Chicago’s Not-so-hidden Gems

February 2, 2023

I’m not sure why we call places hidden gems in a city of millions of people? Someone’s hidden gem is another person’s weekly spot. Places can be gems for sure. But they aren’t as hidden as people think. I have lots of gems that I’ve been going to for years so I will be sharing them! Many have been around a long time and truly don’t get enough love on social media!

So here are a few off the beaten path places I love!! Most don’t even have IG pages so I can’t tag & have been around forever. None are hidden but deserve more love in my opinion!

Pasta Fresh- (Hardwood Heights) Cash only! Technically not the city (I think across the street is the city) but worth it. Trust me. Old world Italian vibes. Market with fresh pasta! I remember being greeted by an elderly lady that sits at the door to greet everyone. She was the sweetest. They’ve been featured on Chicago’s Best and opened in 1989. Really great pasta! If you want another deli, across the street is Rex’s Deli, another deli + market.

Tony’s Deli

Pueblo Nuevo (Portage park)- If you want pozole, this is a must! I prefer the green pozole, but honestly everything you get is so good! Tacos, nachos, burritos. Everything!

Spoken Cafe

Spoken Cafe (Ravenswood) – Love this coffee shop under the Montrose brown line stop. It’s super tiny, no public bathrooms, but the bagel sandwiches are super good! I’d recommend taking it to go! They also make their own jams and salsas too. But everything I’ve had here is good.

Bob o Rinos Subs (Portage Park)- if you like big, deli sandwiches. This place is it. Cheap subs under $10. I lover their Turkey or chicken salad subs. Nothing fancy, but really fresh bread and just delicious.

El Milagro Cafeteria (Pilsen)- This is one of the first places Manny took me and it’s cafeteria style. Great Mexican food, nothing fancy, but so good.

Waterfront Cafe (seasonal-Edgewater) (food is fine but it’s a vibe in the summer on the water). Live music and great views. Sort of like a mini vacation! Not hidden to many in the area, but often overlooked by many. So many people want to flock to North Avenue beach, but there are great water views from here. Often a wait, so go early!

Johnnies Beef- Elmwood Park. Best, best Italian sandwiches. It’s been around since 1961 so most definitely not hidden, but a Chicago foodie must.

Nelle Pizza (Hyde Park)- This is NOT hidden, but I often find that North Siders have never heard of it. This is wood fired pizza that is up there with Forno Rosso, Spacca Napoli and Coalfire. I get so surprised I don’t hear about it more! They used to be in Lincoln Park many many years ago and have their new location in Hyde Park.

La Catedral Cafe & Restaurant– (Little Village) Best Mexican breakfast! The chilaquiles are insane!

Panes Bread Cafe (Lakeview) I am so surprised I don’t see more coverage of Panes! This sandwich shops has the best, freshly baked bread on site. They are right across the street from the Advocate Hospital so they see a lot of hospital staff. I gave birth to both kids there and it was my dinner both nights in the hospital! Really good sandwiches.

Moons Sandwich shop: (near West Side) BEST corned beef! I used to work not far from here and that was dangerous. It’s an old school diner that opened its doors in 1933. Just go if you haven’t. So good.

Seafood City: (North Mayfair) This Filipino market is the best! I am surprised I don’t see it more on social media! It’s a chain grocery store but we LOVE THE BUFFET! There’s a Jollibee restaurant, a market, and more. You could hang out here for awhile!

Dulche de leche (Albany Park): Super cute Latin Fusion coffee shop with pastries and coffee. Great place to work. It’s super cute inside!

Mariscos la Playa (Little Village): Again, this Mariscos place is NOT hidden, but needs way more love on social media because it is SO GOOD!! There are some chain Mariscos restaurants in Chicago that don’t even compare. Plus they have a patio that’s cute in the summer and BYO!

Mariscos la Playa

Pacos Tacos (Brighton Park): THE BEST TACOS. I actually grew up right around the corner from here. They have a few tables and a counter to eat at, or just take them to go. I think maybe my favorite tacos in the city.

Paco’s Tacos

Garifuna Flava (Marquette Park and temporarily closed French Market location): This Caribbean restaurant has the BEST jerk chicken, conch fritters and stewed oxtail. It’s phenomenal!

And that’s it! There are a million more places that can be listed here, but here a few. If you check any of them out, let me know! If you need other Chicago things, head here!


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