Tables for One: Where to Fly Solo in the Windy City

Let’s imagine you find yourself alone in the Windy City for a day or two. You’re not the type who stays in the hotel room ordering room service. Instead, you’re an explorer, seeking out culinary or nighttime adventures. Luckily for you, many places around town cater to those rolling solo. They run the gamut, from a movie house specializing in unconventional films to a heavy metal burger bar known as a favourite of pop star Lady Gaga.

Fred's at Barneys New York
If you can make it to the sixth-floor eatery without buying a thing in one of the many departments of this luxury retail store, you have admirable self-control. Hop onto a barstool and grab a glass of rosé (a specialty here). A television in the corner is tuned into sports or news, which is one way to occupy yourself – but the people watching here is the real entertainment. Terrific bites range from the jumbo lump crab cake to a Neapolitan-style pizza topped with prosciutto, arugula and parmesan.


15 E. Oak St., 312-596-1111

High Five Ramen
Located directly underneath Green Street Smoked Meats, High Five Ramen is only about a sliver of its size, yet just as popular. Only a few seats are available for those looking to slurp a steaming hot bowl of noodles, and you’ve got a better shot at not waiting for a long time if you’re alone. With a seat at the bar, you can watch the chefs whip up the signature spicy bowl of ramen featuring pork belly, seasoned egg, black garlic oil, and a warning: “The spice in this bowl may hurt you.”


112 N. Green St., 312-754-0431

Kuma's Corner
This famed burger joint, located 20 or 30 minutes by car from downtown, boasts Lady Gaga as one of its biggest fans. She’s known to don a wig and shades, settle into the bar, and chow down on one of the restaurant’s heavy metal-themed burgers with its juiciness running down her face and hands. You won’t have to put on a disguise, but we cannot promise that you won’t have that burger all over your face. The Led Zeppelin burger, for example, is topped with bacon, slow-cooked pork shoulder, barbecue sauce, sharp cheddar and pickles.


2900 W. Belmont Ave., 773-604-8769

Mercat a la Planxa
Located on the first floor of the historic Blackstone Hotel, this is a spot where you can grab a barstool and dig into authentic Catalan cuisine and cocktails — and have the tapas all to yourself for once. Try the charcuterie selection, jumbo prawns, or traditional tapas including olives, bacon-wrapped dates and roasted chicken croquettes.


638 S. Michigan Ave., 312-765-0524

If you find yourself with nothing to do one afternoon, head to Rick Bayless’s casual Mexican-focused eatery for a snack and a drink. There’s ample counter seating for a solo diner to get comfortable to nosh on bacon caramel corn, chicharrones, Oaxacan-style peanuts or glazed churros. During warm months, you’ll want to cool off with a freshly squeezed limonada or margarita. And in winter, the Mexican hot chocolate will keep you toasty.


449 N. Clark St. and 1471 North Milwaukee Ave.

The Music Box
If you're looking to feed the brain as well, head to The Music Box after dinner. People have called this movie theatre “Chicago’s year-round film festival.” You won’t find the week’s blockbuster on any of the screens – more likely the latest Sundance winners, or a silent movie matinee. If you’re a night owl, you’re certain to appreciate the midnight movies every Friday and Saturday. They range from classic art films to campy fare. Located minutes away from Wrigley Field.


3733 N. Southport Ave., 773-871-6607

Published Tuesday, July 21st 2015

Header image credit: Courtesy High Five Ramen



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