Where ‘The Bear’ characters would really eat in Chicago (2024)

Ahead of the third season of the culinary drama “The Bear,” Chicago is abuzz with sightings of the cast. Seasons 3 and 4 are shooting back to back, and despite showrunners’ best efforts to throw Chicagoans off their trail with filming code names, actors have been spotted at O’Hare International Airport, an Evanston church and the lakefront.

Members of the cast have also been getting into character during their downtime, enjoying Chicago’s thriving food scene.

Jeremy Allen White, Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Lionel Boyce recently dined at La Scarola, a classic red-sauce joint, while Edebiri talked up South Side soul food stalwart Oooh Wee! It Is! at the Golden Globes in January.

The show has featured an array of Chicago eateries, from Ukrainian Village favorite Lao Peng You to meat market mainstay Publican Quality Meats.

But “The Bear” can only spend so much time in Chicago restaurants. So, we wondered where else its characters might eat – and where a visiting fan could get the kind of Chicago food experience the show has so accurately portrayed.

To find out, we talked to food-loving locals, including chefs, restaurateurs and writers. Here’s where they’d expect to find the gang.

Birrieria Zaragoza

This multigenerational birria spot would appeal to Carmy’s obsession with family, legacy and – of course – culinary excellence.

“I think Carmy would be buds with Jonathan,” imagines Jason Hammel, the chef and owner behind Logan Square institution Lula Cafe, since two chefs working to keep their family’s legacy alive would have so much in common.

Like the fictional Beef, Zaragoza serves a meaty, rich, homey food in a basic space – customers keep coming because it’s the best in the city. Today, the restaurant is run by Jonathan Zaragoza, whose father Juan opened the birrieria in 2007 after studying under a birria master in his hometown of La Barca, Jalisco. The business has since expanded from its original location in the Latino enclave Archer Heights to include a second location in Uptown.

Info: 4852 S. Pulaski Road, (773) 523-3700, birrieriazaragoza.com

Bungalow by Middle Brow

This combination winery-brewery-bakery-pizzeria is a true multihyphenate, insistent on the Midwestern origins of its grapes and grains. Food blogger and lifelong Chicagoan Tim Mazurek said, “They’re just doing so much, it almost feels beyond a restaurant. In a way, it’s like a community space.”

Must-orders include sourdough doughnuts, available only on the weekends – one recent iteration featured a serviceberry glaze – and the classic sausage and green olive pizza. Per Mazurek, Middle Brow would be the perfect haunt for chef de cuisine Sydney “to chill out and also hang out around industry folks.”

Info: 2840 W. Armitage Ave., (773) 687-9076, middlebrowbeer.com

Elske

Mazurek imagines pastry chef Marcus might be attracted to the wave of fancy, French-inspired confections chefs are working on across the city. Anna Posey runs the Danish-influenced fine dining restaurant Elske alongside her husband, David. She focuses on pastry, crafting gemlike desserts such as a dab of skyr topped with pink rhubarb shingles, or a sunflower seed parfait dusted with bright bee pollen.

Mazurek describes Posey’s desserts as “brainy and delicious,” the kind of approachable fancy food that Marcus admired during his stint in Copenhagen in the fan-favorite Season 2 episode “Honeydew.”

Info: 1350 W. Randolph St., (312) 733-1314, elskerestaurant.com

Esmé

Erick Williams, owner and executive chef of South Side southern restaurant Virtue, imagines that if Carmy were opening another restaurant today, he might create something like Esmé.

At the Michelin-starred spot, chef Jenner Tomaska and his partner, Katrina Bravo, have said they approach their menu in much the same way that artists approach their craft. The pair collaborates with local visual artists to decorate the restaurant and inspire creations that change each quarter, like a precise cylinder of sole wrapped in zucchini, or a sliver of rye-brined cabbage.

Plus, Williams suggests that visiting Esmé – and the husband-wife duo who run the place – might offer Carmy a model of how to balance work and love.

Info: 2200 N. Clark St. Suite B, esmechicago.com

Frontier

Williams also predicts that Carmy would be taken with the craftsmanship of Brian Jupiter’s West Town restaurant. Jupiter is a New Orleans transplant who’s been working in restaurants since he was 16, and Frontier showcases his obsession with whole animals and smoke. Nowhere else in Chicago can you order a whole boar or an antelope leg.

Williams sees similarities between Jupiter’s project and Carmy’s approach; both are driven by an obsessive attention to craft that stems from a long history in restaurants.

Info: 1072 N. Milwaukee Ave., (773) 772-4322, thefrontierchicago.com

Loba Pastry + Coffee

Valeria Socorro Velazquez Lindsten opened the second location of her bakery in North Center in 2023 after a multiyear effort and a crowdfunded $75,000. The hard work seems to have paid off, because the cafe and bakery was a semifinalist for a James Beard Outstanding Bakery award.

Marcus surely could identify with the struggles of opening a restaurant in Chicago (in fact, Loba’s sleek design doesn’t look so different from the renovated Bear). But the similarities don’t end there.

“Val is so wild and free in terms of her baking,” Mazurek said. “Super nerdy and really into these rabbit holes of trying to perfect something. I can imagine them being buddies.” Velazquez Lindsten’s pastries are varied but always delicious – croissants swirled with mole verde sit next to “robbies,” tiny Bundt cakes topped with a fruity glaze – a sure source of inspiration for a cook like Marcus.

Info: 3600 N. Lincoln Ave., (773) 456-9266, lobapastry.com

Lula Cafe

Since opening in 1999, Jason Hammel’s cafe has remained a favorite of chefs and laypeople alike. Diana Davila remembers when she was coming up in the food industry, Lula “was this place where all line cooks would go to eat for brunch.”

The all-day cafe’s menu often features seasonal vegetables in addition to the classics like pasta yiayia, which pairs bucatini with feta, brown butter, garlic and cinnamon. Hammel won a James Beard award for hospitality this year, a mainstream recognition of the excellence Chicagoans have known for years. For his part, Hammel said he’d expect Sydney to visit Lula. “I would welcome her in with open arms,” he said.

Info: 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd., (773) 489-9554, lulacafe.com

Sugar Moon

Dina Cimarusti’s Logan Square bakery is open only three days a week, 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. – although she often sells out by noon.

For Marcus, “seeing the line at Sugar Moon every single day that they’re open I think would be inspiring …” Mazurek said.

Sugar Moon’s pastries, too, reflect “The Bear’s” interest in creative versions of Chicago classics; you might find giardiniera in Cimarusti’s focaccia or capicola in her croissants. No wonder Cimarusti has said she might call her establishment an “experimental baking studio.”

Info: 3612 W. Wrightwood Ave., sugarmoonchicago.com

Warlord

Hammel said he imagines Sydney would appreciate how Warlord has embedded itself in the Avondale neighborhood even as it draws diners from all over Chicago. You’ll find a line out the door every night before opening.

“ ‘The Bear’ recognizes the centrality of neighborhoods in Chicago culture,” he said.

Warlord also exemplifies the kind of “chaos menu” that Syd and Carmy worked so hard to put together in the show’s second season; dry-aged salmon and crab pasta rub elbows with what some might call the city’s best burger, all united by the live-fire grill used to prepare their components.

Info: 3198 N. Milwaukee Ave., instagram.com/warlord.chicago

Charlotte Goddu is a writer in Chicago who covers food and culture.

Where ‘The Bear’ characters would really eat in Chicago (2024)
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