There’s so much to love about Chicago summers, and tops among them is the food: The bounty of fresh fruits and veggies at farmers’ markets, the icy, cool treats, and all those amazing restaurant patios. Here, seven influential Chicago food bloggers and podcasters tell us about their all-time favorite summer eats, the best local spots for summer dining, and the best things they’ve eaten so far this year.
Hungry yet? You will be.
Tim Mazurek of Lottie & Doof
All-time favorite summer eats: “I love a good hot dog. This summer I’ll be eating them at Stock, the new café at Local Foods, where my friend (and fellow Midwesterner) Abra Berens is serving her version — with mustard, beet ketchup and relish—using hot dogs from Butcher and Larder.”
The best Chicago restaurant for summer dining: “I love drinking Parson’s famous Negroni slushies on their patio during the summer months. The fried chicken ain’t bad either. And on particularly hot days, when you’re craving some more icy goodness, you’re within walking distance of Miko’s for some of my favorite Italian ice in Chicago.”The best dish I’ve had so far this year: “I like creating riffs on tabbouleh when the weather is warm and vegetables are abundant. You can throw together whatever vegetables you have on hand with some bulgur and a citrusy dressing, and you’ve got the perfect summer salad.”
Louisa Chu of Chewing the Fat
All-time favorite summer eats: “I’ve got to have Mario’s Italian Lemonade. The stand in Little Italy closes for the season by mid-September, so a summer pilgrimage is always a must. My favorite is the peach when it’s in season. But they’ve been working on some limited editions this summer, like pomegranate, that I want to try, too.”
The best Chicago restaurant for summer dining: “Superdawg in Wheeling. It backs right up to a forest preserve, so you can get table service at the picnic tables, and have that amazing hot dog with a beautiful view. It’s a like a daytrip getaway from the city.”
The best dish I’ve had so far this year: “It’s one I haven’t had yet, that I’m craving: The reincarnation of Hot Doug’s, which closed last October, at Wrigley Field. Three of his gourmet sausages are being sold at a new concession stand behind the center field scoreboard: the Rick Reuschel (spicy pork sausage topped with chipotle mustard and pepper jack cheese), the Dave Kingman (bacon-cheeseburger sausage with cheddar cheese and sweet barbecue sauce) and the Carmen Fanzone, a Polish sausage with spicy brown mustard and caramelized onions. [They’re named for Doug’s three all-time favorite Cubs players.]
Quincy Bissic of The Chopping Blog All-time favorite summer eats: “I love anything that has fresh, summer peaches. It might be a white peach margarita, a peach crumble or peach salsa. I also enjoy the fresh flavor of grilled peach halves served with a butter glaze made with vanilla bean, black pepper, and Demerara sugar. But my ultimate favorite is white peach gazpacho!”
The best Chicago restaurant for summer dining: “Spritz Burger has one of the most comfortable outdoor patios — the restaurant is on a bustling stretch in Lakeview, but you’d never know it. Dan Smith of The Hearty Boys is the chef, and makes his own spiced ketchup. Every month, he features a ‘Collision Burger’ created by a different local chef. The last one I had was a 50% mushroom and 50% grass-fed Angus beef patty with garlic aioli, blueberry pickled onions, Brie, and Swiss cheese. Incredible.”
The best dish I’ve had so far this year: “The chef/owner at Jin Thai Cuisine floored me with authentic, not-normally-found in-Chicago Pad Thai. It has fresh banana blossoms, noodles with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, and bean sprouts. The banana blossom has a very bitter and slight mouth numbing effect. It’s mind-blowing.”
Caroline Lubbers of Whipped All-time favorite summer eats: “Blueberry crisp — I grew up in Michigan where we anxiously awaited the fresh blueberry harvest each summer. A simple crumble topping is all the berries need, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream doesn’t hurt.”
The best Chicago restaurant for summer dining: “Gene’s Sausage Shop’s rooftop is a casual, unexpected gem perched on top of the specialty grocer in Lincoln Square. The menu is small, but a cold beer and grilled, housemade sausage hit the spot under the hot, summer sun.”
The best dish I’ve had so far this year: “I’m obsessed with the crispy Brussels sprouts from Gather. I’ve never tasted anything like it, and I find it’s reason enough to dine here. The Brussels sprouts are soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, and mixed with toasted pistachios, parmesan cheese, miso vinaigrette, and bonito flakes.”
Katie Kijowski and Michelle Erickson of Chicago Food Whores
All-time favorite summer eats: “It’s actually a new favorite: Southport & Irving (SIP) started a late night brunch this summer. We LOVE the cheddar buttermilk biscuits and cream gravy with rabbit confit and summer vegetables. Must add: two poached eggs. It is glorious.”
The best Chicago restaurant for summer dining: Boiler Room in Logan Square has a spacious patio and mouth-watering cocktails. You can’t beat the PB & J Special: a slice of pizza, a PBR tall boy, and a shot of Jameson for a mere $8.50 — all day, every day. Finish it off with some boozy, soft-serve Jameson ice cream, and it’s a perfect summer dining experience!
The best dish we’ve had so far this year: “Charlatan’s Mint Zuca: rock shrimp, sweet pea bisque, olive oil, nasturtium, preserved lemon crème fraîche, and brioche croutons. So fresh, and flavors balance perfectly.”
Mina Im of Chicago Food Girl All-time favorite summer eats: “Nothing says summer in Chicago than a White Negroni shaved ice from Cochon Volant in the Loop. It’s my go-to summer drink, and the presentation is gorgeous. And I love gazpacho, but my summer cold soup of choice is Naengmyun. Growing up, my mom would make this every summer. It’s a lightly sweet-tart broth with buckwheat noodles, topped with thinly sliced cucumber and pickled radish. Da Rae Jung Korean Restaurant in Lincoln Square is my favorite in the city.”
The best Chicago restaurant for summer dining: “For brunch, you can always find me on the patio of Southport Grocery, eating a plate of my favorite bread pudding pancakes. In the afternoons, I love sitting on the sidewalk patio of The Boarding House drinking a crisp glass of rosé. And I like to end summer nights on Mott Street’s patio, where you can make your own s’mores.”