Best Restaurants near UIC Pavilion

Chicago's Best Italian & Greek Restaurants Can Be Found Near UIC Pavilion

Chicago’s UIC Pavilion is just west of the Loop (literally a hop, skip and a jump) which makes it convenient to access. It’s also just a few walk-able blocks away from Little Italy and Greektown neighborhoods which makes it easy to find great restaurants.

From Tuscany’s addictive warmed garlic bulb appetizer to Rodity’s authentic Greek fare, the choice on where to dine will be difficult to make. Add a French bistro and Al’s #1 Beef joint (one of the best places to have an Italian beef sandwich) among the top 10 best restaurants near the Pavilion, and you’re going to wish you had more time.

Visitors to the area have options which range from budget-friendly including stalwart Pompei Bakery and Al’s #1 Beef to white tablecloth dining such as Chez Joel, all located on Taylor Street, two short blocks from the Pavilion.

Two blocks east of the Pavilion is Halsted Street which features some of the most authentic Greek food in the city.

Since parking can sometimes be difficult in these parts, pay attention to parking meters and take advantage of free valet parking when possible. Parking enforcement is fierce and don’t even think about parking in the neighborhood if you don’t have a zone sticker because you will get a parking ticket.


If you haven't had an Italian lemonade, then this stop is a must, particularly in the summer. The slushy, fruity drink comes in a variety of refreshing flavors, ranging from pina colada to chocolate, and this vendor has repeatedly been named the best in the city. The small stand offers friendly service from owners Dorothy and Mario DiPaolo, not to mention off-the-wall snacks like lupini beans, seeds and nuts and assorted candies. Expect a long line, especially on weekends, although the lines do move quickly. Don't be surprised if you're waiting in line with a celebrity or two. They love Mario's as much as the rest of us!

Recommended for Restaurants near UIC Pavilion because: A Chicago staple during the summer, Mario's Italian Ice serves up some of the best Italian ice from an old school outdoor stand.

Megy's expert tip: Only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Read more about Mario's Italian Lemonade →

Little Italy

Spots to sample a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich abound, but no place holds a candle to the Little Italy original, which has been around since the late 30s. Steak spiced with garlic and oregano, grilled onions and peppers and a soggy loaf of white bread roll; this is what a sandwich is supposed to be! And it's also probably why napkins were invented. In addition to the signature sandwich, they also offer hotdogs and burgers. Nobody comes here for the decor, or if they're counting calories. But they'll leave with a happy full feeling, and the quintesential Chicago dining experience.

Recommended for Restaurants near UIC Pavilion because: It's THE place for an Italian beef sandwich in Chicago. Don't be fooled by the no-frills interior. The beef sandwiches are delicious.

Megy's expert tip: Grab plenty of napkins and lean forward when you take a bite, so the beef juice doesn't drip on our shirt.

Read more about Al's #1 →

For a French restaurant to make it in Little Italy, with Italian restaurants dotting both sides of the street, you know it has to be good. Chez Joel offers diners a comfortable interior dining room as well as a lovely garden area for dining during warm weather. The restaurant's decor features warm yellow walls and colorful artwork. The menu offers daily specials as well as traditional French fare that excels in quality, taste, and presentation. Try the bouillabaisse, mussels (in a wonderful creamy sauce), the duck confit, one of its many salads or the traditional steak frites. The apple in the apple tarte dessert is soaked in brandy then baked on top of a mascarpone, in the dough and finished off with vanilla ice cream on top.

Recommended for Restaurants near UIC Pavilion because: A French restaurant in the heart of Little Italy is still around after all these years because it continues to serve amazing French food.

Megy's expert tip: Closed Mondays.

Read more about Chez Joël →


This cafeteria-style restaurant has a well-deserved reputation for putting out some of the area's best pizzas, breads and desserts. The menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, pastas and desserts. Start with a Marie's Special salad which includes chunky hearts of romaine, red onions, fried prosciutto and blue cheese with their signature thick homemade vinaigrette. Continue with a stuffed pizza with names like "The Works" and "Beef Angelo" or a homemade pasta topped with savory Italian sausage or meatballs for times when only good old-fashioned Italian will do. Don't overlook the desserts. Order a slice of Italian chocolate sheet cake or try a chocolate-dipped cannoli. The place is pretty big and a garage door contraption opens up for al fresco dining during the warmer days but it gets crowded during lunch time so get in earlier during the weekdays.

Recommended for Restaurants near UIC Pavilion because: A staple in Little Italy, Pompei is the spot to visit for when one needs some stuffed pizza or pasta dish in an unfussy environment.

Megy's expert tip: Avoid weekday lunch hour when it gets very busy

Read more about Pompei on Taylor →

Little Italy

For Northern Italian cuisine, Tuscany offers an upscale option in the Little Italy section of town. This cozy eatery, which tends to get a little cramped at times, is as popular with youthful hipsters as it is with downtown suits. During those "brisk" Chicago winters, their wood-burned gourmet pizzas are positively heaven-sent. Not just for locals, Tuscany has treated such "tourists" as former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. Traditional pasta dishes are also available. Be careful with the warm garlic clove brought out with the bread - it's delicious and potent. Valet parking is available. Dinner is available every night but the restaurant not open for lunch on weekends.

Recommended for Restaurants near UIC Pavilion because: During those "brisk" Chicago winters, Tuscany's wood-burned gourmet pizzas are positively heaven-sent.

Megy's expert tip: Not open for lunch on weekends.

Read more about Tuscany →

Don't be surprised if you happen to be dining next to Chicago Blackhawk legends or players like Bobby Hull, Duncan Keith or Jonathan Toews since they've all been to Tufano's where the Stanley Cup has also made an appearance. Located off-the-beaten path in a very residential neighborhood, those in the know love the casual dining establishment because it's somewhat hidden and consistent. The menu has a mix of pasta dishes and fish entrees. Try the homemade ravioli, the stuffed shells, or the seafood salad, most of which are served in large portions. Plus, the great prices cast a glowing halo on your entire visit.

Recommended for Restaurants near UIC Pavilion because: Don't be surprised if you run into any Chicago Blackhawk greats at this off-the-beaten casual Italian restaurant.

Megy's expert tip: Pay attention to street parking rules.

Read more about Tufano's Vernon Park Tap →


Meet Megy Karydes

Megy Karydes has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. While she’s traveled extensively internationally, visiting each of the 50 states is on her...  More About Megy