Thanks to a wave of upscale epicurean markets opening up around the country, no longer do the words “food hall” conjure images of dreary mall cafeterias. Chicago’s own food hall scene has exploded with stylish marketplaces hawking the city’s most beloved eats—from tacos to poke bowls, Neapolitan-style pizzas, charcuterie, and Chi Town’s most famous burger.
So as you plot your Windy City eating and drinking itinerary over a morning cuppa in Ambassador Chicago’s, Library Bar or from the comfort of your hotel bed, consider a stroll through one of our five favorite food halls.
If you’re angling for a highlight reel of Chi Town’s favorite north-side restaurants but can’t get out to the neighborhoods, this sprawling marketplace on the first floor of a restored bank building is a must. The all-local lineup of 15 fast-casual stalls features spinoffs of beloved spots (such as Antique Taco Chiquito and HotChocolate Bakery from pastry chef Mindy Segal) and original concepts with well-known names behind them (Danke from the Table, Donkey and Stick team, and Graze Kitchenette from The Johnny’s Grill chef Sarah Jordan). Weekday lunches here get crazy, so aim for the chiller early evening and weekend brunch hours.
Don’t Miss: Sliced brisket from Smoque.
Photo courtesy of Revival Food Hall
Commanding the entire third floor of the Block 37 shopping center, this multisensory marketplace and food hall from renowned chef Richard Sandoval offers up the best flavors of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. With 10 food counters, a full-service tapas restaurant, wraparound bar, and retail market, it’s easy to spend a few hours here, shopping and grazing. Impeccable tinned Spanish seafood makes a great gift (or mid-afternoon nosh). Grab a crispy chicken torta Milanesa, or snack on delicate salt cod croquettes. For something heartier, feast on juicy pork loin with a side of patatas bravas. Before returning to the throngs on State Street below, sidle up to the wraparound bar for a glass or two from an impressive lineup of Spanish, Portuguese, and South American wines.
Don’t Miss: Peruvian Chaufa’s arroz aeropuerto.
Photo courtesy of Latinicity
Arguably the food hall that launched the trend in Chicago, this European-style indoor marketplace has been open since 2010. More than 30 (mostly family-owned) artisanal food vendors and local purveyors inhabit the market, located on the ground floor of the bustling Ogilvie Transportation Center. Grab a quick lunch—like a delectable pastrami sandwich from Fumare Meats or a poke bowl from the wildly popular Aloha Poke—then park yourself at a table for some terrific people-watching. If you’re in the mood to browse the beautiful produce, cheese, meat, and fish on offer here, Frietkoten Belgian Fries or a Vanille Patisserie macaron both make for perfect walk-and-eat food.
Don’t Miss: Hen House banh mi from Saigon Sisters.
Photo courtesy of Chicago French Market
This easygoing hangout boasts a smattering of food and drink offerings from one of Chicago’s most famous restaurateurs, plus a loungey area complete with table tennis, board games, and a putting green. Brendan Sodikoff’s hybrid coffee shop/restaurant/grab-and-go marketplace is a great choice for a quick lunch after sightseeing in the nearby Loop/River North. Options include Doughnut Vault doughnuts, a hot and cold salad bar that puts its sad school-lunch counterparts to shame, plus the younger sibling version of a certain famed Au Cheval cheeseburger. The retro-chic space gives off a throwback living room vibe that makes it easy to stay awhile over a coffee or something stronger (ahem, bourbon and iced tea).
Don’t Miss: Pastrami on rye from Dillman’s Pastrami Shop.
Photo courtesy of Christian Ford
With 63,000 sq. ft. spread over four bustling levels, the Chicago outpost of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Italian food and shopping mecca can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor, so aim for a weekday afternoon visit if possible. Browse gourmet Italian grocery items on the ground floor—leaving time for a pick-me-up espresso and nutella-slathered snack at the nutella bar. Then head upstairs, where a veritable kaleidoscope of dining and drinking options awaits— from wine and antipasti at La Piazza, to very al dente pastas and Neapolitan pies at shared concepts La Pasta and La Pizza, to whole fish at Il Pesce and house-brewed craft beers and shareables at La Birreria.
Don’t Miss: La Pizza’s margherita classica pizza.
- Story by Maggie Hennessy