best guide to chicago

The best way to get a sense of a city’s culture is through their local food scene. There’s no one we trust more to tell us the absolute best places for beautiful, fun and healthy-minded haunts than food writer and cookbook author, Kat Odell.

Kat has covered the ground for us in NYC where she is based, but this professional foodie can be found flying all around the globe sampling the best food every city she lands in has to offer.

Chicago is the next domestic hotspot for food that truly stands out. Beyond the obvious stunners like Alinea (you need to peek at this transparent pumpkin pie… like, what) small restos and artisan-driven spots are giving the city a new, modern flavor.

We asked Kat to point us in the direction of her favorite places to eat around the windy city — and while she’s at it, to share what we should do, where we should go and what we can’t miss out on in Chicago…

guide to chicago food overhead

Favorite fitness studio:

Mirepoix — I am obsessed with this adorable one-room yoga studio. Classes focus on strengthening, not burning, and I am a big fan of the deep stretch and hip-hop vinyasa classes.

Go-to outdoor workout:

Jogging around Lincoln Park.

Usual spot for catching up with friends:

I really love the bar at RPM Steak because there you’ll be subjected to the city’s widest collection of rare Japanese whisky. You’ll also find some excellent bites. I often opt for the grand seafood platter — it’s simple, unadorned, super high-quality King crab, lobster, shrimp and oysters. Also, I love love Quiote’s lower bar and Todos Santos for their amazing mezcal collection.

Best brunch:

Cellar Door Provisions is this tiny café in Logan Square with a really inspired menu of dishes like granola with pear butter and sunchoke milk, and fried sweet potatoes with koji and persimmon. It’s totally under the radar, and I love it for its seasonality and quality-driven ingredients.

Coffee fix:

Metric Coffee, but they also have an awesome tea program with lots of great Japanese stuff that’s worth exploring.

Best people watching:

Soho House

Go-to date night:

Smyth, which offers a two Michelin-star blend of Japanese meets New American cuisine, rife with fermented ingredients — and many of those ingredients come from the restaurant’s own farm about an hour away. Right now, this is Chicago’s most exciting dining experience.

When I need a dose of artistic inspiration:


Landmark that gives me all the feels:

The Bean!

Favorite fashion finds:

For adorable plants and cacti I love Sprout Home; for cool sneakers and designer threads there’s Notre; in the beauty space I love locally made Town & Anchor, an eco-conscious, vegan skincare known for its face oils. Try the blue-hued balancing oil, which is soothing and anti-microbial.

Where I frequent for clean + organic groceries:

Sadly, Chicago isn’t as advanced as Los Angeles, or even New York now, when it comes to clean eats in general. During the summer I hit the Lincoln Park farmers market, but during the winter it’s tough because, as you know, Chicago is freezing cold. So, Whole Foods it is. And then all the online shopping — Sun Potion, Thrive Market, etc.

The ultimate wellness experience:

Well, if you want the cutest adorable hotel that feels like a super chic home, then check out Publishing House. It’s so chic as a modern day bed and breakfast. In fact, the breakfast is one of the best parts of staying there! There’s no spa here, so in you are in need of pampering check out AIRE Ancient Baths. It’s the NYC export that offers large heated pools in an elegant dungeon atmosphere. Sounds weird, but it’s pretty awesome.

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