Get your treasure maps ready! These 14 restaurants are hidden in plain sight in downtown Chicago.
They're hidden restaurants -- or, literally hidden gems. And they're all awesome.
You'll find them nestled in side alleys, down twisted staircases, or right smack in the middle of office buildings -- if you can find them at all. 😉
They're listed by neighborhood below. Enjoy!
On your way in to GreenRiver, you'll almost certainly think you're in the wrong place.
Enter through the lobby of Northwestern Hospital and make your way to the elevator bank. Your only indication that you're in the right spot will be the "GR" emblem next to the elevator button for the 18th floor.
When you reach 18, you'll find not one, but TWO hidden spots: the restaurant itself, and a bar extension called the Annex that is only open on Thursday-Saturday nights. Both are awesome -- with delicious food, yummy cocktails, and equally incredible views of the city.
WHAT TO GET: Whitefish Tartine with egg, radishes, & celery; fancy cocktails.
2. Beacon Tavern
If you know the exact address and map it on your phone, you’ll STILL have trouble finding this place. I got super lost on my first visit here and ended up having to call them (the horror!) from a block away to find my way.
Beacon Tavern‘s address is 405 N Wabash, but it’s not on Wabash at all — it’s actually located on the walking path behind the Wrigley Building (between Michigan and Wabash, as if you were walking from the Wrigley Building to Trump Tower).
WHAT TO GET: cheddar bay biscuits, shrimp toast, fish & chips, cocktails.
3. Billy Goat Tavern
A list of hidden spots has pretty much got to include the original Billy Goat Tavern — established in 1934 and located underneath Michigan Avenue. You walk down a flight of stairs from the elevated Michigan Avenue to get there. How much more hidden-in-plain-sight can you get?
Go for the burgers; try to avoid the tourists (even if you are one). 😛
WHAT TO GET: double cheezborger & beer
4. Naoki Sushi
Naoki is one of my top spots for sushi in Chicago, and one of the most hidden spots on this list. You can only get here by going THROUGH the kitchen of another restaurant, Intro. Check in with Intro’s hostess, who will then lead you through a live kitchen to this one-room sushi spot.
Fair warning: it’s a bit more expensive than most places on this list — especially if you order a bottle of sake, which you should — but the sushi is really incredible.
WHAT TO GET: any/all of the Naoki-style sushi plates (named after the chef – my personal favorite is the salmon); truffle chawanmushi; toro hand rolls; sake.
5. Chilam Balam
This cash-only, BYO, tapas-style Mexican spot is located down a half-flight of stairs on Broadway in Lakeview. A big portion of their menu rotates monthly, so it’s a bit different each time you eat at Chilam Balam.
Bring friends so you can try more dishes, but not TOO many friends — it’s small, and they don’t take reservations.
WHAT TO GET: chunky guac, mahi mahi ceviche, corn masa memelas, seafood specials. BYO wine (for their sangria mix) or tequila (for their margarita mix). Bring cash!
6. Heaven on Seven
A list of hidden restaurants MUST include Heaven on Seven. It’s tucked away on the 7th floor of an office building in the Loop, where it’s been for the last 37 years. It has no street presence at all, and you even have to check in with the building’s doorman at dinnertime (Th-Sun). It’s another cash-only spot.
They have a cajun menu that will transport you right to NOLA. There are 2500+ different bottles of hot sauce on the walls! Say hi to Chef Jimmy Bannos for me if you go — he’s one of my favorite people EVER.
WHAT TO GET: andouille sausage on sweet potato polenta; Nashville hot cheese curds; surf & turf po-boy; their GINORMOUS fried steak sandwich with giardiniera. Don’t forget to bring cash!
7. Oasis Cafe
Oasis Cafe is hidden in the back half of a jewelry store on Jewelers’ Row. You can’t see it from the front, but there is usually an A-board on the street.
It’s a great 1-stop shop if you’re looking to get some falafel and a diamond ring from the same spot on your lunch break (and if that’s how you roll, I will most certainly join you for lunch). 😉
WHAT TO GET: anything with falafel – it’s the BEST. I love their combo plates.
8. Whimsical Candy
This candy shop is hidden in the basement off of Franklin Ave, but you can smell the chocolate the second you walk in the building’s main entrance.
Enter on first floor and quite literally follow your nose as you wind your way downstairs to the small shop — where they make many of their delectable treats in-house. Whimsical Candy is a great mid-afternoon escape from the office for those of you who work in the Loop.
WHAT TO GET: their house-made La-Dee-Dahs (the caramel swirl things in the pic); seasonal barks.
9. High Five Ramen
On a list of hidden restaurants, this is about as hidden as you get. I’m obsessed with this dark, underground restaurant because it feels SO much like the tiny ramen shops in Japan — AND they have sake juice boxes. Win-win.
High Five Ramen is located within and below Green Street Smoked Meats, and I’ve always waited 1-2 hours to eat here — which is not really a big deal since you can go have a drink upstairs at Green Street and wait for them to text you.
Fair warning: DON’T order the spiciest ramen option. There are signs all over the menu telling you NOT to get it, and you should listen. 😅
WHAT TO GET: signature ramen bowl with half-spice; if you like mushrooms A LOT, like I do, get the Maitake Ramen; sake juice boxes.
10. Chicken Shop
It’s a great spot for lunch or dinner.
WHAT TO GET: fried chicken sandwich, avocado salad, and a boozy milkshake.
11. a tavola
a tavola is hidden in Wicker Park and nestled on one floor of a residential two-flat. You could literally walk right by it — and may have even done so in the past.
It’s a tiny, cozy Italian spot with a great vibe — and they’ve got a great patio for summertime, too.
WHAT TO GET: gnocchi with brown sage butter and parmesan; wine.
12. Taqueria in Carcinerias Guanajuato
A list of hidden restaurants has GOT to include a taqueria in the back of a Mexican grocery store. This no-frills spot has some of the most delicious, authentic Mexican food in Chicago.
If you go at lunch or on Saturday or Sunday, there can be a bit of a line. Note that this is another spot that prefers cash. YUM. 🌮🌮🌮
WHAT TO GET: carne asada tacos or tortas.
13. Ada Street
The super delicious Ada Street is located in a bit of no-man’s land — visible from the outside only by its minimally marked black door amidst a street of warehouses. You will certainly think you’re on the wrong street when you’re on your way there.
The food and wine are great, and they have a nice back patio as well.
WHAT TO GET: ceviche; Italian burrata; cocktails; wine.
14. Stock Cafe
Stock Cafe is the perfect spot to end this list of local gems. It’s a farm-to-table, locally sourced cafe located behind the butcher counter within Local Foods.
Aligned with the mission of Local Foods, everything they serve is from local and midwest vendors.
WHAT TO GET: charcuterie; daily sandwich specials.
I hope you enjoyed this list. If you did, please help me out by sharing and pinning it using the buttons below.
And please do let me know in the comments if you can think of any spots I missed. I'd love to check them out and include them in a future article!