@fourstarfoodie Guide to Eating Your Spring Break in Chicago

Words by Cody Howard, Elena Knetl
Photos by @fourstarfoodie - Elena Knetl

How did you get started with food photography?

When I started working in Chicago after graduating from college in May 2014 I was constantly looking up restaurant menus and keeping a list of spots I wanted to try. About a year into my job one of my friends suggested I start a food Instagram to capture my meals. I only knew of a small handful of people who were doing it, once I got started I quickly learned there is a big community of Chicago food “influencers”.

I didn’t have a plan other than posting photos of what I eat. The first meal I went out to after starting Fourstarfoodie I forgot to take a picture of the food! A few days later I still didn’t have any photos I liked enough to post so I asked my friend, Cody (@codydhoward) to go out to dinner at En Hakkore. I got some photography tips and snapped my first photo. The rest is history.

Recommended Eats

Southport Grocery and Café

You’ll find the best pancakes in Chicago a few blocks west of Wrigley at this café. You can’t go here and not order the bread pudding pancakes, at least to split. I usually get a savory dish and split one of these pancakes with whoever I come with. They offer a solo pancake so you can at least try it. They are the best pancakes I’ve ever had, nothing else even comes close. The cinnamon sugar butter it’s topped with melts right into the warm pancakes and once you drizzle the vanilla anglaise over the top and take your first bite you will be sent straight to food heaven.

The menu all sounds simple but Southport Grocery and Café does simple exceptionally well. My other favorite dishes are the chorizo and eggs and the hash. I still haven’t tried the biscuits and gravy but I’ve heard good things.

If you come on a weekend be prepared for a wait, but it’s worth it.

Sweet Mandy B’s

Sweet Mandy B’s has some of the best baked goods in Chicago. It’s located in Lincoln Park and is worth a visit no matter where you’re staying. My personal favorites are the cupcakes and peanut butter chocolate rice crispy treats.

They’re also known for their chocolate chip cookie sandwich; it’s a chunk of chocolate chip cookie dough smashed between two chocolate chip cookies. It’s only available on the weekends though so plan accordingly if that’s what you’re after.






Tempesta Market

Tempesta Market serves my personal favorite sandwich in Chicago, the Southside Johnny. It’s loaded with Porchetta, broccolini, chimichurri, cheese, and pickled fennel, served on sourdough, complete with a side of rosemary broth to dip it in. Other favorites include the Dante, their take on an Italian sub, and the B. Franklin – turkey, cheddar, avocado, pickled fresno and sofrito aioli. If you’re feeling adventurous get a scoop of the ‘nduja (a type of spreadable pork sausage) gelato for dessert.

What I love about Tempesta is the uniqueness of their offerings. In theory, a Porchetta sandwich is pretty standard, but the broccolini adds a great crunch. There are a thousand turkey sandwiches in Chicago but the sofrito aioli (I’d go light on it if you don’t like a ton of sauce as they give you a generous amount) ties it together better than any other turkey sandwich I’ve tried. Who puts sausage in gelato? I’ve only seen that at Tempesta.

If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, Tempesta also has a great selection of cheese, house-made charcuterie, and gourmet groceries to grab to go.

Pizzeria Bebu

Everyone knows Chicago for its deep dish pizza, but we’ve got a lot of awesome thin crust spots as well. Pizzeria Bebu is a newcomer to the pizza scene but it’s quickly become one of the highest rated. If you want just a plain cheese pizza, look elsewhere. Bebu has creative pies loaded with excellent toppings.

If you can make it for brunch the Bagel Smuggler is one of my favorites. It’s topped with pancetta, caramelized onion and an egg that is smartly broken up instead of being laid on top with a soft yolk so instead of getting huge bites of egg on some pieces and none on others it’s mixed into every slice. The best part is the everything bagel seasoning crust. If you’re feeling a little healthy the shaved brussel sprouts salad is a good side dish or starter to
accompany your pizza.


Small Cheval

Wicker Park’s Small Cheval doesn’t get as much hype as it’s West Loop big sister, Au Cheval, but it comes with a fraction of the wait time. They serve 3 things here – burgers, fries, and shakes (plus beer and shots) and they do them all fantastically. The double patty is perfectly seasoned and loaded with melted American cheese. You can add bacon but I don’t find that as necessary as I do at Au Cheval so I usually skip it. Get a burger for yourself and split a side of fries with a friend, they can be a little salty and are a big portion. Don’t forget to slather as much aioli as you possibly can on the fries.

To finish, wash the meal down with a chocolate or vanilla shake, also probably smart to split, and you’ll be in a Small Cheval food coma. It’s worth it every time. If it is nice out on the patio is a great spot to sit and enjoy the weather. Or, you can hop on the 606 and burn about 1/20 of the calories you just consumed.


Any other local suggestions for spring in Chicago?

If the weather is nice, spend the afternoon walking on the 606 or the lakefront trail. Cold weather? Head to the Art Institute and definitely try to make it to a Sofar Sounds show while you are in town. Mystery concerts are a lot of fun!

For more Chicago food suggestions follow @fourstarfoodie on Instagram.

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