenian Room drew significant attention. Local Chicago restaurant goers flocked to the source of the legendary chicken.
On the Sunday evening after Fey’s chicken review, the Athenian Room’s owner Alex Polakis noticed the restaurant filling up faster than usual. With the phone ringing and hordes of chicken lovers packing the place, Polakis thought he might even run out of chicken.
Polakis remembers Fey from her early days at Second City when she ate at his restaurant. Although dumbfounded by the popularity afforded by Fey’s recommendation, he offers the highest praise to the comedian-actor. To Tina Fey, he grants this blessing: “May all your dreams come true. And thanks for all the customers.”
Best Spanish Tapas – Café Ba-Ba-Reeba
If authentic Spanish food entices your appetite, then run with the bulls of your hunger to Café Ba-Ba-Reeba. This popular Lincoln Park restaurant serves up the best tapas in the neighborhood. If you feel a paella craving arise, look no further than this gourmet tapas spot.
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba boasts a wide variety of Spanish delicacies. If you’re feeling the temptation of tapas, try their Pintxos. Popular in Northern Spain, the Pintxos style of tapas features sharp flavor contrasts.
Savory olives play off spicy peppers and salty anchovy in their La Glida tapa. Meanwhile, a different flavor profile emerges in their medjool date, cheese and chorizo tapa. Why not try them all? After all, they’re only two dollars each.
It doesn’t matter how you time your visit — Café Ba-Ba-Reeba has each meal covered. Come for their Spanish-inspired brunch or their famous Friday Lunch Menu. Top off your meal with their Spanish desserts or house-made sorbet to cleanse your palette.
Not only do their delicious dishes crowd the menu, but Café Ba-Ba-Reeba also features an assortment of handcrafted cocktails. Sample the array of cocktails on Monday when they’re all half-priced. Come for the cocktails and refreshing sangria and stay for a flamenco dinner show. Check out their website for the next show.
Café Ba-Ba-Reeba will tantalize and satisfy your taste buds one tapa at a time. If you’re a Spanish cuisine fan, don’t miss this uniquely refined Lincoln Park restaurant.
Best Korean BBQ – Del Seoul
The cultural diversity of Lincoln Park comes out in the restaurants, as Lincoln Park celebrates its residents’ international heritage and cooking traditions.
But food doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Styles of cooking change as people experience new tastes. Sometimes the evolution of a cuisine happens slowly, but other times, a stylistic hybrid crashes onto the scene. Take Del Seoul for example.
The Mexican-Korean fusion restaurant Del Seoul showcases the best of both cultures. It only seems perfect that this match made in heaven occurred in the city of angels.
People from Korea and Mexico had maintained separate histories until their fateful meeting in Los Angeles. As both groups began to call L.A. their home, they became exposed to each other’s food.
Del Seoul draws particularly from the tradition of Californian street food. Not only has Del Seoul imported Korean and Mexican food to Chicago, but they brought along the vibe of California street food too.
Best Traditional French Food – Mon Ami Gabi
This French bistro does sophisticated cooking in a simple way. French cuisine upholds a good reputation because restaurants like Mon Ami Gabi continue to carry the torch. If you consider yourself an aficionado of elegant cuisine, definitely check out this top-notch Lincoln Park bistro.
Naturally, Mon Ami Gabi loves to serve the classics: frisée and bacon salad, onion soup au gratin and the classic steak frites. Make sure to pair your entrée with one of their 80 boutique French wines.
If French cooking really interests you, ask about Mon Ami Gabi’s classes. Learn the secrets of French cooking from experts in the field. Learn the difference between a mise en place and a bouquet garni. Half the fun is showing off hoity-toity phrases — you’ll seem trés chic.
Best Seafood- mfk.
For you seafood lovers out there, check out mfk. on Diversey Ave. Since it opened, mfk. has made a splash on the Lincoln Park seafood scene. It garnered the prestigious Chicago Tribune Diners Award in 2015, along with other accolades. It deserves this praise for a good reason — it’s got delicious food.
More than sumptuous seafood, mfk. offers a casual ambiance. Owners Scott Worsham and Sari Zernich Worsham wanted the atmosphere of mfk. to encourage interaction between staff, chefs and customers. This dynamic helps customers to appreciate the creativity of the chefs.
Restaurants like mfk. enhance the dining experience by fostering an interest in the chef’s process. Executive chef Daniel Mejia strongly believes in combining local food and regional recipes to create an unlimited menu. Any seafood lover will feel at home at mfk., and will certainly return to dive in again.
Best American Food – Summer House Santa Monica
Missing the warmth of the summer sun? Head to Summer House Santa Monica restaurant. The fresh, airy atmosphere of this bright eatery will help you brush off the winter blues. The crisp and vibrant flavors of the food match the decor perfectly.
Their creative and eclectic menu will match your mood, especially if you’re feeling international. Try their unique take on sushi, a refreshing salad or their gourmet Mexican-inspired options.
If you’re thirsty for a cool summer drink, check out the bar. With dozens of handcrafted cocktails and craft beers available, you can raise a toast to summer. For the spendthrift sampler, come on Monday to Friday evening for Happy Hour. Every weeknight from 4 pm to 6 pm, all draft beers are $4, craft cocktails and glasses of wine are $6 and bar bites are only $3.
Best Diner – Eleven Lincoln Park
This throwback restaurant prides itself on being an “old-school diner, delicatessen.” With its gorgeous, vintage booths, seats and lunch counter, you’ll relive the golden age of American diners. The hearty, comfort food served here compliments the old-fashioned interior. Take a trip into the bygone glory days of Chicago at Eleven.
Eleven’s owner, Brad Rubin, wanted to resurrect the old-school diners of his childhood. Rubin explains, “ELEVEN is a hybrid of my sincere respect for what family ‘dining rooms’ used to be.” We think Rubin did a great job of giving the classic diner a modern twist.
There’s nothing dusty or outdated about Eleven. Eating here feels as fresh and authentic as the real thing. Classic diner traits, like serving all-day breakfast, lend credibility to Rubin’s homage to the past.
Eleven also honors Rubin’s love of traditional Jewish diner food. The menu carries all the favorites: lox and bagels, latkes and, of course, the Reuben.
Eleven hits the mark with good ol’ fashioned food served in a matching setting. Come in for a sandwich just like old times.
Best Italian Food – Riccardo Trattoria
We at Giordano’s respect high-quality Italian food. When picking the best Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park, we chose Riccardo Trattoria. These people know good Italian cuisine. They uphold the same primo quality of Italian food that we strive to honor ourselves.
Their menu elevates familiar dishes to a new level, and their chefs have the skills down. Italian cooking demands technical knowledge. A good chef maintains an awareness and honor for traditional recipes but also draws inspiration from family, life and personal experience.
You can’t cook Italian food without a deep love of cooking, food and the friends and family you serve. Riccardo Trattoria knows what it takes.
The owner and head chef Riccardo Michi grew up surrounded by family and good food. He developed his skills in the renowned family-owned GIRARROSTO restaurant in Milan before opening a series of successful restaurants in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
His self-named Riccardo Trattoria has garnered the Zagat award for “best Italian in the city.” You can’t beat the best.
Riccardo’s price their dishes far below the standard for Chicago Italian restaurants, so be sure to make a reservation. Don’t miss out on this truly exceptional restaurant.
Best Wood-Fired Pizza – Stella Barra
We at Giordano’s live for top-notch pizza. We honestly think you can’t do better than our pizzas. But we’re not so selfish to discourage you from trying other pizzas.
We care about the art of pizza. Pizza deserves the highest standards, and you want the best. To help widen your appreciation of pizza, we chose to tell you about Stella Barra.
This Lincoln Park pizza place deserves attention. They bring out the true excellence of pizza. Their secret isn’t so hard to figure out: smart and original pizza toppings, delicious crispy dough and a wood-fired pizza oven.
Nothing tastes better than a wood-fired pizza. A wood-burning pizza oven produces nothing short of pizza perfection. With higher temperatures than a conventional oven, a wood-burning oven cooks pizzas faster. Less wait time means fresher pizza, cooked up minutes after you make your choice. Stella Barra pumps out between 400 and 500 pizzas each night, made to order.
A wood-oven creates an environment for pizza magic. The natural thermal currents in the oven work their warmth over the pizza, achieving an incredibly evenly cooked pizza. With real burning wood beside your pizza, the smoke penetrates the molecules of the crust, infusing your pizza with a delicious smoke flavor.
Stella Barra’s menu features shaved mushroom, gruyère and organic Italian sausage — to mention one of many combinations. Stella Barra also offers market-driven small plates, salads and sandwiches. Come for their signature breakfast, complete with fresh pastries and breads.
We encourage you to branch out and experiment with different types of pizza. Especially if they’re like Stella Barra. Embrace the love of pizza.
Get out and Get Eating
These restaurants near the Lincoln Park Zoo push Chicago food to a whole new level. It doesn’t matter which country’s specialty you’re craving — Lincoln Park restaurants can answer the call.
Of course, we encourage you to stick to your guns and order Giordano’s, but it doesn’t hurt to branch out. We know you’ll always come back. If a day at the zoo and a dinner out seems like a tall order, just stay in and order Giordano’s online or try our frozen pizza packs. Let your hunger loose, and Chicago food will do the rest.