Best Restaurants Near Willis Tower

Willis Tower, still commonly referred to as the Sears Tower despite its name change in 2009, is one of the most popular Chicago landmarks. This 108-story, 1,451-foot skyscraper is the second tallest building in the United States and the 13th tallest building in the world. At the time of its completion in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world.

Over one million people visit the observation deck each year, which makes the Willis Tower area a popular spot for restaurants. Keeping the needs of hungry tourists in mind, this area of Chicago offers almost any type of meal imaginable. There’s no need to leave hungry, no matter how much sightseeing you plan to pack into your visit to the Windy City!

Best Doughnuts: Glazed & Infused

What better way is there to wake up than with a freshly baked doughnut and a hot cup of coffee? For the best doughnuts in all of Chicago, plan to pay a visit to Glazed & Infused. Established in 2012 by celebrated chef Scott Harris, Glazed & Infused focuses on artisan techniques, quality flavors and local sourcing to create a handcrafted reimagining of America’s most iconic breakfast item. Some of the honors this popular establishment has received include being named Best Doughnut for two years by the Chicago Reader and making the “8 Best Doughnuts in Chicago” list published by Thrillist.

In addition to classic choices like a vanilla bean glazed doughnut or a doughnut topped with sprinkles, Glazed & Infused offers a number of quirkier options. Try a Maple Bacon Long John, a Peppermint Oreo Royale or a Nutella Sufganiyot to start your day off right.

Best Hot Dogs: Gold Coast Dogs

Open since 1985, Gold Coast Dogs serves Vienna Beef Franks on poppy seed buns to bring an authentic Chicago dining experience to thousands of visitors each year. The Vienna Sausage Manufacturing Company was born in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Created by Austrian-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany, Vienna Beef hot dogs quickly became a Chicago icon.

Gold Coast Dogs is the home of the best hot dogs in Chicago, according the Chicago Gold Sun Times. The company has also had the honor of being the only hot dog vendor in official Chicago festivals such as The Taste of Chicago, Celtic Fest, Blues Fest and Jazz Fest.

Gold Coast Dogs specializes in traditional Chicago hot dogs, which are topped with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles, two sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. However, staff members are happy to provide ketchup if you ask nicely!

Best Italian Beef: Al’s Beef

Aside from hot dogs and deep dish pizza, Chicago is best known for its Italian beef sandwiches. Al’s Beef claims to be the inventor of these delectable treats, serving thin slices of seasoned roast beef bursting out from long Italian rolls and dipped in a seasoned sauce made from Italian herbs and spices. Like Chicago style hot dogs, this idea was born out of necessity. During the Great Depression, meat was scarce. The Italian beef sandwich was a way to make the most of limited resources, as the thinly sliced meat ensured nothing would go to waste.

In addition to the popular Italian beef sandwich, Al’s Beef also has a “secret menu” with options such as Fire Chili (a traditional chili spiced up with a touch of hot giardiniera oil), Tamale in a Blanket (a tamale in a hot dog bun wrapped with fries) and Gypsy Fries (French fries with your choice of provolone or cheese sauce and sliced Italian beef, gravy and giardiniera).

Al’s Beef has won multiple awards since opening in 1938, including being named one of the Best Sandwiches in America by Esquire Magazine and one of the Top 10 Sandwiches in America by Travel + Leisure. If classic Chicago comfort food is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Al’s Beef.

Best Burger: Au Cheval

If you’re craving a cheeseburger, plan to pay a visit to Au Cheval. Bon Appetit has declared their burgers the Best in America, and the restaurant is often so packed that wait times can exceed three hours.

What’s the secret to these delicious burgers? Many speculate that it’s the buns from local Z Baking. These buns are toasted on both sides to make them crispy and add extra texture. Without a toasted bun, a burger risks becoming a soggy mess.

The selection of unique burger toppings is another aspect of Au Cheval that sets this establishment apart from the competition and makes it one of the best places to eat near Willis Tower. Customers can add thick-cut peppered bacon, a fried egg or a slab of foie gras to their burger, if desired.

Best Salad: Market Creations

Market Creations is one of several restaurants located on the second floor of Willis Tower. If you’re trying to eat healthy, Market Creations offers an impressive salad bar filled with lots of fresh veggies and a variety of fat-free dressings. They also have a number of entrees suitable for health-conscious travelers including MSG free, trans-fat free, organic and low-cholesterol choices. The stir fry counter is especially popular, since you can request a custom order to meet your personal tastes and dietary limitations.

One thing to keep in mind while dining at this buffet lunch spot is that your order is priced by weight. If you’re hungry and on a limited budget, this may not be the best option. Unless you carry a scale in your pocket, it’s easy to be surprised by the weight of your meal.

Best Wraps: Protein Bar

Protein Bar is a popular health-conscious restaurant that serves wraps, salads and smoothies. Their signature item is the Gilled Protein Bar-rito, which has half the calories of most burritos since they’re made with organic quinoa instead of rice and the flour tortilla is swapped for a low-cal whole wheat wrap. The Buffalo Bar-rito is a grilled chicken wrap with a spicy vegan Buffalo sauce, blue cheese, cucumber, celery, carrots and an organic quinoa blend wrapped in a whole-wheat flax tortilla. Another popular option is the Spinach and Pesto Bar-rito, which is a wrap with all-natural chicken, a whole-wheat flax tortilla, spinach, basil pesto, parmesan and an organic quinoa blend. However, it’s also possible to customize your own meal from their wide selection of ingredients.

If you’re trying to eat an all-organic diet, pay close attention to the labels at this popular Chicago restaurant. While many of the ingredients are organic, others are not due to the necessity to occasionally change suppliers to ensure food quality. Ingredients used in Protein Bar’s menu items are not organic unless they are specifically labeled as such.

Best Pasta: Venice Cafe

Located on the lower level of the Willis Tower, Venice Cafe specializes in delectable pasta dishes. Try the spinach lasagna made with fresh spinach pasta or the tortellini with filling choices that change daily. For a healthier choice, the eggplant parmigiana isn’t breaded or fried and is served with a side of angel hair pasta.

If you want to make your own customized pasta dish, you can choose from farfalle, orecchiette, penne, rigatoni, fettuccini, linguini, angel hair, spaghetti, whole grain penne or spinach fettuccini. Sauce selections include tomato basil, Bolognese, Alfredo, majestic or red clam sauce. Optional toppings include a variety of veggies such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and green peppers.

Best Panini: Avanti Caffé

Avanti Caffé bills itself as the home of the original grilled panini. Try the Milana Tostino (featuring prosciutto, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and Italian dressing), Siciliano Tostino (roasted eggplant, roasted red pepper, provolone, cheese and Italian dressing) or the Caprese Tostino (tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil.)

In addition to their grilled paninis, Avanti Caffé serves homemade soups, salads and calzones. The prices are quite affordable and the portions are very generous. Dine-in, carryout and delivery options are available.

Best Sushi: Kamehachi

Kamehachi is located in the building just to the south of the Willis Tower and offers a wide selection of takeout sushi and rice bowls. Founded in 1967, this family-owned restaurant has been bringing the unique flavors and textures of Japan to Chicago residents and tourists for over 40 years. The name means “eight turtles” in Japanese, signifying long life and good luck.

The rainbow roll, a California roll made with real snow crab, avocado, cucumber, tuna, salmon, shrimp and yellowtail, is one of the most popular options at the restaurant. However, if you’re looking for something with a little kick, the spicy scallop roll made with raw scallops and spicy mayo is an excellent option as well.

Kamehachi doesn’t have any seats in the actual restaurant, which may come as a bit of a surprise to tourists. Enjoy your meal outside on the lawn while you do some people-watching or pick a seat in the beautiful inner courtyard.

Best Cajun Food: Buddy Guy’s Legends

Buddy Guy’s Legends specializes in Louisiana-style Cajun and soul food. Their award winning gumbo is made with Andouille sausage, ham, rice and vegetables, served with cornbread. Another popular option is their chicken and sausage jambalaya, which is a traditional Louisiana recipe that’s prepared with spicy Andouille sausage and tender chicken, then served with rice and buttermilk cornbread.

Buddy Guy’s Legends is named for founder Buddy Guy, an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who is often listed as a major influence on rock titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Guy has received 34 Blues Music Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, a 2015 Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and the Presidential National Medal of Arts. Guy uses his establishment to introduce new acts to residents and tourists alike. Buddy Guy’s Legends hosts live blues music seven nights a week with afternoon acoustic sets. No reservations are accepted for these events, so it’s recommended that you come early for a seat. On a weeknight, tables are usually full between 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm. On the weekends, tables fill up as early as 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm.

Best Tapas: The Purple Pig

If you consider yourself something of a foodie, tap into the tapas trend with a visit to The Purple Pig. The Purple Pig’s selection of Mediterranean inspired tapas includes options such as pork-fried almonds, rosemary and garlic, broccoli with roasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs and anchovy vinaigrette, Spanish octopus terrine potato and celery salad with fried baby octopus. An extensive list of white, rosé and red wine is also available.

Despite being one of the newer restaurants near Willis Tower, the Purple Pig has quickly earned a reputation for great service and outstanding food. In 2014, chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr. received the James Beard “Rising Star” award. In early 2015, The Purple Pig received a Chicago Tribune Dining Award.

Best Popcorn: Garrett Popcorn Shops

If you just want a snack, Garrett Popcorn has been selling delicious popcorn mixes to Chicago residents and visitors alike since 1949. Garrett Popcorn’s gourmet popcorn selection is preservative-free, gluten-free, trans-fat free and made with non-GMO kernels. The company has received a number of awards and honors throughout its history, including being named one of Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2002 and 2005.

Garrett Popcorn’s signature recipes are Caramel Crisp, Cheese Corn, Garrett Mix, Buttery and Plain. Garrett Mix, also known as Chicago-style popcorn, combines the sweetness of caramel with the savory goodness of cheese popcorn for a unique taste experience. It may sound a bit strange at first, but it’s a combination you have to try to get an authentic Chicago dining experience.

Best Pizza: Giordano’s

If you’re looking for the best Chicago deep dish near Willis Tower, Giordano’s can’t be beat. Giordano’s was founded by Italian immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio, who based their recipe on their mother’s beloved “Italian Easter Pie.” Giordano’s has earned rave reviews from multiple media outlets, including being named “Chicago’s Best Pizza” by NBC, New York Times, Home & Garden Magazine, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Eater and Concierge Preferred.

Giordano’s crust is rich, thick and packed with a signature Wisconsin mozzarella cheese that’s aged to perfection. To ensure the highest possible quality for their sauce, they use special tomatoes exclusively grown in a small farm in Northern California. Giordano’s also offers 20 extra topping choices, including all-beef meatballs, anchovies, artichokes, bacon, BBQ chicken, Canadian bacon, chicken sausage, garlicky broccoli, giardiniera, green peppers, ground beef, jalapeño peppers, mushrooms, black or green olives, pepperoni, pesto chicken, pineapple, salami, sausage and fresh tomatoes.

If you’ve been busy sightseeing all day and can’t wait to eat, Giordano’s also offers an impressive selection of starters. Treat yourself to toasted ravioli with beef filling and a marinara dipping sauce, indulge in cheesy garlic bread made with a melted mix of three cheeses and herbs or split an order of regular or boneless chicken wings with a friend. For larger groups, there’s a Giordano’s sampler that includes cheesy garlic bread, fried mozzarella, toasted ravioli and battered mushrooms so everyone has something to nibble on while they wait for their meal to arrive.

Giordano’s offers convenient online ordering as well as local delivery. This makes it the best pizza place near Willis Tower for business travelers, as well as families with young children who want to avoid a long wait for their meal.

If you’re planning a visit to Chicago and know you’ll spend the day sightseeing around Willis Tower, give a few of these restaurants a try. You’re sure to find something to enjoy, and you may even discover your new favorite meal!