Chicago Travel Guide: Food to Eat + Things to Do

Chicago is a city after my own heart. Right on the lake, delicious food, trendy spots, great shopping, and a bustling community-- what else could you want? After some amazing summer visits over the past few years, I finally feel like I have a good handle on which places are my favorites in the city, as well as what is the most fun to do. Hopefully this guide will be helpful to you no matter what your plans are for Chicago: day trip, work trip, or girls' trip!

While in Chicago, you have to take advantage of the food scene. These are my favorite places, organized by meal.

Coffee, Pastries, and Breakfast
The best way to start your day!

1. La Colombe
Location: All over Chicago!
My order: Iced Oat Milk Latte or their Cornerstone Brew
Thoughts: This place was great to grab a quick coffee on my way to work. It was bustling, energetic, and they had a ton of milks to choose from!

2. Sawada Coffee
Location: Fulton Market District
My order: Matcha Latte
Thoughts: From the second I saw the exterior covered in street art, I already loved Sawada's urban and eclectic vibe. The inside is huge and definitely lends itself to a more social coffee shop, rather than a place you would go to do work. This would be a super fun place to hang out with friends and their baristas were super friendly and genuine. The matcha I had was on the sweeter side (while I like them more bitter) so I'm excited to try one of their coffees next time I'm in Chicago.

3. Firecakes Donuts
Location: River North and Lincoln Park
My order: We got a ton of donuts but I loved the vanilla pearl one!
Thoughts: This is THE SPOT for gourmet, delicious donuts. Plus, you can sit at the outdoor tables if it's a nice day!

4. Blue Door Farmstand
Location: Lincoln Park
My order: Eggs Benedict with ham and arugula on a honey pepper biscuit (heart eyes!)
Thoughts: My aunt and I ducked into Blue Door on a rainy morning and it could not have been cozier! Everything on the menu sounded amazing, plus they have lots of juices and coffee drinks.

5. Goddess and The Baker
Location: The Loop, Navy Pier, Wacker & La Salle
My order: Nitro cold brew or kombucha (on tap!)
Thoughts: I grabbed a coffee here after SoulCycle next door and it was such a bright + colorful space! The cold brew I had was super strong, and I have also had their kombucha which was tart and refreshing.

Lunch or Dinner
The vibrant array of Chicago restaurants won't disappoint you for lunch and dinner!

1. Duck Duck Goat
Location: Fulton Market District
My order: My mom and I split the Chilly Chili Noodles, Char Siu Bao (steamed bbq pork buns), and Chiu Chow Fun Gor (shrimp and peanut dumplings)
Thoughts: This had to be my favorite meal of my most recent trip, from the expertly decorated interior and lively atmosphere to the best Chinese food I've ever had. Each of the dishes we had I would 100% order again-- especially the dumplings! I want to go back for Dim Sum ASAP.

2. Cruz Blanca
Location: Fulton Market District
My order: Avocado Tostada (mine) or La Clasica Tostada (mom's)
Thoughts: This laid-back brewery and taqueria was the perfect refreshing and relaxing meal after our flight. They had a great patio area and Mexican food that was different from your typical restaurant (and you can get a tostada that's bigger than your face).

3. Restoration Hardware
Location: Gold Coast
My order: Truffle grilled cheese + garlic fries
Thoughts: Yes, you read that right, Restoration Hardware in Chicago serves food! Eating in the atrium of RH made me feel like I was dining out on a terrace in Paris-- it's a must-see during daylight. If I could do this meal again, I'd go in the morning or afternoon and just get coffee and juices. While the food was good, it was a little overpriced. However, eating here is definitely not about the food! After you eat, take a walk through the many floors of the RH showrooms, ending with the rooftop patio.

4. The Hampton Social
Location: River North
My order: Lobster mac + cheese
Thoughts: This restaurant definitely brought a bit of the Hamptons' beachy-chic vibe to Chicago. Get the lobster mac + cheese!

5. Stella Barra
Location: Lincoln Park
My order: Avocado + Arugula Pesto Pizza
Thoughts: I came here with my aunt and uncle who eat a plant based diet. While my pizza was not vegan (it had goat cheese), their "red pizza" with tomato jam looked delicious. If you are vegan or someone you're traveling with is-- check this place out, they are very accommodating! And if you are not vegan, you'll love it just as much: I could've eaten my entire pizza by myself. I forgot to take my leftovers home and it's one of my biggest life regrets.

photo via foxtrot
6. Foxtrot
Location: Lincoln Park, West Loop, River North, Wicker Park
My order: Meditteranean salad
Thoughts: Foxtrot is essentially a swanky convenience and gift store. If you want good snacks for your hotel room or a pre-packaged but fresh lunch for work-- check it out. They also have kombucha on tap and a Jeni's Ice Cream connected to the Lincoln Park location!

7. Somerset
Location: Gold Coast-ish
My order: Roasted Turkey & Avocado Sandwich
Thoughts: Walking into Somerset feels like you're entering a nice cruise ship/country club. The food, service, and atmosphere were all awesome-- get a reservation, though!

8. Beatrix
Location: Fulton Market District, Streeterville & River North
My order: Straight A or Caesar Salad, Kennebec Fries, Arize Kombucha
Thoughts: Beatrix serves fresh and healthy fare in a minimalistic yet chic restaurant/market space. My salads were delicious, but I also love stopping into Beatrix for a kombucha, coffee, or cookie. AND their fries have thinly sliced fried lemon on top (so unexpectedly good!)

Indulge your sweet tooth at one of these cute shops

1. Sweet Mandy B's
Location: Near DePaul
My order: Confetti Cookie with Icing
Thoughts: Don't tell anyone...but my aunt and I got cookies from Sweet Mandy B's to sneak into the movie theater, and it was the best decision ever. Their frosting was so melt-in-your-mouth good and they definitely are not stingy with it.

2. Jeni's Ice Cream
Location: All over
My order: Salted PB with Chocolate Flecks and Wildberry Lavender Ice Cream
Thoughts: As an Ohio girl and a Jeni Britton Bauer admirer, Jeni's ice cream will always be one of my favorites! If you don't have one at home it will definitely be worth a visit.

3. Sprinkles Cupcakes
Location: Right off the Magnificent Mile
My order: Strawberry Cupcake
Thoughts: You've probably seen Sprinkles' legendary "Cupcake ATM" on Instagram before...go pay it a visit (or order in store). Their cupcakes really are worth the hype.

There's always something fun to do while in Chicago!

1. Soulcycle
I took my first Soulcycle class while in Chicago and loved it! The intense and motivating atmosphere made for a really fun (and challenging) workout.

2. Shopping
...Duh! Walk the Magnificent Mile and stop into huge, glittering storefronts like Zara and Nordstrom.

3. The Skydeck
This is something everyone should do once. You can't beat the view! I went at sunset which was absolutely gorgeous. The wait can get long though, so try going right when it opens or after 5 PM.

4. Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd is an awesome place to spend your afternoon. Seeing such cool aquatic life made me feel like I was in Finding Nemo!

That's all for now! I hope these tips were helpful in planning your next trip to The Windy City.

Stay Sunny,

PS: Do you have any Chicago recommendations? I'm always looking for new things to try!


  1. Chicago is one of my favorite cities EVER! I loved this so much! Now I need to go back so I can try these places. My favorites are Giordano's, Cafe Babareeba, Luke's Lobster, and of course Jeni's. It's such an amazing city!

    xo, brooke

    1. Thank you so much, Brooke! Giordano's is DELISH <3


  2. Goddess & the Baker is the best!! And I have been wanting to try SoulCycle for the longest time, my sister raves about it!
    xo, Sydney

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