Anthony Bourdain in Chicago: 25 Spots Where Tony Ate

The Windy City. Second City. Chi-town. Whatever you call Chicago, it’s an essential big city worth visiting in the Midwest. Cultural and culinary trends are powered by what happens in Chicago – even if NYC and L.A. typically steal the limelight. For that reason, it’s great to see that Anthony Bourdain dedicated plenty of time to showing off how special Chicago is and why it’s worth visiting – and eating there.

Anthony Bourdain visited Chicago to film season 5 (episode 4) of No Reservations as well as season 2 (episode 1) of The Layover and season 7 (episode 2) of Parts Unknown. These were his only visits to the Windy City, but he sure packs a lot in – Chicago’s great for that if you’re short on time thanks to its decent public transit system and neighborhoods jam-packed with awesome restaurants.

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago Hero

Whether you’re planning a trip to Chicago or just want to see a list of all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Chicago, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find a brief recap of all three episodes Tony filmed there, where he ate, and what he ate. From deep-dish pizza to hot dogs to ethnic cuisine representing the city’s diversity, Chicago is a delicious destination. Let’s dive in!

Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Chicago?
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV, The Layover episode is available on Amazon, and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Peoria, Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi), Myaamia, Kaskaskia, and Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Where Anthony Bourdain ate in Chicago

Before jumping into the list of places Tony Bourdain ate in Chicago, I thought it might be helpful to use a map to show where all of the places are – as you can see, he ate in a variety of neighborhoods around the city.

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago Map
Click to interact with the map.

Using that map to get oriented, now let’s go through each of the places Tony ate, during each of his visits to film there.

No Reservations (2008)

Tony’s first on-screen trip to Chicago is actually kind of late in his career – it’s halfway through his No Reservations run. He more than makes up for it, sampling a wide variety of foods and experiences the city has to offer.

Tom Tom Tamale

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Beef Tamales

Bourdain first meets with Peter Engler, a connoisseur of mouse genetics, surprisingly, and more importantly the Chicago street food scene. Their first stop is Tom Tom Tamale. This restaurant in Brighton Park makes over 39,000 all-beef tamales a week by hand, as well as your typical Chicago hot dog. 

Fat Johnnie’s 

After seeing how the tamales are made at Tom Tom, Tony and Peter walk over to Fat Johnnie’s. Fat Johnnie’s serves what Tony classifies as “good stoner food.” Huge hotdogs, tamales, and a drink that Tony tries referred to as a “suicide.”

Tony also partakes in their specialty, a “mother-in-law” which is a Chicago dog with the works, a tamale shoved in the bun and topped with chili. Tony says it’s called the mother-in-law because it’s “designed to give you indigestion.” 

Burt’s Place

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Deep Dish Pizza

Next, Bourdain meets up with Louisa Chu for some deep-dish pizza, much to his chagrin. Tony has always considered deep-dish pizza a food sin; however, Burt’s Place in Morton Grove is an exception. Tony has a deep dish with a mix of peppers, mushrooms, and spinach that Burt, the restaurant owner, sources himself daily. 

Calumet Fisheries 

On the Southside of industrial Chicago and right on the Calumet River, Calumet Fisheries has been open since 1928. It offers tons of different seafood and specialty smoked fish that are smoked daily over cherrywood and white oak. Here, Tony and Louisa share the smoked salmon, trout, and shrimp. 

Moto (CLOSED)

Chef Homaro Cantu ran this unfortunately closed fine dining establishment in downtown Chicago. Tony first eats the menu, yes the menu, which is made specifically to be eaten after you order your dishes and paired with a glass of champagne.

Next, Tony tries a dish called “roadkill” a plate of beet purée, mushrooms in the shape of a brain, shredded duck, and puffed rice shaped to resemble maggots. Then he tries a “Cuban cigar” dish which is essentially a Cuban sandwich, wrapped in a dried cabbage leaf to look like a cigar and served with an ashtray of sesame and Brazil nut garnish for dipping.

After that, his next dish is barbecue course, though of course is nothing that you’d expect from your average barbecue. This dish is made from a freeze-dried block of coleslaw and barbecued beef short rib, slow-cooked for 16 hours and finally topped with a cornbread-inspired purée. 

Silver Palm

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Baby Back Ribs

Bourdain and radio host Mancow Muller, a local legend in Chicago, meet up for dinner at the Silver Palm. After getting a run down from Muller on what separates northside and southside Chicagoans, Tony dives into the classics.

They start off their meal with a shrimp cocktail, onion rings, and a rack of “Flinstones-sized” baby back ribs. Despite all that, they tackle the sandwich that Silver Palm is known for, “Three Little Pigs.” This sandwich, Tony states, defies “all belief or decency;” it’s a towering sandwich with smoked ham, breaded pork cutlet, two thick strips of crispy bacon, and two fried eggs. As if that wasn’t enough, this sandwich is then topped with a Gruyère cheese sauce and somehow all placed fairly efficiently on a brioche bun. Tony regards this monstrous sandwich as “a two-fisted symphony of pork, cheese, fat, and starch.” 

L2O (CLOSED)

The now-closed L2O restaurant specializes in high-end seafood dishes, run by world-renowned chef, Laurent Gras.

Bourdain and old friend Eric Ripert sit down for a course of fresh tuna and kampachi, followed by a mussel and coconut gelee with chili pepper and green apple essence and then a medai roll topped with lime juice, salmon roe, and a cured escolar with an espelette pepper and paired with crystallized lettuce. After their opening courses, Tony and Eric are served a dish of floral tasting Fluke with caviar and Shiso leaf. 

Their next dish is a plate of Akagi clams in rice wine vinegar and white soy sauce. Tony regards this dish as the “very definition of what a clam can and should be.” Moving on from that, they are served a butter-poached lobster with a sea urchin roe and sautéed squid server on a lobster-urchin emulsion. Next is a dish of seared Toro with freeze-dried wasabi and celery garnish and a green apple salad with a green olive and soy emulsion. 

Hot Doug’s Sausage Superstore

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Chicago Dog

On the top of Bourdain’s list for this Chicago visit was Hot Doug’s, a Chicago local favorite. Specializing in sausages and hot dogs from wild game to a classic Chicago dog, this joint has something for everyone. It was ranked nearly every year as the best hot dog in Chicago, and even placed in the top 50 restaurants in all of America by Bon Appetit magazine.

Tony sticks to the classics here, a red hot “Chicago dog” with celery salt, tomato slices, pickle spear, diced yellow onion, yellow mustard, neon green relish, and a generous side of French fries fried in rendered duck fat.

After the classic Chicago dog, Bourdain branches out and tries the foie Gras dog, a Sauterne-infused duck sausage with truffle mustard topped with discs of fresh foie Gras, or duck liver. The foie Gras dog was actually a point of contention among Chicago politics and Hot Doug’s was even fined at one point for serving foie Gras due to health concerns, but the court ruled in favor and Doug’s was able to continue selling these decadent “wonder weenies” as Tony referred to it. 

The Layover (2011)

Returning to film his whirlwind show, The Layover, Chicago is the first stop Tony makes on the second season run. As usual, he packs a ton into a short amount of time – and this list doesn’t even include all the extra suggestions he makes in the episode if you’re looking for even more ideas.

Old Town Ale House

The historic North Avenue bar Old Town Ale House is a cash-only, eccentric, and legendary place run by Bruce Cameron Elliott and plenty of local and memorable characters. Tony starts this Chicago trip by stopping by here for a quick conversation with Bruce and an ice-cold draft beer. 

Billy Goat Tavern

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Double Cheeseburger

Located directly underneath the Chicago Tribune building, Billy Goat Tavern is an underground cheeseburger joint with a fluorescent-lit bar, frosted beer mugs, and a rich history depicted throughout its basement-like walls.

Tony and Bruce both order their own “double cheese” burger which is just a classic double cheeseburger topped with ketchup, pickles, and onions, and served without fries. Billy Goat has since expanded and now has multiple locations in Chicago, even at the Midway and O’Hare airports. 

Publican Quality Meats

Chicago native and restaurateur, Paul Kahan runs a West Loop butcher shop – Publican Quality Meats – that also serves as a hub for fresh bread, charcuterie, artisanal cheeses, and even liquor.

Here, Bourdain has a sampler board of Culatello, chicken liver pâté, spicy coppa, headcheese, sopresetta, pork, foie Gras pate, testa, pickled tongue, blood mortadella, and one of his favorite snacks ever: blood sausage. 

The Publican

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Speck Burrata

Directly across the street from its sister butcher shop is Kahan’s restaurant, The Publican. Publican serves as a communal, beer garden-type restaurant that serves more pork-heavy dishes.

Tony’s first dish here is a plate of breaded lake perch, arugula, red onion, and Parmigiano. Next is a dish of once again, blood sausage, served with summer squash and roasted peppers. The next dish he orders is a bowl of frites (french fries) topped with sunny side eggs and salt and pepper.

Tony also tries a bowl of fresh cantaloupe salad with chicory, and prosciutto that’s tossed in a champagne vinaigrette as well as a plate of speck, burrata cheese, roasted tomato, and pears. He also has a bowl of octopus on a bed of barley and watermelon. 

The Hideout

Chicago is well known for its love of drinking and eccentric bar scene and The Hideout is no different. This gem of a bar in Noble Square has been around since 1934, first serving as a bar for steel factory workers and now serves as a haven for Chicagoans from both the North and South sides. Anthony has a cold draft beer and a cocktail while talking to Hideout owners, Tim and Kate. 

Doughnut Vault

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Maple Donut

On the following morning of his layover, Bourdain decides to grab a coffee and doughnut at the North River location of Doughnut Vault. Although he doesn’t “give a f*** about doughnuts,” he decides to grab a hot coffee and a maple buttermilk donut to start his day. (He also does like donuts on occasion, having loved ones in Portland, Oregon!)

Simon’s Tavern

After a quick post-museum-visit nap, Bourdain heads to Simon’s Tavern in uptown Chicago for a local favorite beer, Schlitz. Simon’s Tavern is located in the Swedish area of uptown Chicago and offers a warm, Viking-decorated atmosphere that’s been cranking out Schlitz beer since 1934 almost immediately after the prohibition ended.

Tony describes Simon’s Bar as the equivalent of getting a “long boozy hug from Pippi Longstocking.”

Jimmy’s Red Hots

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Chicago Dog 2

It would not be a trip to Chicago without stopping at one of their legendary hot dog joints, and Jimmy’s is one of the “Red Hot” originals.

Located in Humboldt Park, this restaurant has been serving hot dogs for more than 55 years. Their buns are steamed, not toasted and there is not an ounce of ketchup in the entire establishment, so do not bother asking.

Tony gets himself just a classic Chicago dog with the frank, yellow mustard, relish, tomato, onion, pickle spear, small peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt. 

L&L Tavern

L&L Tavern is located a few blocks south of Wrigley Field but serves Cubs and White Sox fans alike. Bourdain stops by to learn more about the Cubs and Sox rivalry, a point of pride and contention among every Chicagoan, before trying another highly contested Chicago liquor, the infamous Malort. Malort is a digestif liquor made from wormwood and you either love it, or you absolutely hate it.

Tony also has a Schlitz Beer at L&L to wash down that Malort aftertaste (essential!).

Girl & The Goat

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Grilled Octopus

Girl & The Goat is owned and operated by a “Top Chef” winner, Stephanie Izard. This restaurant offers a full bar and an enormous, rustic but sleek dining space.

Bourdain starts off with a Kohlrabi salad that is topped with blueberries and a ginger vinaigrette. Next is a bowl of roasted beets, green beans, kale, and anchovy. Followed by these two greens-heavy starters is a hearty escargot ravioli with tamarind, bacon, and some crispy fried onion to add some texture to the dish.

After praising Stephanie Izard and the city of Chicago for their full embracing of the modernist culinary movement, Tony moves on to a dish of roasted cauliflower, pickled peppers, and mint served alongside grilled octopus with green beans, guanciale with fish sauce vinaigrette.

To finish off this tasting course, Stephanie serves Tony a goat belly dish with lobster and bourbon butter and an oven-roasted pig face topped with crispy potato sticks and a fried egg. 

Johnnie’s Beef

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Italian Beef Sandwich

In Elmwood Park on the Northwest of Chicago sits Johnnie’s Beef. Chicago Italian Beef is another staple of Chicago cuisine, so Tony gets the classic beef to round out this visit. It’s a heaping roast beef sandwich topped with sweet and hot peppers served on a French roll that’s dipped in hot Au Jus and served with a side of French fries. 

Parts Unknown (2015)

Tony’s final visit was filmed near the end of his career, about halfway through Parts Unknown. On this trip, he visits old favorite spots and discovers new ones that show why the “Second City” still stacks up compared to other big culinary cities in the U.S.

Old Town Ale House

For his first stop on his final trip, Bourdain pops back by for a beer at one of his favorite bars in Chicago, Old Town Ale House, run by Bruce Cameron Elliot, otherwise nicknamed either from his patrons, or himself, the “Geriatric Genius.”

This bar is decorated with offensive (depending on your viewpoints) political artwork. You can look in one direction and see Vladimir Putin in a Tutu or Donald Trump in a straitjacket. Regardless of political stances, this is a historic Chicago watering hole that is constantly cycling through Chicago’s eccentric and diverse culture and is home to several local characters who call this place their second home. 

Valois Cafeteria

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Meatloaf and Mac

This cafeteria-styled eatery offers varying dishes day-to-day and you can fill your tray however you see fit. Tony goes for the meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and a house salad with ranch, all proper classic homestyle dishes.

Longman & Eagle

Anthony Bourdain in Montreal - Beef Tartare

Bourdain – along with friend and comedian Paul Jurewicz – head to Logan Square for a dinner at Longman & Eagle, a trendy restaurant where the food is delicious but the “flannels and neckbeards are abundant.” We all know Bourdain’s distaste for hipsters, but he still praises this restaurant for having excellent food.

Tony starts off with a plate of beef tartare, roasted bone marrow and greens, and a Tete de Cochon with bleu cheese and a celery relish. Next, he has a confit of beef tripe and slow-roasted cauliflower, caramelized yellow onion on a bed of lentils. 

Sze Chuan Cuisine (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Mapo Dofu

In the Chinatown area of Chicago, Bourdain meets up with Stephanie Izard again along with their friend, Peter Wong, for some pork dumplings in chili oil at Sze Chuan Cuisine to start their night off. The dish that Tony is most excited for, Mapo Dofu, is a tofu dish with minced pork and served with a thin, spicy chili sauce. After the Mapo Dofu, he tries the fish hotpot, a boiling tray of fish cooked in broth, chilis, and spices, topped with fresh cilantro. 

Unfortunately, this spot has closed since Tony’s visit, but there are tons of other great restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown area.

Ricobene’s

Next, Tony meets up with music producer, Steve Albini, for a breaded steak sandwich at the beloved Chicago restaurant Ricobene’s. This sandwich is hefty, covered in sauce and hot giardiniera and shredded then melted mozzarella cheese. To wash this all down, Tony opts for a pint of beer (no surprises there!).

Topo Gigio Ristorante

Anthony Bourdain in Chicago - Veal Saltimbocca

Last but not least! Located in Old Town Chicago, Topo Gigio offers Italian-American fare. Topo Gigio serves the Italian restaurant classics but in a nearly perfect way.

Bourdain orders the Veal Saltimbocca, scallops in a creamy pesto sauce, and a squid ink shrimp pasta while once again partaking in a heated debate between Bruce Elliott and Old Town Ale House legend, Buzzkill about who the better Chicago baseball team is. 

Chicago Food Tours to Try

While there’s no shortage of food options on this list so far, I always like to include food tours for your consideration as well – they can be a great way to sample a lot in a short time, say if you’re only in Chicago for a layover or a few days. Here are some of the best Chicago food tours I’ve found that you could consider doing during your visit:

Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Chicago, or all the foods he ate during his visits? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ricky has worked off and on in the restaurant industry since high school, filling positions from host to line cook to sous chef all in California and Kentucky. He has always had a desire for food and travel, so discovering Anthony’s writings and shows years back was like meeting a great new friend.

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