With June being Pride Month, there’s no better time of year to spend dining and drinking in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. The vibrant Lakeview area enclave is best known perhaps for its clubs, drag brunches and rainbow pylons, but the neighborhood is becoming a serious dining destination in its own right, thanks to restaurants like these:
Wood: One of the most popular — and acclaimed — restaurants in Boystown, Wood is beloved not only by locals, but by esteemed dining guides like Michelin. The restaurant has routinely been listed as a Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient, which recognizes culinary excellence at bargain prices. Courtesy of chef Ashlee Aubin, the menu makes it easy to see where all the accolades have been coming from. Dinner features dazzling presentations like avocado salad with quinoa and poppy seed vinaigrette, ahi tuna with fried plantains and black bean aïoli, soft-shell crab with English pea risotto and salsa verde, and Burrata with roasted strawberries and toasted rye sourdough. And those are just the starters. Large plates really bring the wow with dishes like smoked St. Louis-style spare ribs with togarashi rub and roasted peanuts, hanger steak with hash brown gratin and bearnaise, and merguez sausage with bacon-braised lentils and chickpeas. The cocktails are not to be missed either.
Pingpong: “Chopstick cuisine” is the bill of fare at this bustling, contemporary Asian restaurant and bar on the Broadway strip. The space is slick and artsy, providing a fun backdrop for shareable dishes like seared tuna with wasabi butter, peanut noodles, salt and pepper calamari, spicy seafood ramen, dan dan noodles and pad see ew, all of which do a nice job toeing the line between classic inspirations and modern, inventive interpretation. Cocktails are just as noteworthy, what with a lineup of beverages inspired by 1930’s Shanghai. These include the Ginseng Margarita made with Korean red panax, tequila and lime; the Nobility with gin, Jasmine tea tonic and mint; and the Opium Haze, which combines Maker’s Mark, sage and fig preserves.
Lark: At the risk of stating the obvious and perpetuating the superficial stereotype, Boystown is one of Chicago’s sexiest neighborhoods. It’s a sentiment that holds true for the local bars and restaurants, as well as the denizens and clubs. One of the best examples as far as restaurant goes is Lark, a tasty addition to the main drag along Halsted Street. The food menu boasts the likes of tempura green beans, Cubano sandwiches and pizzas draped with prosciutto, and the people-watching is just as good, thanks to an incredible happy hour and something called the “after dark” period, which has late-night DJs and vintage board games.
HB Home Bistro: The confines and the food are as cozy as the name suggests at this quintessential Boystown staple. Within the homey dining room, the popular restaurant serves up a mix of New American plates and European influences. That means baby beet salads with pistachio butter and grilled asparagus with romesco and soft-boiled egg share menu space with artichoke and edam fritters and papatas bravas with roasted jalapeño aïoli and tomato jam. For heartier plates, the kitchen turns out innovative offerings like BBQ beef tongue, Amsterdam-style mussels with star anise-steeped beer broth and shawarma-spiced lamb breast with English pea hummus, red quinoa tabbouleh and fried chickpeas.
D.S. Tequila Company: You don’t need to stick to chef-driven, homey eateries to get high-quality food in Boystown. Even the clubbier spots in the area have interesting options to savor. As evidenced by spots like D.S. Tequila Company, a rambunctious people-pleaser with a playful menu of burgers, tacos, quesadillas, margaritas and frozen drinks. The place is popular for good reason, thanks to its upbeat environs, energizing music and broad menu loaded with everything from bourbon chicken tacos and mac and cheese-topped burgers to churros, blackberry margaritas and watermelon “frosé,” which looks to be the cocktail of the summer.
Yoshi’s Cafe: For years, Yoshi’s Cafe has been a keystone in the Boystown community, revered for its elegant ambience, warm hospitality and its fresh, original take on fusion cuisine combining elements of French and Japanese cooking. The restaurant is a timeworn fixture for locals, as the quality and technique are unparalleled. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with menu favorites like Wagyu beef brisket gyoza, vegetarian tofu burgers, whole loupe de mer, or strip loin au poivre. One of the standout signatures, however, may very well be the vegan roasted kabocha pumpkin, filled with vegetables, tofu and mushrooms in a sweet and spicy apricot sauce with sesame oil and soy sauce.