There’s a lot to love about Uptown - including the Aragon Ballroom and one of Chicago’s most conveniently located Targets. And while 2020 has us experiencing those places a lot differently, thankfully this neighborhood also has some great food - and it's all available for carryout and outdoor dining. From pho to chilaquiles to pad see ew, here are our favorites.
Randomly point at any dish on In-On Thai’s menu and you’ll hit something that’s worth ordering. That’s because everything we’ve eaten here is great. That said, there are a few stand-out dishes you shouldn’t miss. In particular, we like the crispy fish jungle salad, the wonderfully spicy red curry, and the fantastic pad see ew - which has perfectly chewy noodles with just the right amount of char and a not-too-sweet sauce.
Iyanze Bar And Cafe
You can mix and match a wide variety of Nigerian stews, starches, meats, fish, and mollusks at Iyanze - a staple of Uptown’s West African food scene. The food is prepared from scratch daily and served cafeteria-style. Get whatever looks good to you that day, and a couple of extra scoops in case you can’t make a decision.
Tank Noodle is one of our favorite spots for Vietnamese food in Uptown. There’s an extensive menu that will make you want to order a lot, and it’s all good. Get everything from pho bowls, congee, and rice dishes to banh mi.
It’s almost turkey season, but this year, maybe consider duck. Specifically, the expertly prepared Beijing roast duck dinner from Sun Wah. The feast includes a whole duck with perfectly crispy skin, sliced and served with steamed bao buns, pickled daikon, and hoisin sauce. The rest of the bird is used to make duck fried rice or duck noodles. Finally, the bones are rendered into a duck broth soup with winter melon, cilantro, and eggs as the finishing course. In other words, it will put your dry Thanksgiving turkey to shame.
Lucy’s is new to the corner of Wilson and Broadway, but you can’t miss it. This diner is painted with colorful rainbows, peace signs, and a redheaded logo that might remind you of Wendy. They keep it simple, with a short menu focusing on perfectly seasoned fried chicken sandwiches, burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We can confirm, their dedication to the art of diner food has definitely paid off.
The menu at Silver Seafood includes crab, fish, shrimp, mussels, frog, lobsters, and basically every other water-adjacent creature you can think of. And the long, reasonably-priced carryout menu (dishes range from $10-$15) provides a good opportunity to order a little bit of everything for to-go. Which we’ll have to settle for until we can return to their ballroom for a big group dinner.
Want something delicious for breakfast, that also makes you feel like a responsible citizen of the earth? Try Tweet. Almost everything here (from benedicts to pancakes to breakfast burritos) is deep inhale hormone-free, antibiotic-free and organic. And damn good, too.
Something about Golden House feels super familiar. The first time we visited we couldn’t quite put our finger on it, so we just pondered over our breakfast until the lightbulb went off. This place is actually Patsy’s Pies from Shameless. So come here for the pancakes, but stay for the Gallagher flashbacks. Plus the friendly staff is awesome, and will instantly make you feel like a regular.
All the good stuff, much of said good stuff, in vegetarian or vegan form. In fact, when Pick Me Up Cafe opened in Lakeview in 1997, it was one of the few restaurants in the city to cater to vegans and vegetarians. They’ve since moved neighborhoods, but they still know a thing or two about being cheeseless and meatless. We’re talking things like mac and cheese, nachos, shakes, soups, sandwiches, wraps, French toast, scrambles, and all of it delicious.
Demera has some of the best messobs and injera in the city, and luckily, this Ethiopian spot also serves them to-go. This means you can order the messob dinner for four, and make it a dinner for one. Take it home, lay it out, and enjoy your giant meal all by yourself.
This Mexican restaurant specializes in Oaxacan cuisine, a.k.a. the region of Mexico that brought us some of our favorite moles (like the rojo and negro) and antojitos. Everything on the menu is delicious, but while you’re here be sure to order one of their specialties: tlayudas, ceviches, birria, and chilacayota - a squash aguas frescas perfect for fall.
Pho is great at any time of day, but it’s especially wonderful on cold days when you want something warm to jump-start your body besides a triple latte. Luckily, Le’s Pho starts serving at 7:30am. Besides being open early enough for breakfast, we like Le’s because though they give you plenty of fresh Thai basil, onion, bean sprouts, lime, and jalapeno to customize your soup, it’s so flavorful that you even skip the extras and enjoy it on its own.
Ba Le Sandwiches is perfect for a quick bahn mi pick me up. There are 16 different sandwiches on the menu of this counter-service spot, including vegan and vegetarian options. You can eat your way through the entire menu (we have) and count on your bahn mi being fantastic - served on crusty french bread, and paired with crisp pickled daikon, carrot, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. Plus, they have deli cases full of buns, sausages, meats, and pastries so you can grab pre-packaged food to take home.
This is a good stop when you want to grab a quick bowl of noodle soup on your way home. It’s small and cute, and has excellent pho with a slightly sweet broth and fresh noodles.
Hing Wang Restaurant
While we haven’t been to every single Chinese restaurant in the city, we feel pretty strongly that Hing Wang’s “best fried rice in town” sign isn’t just an advertisement. The fantastic spicy beef fried rice is the stuff of neighborhood legend. Just ask any Uptowner or student from Truman College. Hing Wang has been the people’s choice since the ’90s.
Kung Fu Tea
You’ll find over 60 different varieties of hot & cold teas, punches, slushes, and espressos at this boba tea spot. Kung Fu Teas (very) thorough menu means you can basically try a different boba every day for two months, so you’d be hard-pressed not to find at least one drink you love. Fun fact: the to-go cups have vacuum-sealed lids.
This is a casual restaurant serving fantastic Thai street food - you’ll find a long menu of curries, noodle dishes, grilled meats, and six different papaya salads. They clearly understand that when everything is good it’s hard choose what to order, so there’s even a section called “Thai Dinner Table” where you can order tasting portions of different dishes, along with rice (or noodles for curries). It’s easy to keep adding on to the order, which is definitely what you’ll end up doing.
Nha Hang Viet Nam
Nha Hang is a very small Vietnamese restaurant, and we have no idea how they manage to keep up with their incredibly long menu - but they do. There are over 200 dishes to try, and it would probably take you a year to get through all of them. We recommend starting with the squid salad, clay-pot pork and shrimp, and the bun mam (a seafood soup).
Kal’ish is an all-day vegan comfort food spot serving things like burgers, pulled pork sandwiches made with jackfruit, and (seitan) chicken and waffles. Overall it’s a reminder that vegan food isn’t necessarily healthy, which is just fine by us.
The other location of this old-school Chinese bakery is in Chinatown, and we’re really glad there’s one on the North Side. This place is fantastic, and you can’t go wrong with anything from their pastry case. They have incredible pork buns, sponge cakes, sesame balls, egg custards, and much more. Everything is made fresh daily, and there are plenty of tables inside, too. Just plan ahead - it’s cash-only.
There are other things on the menu at Tiztal, but you’re really there for their fantastic chilaquiles, made with fresh chips, chihuahua cheese, and a delicious green salsa. They come with eggs and your choice of meat, and you should choose chorizo.
OK - we wouldn’t normally include a fast-food chain on a neighborhood guide. But these aren’t “normal” times, and this is the only place around for miles that will make you a Reeses, Oreo, and caramel milkshake with extra whipped cream and a cherry on top, plus a side of tots, at midnight, in a convenient, socially distanced drive-in. The perfect spot to sit to and eat your stress-cream.