The Perfect Getaway: A weekend exploring Chicago’s food scene
From lollipop chicken wings to Vienna hot dogs (Chicago-style, of course), the Windy City knows its food — and so do we. So, grab your appetite and let our food-focused itinerary take you through a perfect weekend in Chicago. | By Alina Dizik | June 22, 2022
Hold the deep-dish pizza — or at least save room after a few bites. Chicago restaurants are serving up some of the country’s most ambitious dishes in recent years. And let’s not forget that the city also hosts the coveted James Beard Awards — i.e., the Oscars of the foodie world — each spring. Add that to walkable neighborhoods, waterfront views and world-class museums, and you’ve got a recipe for an ideal weekend to enjoy the Chicago food scene.
Take a riverside stroll: The Chicago Riverwalk is the perfect place for dining or cocktails with views of some of downtown's architectural gems
Shop (and eat!) local: Hit up local boutiques, sneak into a speakeasy and try all the tacos in some of Chicago’s artsiest neighborhoods
Explore the art: Whether you’re discovering the art museums or taking selfies in front of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture (aka The Bean), the city’s Millennium Park area offers plenty to keep you busy
Ease into your stay by enjoying a leisurely morning at your hotel, the storied Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel. Situated at the center of the Theater District, Palmer House boasts one of the best locations in the city. Stroll around the block and grab a tomato, basil and ricotta puff pastry and hot coffee from Goddess and the Baker to kickstart your day.
The Chicago River, which connects to Lake Michigan, is a hot spot for both locals and tourists with opportunities for biking and walking along the waterfront. Next, head down to the Riverwalk for up-close views of the city’s most iconic buildings.
Stretching from Lake Michigan to Lake Street, the Chicago Riverwalk’s 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) features public art, restorative green spaces and views of famous sights such as the Marina City towers and theMART (once the largest commercial building in the world). If you’re looking for casual waterfront dining, look no further — though make sure to call ahead as most Riverwalk venues are seasonal.
If you’re in the mood for fancier fare, settle in for a leisurely waterfront lunch at RPM Seafood, a swanky Chicago restaurant that serves specials including truffle scrambled eggs, miso black cod and cheese-baked focaccia on its multi-level terrace.
Explore the nightlife, murals and dining opportunities of Chicago’s artsy Pilsen neighborhood, shaped by generations of Mexican Americans who call it home. Stop into historic Thalia Hall, a landmark building, which houses Dusek’s Tavern for perfectly executed fare, including wood-roasted trout and a griddled double cheeseburger. End the night at Punch House, a basement cocktail bar, or Tack Room, a piano bar, which are also in the same building.
With miles of sandy lakefront, Lake Michigan’s city beaches draw in a weekend crowd, and for good reason. It’s easy to rent bikes for a ride along the lake, dip your toes in the sand or people-watch along the waterfront. Dive into an egg sandwich (with a view) at Caffe Oliva, which overlooks Ohio Street Beach.
Spend the afternoon exploring works at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago near the city’s Magnificent Mile. The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary living artists and features works realized through canvas, film and sculpture. Don’t leave without trying Marisol Restaurant & Bar. Named after a Venezuelan-American artist, the Michelin-recommended space offers farm-to-table brunch from local chef Jason Hammel.
Explore the used bookstores, consignment shops and indie boutiques in the buzzy Wicker Park neighborhood. For a casual dinner, try Big Star, a neighborhood institution offering fresh tacos on handmade tortillas, churro ice cream pops and melted queso fundido in a refurbished 1940s gas station.
After tacos, head across the street to The Violet Hour, a speakeasy where you’ll walk through the unmarked front door to be greeted by velvet curtains and an intricate cocktail menu.
The Violet Hour
Inventive cocktails at The Violet Hour include favorites such as the Bask Intentions with tequila and berries, the Little Black Dress with rum and coffee, or the Sea Shore with gin, rosewater and rosemary. Not sure what to order? The speakeasy’s knowledgeable bartenders can help steer you in the right direction. (Image credit: Chloe List)
Cap off your night by heading back to Palmer House and stopping at The Lobby Bar at Lockwood for a delectable brownie in the very place the chocolaty treat was first invented.
Your last morning in Chicago calls for elevated comfort food at Little Goat Diner, guaranteed to provide enough Sunday sustenance after a long night out. After your meal, save time to explore Randolph Street, dubbed Restaurant Row for its many glitzy eateries. The former meatpacking district is also packed with art galleries, shops and plenty of entertainment.
Little Goat Diner
With dishes created by celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, standouts such as the smoked corned beef hash, bull’s eye French toast and paratha burrito always draw a crowd. After the meal, stop in at Sugargoat, a sweet shop that’s part of the diner and offers the perfect assortment of treats for your trip back home. (Image credit: Keni Rosales/Boka Restaurant Group)
Close out the weekend on a high note – with a ride on the iconic Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. With breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan, the Ferris wheel is a must-see during any season. Little ones in tow? Checkout Navy Pier’s Chicago Children’s Museum which offers a Tinkering Lab and Treehouse Trails enchanted forest play space.
One last stop before you go: Grab a quick bite at Pat’s Pizza, a thin tavern-style pizza that’s been a city staple since 1950. The square-cut pizza is a viable contender to the deep-dish and a popular pick with locals — try Pat’s Special Pizza (sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms) for a dinner that’s sure to please.
Best of all, the pies are extra-large, so you can even stash leftovers to enjoy back home.
Alina Dizik is a lifestyle journalist, covering travel, real estate, work trends and food. She lives in Chicago.
Palmer House, A Hilton Hotel
An icon of downtown Chicago for over 150 years, the Palmer House sits at the heart of the Theater District. We’re two blocks from the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park. State Street shops are just outside our door. Sip a cocktail in our famed lobby and bite into a brownie at the hotel where it was invented. Enjoy our fitness center, spa, and renovated pool.