Get Nostalgic With These 7 PB&J Dishes and Drinks in Chicago

With back to school season in full swing, it’s a fitting time to think about some of the most nostalgic lunchbox items. This means none other than the classic PB&J. In honor of school season, here’s a roundup of some of the best PB&J-inspired items on menus in Chicago restaurants.


It's PB&J you can drink at Arbella

One of the coolest and most surprising renditions of a PB&J is actually one you can drink. It’s also one that will get you drunk, so it’s decidedly a far cry from the kid-pleasing versions of cafeteria yore. Among the myriad of inspired, eclectic cocktails at recently opened Arbella, the Old School is made with peanut butter vodka (that’s vodka that’s been infused with peanut butter, not that treacly gross flavored vodka stuff), Concord grape juice, lime and a jelly-infused ice cube. To top it all off, it’s even served in an adorable jelly jar. 

The king of all PB&Js in Chicago may very well be the version served at South Water Kitchen. Why? Because it doubles down on childhood nostalgia by fusing with a grilled cheese, making for two of the mightiest comfort foods in one. The Loop restaurant serves this crowd-pleaser on their lunch menu, featuring pear (the “p” replacing peanut butter, in this case), Brie cheese, and blueberry jam on whole-grain bread.

Another tongue-in-cheek PB&J riff can be found at Boiler Room in Logan Square. If you’re expecting to find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a pizza bar, fear not. This version is actually a popular combo special of a slice of pizza, a beer, and a shot of Jameson, hence the moniker.

For a PB&J sandwich that’s actually a sandwich, and a damn good one to boot, try the one at Elaine’s Coffee Call. This bustling Lincoln Park cafe features a tasty version made with blueberry preserves by chef Paul Virant, whose Perennial Virant is in the same building right around the corner. 

The all-American classic goes Cuban at Nini’s Deli. At this homey Noble Square eatery, the sandwich features a hefty layer of creamy peanut butter outfitted with tangy homemade guava jelly and sweet plantains.


PB&J soft-serve for dessert at Urban Belly

PB&J, in all its sweetness and indulgence, is just as fitting as dessert as it is for lunch. Case in point, try the PB&J soft-serve ice cream at Urban Belly. Silky vanilla soft-serve ice cream lays the foundation for hefty dollops of huckleberry jelly and peanut butter crunch.

Another classic ice cream treat is the PB&J concrete at Scooter’s Frozen Custard. For years, this Lakeview spot has been churning out decadent cups and bowls filled with vanilla custard blended with peanut butter and black raspberry. 

- Matt Kirouac