In many ways, Chicago is defined by its skyline. Home to some of the nation’s tallest buildings, the Willis Tower, the Aon Center and the John Hancock Center all rise into the clouds seemingly straight out of the waters of Lake Michigan.
In fact, as reported by World Atlas, Chicago is home to four of the tallest 10 buildings in the United States, with the Willis Tower only being surpassed as the nation’s tallest with the completion of the new One World Trade Center two years ago.
But while these skyscrapers may be the first thing to catch your eye, there are many treasures that can be found a little closer to the ground. As one of Chicago’s defining restaurants — Giordano’s — we are especially interested in the best places to get a bite to eat in the districts dominated by these architectural wonders.
So, for today, we’re going to focus on the best places to eat around the John Hancock Center. This iconic building is surrounded by a number of remarkable and excellent eateries offering a wide range of culinary styles. If you are planning a visit to the John Hancock Center, don’t forget to leave space in your schedule for a stop by one of these restaurants.
John Hancock Center History
Before we jump into our reviews of some of the best places to eat around the John Hancock Center, we want to offer you a short history of this defining Chicago structure.
Although the building was completed in 1969, construction was interrupted two years earlier. Structural engineering and soil settlement issues forced architects to rethink the design. The process bankrupted the initial financiers. Luckily, the John Hancock company was able to save construction.
And good thing they did, because in spite of these setbacks, the design of the building has been applauded, winning the architects numerous design awards. Most distinctive are the buildings x-crossing beams. Not only are they visually striking, but they also enabled the building to be raised without inner support columns, allowing the interior to be more open than in other buildings of its size. In many ways, this design is comparable to steel bridge spans. In fact, during construction, special “creeper cranes” — usually reserved for bridge construction — had to be used, as opposed to more traditional building cranes.
The building was also created to withstand the famous Chicago winds. Simultaneously, because the building is located so close to the lake, anchors had to be placed 190 feet into the ground in order to hit bedrock. Although some on the top floors have reported that, during intense winds, they can see faint movement in the water in their glasses, we assure you, this building is thoroughly anchored into the ground.
When the building was finished, it was the second-tallest skyscraper in the world. However, now it’s the fourth tallest building in Chicago and the seventh tallest in the United States.
It’s also home to some of the fastest elevators in the world. If your trip isn’t interrupted by another passenger getting on board, you can travel from the ground to the 95th floor in 40 seconds!
Some people even call it home, as it’s not a strictly commercial/office space. In fact, for the residents of the Hancock Center, they can shop at a private grocery store and don’t even have to leave the building to vote, as it functions as its own election precinct!
Between its iconic design and its longevity along the waters of Lake Michigan, the John Hancock Center has become one of the most iconic buildings in the city of Chicago.
The Best Place to Eat around the Hancock Center
Now that you have a sense of the history of this architectural wonder, it is time to explore the many wonderful places to get a bite to eat around the Hancock Center. We’ve divided our list according to culinary style, so you can quickly and easily find a place that exactly fits your tastes. Without any further ado, here are our favorite restaurants around the John Hancock Center!
Best Indian Food — Gaylord Indian Restaurant
This Indian restaurant boasts a combination of traditional and innovative Indian cuisines. They offer a very nice and convenient lunch buffet, which is perfect for a hungry tourist who wants to get a quick meal before they head out for the next sight.
This is also an especially good option for a party with a mix of meat eaters and vegetarians. Indian cuisine has long prided itself on its vegetarian-friendly cooking. We especially recommend their Dal Makhani, which is a spicy lentil dish.
But if you like meat, Gaylord has what you’re looking for. A wide assortment of lamb and chicken dishes are featured, including classics like Chicken Tikka Masala and spicy Lamb Vindaloo.
Of course, any spicy Indian dish is perfectly complemented by a cooling mango lassi, a yogurt drink that’s refreshing and delicious!
Best Italian Food — RPM Italian
This restaurant was founded by Bill and Guiliana Rancic of reality television fame. The high-end ambiance, combined with excellent presentations of classic Italian dishes, makes this a perfect option for the Italian food lover who’s also looking for a fancy culinary experience.
Those who love the perfect meat sauce will fall in love with the Pappardelle Bolognese. Salty and rich, it’s a wonderful, elegant take on this comfort food.
For the vegetarians, the Eggplant Parmesan is a cheesy delight, satisfying even the heartiest appetite in ways that most vegetarian dishes cannot.
The Handmade Cavatelli is also excellent, featuring fresh ricotta cheese and a savory meat sauce.
And don’t forget to leave room for dessert, as their Hazelnut Tartufo have earned them quite a reputation for confectionary decadence.
Best Hotel Bar — Allium at the Four Seasons
If finding a cocktail is just as important as finding a meal, this is the place to go! Their fabulous menu has a number of innovative takes on Chicago classics, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a great meal. And the cocktail menu features a crash course in creative mixology.
Their “Queen of Hearts” cocktail is a delicate blend of the finest gin, cucumber and Campari. Their “Single Barrel Manhattan” combines the perfect levels of aged Bourbon and bitters. Or, try the “September Issue,” an elderflower and vodka cocktail that balances sweet and floral flavors.
But also don’t sleep on their fabulous dinner entrees, including an impressive steak list. Scallops, lobster and halibut are also available for those who prefer the tastes of the sea.
This is the spot for elegant dining around the Hancock Center.
Best Falafel/Gyro — The Halal Guys
We’ve shifted from high-end dining to the best in street food. This tiny storefront is made for take-out, and it’s a must-visit if you just want to grab a fresh sandwich on the go.
The menu is pretty simple. You pick a protein — either gyro meat, chicken or falafel — and then either build a pita sandwich or a platter. Sandwiches come with lettuce, tomato, onions and green peppers, although you can obviously hold any of the veggies if they’re not to your taste.
However, the key here is their signature white sauce. A tangy delight, in many ways the meat and pita are just a delivery system for the sauce.
Also, don’t forget to order a side of fries or hummus to complete your meal!
Best BBQ/Wings — Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap
If you need to catch a game while on your visit, this is the place to do it. TVs line the wall, tuned to all of the most important local and national sporting events. And like any good sports bar, meat and an impressive beer list are front-and-center here.
Wings have become the food of choice for sports fans, and Corner Tap does not disappoint. Their wing sauces range from the sweet to the insanely hot. The Firecracker sauce is especially popular, as it perfectly balances sweetness and heat. However, they also have more creative options, like the Thai Peanut Butter and Raspberry Chipotle “PB&J” wings.
But they also boast great BBQ sandwiches, like their pulled pork, along with some fabulous burgers.
Plus, they offer a Cookie Skillet — a piping-hot, pan-sized cookie topped with ice cream!
So this probably isn’t your best option if you’re counting calories. But who likes counting calories, anyway?
Best Brunch — Hash House A Go Go
This is a brunch place that specializes in going over the top. Generous portions and big flavors dominate.
The Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles are perhaps their signature item, but the sausage gravy and buttermilk biscuits are another country favorite.
But — if you’re one of those rare individuals who does not want to eat breakfast food, they also have a great dinner menu. We’re partial to their famous meatloaf.
So, if you’re looking for a taste of the country and overly generous portions, you can’t go wrong with this brunch hotspot.
Best Bakery — Sprinkles Cupcakes
This is the cupcake chain that’s taking the world by storm. Featuring their famous fresh cupcake ATM, their creative and decadent cupcake flavors are sure to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth.
Our personal favorites are Cuban coffee, margarita and salty caramel. But their ability to provide cupcakes 24/7 is what really makes them standout. Just roll up to their “ATM” and put in your order. Pay with your card, and out pops a fresh cupcake! So, if you’re there after-hours, you don’t have an excuse to pass them by.
They also offer a rewards program if you feel like you may become a repeat customer.
Best Tacos — Flaco’s Tacos
Despite being far north of the border, Chicago is earning a reputation for amazing Mexican food. That’s why it’s so impressive that Flaco’s Tacos has risen above the rest in order to be named our favorite taco place around the Hancock Center.
Of course, any trip to Flaco’s should start with the tacos. They use all in-house prepared meats — our favorites are the Ancho Chicken and Lime-grilled Steak. But they also offer special tacos. The standout for us is the fish taco, made with grilled tilapia.
But they also offer some great options beyond the traditional taco. The tamales are wonderful — especially the chicken Oaxaqueño, which comes wrapped in a banana leaf with jalapeño salsa. Or, you could go with an excellent salad, like the Southwest Chopped Salad.
Plus, like any good Mexican restaurant, they have killer margaritas, which are essential on a warm Chicago summer day.
Best Mediterranean — The Purple Pig
This Chicago hotspot has been earning a lot of accolades. Focusing on Mediterranean and small plates/Tapas, they offer a rotating and seasonal menu.
Of course, with a name like The Purple Pig, you know they take pork seriously. Nevertheless, they also offer other interesting proteins, such as duck confit and octopus.
However, if you really want to experience the best pork preparations in the city, this is the place to go. Their roasted bone marrow is an absolute must-try, as is the pork liver pate. If you wanted larger plates, go for the pork shoulder or pork belly. Either way, you’re going to get excellent cuts of meat, prepared masterfully, and seasoned with distinctly Mediterranean flavors.
Plus, they have an in-house master sommelier, meaning you can find the perfect wine pairings for whatever dish you choose.
Best Deep Dish — Giordano’s
Of course, while Chicago is famed for many different culinary delights, none is more famous than deep dish pizza. And if you’re looking for the best Chicago-style deep dish in the city, you cannot do better than Giordano’s.
The ultra-thick, buttery crust is loaded up with heaps of toppings. And the topping options are almost limitless. Some such options include BBQ chicken, mushrooms, jalapeños, olives, fresh tomatoes, chicken sausage, Canadian bacon, anchovies, pineapple and salami.
However, we also offer a number of signature pies, such as the Chicago Classic, which comes with sausage, pepperoni, onions and green peppers, and the Super Veggie, which features artichokes, black olives, mushrooms, spinach, onion, green peppers and broccoli.
We also offer thin-crust pizzas, excellent salads and signature sandwiches. Italian beef is another quintessential Chicago delicacy, so you can check another one off of your list with just one visit.
We have a full dessert menu, which includes Italian classics like cannoli and tiramisu.
Plus, if you’re visiting and you want to send someone a taste of Chicago who didn’t get to be a part of the trip, we also offer a “ship a pizza” service. So why send a postcard when you can send someone one of our decadent pies?
Finally, even if you don’t catch us during your visit to the John Hancock Center, you can always find us at one of our other many locations throughout the Chicago metro area.
So if you only eat at one place in Chicago, why not make it a restaurant that specializes in the cuisine that put Chicago food culture on the map?
We hope you found this guide to the best food around the John Hancock Center useful. There is a lot to be proud of here in Chicago, and we don’t mind bragging about the fabulous food culture in our native town. Whether you’re a tourist taking in the city for the first time or a long-time Chicagoan who’s just now venturing out to explore the city’s Gold Coast, you can’t go wrong with any of these amazing eateries.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience or just a handheld morsel to take on the road, the area surrounding the Hancock Center is a great place to grab a bite. So enjoy yourself and come back soon!