Don’t know about you, but I spent the Pandemic indoors, eating and reading voraciously — my two favorite activities at any time of year. But soon, we’ll all have the chance to read and eat outdoors at one of Chicago’s all-time great festivals, the 2021 Printer’s Row Lit Fest, set for September 11 and 12. Join Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, syndicated columnist Heidi Stevens, journalist/author Dawn Turner, author Vu Tran, and many more of your favorite writers for two days of festivities, lectures, book sales, and children’s programming.
While in the neighborhood, check out some of our nearby restaurant recommendations.
Editors Note: Check out our full guide to the 2021 Printers Row Lit Fest for the full programming schedule, book market details and more.
Amarit Thai and Sushi
600 S. Dearborn St.
You’ll find all your Thai favorites here, from Grilled Chicken Satay and Tom Yum Soup to Pad Thai and Pad Kra Prao, but with a few contemporary curve balls thrown in to keep it interesting, like Salmon Chuchi with a spicy, creamy curry sauce, Crab Fried Rice, and Duck Curry with Pineapple. They’ve also got a full component of sushi, nigiri, and sashimi options, and a beer and wine license. Throw in some Mango Sticky Rice and you’ve got a party. Open 11 am – 9 pm daily.
47 W. Polk St.
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Out late and still hungry? Bar Louie’s got you. They’re open until 2 am every night, a rarity in these times. This is solid bar food, slightly elevated. Bavarian Pretzel Nuggets come with everything bagel spice, queso, and jalapeño-honey mustard, while a Roasted Veggie Flatbread sports a base of spinach cream sauce topped with three cheeses, shredded broccolini, artichoke hearts, and shishito peppers. The Charred Lemon Caesar subs in pretzel crumbs for croutons, and you’ll find a nice selection of sandwiches and burgers. Do yourself a favor and don’t look too closely at the listed calorie counts. Open Monday – Friday, 11 am – 2 am; Saturday/Sunday 10 am – 2 am.
725 S. Dearborn St.
This popular fast-casual mini chain offers homemade tamales (I’m partial to the Oaxaqueño, filled with savory braised chicken and jalapeño salsa), nachos and Carne Asada Fries (a real indulgence, sublimely messy), burritos, quesadillas, and the eponymous tacos. Everything is fresh and made in-house daily. Vegetarians and vegans will have plenty of good options here, and everyone can enjoy a cerveza or margarita to wash it all down. Open daily 11 am – 9 pm.
649 S. Clark St.
This dog-friendly craft beer pub — yes, Princess gets her own menu to choose from — serves brunch, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on bar grub. Think pizza bread, Roasted Cauliflower “Wings,” Poutine, burgers, wraps, and a busy fryer. Over 50 international beers on draft, and they’re open late. Open daily from 11 am – 2 am.
The Grail Café
715 S. Dearborn St.
Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients highlight the menu at this community-focused space in the South Loop. “New Soul Food” options change monthly and tend toward the health conscious. Current items include a Sunny Summer Salmon Salad with fried egg, Naan Burrito with quinoa, chickpeas, kale, cheddar labneh and avocados, Mascarpone and Berry Crêpe, and Gold Noodles with turmeric, roasted carrots, tofu, kale, and ginger lemon broth. Open 7 am – 6 pm every day.
755 S. Clark St.
If you’re jonesing for deli food, this is your stop. Hummus, Smoked Salmon Dip, Latkes with Crème Fraîche, Apple Sauce and Hot Honey, bagels with a schmear, Matzo Ball Soup, hot griddled Reubens and Rachels (sub in turkey for the corned beef) are all on offer, along with plenty of half-sour dill pickles. Bubbe would be proud. Open Monday-Friday noon-11 pm, Saturday/Sunday 10 am – 11pm.
Roots Handmade Pizza
744 S. Dearborn St.
It’s that Quad Cities malt crust and the way they scissor-cut each pizza into manageable slices that sets the Roots pizza apart. If you’re a first timer, I might recommend the Taco Pizza (better than it sounds at first blush), or perhaps one of their kick-ass pizza collabs with famous Chicago chefs like Jimmy Bannos Jr’s Purple Pig ‘Nduja Sausage Pizza topped with giardiniera, or Brian Fisher’s Entente Korean Fried Chicken Pizza. The bounteous salads here are surprisingly great, and the handmade Mozzarella Sticks will spoil you for all others. Closed Mondays, open Tuesday/Wednesday 4-10 pm, Thursday 11 am – 11 pm, Friday/Saturday 11 am – midnight, and Sundays 11 am – 10 pm.
More from Better:
- Printers Row Lit Fest 2021: Colson Whitehead, Dawn Turner Headline This Year’s Can’t-Miss Book Festival
- 30 of the Best Things in Chicago and the Suburbs This September
- Daughters Launch Momsy’s Cafe in Winnetka to Honor Their Mother
Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.