Experience the best of the Chicago Marathon with our guide to viewing spots, restaurant recommendations and other exciting weekend happenings.
Fall in Chicago is one of the most exciting and beautiful times of all. We are so lucky that in early October, locals and out-of-towners descend on Chicago to participate in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Quick History of The Chicago Marathon
The Chicago Marathon began in 1977 and was originally called the Mayor Daley Marathon. Initially set-up with a $5 entry fee and an 8 a.m. start time, the race was scheduled for September 25, 1977. Over 4,200 runners turned out for the first Mayor Daley Marathon, making it the largest marathon in the world at the time.
Since 2008, the race has been sponsored by Bank of America, and is officially titled the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The race has grown more than 10x its original size and is limited to a whopping 45,000 runners. Only runners who finish within 6½ hours are officially timed. Could you imagine running all that time and not having it officially count? Yikes.
Each year around two million spectators will watch the race along the 26.2-mile route, cheering on participants. As a spectator besides watching the race, you have the privilege of viewing all the homemade signs that are lining the route and the finish line at Grant Park (where the race begins and ends).
The course winds through the city’s glorious neighborhoods including Chinatown, Pilsen, Lincoln Park, Old Town, River North, the West Loop and more. Take a look at the complete route map here
Read our guide for things to do and most importantly places to eat the weekend of the Chicago Marathon (for spectators, runners and even some recommendations for those who want to avoid the area).
Places To Eat Before, After & During The Marathon
[Broken Down By Neighborhood]
Chinatown will be taken over by marathoners and spectators for the weekend as it’s main vein (Wentworth Avenue) is a huge portion of the marathon route.
Lao Szechuan – Our favorite place in Chicago for Szechuan specialties like Dry Chili Chicken and Mapo Tofu, but includes a versatile menu of traditional Chinese dishes as well. With two floors of seating, it’s a great location for a group meal during the marathon weekend.
Address: 4832 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
Triple Crown – Cantonese style Dim Sum and our favorite place to eat along the race route in Chinatown. Get the Taro Puffs, BBQ Pork Buns and you’ll be off to a great start, no starter pistol needed.
Address: 2217 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot – One of the most unique and interactive types of Chinese food is the Mongolian Hot Pot. Here you cook the meat, vegetables and noodles all in a seasoned broth at your table. Fun for large groups and parties with kids. Beware, it’s popular with the locals and tourists on a normal weekend so expect a wait. We will tell you it’s worth it! Also, BYOB – how fun is that?
Address: 2342 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
– If you follow us, you know we have a soft spot for Old Town’s charm and history. It doesn’t get any better than Spice House, our friends there know their stuff and can hook you up with some of the best rubs, salts and extracts on the planet. Take home some of their made-in-house spice mixes that are signature to Chicago. Perfect local Chicago gift
s if you’re getting ahead of your Christmas shopping!
Address: 1512 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610
Old Town Oil
– One of our favorite places to go,
the store features olive oil and balsamic vinegar “on tap,” from various countries of origin and even different flavors. It’s a treat for the senses!
Address: 1543 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610
La Fournette – Do you like grilled cheese and delightful pastries? Then this is your place. The croque monsieur is one of the most decadent sandwiches we have ever had (and we eat a lot of sandwhiches – trust). Pierre Zimmerman is the Master-Baker behind La Fournette. The World Baking Champion’s pain de mie is the foundation of his croque; it’s filled with salty, mildly funky wet-cured ham and nutty Gruyere, topped off with rich bechamel and more Gruyere, and then baked, setting the sauce bubbling and soaking the bread with a halo of crunchy cheese. *BRB our mouths are watering and we’re heading there now…
Address: 1547 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610
Cafe Sushi – This chill joint offers an extensive list of sushi and is BYOB with a great patio. On the south side of Old Town near a park, this is a relaxing place to enjoy dinner.
Address: 1342 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610
Old Jerusalem – Old Jerusalem fits well into the Old Town neighborhood, with its European-style village vibe of markets and specialty shops. The Middle-Eastern restaurant became and remains a favorite among the locals and has been in Old Town for over 40 years. In a city with constant restaurant turn-over, this is quite the feat. Have the falafel sandwich, it’s in our top 2 favorites in the city!
Address: 1411 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610
Lou Malnati’s – The best Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza in the city. Yes, it’s a chain but with food so good who cares it’s locally owned! The Malnati family is renowned in Chicago and it’s a must-do. Great if you need to carb load for the race or just want a delicious slice of pizza. For a (slightly) healthier option try the Malnati Salad. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Heads up during Chicago Marathon weekend they can’t take reservations. They will be busy, so be prepared.
Address: 439 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
Glazed & Infused – Glazed & Infused is a doughnut shop with locations in a few places around the city — and always a part of the great donut debate (just like deep-dish pizza, Chicagoans each have their donut shop preference). Glazed and infused serves up awesome takes on the donut like the Maple Bacon Long John with maple frosting and a strip of bacon. There’s something for everyone, even if you’re gluten-free!
Address: 939 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Chicago Bagel Authority – Boasts over 100+ tried and true Steamwiches comprised of an extensive list of fresh meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies, fruits, sauces, jams, jellies, bagels, bialys, pretzel rolls, and ciabatta sub rolls. No matter which wiche you get, you’ll walk away a happy customer.
Address: 953 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
La Vaca Margherita Bar -This fun Pilsen spot with concrete floors and Latin music videos is known for its margaritas, but the michelada is a spicy, traditional-style delight.
Address: 1160 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
Dusek’s (Board & Beer) – Dusek’s is a place from another time, this gastropub is in Thalia Hall (circa -1892) and is the perfect place to meet friends for a drink and sample some unique dishes and enjoy classic favorites. Having the famous music venue next door and a punch-centric bar downstairs (Punch House) enables groups to have a perfectly well-rounded evening.
Address: 1227 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
Frida Room (Pilsen B&G) – Chic and trendy spot breakfast spot with a Mexican/American twist. Great for a comforting breakfast and mimosas.
Address: 1454 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
Skylark – Chicago, known for it’s amazing food, spectacular skyline and the local’s love for dive bars. Skylark is cash-only, with a unique mix of food features. The house-made pierogies and tater tots are a favorite, but try anything on the menu or join for a Friday fish-fry and you’re sure to have a swell time.
Address: 2149 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608
Piece Pizzeria – This huge pizzeria and brewpub is housed in a 100 year old car garage and was the second brewery to open in Chicago in 2001. Piece Pizzeria is serving New Haven Style pizzas, and is a great spot to hang out over pizza and beer with your friends or belly up to the bar to watch a game. Go in for a beer, the team at Piece know what they are doing and have won 27 medals at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival.
Address: 1927 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Lucia’s – Amazing “hidden” gem of Wicker Park. Located on North Avenue, the location itself is passed by frequently, but this beloved restaurant has stood the test of time and for the last 15 years has provided fresh, authentic Italian food for the locals. Visit the deli counter for amazing take out sandwiches for lunch or grab a table for a romantic dinner.
Address:1825 W. North Avenue, Chicago
Urban Belly – Award winning Chef Bill Kim got his start in the restaurant industry honing his culinary skills at world-renowned establishments Charlie Trotter’s and Le Lan. After spending years perfecting his skills alongside the best in the industry, Chef Kim would eventually venture out on his own in 2008, bringing his imaginative Asian inspired cuisine to his highly acclaimed Chicago restaurants urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack.
Address:1542 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Dox – Peter and Billy Thanoukos with Chef Christos Fasseas to open this restaurant that servs authentic Greek cuisine – food of the highest quality that appeals to folks looking for an elevated dining experience in a casual atmosphere. Dox, in Greek, means belief. Think all of the words in English with that root – orthodox, paradox. Here they believe in fine Greek cuisine and man do they deliver!
Address: 1566 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Angry Crab – Lovers of cajun food rejoice, this Cajun joint for seafood served by the pound is our favorite in the area. With a variety of spices and sauces, you and your friends can enjoy a plethora of spice levels. Be sure to wear a bib as you will splash yourself with sauce or debris of the shellfish delights.
Address: 1308 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
6 Degrees – For those who don’t know, the capitol of Illinois is not Chicago, it’s much further south in Springfield, IL. And besides having the capitol, Springfield is famous for one other thing: inventing the horseshoe. A horseshoe consists of slices of toasted Texas toast topped with various proteins, a healthy ladle (or preferably two or three) of cheese sauce, and handfuls of french fries. Healthy, we know! The only real place to find this dish outside of Springfield is at 6-Degrees. Go in hungry, check it out and order one of their awesome drink specials. We recommend the buffalo chicken horseshoe – a Springfield favorite!
Address: 1935 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Kuma’s Corner -Kuma’s started in 2005 with its flagship location at the corner of Belmont and Francisco avenues in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. They started as a corner bar with solid American bistro fare, and have grown to five locations that offer amazing burgers with heavy metal music theme. Fear not, the music isn’t overpowering and the food is the true center piece.
Address: 852 W. Fulton Market
Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken – You may have guessed by the name, but at Do-Rite they combine two of America’s favorite things: Donuts and Fried Chicken. Need I say more? Okay, I will anyway. Try the Sweet Heat sandwich it’s fried chicken on a glazed donut with spicy maple aioli. I’m not sure what the Colonel would say about that, he might just be rendered speechless.
Address: 181 North Morgan Street
Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria – Cruz Blanca’s taquería takes its inspiration from the “smoke alley” at Oaxaca’s Mercado 20 de Noviembre, where thick plumes of smoke foretell the primal pleasures of wood-grilled meats. Chef Rick Bayless doesn’t disappoint. Try the signature tlayudas — giant, shareable tostadas with black bean spread, cheese, grilled onions, güero chile, green salsa and your choice of wood-grilled protein (try the chorizo). Their beers are as they say “Inspired by Mexico. Brewed for Chicago” and there is a unique selection for everyone to enjoy whether you’re a Chicagoan or a visitor.
Forno Rosso – Owner Nick Nitti wants to transport Chicagoans back to the Old World with a rustic and comfortable atmosphere. The red-enameled, wood-burning oven that helps create all of the pizza magic is the focal point of the restaurant. Don’t even think about take out and delivery as those are huge “no-nos”. According to VPN, “the Verace Pizza Napoletana — ( the Italian organization charged with regulating the production of Neapolitan pizzas) the pizza should be consumed immediately, straight out of the oven, at the pizzeria.” No ifs, ands or buts about it!
Address: 1048 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
Belly Q – Is Asian BBQ redefined by Chef Bill Kim (the same Bill Kim form Urban Belly listed above in Wicker Park). Belly Q is an amplified dining experience that takes you on a flavorful journey. This industrial-chic space has a great vibe, with group-friendly grill tables and a karaoke lounge.