Little Goat Diner (Credit: Galdones Photography)

10 Chicago diners slinging seriously good grub

By Nicole Bruce

Few classic Chicago diners have managed to survive decades of 24-hour greasy spoon-feeding, but you can still find a counter stool or comfy booth in the city, and new spots are even popping up as modern iterations of these dependable relics from a bygone age. In contrast to the trusty railcar mainstays, others are revitalizing the Chicago diner scene by taking good old-fashioned American cooking up a notch in noticeably new "old-school" digs. Here are ten that are guaranteed to serve up some pretty darn good food—even for sober palates, in the cold light of day.

Dove's Luncheonette
The combination of crave-worthy, Southern-inspired Mexican fare and a mezcal-focused drink menu at this retro-style diner has quickly made it a neighborhood staple. Grab a stool at the old-school counter, order the chicken fried chicken, smothered in chorizo verde gravy, or the smoked brisket taco norteño, and take in all the black-and-white photos near the jukebox, before the food coma hits.
Wicker Park MAP

The Chicago Diner
You wouldn't expect a diner that prides itself on being "meat free since '83" to be one of the best in the city, but this vegetarian- and vegan-friendly institution has a menu loaded with meatless dishes that'll keep you coming back for more. Time-tested favorites like award-winning vegan milkshakes, protein-filled quinoa chili, Thai chile wings, huevos rancheros made with grilled tofu and vegan cheese, and vegetarian takes on the Cubano and gyro cover all the bases.
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Logan Square MAP

Au Cheval (photo credit: Kevin Miyazaki)

Au Cheval
This trendy, diner-inspired resto in the West Loop takes American eats up a notch and usually has a line of people waiting out the door thanks to its coveted double-patty burger and knockout cocktails. Despite the name, the mouth-watering "single burger" actually comes with two thin patties, which are topped with American cheese, house Dijonnaise, pickles, and the optional thick-cut bacon and oozy fried egg add-ons (which you should definitely tack on).
West Loop MAP

Glenn's Diner
Most diners will steer clear of the seafood, but you'll be coming here for the "Catch of the Day." Don't let the plethora of cereal boxes lining the wall at this North Side joint fool you. While it's an excellent spot for breakfast served all day (including hangover-curing Bloody Marys made with milk stout), it's an even better pick for the entire chalkboard menu full of flown-in-fresh-daily seafood specials, like Alaskan king crab legs, Maryland mussels, and Pacific swordfish.
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Little Goat Diner
Across the street from upscale sister Girl & the Goat, this West Loop diner dishes up fusion-inspired takes on classic American comfort food. Split between a sit-down restaurant and bakery (with "Grab and Goat" carry-out pastries), Little Goat serves breakfast spaghetti with clams and crab, kimchi and bacon Korean pancakes, BBQ pork–loaded nachos, patty melts on pretzel rye, a spicy “Hair of the Goat” Bloody Mary, and even smoked pork and toffee crunch milkshakes.
West Loop MAP

Eleven City Diner

Eleven City Diner
When it comes to huge double-decker sandwiches, this mash-up of a New York–style Jewish deli and an old-school diner delivers. It's impossible not to rave about the Moshe Cristo, their iteration of the French classic croque monsieur, which is stacked with cut-to-order deli meat sandwiched between crispy challah, then dipped in egg batter and pan fried.
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South Loop MAP

Uncle Mike's Place
For a massively portioned American-Filipino breakfast or lunch, head to this cozy, no-frills joint in Ukrainian Village. You'll find Filipino takes on American diner breakfast platters: longanisa sausage or tocino (the Philippine's answer to bacon) with eggs, garlic-fried rice in lieu of hash browns, and a bowl of fresh lugao (Filipino chicken rice soup). Open 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays (and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends), it's only a late-night gem if you're out long enough to catch 'em starting their day.
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Diner Grill
Built out of an old rail car, this iconic 24/7 dive only has a row of stools for seating at the counter, which is where you'll inevitably find yourself with a late-night crowd and griddle master. The no-nonsense spot carries a reputation for whipping up greasy magic, like the legendary Slinger, a daunting mound of hash browns, burger patties, runny eggs, cheese, and grilled onions covered in chili with a side of toast for mopping up the mess (you'll get a certificate for finishing).
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Saved By The Max Pop-Up Diner
What list of Chicago diners would be complete without the nostalgic Saved by the Bell–inspired pop-up diner that's taken the city (and arguably the nation) by storm? The neon-lit '80s and '90s throwback homage to the hit TV show offers up themed diner bites like AC sliders, Preppy BLTs, Lisa Turtle milkshakes, and Bayside-inspired cocktails—that is, until the concept officially closes on December 31, 2016.
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Shilas Restaurant
Oversized, sizzling skillets and scrumptious pancakes are exactly the kind of tasty dishes we look for in a neighborhood diner, and you can get your fill through the friendly wait staff here for less than $10. White tablecloths add a touch of elegance to the old-school ambiance, but you'll mostly be in it for all the free coffee refills and flavorful eats you can handle.
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