Where to eat before going to Chicago’s best comedy shows

By Nicole Schnitzler

Known for kicking off the careers of the likes of Chris Farley, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell, Chicago is no stranger to knee-slapping-worthy talent. And while entertainment institution Second City takes the cake for grooming the best of them, a handful of other comedy venues have risen up across town, proving that Chicago boasts more jokester prowess than ever. To help you fuel up for the funny these theaters guarantee, we’ve rounded up six top restaurants to make your way to pre show—each within walking distance of a truly hilarious evening.

Relish Balena’s regional Italian fare before a show at iO
Lincoln Park locals and neighboring denizens alike flock to this gorgeous gathering place for chef Chris Pandel’s take on Italian cuisine. Grab an aperitivo and a few house-made cocktails like The Strawberry along with a few house must-orders—think the tagliolini nero or mortadella pizza—before making your way to iO, a comedy theatre and training center just three blocks south.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Pass the new American plates at Wood before settling into an evening of stand-up at Laugh Factory
This Lakeview restaurant has been a recipient of the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand the past five years—it’s safe to say you’re in good hands in these environs. Chef Ashlee Aubin isn’t messing around with his spin on modern American fare, which reveals itself in dishes like the Slagel Family Farm double cheeseburger, roasted pork carnitas, and seared scallops with truffled savoy cabbage. With that much grub you may as well catch a double feature at Laugh Factory, a favorite for stand-up shows located just 10 minutes east.
Neighborhood: Lakeview

Tackle some tacos and tequila at Broken English before laughs at Zanies
It’s all about tacos and tequila at this Wells Street newcomer, where chef Frank Valdez doles out Mexican favorites like tinga de pollo, queso fundido, and gussied-up quesadillas on the nightly. Post-churros it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Zanies, a live stand-up reliable in the Old Town neighborhood since 1978.
Neighborhood: Old Town

Get your crab boil on at Lowcountry before hitting up the Annoyance Theatre
If you’re down with getting a little dirty before showtime, check out this Wrigleyville eatery, which specializes in seafood boils and other riffs on coastal favorites. Once you’ve had your share of crab hush puppies, garlic beignets, and Lowcountry Limeade, walk just five minutes south to the Annoyance Theatre, the neighborhood go-to for original plays, musicals, and sketch comedy.
Neighborhood: Wrigleyville

Try two Wells Street staples: Kamehachi sushi and Second City
This Old Town stalwart opened its doors on Wells Street in 1967—making it one of the very first Chicago sushi restaurants. Rolls, nigiri, teriyaki, and noodles are a must here, and if you’re having enough fun (i.e. sake) to miss the show at Second City down the street, don’t sweat it—the restaurant hosts its own in-house sketch performance (dubbed Batsu) every Friday night.
Neighborhood: Old Town

Embrace your coastal cravings at Fish Bar before channeling your inner musician at MCL Chicago
New England and New Orleans serve as dual inspirations for chef Michael Kornick’s menu at Fish Bar, a coming together of seafood shack mainstays like lobster rolls, crab cakes, clam chowder, and calamari. Come warmer months, enjoy the lot of it on the restaurant’s patio before gearing up for nonstop entertainment at MCL Chicago, a performing arts space dedicated to music comedy.
Neighborhood: Lakeview

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