Neighborhood Guides

Restaurant picks for Chicago's many neighborhoods.

Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Leigh Omilinsky's Lincoln Square


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Leigh Omilinsky

I caught up with the Sofitel and Café des Architectes' pastry chef, Leigh Omilinsky, right before she jetted off to Paris to learn the art of macaron-making with Pierre Hermé. She's been living in Lincoln Square for a year and half after choosing to move to the neighborhood over Ukranian Village. "I've always kind of loved it and found myself hanging around the neighborhood," she says. "It's quiet and I love the quiet, but it's still urban and accessible to public transportation." Omilinsky shares several of her favorite breakfast spots (can you tell it's her favorite meal?), as well as other picks for food and drinks in the neighborhood.

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Chicken Fried Biscuit at Gather [Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Brunch: Gather has been my favorite restaurant, period, lately. They have awesome brunch, but the food there is always really solid. The menu changes regularly and I send everyone there. I had one of the best things I've had ever at Gather. I walked away thinking I could eat this every day. It's a whipped ricotta with honey and balsamic and it's just so good. They serve it as an appetizer, and it's weird 'cause it's sweet. They have a half-chicken at dinner and they take the bone out of the dark meat and fry that, and roast the white meat. It's really delicious.

Savory Breakfast: Café Selmarie. I go there regularly, maybe once a month, with my mom and it's good every time. It's so laid back and they've been there forever. I love how nice the people there are. They have really good pastries, but they have really good real food too. I got corned beef the last time I was there and it was awesome. Their quiche is really good, too, and the flavors change frequently.

Sweet Breakfast: Pannenkoeken Cafe has great Dutch babies, super airy and eggy. You don't really find that many places. They do savory ones where they put bacon and ham on them but I think of it as a sweet place with berries and nutella. It's small so you might need to wait on weekends but it's worth it. I don't even know if they take reservations.

Cheesesteak Hoagie ($10.95 for 8", $13.95 for 12")

Cheesesteak at Monti's [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Sandwiches: Monti's has great cheesesteaks and grinders. It's a fun place too. It's greasy and shameless and delicious and it's just not fussy. It's pretty true to Philly cheesesteaks.

Sushi: I frequent Tank Sushi for my sushi needs. They have half price lunch too, so that's great. I usually get a kimchi roll that's really good. It's vegetarian and caught me off guard because it's delicious. I also get sashimi and they have this appetizer, it's seared beef rolled around asparagus, that's pretty good. Plus, they always have some fun rolls.

#6: Opart Thai ($8.59)

Pad Thai at Opart Thai [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Thai: Opart Thai! I always get the wide noodles and their curries are very good. Everything I've had there is good and they deliver, so that's great. I have a hard time making up my mind, and when I finally do, they'll just bring it to my house. Love the chicken satay skewers too. They ask if you want your food Thai hot or American hot, and I just think that's hilarious. I usually get American hot because I'm kind of a weenie. I've tried Thai hot, but I can't hang. It hurts.

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Burrata at Fork [Photograph: Josh Conley]

Drinks: Fork is fun because you can get wine and champagne flights. Plus the food is pretty decent. I usually get the champagne flight with burrata in a jar with pesto and crunchy bread. My best friend lives two blocks from me so we like to just meet up for a drink there.

Coffee: The Grind has good coffee. I like that I can hang out there all day and no one bothers me. They have pretty good snacks too. Plus, it's independently owned, which I will always try to support. I usually get a cappuccino and biscotti and sit and do computer work in their little cafe.

Cocktails: Tiny Lounge. There are a lot of dive bars in the neighborhood and I'm all about that but this is a little nicer. They have a wide variety of cocktails and they're always really well made. I can walk away with having one or two and I'm good for the night. They have a cute patio for the summer too.

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The sausage case at Gene's Sausage Shop [Photograph: Blake Royer]

Specialty Grocery: Gene's Sausage Shop is a landmark, and it's not just sausages. It's like your own little European grocery store and you can get fun cheese there too. They have a bunch of charcuterie, cheese and fun jams. It's two stories and you can get decent wines and European sodas there too.

Limoncello and Bailey's Gelato at Paciugo (call for availability)

Limoncello and Bailey's Gelato at Paciugo [Photograph: Lindsey Becker]

Gelato: Paciugo has amazing gelato, but I feel like people don't know it as well. It's very much true Italian. Plus, it's a company that supports the Slow Food Movement, so I like that too. I had it when I was in Torino for the first time and I was so excited when it was here. I have to get pistachio or hazelnut and then the rest kind of changes. You get three flavors in a small. If it's pistachio I'll do a fruit and maybe a chocolate. I also like the fior di latte (sweet cream) and when you eat the whole thing all together (fior di latte, pistachio and fruit) it's like grown up peanut butter and jelly.

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