Scroll down for OUR OPINIONATED recommendations Within the Hotel; within WAlking distance, AND further afield in CHiCAGO. THEN CLICK THE LINKS FOR EVEN MORE INFORMATION!
Dining within the Hilton Hotel
720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60605, USA TEL: +1-312-922-4400
There are several restaurants within the hotel itself:
720 South Bar & Grill is classic American casual dining open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. The food is good, especially for breakfast, but as with any hotel restaurant, prices are a bit higher than out on the street.
Herb N’ Kitchen is for a quick bite on the go or a cup of Starbucks coffee, open from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and very convenient.
Kitty O’Shea’s is an American take on an Irish pub, complete with fish & chips and shepherd's pie, open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mind you, this is Chicago Irish; the place may not pass muster for authenticity with one of our Irish modeling friends like John Schley. But it’s a fine place to hoist a pint nonetheless!
The hotel also offers room service from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Dining a quick walk from the Hilton Hotel
Jim DeRogatis says: I teach at Columbia College Chicago, and its campus surrounds the downtown Hilton. I have eaten at many of these places and have marked the ones I like best and can can vouch for personally with a heart [♥]. A very good resource for more information on all of them can be found at TripAdvisor.com (this link leads to the search for restaurants near the Hilton). Links on the titles of the restaurant most often lead to the restaurant’s Web site, though in some cases they click through to TripAdvisor. Links on the restaurant's actual address lead to walking directions from the Hilton.
Chicago’s Culinary Claims to Fame: Deep-dish Pizza, Chicago-Style Hot Dogs, and Italian Beef Sandwiches
Mind you, this is according to the tourist books; many actual Chicagoans eat these alleged delicacies rarely, if ever. But you’ve heard of them and you want to know, so…
805 S. State St., .2 miles from the Hilton; (312) 786-1000
Okay, a few words about pizza in Chicago: Our Town boasts that it provides the best pizza in America, but this can be debated. Our friends from Italy, especially Naples, may not even recognize pizza as it’s done here, and Americans from the East Coast feel pretty much the same! Yes, you can get thin-crust (or “bar-style”) pizza in Chicago, cut into tiny squares instead of triangles or “pie cut,” and it’s a good base for soaking up lots of beer. But when most people say “Chicago pizza,” they mean what’s called “thick-crust” or “stuffed” pizza—a heavy, massive, two-inch-thick pizza overflowing with cheese, tomato sauce, and myriad other ingredients (though purists go with just sausage). One piece can be a meal; two may leave you comatose, especially in the summer. Few places do that kind of pizza better than Lou Malnati’s, which offers the option of “butter crust,” making all that breading more tasty. If you’ve detected some skepticism in the preceding sentences, you’re right: Real Chicagoans have mixed feelings about “Chicago pizza” and often prefer going to an authentic woodfire Neapolitan joint (of which there are many). But Chicago pizza is one of those things you may feel you’ve got to try while you’re here, like the Chicago hot dog, and you won’t find a better example than Lou’s.
Other pizza options a quick walk from the Hilton include:
CHICAGO HOT DOGS
Now, about that Chicago hot dog: In contrast to New York, where hot dogs most often are purchased from street vendors via “dirty water” street carts, arriving on a basic and floppy bun with mustard and maybe a little relish or sauerkraut, the Chicago-style dog is a think beef frank on a substantial poppy-seed bun laden with a ton of ingredients, most often including tomato, pickle, onions, hot pepper, mustard, and celery salt (the “secret ingredient”), though there are many variations (except for ketchup; ask for that and you will be mocked—it’s part of some local tradition we’ve never understood). Again, it’s not for everybody, but most tourists feel compelled to try a Chicago hot dog at least once, and this fast-food counter-service storefront (one of two Devil Dawgs locations in town) serves ’em up with pride.
Another nearby option for a Chicago Dog:
A bigger chain and a slightly lesser dog than Devil Dawgs.
And this place has hot dogs and Italian beef (more on the latter in a minute):
The last uniquely Chicago quick delicacy that many visitors here feel compelled to try is the Italian beef sandwich—thinly sliced roast beef piled on a hoagie roll with peppers or giardiniera and drenched in au jus (watery gravy). It is, as you might imagine, one of the sloppiest sandwiches you ever will eat, but it is beloved by some in this city, and those folks often swear that Al’s is the best.
OTHER FOOD NEARBY
The club owned by the legendary blues guitarist serves lunch and dinner (Cajun, Creole, and typical pub fare). The kitchen is open until midnight every day, but the music is the real draw here. Check the Web site for the calendar of entertainment and consider purchasing tickets in advance. (Buddy doesn’t play here himself very often, but the blues musicians who are booked are top-rate.)
COFFEE & BREAKFAST PASTRY
Ubiquitous American coffee chain; fine when you’re on the run and in need of caffeine and a cookie or muffin. All of the locations above are within a few minutes' walk of the Hilton. Other locations are far too numerous to mention!
Other coffee-chain options nearby:
Very similar to Starbucks, with slightly tastier coffee drinks but slower service.
America’s no-frills (and much less expensive) coffee-chain alternative to Starbucks. And the donuts are good, too, especially in the morning, when they are freshest.
Sit-Down Breakfast Options
A small chain with two convenient locations nearby offering a slightly fancied-up take on the classic American breakfast fare: eggs, omelets, pancakes, etc. But that’s breakfast until 3 p.m. if you’ve stayed out late the night before!
Slightly upscale but relatively inexpensive American sandwich chain (but also good for breakfast pastries). And good soup and fresh-baked cookies, too.
A Southern specialty, but very popular in Chicago, too, given the large African-American population.
Harold’s Chicken Shack ♥
A small chain with several locations in Chicago, Harold’s is American fast-food of the good sort (not McDonald’s): Southern-style fried chicken and catfish come to the big city as part of the Great Migration. Nothing fancy—think harsh fluorescent lights and Formica table top—but a lot of pretty good food for a very low price, and as authentically American and Chicago as you’ll find!
Other options for fried chicken nearby:
Inexpensive, tasty, and very convenient American take on pan-Asian cuisine: Japanese sushi, Chinese food, and Thai. A great stop for a quick lunch.
Other nearby options for Asian food:
A more fine-dining (more elaborate and more expensive) option for sushi, but well worth the price.
Another convenient and inexpensive option for the American take on Thai cuisine.
The American take on Chinese food. It’s okay, but…
The very best option for American Chinese Food is Chinatown
If you really have a hankering for Chinese, the Hilton is not far from Chicago’s Chinatown, centered on Cermak and Wentworth Avenues, one of the oldest Chinese enclaves in the United States. Home to a dozen great Chinese restaurants, it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal there. Chinatown is a two-mile cab ride (maybe $5) from the Hilton, or a short walk to and from the El at Harrison St. and the very next stop at Cermak-Chinatown. Click here for the Google Maps directions.
In addition to Panera Bread listed above, these are other tasty and nearby sandwich shops, listed in order of our preference.
A longer walk, but this is the most convenient of several locations of a Chicago chain offering slightly more upscale sandwiches and excellent fresh baked goods. Good soup, too.
THE ALL-AMERICAN BURGER
Relatively new American burger chain, and much, much better than McDonald’s, Burger King, or the other ubiquitous American burger joints. Good shakes, too.
Other nearby burger options:
Not a better burger than Epic, but this is a pub setting, so they serve beer!
That’s “DQ” as in “Dairy Queen” before a corporate rebranding to emphasize that they sell burgers and hot dogs as well as soft-serve ice cream, but the latter still is better than anything from the grill. If you’re here, go to Cafecito, the Cuban cafe next door, unless you just want a cold drink, in which case I recommend the Orange Julius, a uniquely American frozen orange-juice milkshake.
Another American chain that would like to be Epic Burger (but isn’t).
Chicago’s best take on New York-style Jewish deli: corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, classic Brooklyn egg creams, potato pancakes and coleslaw, etc. Great deserts and breakfast, too. Not cheap, but worth every penny.
Another diner/deli option:
Although the food—sandwiches and diner fare—isn’t nearly as good as at Eleven City, the ambience here is renowned: Think lots of young and funky art students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which is across the street.
CUBAN, MEXICAN & SOUTH AMERICAN CUISINE
Fantastic Cuban pressed sandwiches and other authentic Cuban dishes, plus the Cuban coffee is a million times better than any drink at the local coffee chains.
Inexpensive and consistently reliable American take on Mexican street food.
Another Mexican option nearby:
American take on Indian & Nepalese cuisine. Nothing spectacular, but solid and convenient. If you want really great Indian cuisine, Chicago has a “Little India,” the neighborhood along Devon Avenue centered for a few blocks east and west off Western Avenue, but that’s an ambitious cab ride ($15 or more) to and from the Northwest Side, and Chicago Curry House is a five-minute walk.
When it’s more about drinking than eating
Great for a burger and a pint, and the colorful regulars (mainly folks from the Art Institute, Second City, and Columbia College) love the pizza, too!
Another landmark Chicago bar and a favorite haunt of Second City writers and comedians, though I’ve never figured out why, because Second City is nowhere near the South Loop (it’s at 1616 N. Wells in Old Town, 4.5 miles to the north). You know it’s a testament to a good bar when hard-drinking comedians travel to belly up there!
More of a “cocktail lounge” than a tavern or bar (you wouldn’t order a mixed drink at Kasey’s, more like a shot and a beer). But if you’re with your wife or date, a fine choice.
A moderately expensive but absolutely wonderful taste of Barcelona right on Michigan Avenue. Highly recommended; reservations strongly suggested.
Moderately expensive American take on Northern Italian (Milanese) cuisine. I have not tried it but have heard good things. Of course, we would be interested in Fabio Nunnari’s opinion!
New American cuisine, moderately expensive but worth splurging.
The American version of hearty German cuisine; more notable for the beers on tap than the sauerbraten and such, but a Chicago institution.
Upscale breakfast and brunch.
Dining FURTHER AFIELD (TAKING A CAB OR THE "EL")
As you no doubt have already gathered, Chicago is a city that loves to eat! In addition to countless small "mom and pop" restaurants for grabbing a bite on the run when out and about, over the last decade, Our Town has become a culinary capital to (dare we say) rival the best in France, Italy, and Spain, with a long list of Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs and destination fine-dining restaurants. These are far too numerous to list here, but the following links will provide most helpful if you're looking to explore Chicago's food scene further away from the Hilton.
Phil Vettel is the long-time restaurant critic of The Chicago Tribune and a very reliable guide to the best food Chicago has to offer. This is his "best-of" list circa April 2016.
From the Chicago Eater blog, a slightly funkier and hipper guide.
According to TripAdvisor.com.
According to the Thrillist blog.