10 Places to Eat in Chicago’s River North

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On a recent Chicago escape we found ourselves staying in the city’s River North neighbourhood at the Hyatt Place. Along with access to some of the city’s iconic landmarks, we found some great spots to grab a bite with the family including these 10.

Pizzeria Duo
Visiting Chicago calls for deep dish pizza and for me it has to be Pizzeria Duo. There’s a reason it’s called pizza pie with that delicious buttery crust. I like a mix of Spinoccoli with spinach, broccoli and cheeses, complimented with thick sausage, peppers and mushrooms on their Numero Uno. Having a fridge in our Hyatt Palace room meant taking home leftovers. As much as I like this pizza hot, it’s pretty tasty cold. Don’t come starving as you will have to wait for a big as these thick pizzas are made fresh.

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Firecake Donuts

When I discovered this small handcrafted doughnut shop was around the corner from our hotel, we made a beeline after breakfast. Don’t let the line out the door deter you. The shop is so small that only 4 or 5 people can stand inside to peruse the display counter. The hardest part will be deciding. My son devoured his Maple Glazed Pineapple & Bacon, a delightful blend of flavours. A fan of fresh long johns I had to try their Chocolate Hazelnut version with great satisfaction. My favourite surprise had to be the goodness contained within the small Peanut Butter Cup.

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If breakfast donuts aren’t for you, stop by in the evening for a doughnut ice cream sandwich (seasonal). Sadly, they don’t start serving these until 11 or I’d gladly make this my breakfast treat.

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Garrett Popcorn

You might be wondering why popcorn would be on a Chicago food post. I mean it’s just something you pick up at carnivals or movie theatres right? So wrong. Especially if you’ve ever tried Garrett Mix, sometimes referred to by fans as Chicago Mix. This combines CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn into one blend. My family just can’t get enough. We have been known to pick-up boxes to go during stopovers at O’Hare Airport.

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Ever since my husband brought back some chocolate from a trip to Chicago’s Eataly, I’ve always had it on my list of places to shop. What I didn’t realize is that it’s more than a fine food market. On the lower level you’ll find treats to go like Nutella crepes, seasoned focaccia, or even gelato, perfect for a midday snack. If you’re looking for something more substantial head to the second floor. Here you’ll find open seating bars around open kitchens and random table clusters available first come first severed.

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When thinking classic Chicago food the Chicago Dog is probably near the top. Even when we visit Nashville’s Hot Diggity Dogs my husband gravitates to the Chicago Dog. Never had a Chicago Dog? It’s an all-beef dog topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled peppers and a dash of celery salt. Portillo’s has been a hot dog institution in Chicago since the early 60’s. Though not my favourite take on the Chicago Dog (you can see that at the bottom of this list) you have to visit for the atmosphere alone.

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This self-serve style restaurant has you ordering from one counter and picking up at another. The inside reminds me of a street front vendor with seating on the main and upper floor. No mater where you look you’ll be hit with a little bit of wackiness. Try to time your visit just outside the peak lunch and dinner hour for more table options. We arrived just in the heat of lunch which meant more crowds but we had no problem finding a table.

Lou Maritas Pizza

It’s true, my heart lies with Pizzeria Duo but this Chicago favourite was a close second. Visiting a popular spot means lines so be prepared to wait. If given the chance, put your pizza order in when you request your table. This means your pizza can make its way to your table sooner as preparation stars before you even have a table.

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Big & Little’s

Don’t let the industrial looking neighbourhood keep you from this little hole-in-the-wall spot. Eating in Chicago can get pricy but spots like Big & Little’s make it possible to stretch your travel dollar without skimping on good food. We went here for fish tacos and Po’Boys and found a dizzying array of choice, including Banh Mi, Shrimp, Softshell Crab, and Samurai fish tacos; Hawaiian Pork and Carnitas meat tacos; Shrimp Classic and Porkbelly Po’Boys. Wash it down with a MexiCoke, the only time my kids drink soda pop.

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The sandwiches are hearty, especially the battered and fried versions. You can even try a Beer Battered Burger if you so desire. You’ll find expanded seating inside as the restaurant takes over the lower area of the building next door. There is free parking beside the building though we enjoyed our walk under the elevated subway.

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Goddess and the Baker

When we stumbled upon the Wabash Avenue Jewelers Row we discovered a collection of fun looking restaurants including the Goddess and the Baker. This was the perfect stop for delicious sandwiches, coffee and sweet treats. The set-up has you ordering sandwiches from the front counter to go or to stay. Sitting at a large communal table with our number, our server brought over our mix including a Cubano, BBQ Brisket and a Naan Bread Grilled Cheese. I loved the casual urban atmosphere, sharing sandwich bites. The kids loved watching the subway pass by on the elevated track over Wabash Avenue.

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The water station was a nice touch too especially for the kids. Don’t forget to grab a treat to go.

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Bottlefork Bar and Kitchen

Like our experience at Kona Kai Resort’s Vessel restaurant in San Diego, I love that Bottlefork Bar & Kitchen doesn’t have a standard menu selection. You’re not constrained to ordering a starter then a main. We opted for dishes based on interest versus category. We tried “Bag” of Crisps & Eggs (a must have) and Wagyu Beef Jerky, Crispy Sprouts and Poutine, Ground Bacon Burger and Nashville Style Hot Wings.

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My son was excited to see Q Ginger Beer and our waiter made some great cocktail suggestions for my husband and I. I love when you find a gem of a restaurant in the way of food and service.

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Three Dots and a Dash

Sometimes even a family vacation requires a little separation. If your kids are old enough to spend a few hours hanging out in the hotel room, why not enjoy a little adult only Polynesian escape at Three Dots and a Dash tiki bar. The fact that the bar was right across the street from the Hyatt Place where we were staying was all the more reason.

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I’ll admit I loved the alley access. It felt like you had to be “in the know” to find the place. The sub-terrain decent past the skull wall just added to the mystic, something that you don’t often get to enjoy as a parent. We would pop over for a cocktail and some Polynesian style snacks before heading out to dinner with the kids.

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Nowhere near Chicago’s River North but worth the drive. We planned our road trip to arrive in Chicago at lunchtime and drove right to this retro drive-in. Funny enough we discovered this place on Instagram, a perfect tool for planning and sharing travel inspiration. Remember those drive-ins of your youth? You pull into a spot, peruse the menu and flip the switch when you’re ready to order.

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Sure they have sandwiches and burgers but you have to order the Superdawg served Chicago style with fries. Before I even opened our order on the tray, I was in love with the packaging of our dog and fries nestled in a little box. Surprisingly the little box was quite filling, so much so that we couldn’t even squeeze in one of their Supersundaes. We visited during the day but I would love to return for dinner under the retro neon lights.

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Chicago’s River North neighbourhood offered a perfect spot to stay and many options for dining. Dining out with the kids doesn’t have to mean a sacrifice on good food. What are some of your favourite food picks in Chicago?

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