21 Great Chicago Restaurants For Dining SoloEating alone can be good for you. Here are the best places in Chicago to do it.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like to dine solo, and those who don’t know what they’re missing. Count us among the first group. We’re not recommending you become a recluse with zero human interaction, but sometimes it’s nice to grab a burger and a beer by yourself, take yourself out on a date, or enjoy some pasta and a glass of wine without distractions.
The best part of eating alone is that nobody will judge you for staring at your phone the whole meal. That, and the fact that it’s actually relaxing. Going somewhere and sitting at the bar is usually the best way to do it, so you’ll notice good bar seating is a common theme on this list. Here are our 21 favorite Chicago restaurants that are perfect for dining solo.
It takes some serious scheduling Tetris to snag a reservation, even for a party of two, at this West Loop spot. Dining solo is the easiest way to get into Monteverde and eat some of Chicago’s best Italian food. Alone, you can fairly easily grab a bar seat and enjoy handmade pastas like cacio whey pepe with milky ricotta or zesty spaghetti pomodoro, all while observing the emotional dissonance between elated diners and disappointed walk-in groups that weren’t as lucky as you.
Since they don’t take reservations and wait times generally hover around two hours, Warlord in Avondale requires commitment, patience, and probably no other plans for the night—at least for groups. There are usually a few open stools at the kitchen counter or bar, so showing up alone is the easiest way to get in. This means it’s the best way to try their fantastic, daily-changing menu of dishes like scallops in XO sauce or whatever pasta came out of that morning’s brainstorm. The friendly chefs and bartenders are always down to chat, but there’s also no pressure—it’s perfectly cool to just lose yourself in a juicy burger while surrounded by the bustle and unpredictable soundtrack of everything from metal to Johnny Cash. Plus, they’re open until 2am.
Whether it’s a coworker or a particularly self-involved friend, some people will just talk at you the whole time you’re together. It’s kind of like being with a TV, so you might as well go somewhere casual with actual TVs to entertain you while you eat alone instead of listening to your dinner companion go on about their last performance review or new workout routine. Daisy's in Hyde Park has excellent po' boys and sides (like seafood gumbo) and a large dining room with strategically placed screens for your eyes to wander to.
The best way to deal with Avec’s limited reservation policy and always-crowded dining room is to hit it up solo during the week. Sit at the bar with some bacon-wrapped-chorizo-stuffed dates, another small plate or two, and a glass of wine. This place is begging to become your new forwarding address.
A decade later, Au Cheval still makes one of Chicago’s best burgers, still doesn’t take reservations, and is still extremely hard to get into. Trying to eat with a group in this West Loop staple can lead to waits long enough to start and finish a game of Monopoly. For quicker access to the burger, come alone because you can usually snag a counter seat fairly quickly. Order the cheeseburger, and add egg and bacon—the yolk adds an extra layer of creaminess, while the thick-cut bacon throws some fatty crispiness into the mix. Their fries are also fantastic, and so is buttery bone marrow with toast—but maybe save that to order with your friends after two hours of waiting leads to a Lord of the Flies situation.
For the uninitiated, enjoying a fine dining experience solo can be uncomfortable or at the very least, hard to justify. But at $110-$120, Indienne’s seven-course tasting menu feels very affordable should you have something to celebrate. This Indian restaurant with a French twist definitely falls into the fine dining category. Its large dining room is full of white tablecloths and staff bustling around in crisp jackets, and the dishes are plated so artistically that you might mistake them for sculptures on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art. But the restaurant doesn’t feel too formal. It’s energetic and busy, and the South Asian EDM playlist won’t make you feel like you’re eating in a library.
There’s never a wrong time to eat at Athenian Room. The kalamata chicken is fantastic, and as a bonus, it also happens to only cost about $15. In fact, everything here is both delicious and reasonably priced. And real dining solo pros know that you can also bring your food to the bar next door.
This Italian restaurant in Humboldt Park has the laid-back feel of a European cafe, filled with people laughing while pretending to be on vacation. Plus, Segnatore has friendly bartenders, and a long wooden bar that takes up almost half the restaurant. All of that makes this spot perfect for a solo meal to begin with, but the main reason we love coming here is because of the excellent pasta. Their “lasagna” is deconstructed into a pile of handmade garlic mafaldine, whipped ricotta, and rich mushroom bolognese that rivals any meat version. Delicate capellini is tossed with a black kale pesto, blue cheese, and walnuts—which sounds like a lot of bold ingredients at play but unlike your ex, it’s strong enough to hold up to the pressure.
One of the best things about eating alone is the people-watching, and Dove’s is a great spot for it. We like to sit at the counter facing Damen Ave and guess where random strangers are going. If it’s nice out, the answer is probably Big Star, but in winter, the possibilities are endless. Who shops at that Levi’s store around the corner anyway? Some of these people, apparently.
Sushi-san in River North has a long wooden bar, loud rap music, and a menu with a mix of traditional and contemporary Japanese dishes. It’s a lively, fun place, and the sushi is delicious. Sit at the bar, which also happens to be the only place you can order hand rolls.
It should be illegal to eat at High Five Ramen with anyone else. This tiny basement spot beneath Green Street Smoked Meats only has a handful of seats, and as we already said, ramen is the best kind of food to eat alone. Get the namesake High Five Ramen if you like things spicy, and don’t forget a cold beer to wash it down.
The only thing more relaxing than having some tropical cocktails and jerk chicken by yourself at Garifuna Flava is doing it on a beach in Belize. But that also means hours of interactions with cab drivers, flight attendants, and customs agents. So after a crowded bus ride standing next to a guy shouting into his conference call, this casual spot in Marquette Park is a good laidback alternative.
Half Shell has all the characteristics we love about a dark, depressing bar—except, we promise, it’s not actually depressing. The garden unit space on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview feels like an old dive, with its Christmas lights and other goofy sh*t on the wall. But it’s an old dive that serves awesome crab legs. And a dinner of crab legs and melted butter would only be ruined by someone watching you messily crack open the shells.
Bored? Lonely? Friends out of town? It’s late and you’re hungry? Hit up Little Bad Wolf if you live anywhere near Andersonville. The kitchen is open late every night, and the high-quality food (like tacos, bao, and burgers) is way better than what you normally find in a neighborhood bar. The extensive beer and whiskey list doesn’t hurt, either.
Two conflicting ideas can exist at the same time: you might want to be left alone, but also be surrounded by people having a good time. And a solo meal at the bar at Alla Vita in the West Loop is the best way to steal some vicarious socialization. It’s incredibly popular, and always buzzing. And the space—decorated with hanging plants and a very cool fabric wave ceiling—is roughly the size of Terminal 2 at O’Hare but with way better food. Particularly the cacio e pepe ricotta dumplings. They can only be described as “sexy”, as they’re firm on the outside, have a creamy ricotta center, and swim in a silky cheese and black pepper sauce. Resist the urge to light up a cigarette after eating.
There’s no better place to grab a solo burger and a glass of wine than Webster’s in Logan Square. It’s great for when you don’t want to be bothered (hiding behind a book also helps), but it’s convivial enough that you can easily chum it up with other diners if you want some company. The burger with fragrant charred scallion aioli and crispy shoestring potatoes is fantastic, but crafting a meal out of conservas or charcuterie is always a great, lighter option. And if you’re up for a challenge, they have Monday night blind tastings where you can try three glasses of wine for $20.
If you’re avoiding work, your ex, or a mountain of laundry, the best place to dine solo is somewhere that’s not crowded, perhaps even underground. Enter 3 Sauces, a food stall in Chinatown’s Richland Center basement food court. This place is never too busy, so it’s perfect for eating in peace while enjoying some of the best Hainanese chicken in Chicago. The poached chicken has subtle ginger and scallion flavors and is complemented by a great line-up of soy, garlic, and chili sauces. Throw in the accompanying broth and pillowy rice cooked with chicken fat, and it’s the ideal respite from whatever you’re trying to escape.
This '90s-themed sandwich shop, complete with action figures and Happy Meal toys decorating the space, is mostly made up of one massive bar. In fact, besides a small alcove in the back of the shop, Big Kids seems almost inhospitable to large groups. This means a lot of single diners or small groups of two will have an easy time finding a seat to enjoy one of the interesting collaborations between the former Blackbird chef and a chef from the New Orleans sandwich spot Turkey And The Wolf. The sandwiches (like the turkey, pastrami, and zesty pasta salad—yes all of those on one sandwich) are both creative and tasty. Plus they have the shiddy burger—one of the best burgers in Chicago—fun drinks like milk punch or the ecto cooler, and small bites like tater tots that are also very good.
Tortello doesn’t have a bar bar. But this brightly lit, counter-service restaurant in Wicker Park does have plenty of space perfect for just one person, and several wines available by the glass, so it counts. This place specializes in delicious handmade pasta, and you can get things like burrata-filled tortellini, cacio e pepe, or duck pappardelle. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure to order some of their focaccia with ricotta and honey to go with it. Also worth noting: They have a cute sidewalk patio if you want to eat your pasta outside.
It’s hard to convince your friends to go out to eat with you if you keep weird hours as a gravedigger/masked vigilante. But you don’t need those people anyway, because Humboldt Haus is open until midnight, and has excellent sandwiches like the West Sider (turkey, pastrami, swiss cheese, and garlic mayo). It’s mostly bar seating, and since the dining room is connected to a liquor store, you can buy a six-pack to split with your new friends—the people hanging around the cemetery after hours.
Since it’s literally attached to Thalia Hall, Dusek’s in Pilsen works perfectly if you want to grab a bite before seeing a show. But if you’ve gotten all dressed up only to get a last-minute cancellation text, don’t let your hard work go to waste—the bar at this historic tavern is the perfect place to grab a solo meal off the constantly rotating a la carte menu and flaunt an outfit that took you an hour to curate. Or, head to the dining room side of the restaurant and get the four-course tasting menu for $70. By the time you’re done with dessert (get the deconstructed banoffee pie), the great meal will have you pumped for some solo headbanging and dancing next door.