Chicago Travel Diaries | Part 2: Food

Downtown Chicago

Intelligentsia Coffee

This is one of Chicago’s most popular coffee chains. All of the baristas working were dressed up in vests and ties, and the coffee shop was neatly decorated. Something that I noticed while in Chicago is that there is art everywhere – cafes, restaurants, graffiti, subways – and it really gives the city personality. The coffee was very good as well – nice fresh coffee taste without being too bitter.

breakfastsandwichPittsfield Cafe

I wasn’t expecting Pittsfield to be as much of a diner as it was; it’s pretty much your typical neighborhood diner, tucked away inside a tall building in downtown Chicago. That being said, for a diner the food was pretty decent. I had a breakfast sandwich and it reminded me of a less greasy McMuffin. Good place to get breakfast!

Vivi Bubble Tea

Talk about a girly boba shop. Vivi is decorated with cute figures on the walls and pink probably everywhere. The drinks were pretty good, nothing too amazing but definitely hit the spot when you’ve been walking around town all day.

U.B. Dogs

When I think “Chicago,” I always imagine deep dish pizza, but I never knew that Chicago dogs were so popular, or so delicious. I think UB dogs was my favorite meal from the trip. A lot of places downtown close early I have noticed – around 3 or 4 pm. Thankfully, we made it here just in time, and after not eating all day this really hit the spot. There is a good bun-to-meat ratio, and though it is pretty packed with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and a pickle, it isn’t overkill. We ended up craving hot dogs for the rest of the trip because of this meal!


HERO Coffee Bar

When I read that they offered lavender lattes, I had to visit here. Quite frankly, though, I was a bit disappointed with the drink. It had more of a cinnamon taste to it, no resemblance to lavender. They do offer ‘Cinnamon Toast Crunch’ lattes, so I think if you like Starbucks and are looking for a less ‘basic’ place to get a sweet coffee drink, this might be the place to go., Not sure if I personally would visit again, though.

teaaArgo Tea

To be honest, I am still in shock that there are no Argo Tea’s in Texas. I absolutely love the very natural flavor of their teas, and the fact that they included fresh fruit in my drink. I visited another Argo on my way out of Chicago and ordered a mojitea, which was a green tea / mint / limeade drink and it was outstanding. I recommend it to anyone who has Argo in their city.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs

After being wow’ed by the hot dogs at UB dogs, I was already craving another hot dog. A Yelp search led me to Portillo’s, but I was not expecting its popularity. It’s a large fast-food style place that specializes in Italian beef sandwiches and Italian pork sausages. So of course, we ordered one of each, and they were delicious, but so greasy that I didn’t want to pick up my camera to take a shot of them. I think if I came to Chicago again, I might visit here if I’m craving fast food but want something with more personality than your regular old burger shop.

Lou Malnati’s Pizza

Of course while you are in Chicago, you have to try deep dish pizza. I went to Lou Malnati’s the first night I was in the city, and ordered the most standard deep dish. It was absolutely delicious. I am not a pizza person, but this was great. Lots of flavor, not too much bread in the crust! The environment here was very homey and comfortable as well. Could be a potential date spot or even somewhere to take a family.

Lou_Malnatis_1 LouMalnatis_3

Brightwok Kitchen

Chipotle-style stir fry? Why doesn’t this exist in Austin? This place was a very pleasant surprise for me – I loved the bright café-feel, the quick service, and how fresh / healthy the meal tasted, especially compared to some of the other food I consumed on this trip.

Made out of chopsticks

Made out of chopsticks


Another Chipotle-style restaurant, this time Indian food. I love how customizable these bowls are. We came near the end of the day, so the ingredients weren’t as fresh, but that is quite understandable. We only stumbled across this due to the fact that nothing else was open downtown, but it was good place for a quick meal! I imagine it’s a great place for the working-professional to grab a bite at lunchtime.


Our Airbnb was located near Pilsen, so we did visit a couple of places nearby.TeaPlace

Raymond’s Tacos

One of the Airbnb host’s recommendations in the neighborhood was Raymond’s Tacos, a cash-only taco & burger joint down the street. A burger here costs $2.50, and a side of fries that easily feeds two people is just $1.50. Definitely a bang for your buck – they are outrageously friendly there and the food tastes fresh and delicious.

Efebina’s Café

Located in the Pilsen district of Chicago, Efebina’s was a pit-stop for us while we waited to check in to our airbnb. There is quite a lot of seating here, but no A/C, and not a very wide menu, so it wasn’t my favorite stop we made during the trip.



Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

There are Stan’s throughout the city, and surprisingly they all have low ratings on Yelp…but honestly, the donut we ordered tasted no less great than any other donut place, so I have no complaints. The interior is pretty cute & decorative as well.

Chilam Balam

This place is the definition of “hole in the wall,” and it was such a great find. They serve small Mexican-inspired dishes that you share family-style. Their menu changes every couple of months, but every dish we tried was amazing. The food is high quality and the price matches this, but it is so worth it! Their tortillas are handmade and served fresh, and they bring your dishes out one by one to ensure that you are not waiting too long for your food. You can also bring your own wine and ask them to make Sangria!



Overall Recommendations

If you visit Chicago, I recommend Intelligentsia for coffee, U.B. Dogs for a lunch downtown, and Lou Malnati’s for dinner! And if you’re feeling adventurous, venture out to Chilam Balam! I really enjoyed all the food in Chicago and hope to return some day to eat more 🙂




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