Whether you’re a history buff or just love a good bite to eat, there are a few places around the city you must try. Kept in business for decades by locals for a reason, these are the eight best historic restaurants in Chicago.
Take a trip down memory lane or learn something new about these iconic eateries. Keep scrolling for a timeline of great food.
1. Green Door Tavern (678 N Orleans Street)
Though it has only been a restaurant since 1921, this building was constructed in 1872 just after the Great Chicago Fire. As it was built before the new fire ordinances were put in place, it is the only wooden commercial structure in the city. The name comes from the actual door to the place, which was painted green to symbolize that a speakeasy was within. Today, you'll find a cozy interior and classic American menu items that are available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
2. Superdawg (6363 N Milwaukee Avenue)
With an additional location in Wheeling, this iconic drive-in eatery has been serving Chicagoans since 1948. It was founded by a former GI who wanted to make some extra money over the summers between semesters at college. It was such a success that he opened it full-time after graduating. When it opened, there was no electronic speaker system yet invented, so carhops went out to a patron's car to take the order, bring the food, and clear the tray. Though some things have changed, the hot dogs have not, and it still feels like a blast from the past when you visit.
3. Pompei (1531 W Taylor Street)
Named after a church located across the street, this establishment goes back to 1909. Family-owned and operated ever since, it is located in the heart of Chicago's little Italy and is one of the best historic restaurants around. The business began with mostly bread and cheese pizza being made, but after World War II the menu expanded. Today you'll find Italian classics like soups, salads, pizza, strudel, pasta, and other authentic dishes.
4. Daley's Restaurant (809 E 63rd Street)
Another breakfast, lunch and dinner spot, this popular local diner has been in business since 1892, though it did go through a rough patch in the 30s. Prior to its opening, the owner noticed a need for an eatery to serve construction workers building the University of Chicago and World's Columbian Exposition, so he opened one up. Though it has undergone many new owners, the same great eats remain. You'll find nothing but comfort food at this iconic joint.
5. Gene & Georgetti (500 N Franklin Street)
This is one of the best historical restaurants you can find. Established in 1941 by true Italian chefs, this is one of the city's premier steakhouses, and it has been owned by the same family since it opened. In addition to the regulars, the eatery has seen its fair share of celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Keanu Reeves, and Will Ferrell. Today, it has an additional location in Rosemont and offers delicious, high-end menu items like seafood, pasta, and other authentic Italian dishes as well as any cut of steak you can imagine.
6. Billy Goat Tavern (430 N Michigan Avenue)
Made famous by a Saturday Night Live sketch, this amazing place is actually full of history. It was started by a Greek immigrant who was nicknamed "Billy Goat" after a goat wandered into his tavern one day. In 1944, when the Republican National Convention came to town, he put out a sign that read "No Republicans allowed," which in turn caused many of them to fill his restaurant and give him their business. Nowadays, there are a handful of these eateries around the city, including at O'Hare, where you can get classic American eats like burgers and other sandwiches.
7. The Berghoff Restaurant (17 W Adams Street)
Attracted by the World's Fair in Chicago, an immigrant from Germany started selling beers to fair-goers in 1893. He opened an actual restaurant in 1998 where it sits today in Chicago's downtown. It used to sell beer for a nickel and each came with a free sandwich. During Prohibition, the restaurant adapted and started making its own soda, after which it secured the first liquor license in Chicago history. Today, it consists of a bar, dining room, and cafe space with many different meals and drinks for patrons to enjoy.
8. Italian Village (71 W Monroe Street)
This is the city's oldest Italian eatery and one of the best historic restaurants in Chicago. What began as a small Italian restaurant in 1927 has grown into three special eateries all in one place. The original Italian Village was designed to be a tour of Italy for guests. In 1955, La Cantina was opened by a family, who in 1961 added on The Florentine Room. Today it boasts the largest wine cellar in the Midwest with more than 35,000 bottles and 1,100 selections.
Which of these best historical restaurants in the city have you visited? Share your favorites with us!