Admit it. We can call ourselves food snobs until we’re blue in the face (and round in the tummy), but we all cave to the greasy spoon at some point. Especially when we think about that good food found in Chicago’s diners.
Who among us hasn’t been hit with a late-night/early-morning craving for pancakes, or steak and eggs, or a big, high-calorie plate of whatever off the griddle? There’s no shame in it; the Golden Apples, Angels and Corrals of the world thank you for it!
There are a few Chicago restaurants, though, that have taken the guilty pleasure of this late-night grub to new heights, making it a complete joy to indulge in diner dishes with a gourmet spin (vegan restaurants included ). Here’s a look at five we love:
A burger at Au Cheval…greasy and gourmet!
1. Au Cheval. Welcoming visitors to the West Loop at the northwest corner of Halsted and Randolph, Au Cheval not only takes diner food up a notch, but they pair it with a beer list that would make any snobby craft-brew bar weep. They’ve got more than 30 international beers on tap, plus a stellar wine list and a full cocktail menu. 800 West Randolph Street | 312-929-4580
2. Eleven City Diner. Eleven City Diner is a bright spot in the South Loop for the best of both worlds: elevated greasy-spoon fare like patty melts and corned beef and hash, plus New York–style Kosher delicatessen fare, served up at retro-style tables or beautiful vintage bar stools. You may have to wait a bit for a table, but if you happen to be there at breakfast time, treat yourself to a Bloody Mary once you’re seated, and you’ll forget all about the delay. 1112 S. Wabash Ave. | 312-212-1112
Crab cakes at Glenn’s Diner…wait, what city are we in again?!
3. Glenn’s Diner. If you find yourself on the north side, Glenn’s Diner is a stellar pick for all-day breakfast — a wall filled with cereal boxes will take you back to your childhood — as well as an entire chalkboard menu full of flown-in-fresh-daily fish that will make you feel like you’re enjoying a meal along the coast. Lump crab cakes and Alaskan King Crab legs? Okay, it’s not quite diner-esque, but go ahead and let the name fool you…you won’t be disappointed. 1820 W. Montrose Ave. | 773-506-1720
4. Chicago Diner. The menu is all vegetarian and all vegan friendly — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Think chicken-fried “steak,” a reuben with corned “beef” seitan, and even a twist on huevos rancheros made with grilled tofu and vegan cheese. All those “quotation marks” make us a little nervous, but the veggies rave about it! This place is constantly talked about as one of the best vegan restaurants in Chicago. You get great, vegan food paired with one of the best Chicago diners around. 3411 N. Halsted St. | 773-935-6696
5. Little Goat. And finally, the West Loop has been graced with another of our favorite diners done right: Stephanie Izard’s (of Girl & the Goat fame) Little Goat, which took over the former Red Light space. Stephanie Izard pays homage to the Classic Diner at this amazing West Loop Restaurant. While this spot is not as extremely busy as the other amazing Stephanie Izard West Loop Restaurant locations (looking at you, Duck, Duck, Goat), you should know no matter what – it’s worth the wait. Are you an early breakfast person? Little Goat has “early goat”breakfast specials Monday-Friday from 7-9am.
820 W. Randolph St. | 312-733-8880
Photos: aucheval.tumblr.com and glennsdiner.com