Where to Find Scrumptious Skewers in Chicago

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Skewers of cooked beef sit on a pile of white rice garnished with herbs and other vegetables.
Street food aficionados around the world adore skewers.
Melissa Blackmon

From souvlaki to kebabs, kushiyaki, and Sach Koh Ang

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Street food aficionados around the world adore skewers.
| Melissa Blackmon

Chicagoans are specifically attuned to appreciate the quick and unfussy appeal of street food, and much to the delight of hungry locals, the city is filled with excellent renditions of one the world’s most popular street food sub-genres: the skewer. Whether it’s tare-brushed kushiyaki, robust kebabs, peanut sauce-smothered satay, or juicy charred souvlaki, the central conceit of grilled skewers is consistently delightful. Make a selection or start a skewer crawl with these spots in Chicago and slightly beyond.

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A saga that began with a pandemic furlough from chef Mona Sang’s longtime position at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has become one of Chicago’s most engaging culinary success stories of recent years with the 2022 debut of Khmai Fine Dining, a rare destination in the area for traditional Cambodian cuisine. Survivors of the Cambodian genocide, Sang and her mother Sarom Sieng (winners of Eater Chicago’s Chefs of the Year award) have brought the Southeast Asian country’s rich, deep, and complex flavors to the fore with dishes like Sach Koh Ang, tender beef skewers marinated in lemongrass, chilis, and Khmer spices.

One of the best Greek restaurants around, this suburban landmark has a welcoming and large dining room good for groups and families. While everything here is memorable, kebob fans can treat themselves to a trio plate with chicken, pork, and beef. 

Sabri Nihari is one of the best restaurants along Devon, with a dependable menu of Pakistani favorites. The Malai chicken boti is silky and tender, cooked over charcoal and marinated with yogurt and ginger. Lamb chops are also stellar.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

This small, dark, self-described “claustrophobic” spot in Lincoln Square may not attract outsized attention from the uninitiated, but local skewer aficionados know the Korean pub fare at Dancen is anything but ordinary. Equipped with a built-in flattop grill, the venue draws throngs after dark for all kinds of sizzling, charred kabobs that range from beef, pork, and quail to mushroom, ginkgo nut, and grilled garlic.

Spacious and unfussy, Kabobi delivers both on flavor and affordability (especially at lunch) with plentiful portions of freshly grilled meat. Kebab offerings include lamb, filet mignon, and ground beef, nicely complimented by crunchy and fresh vegetable side dishes.

An Albany Park restaurant institution for more than four decades, Noon O Kebab has tripled in size over the years to accommodate the kebab-seeking hoards that beat a path to the family-run restaurant. The large menu ranges from Persian classics to grilled skewers stacked with juicy cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, and salmon, and is well-suited to groups.

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Widely seen as the purveyors of some of the most desirable shish kabobs in town, Northwest Side favorite Mr. D’s continues to be a force in Montclare. The charred, marinated, and grilled pork tenderloin reigns supreme on the menu, though patrons shouldn’t miss the opportunity to pair their meat with immaculately crispy fries.

This tiny Lincoln Park fast-casual packs a punch thanks to high-quality meats from Slagel Family Farms. These skewers are a little more expensive than most are used to spending when ordering a rice or salad bowl. But the souvlaki (the pork, especially), is worth it. And customers can add extra meat.

Peranakan cuisine — a culinary genre created by the descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Indonesia, Singapore, and surrounding regions — is hard to find in Chicago, save for the efforts of restaurateur Victor Low (also behind Serai), who unveiled Kapitan in late 2020. The menu leaves ample room for exploration, but the uninitiated can ease into the experience with succulent grilled satay (chicken, beef, or tofu) smothered in rich peanut sauce.

It may not be in Greektown, but Taxim has brought the spirit of Philoxenia — Greek hospitality — to Wicker Park with a hit-studded menu and delightful rooftop space that’s ideal for Chicago’s all-too-short summer. When it comes to skewers, diners should seriously consider the souvlakia, a wood-grilled pork shoulder with grilled tomatoes, mint yogurt sauce, and capers.

This prized local hot spot has set a tough-to-beat standard for Turkish food, including wood-grilled lamb, beef, and chicken kebabs. Serious skewer fans may want to opt for the chefs’ mixed grill, a combination of chicken, beef medallions, scallop, shrimp, and doner.

Elaborate and colorful sushi has a tendency to get top billing at this West Town favorite, but the robust robata selection is noteworthy too. Omnivores and vegetarians will find a menu of skewered delights like squid karaage, nasu (eggplant), beef short rib, and cauliflower.

Skewers are by their nature an ideal street food, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to chow down in humble digs. For an upscale take, there’s modern Mediterranean restaurant Ema from chef CJ Jacobson and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a breezy and beautiful spot in River North. A section of the menu is entirely dedicated to kebabs such as grilled halloumi, chicken kefta, lamb and beef kefta, and salmon with sweet peppers.

Food was never going to be an afterthought at the lounge neighboring Michelin-starred Ever. Curtis Duffy’s staff can bring out curated caviar selections, but the chef has also developed some skewers that are presented beautifully. Everyone can enjoy this caliber of elegant bar food. There’s wagyu and chicken, but try the hiramasa.

As izakaya-style dining has taken measured steps toward prominence in Chicago, TenGoku Aburiya is showing locals and visitors comfortable and delicious take on the casual Japanese culinary genre. The menu lavishes special attention on kushiyaki with a plethora of choices, from tskune (meatballs) and unagi to shishito peppers and beef tongue.

Tucked inside the Loop’s Urbanspace Washington food hall lies Bhoomi, an ambitious upstart that aims to bring well-earned exposure to Indian street-style grilled meats. Despite India’s significant focus on vegetarian cooking, the country has a storied history of kebabs, brought to the country through the influence of the Mughal Empire. The stall features varieties like paneer, chicken, salmon, prawns, and more.

Chef John Avila celebrates regional cuisine from his mother’s hometown of Tomohon, Indonesia, at his popular stall inside Revival Food Hall. There is no shortage of exciting choices on the menu, including Sate Ayam, grilled chicken skewers, and beef satay, both served with a side of peanut sauce.

Satisfy those pressing skewer cravings at this Chinese barbecue spot that features an assortment of lamb, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetarian kebabs. There’s something for nearly everyone, especially those who appreciate organ meats like tripe, heart, and tendon, as well as the carnival of textures they provide.

A Chinese chain that debuted in 1987, Mrs. Gu has accumulated a loyal following over the years with the magical combination of skewers and hot pot. Patrons can select their own skewers from a station and bring them back to their table to cook in a pot of steaming broth. The customizable service style makes for a fun night out with a group of friends or family.

Bridgeview is a competitive place when it comes to cuisine from Middle Eastern countries, but Al Bawadi has carved out a seemingly unshakable niche as an icon in the area. From the traditional decor and impressive menu with a selection of mesquite-grilled kebabs, there’s a reason city dwellers make the trip.

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A saga that began with a pandemic furlough from chef Mona Sang’s longtime position at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has become one of Chicago’s most engaging culinary success stories of recent years with the 2022 debut of Khmai Fine Dining, a rare destination in the area for traditional Cambodian cuisine. Survivors of the Cambodian genocide, Sang and her mother Sarom Sieng (winners of Eater Chicago’s Chefs of the Year award) have brought the Southeast Asian country’s rich, deep, and complex flavors to the fore with dishes like Sach Koh Ang, tender beef skewers marinated in lemongrass, chilis, and Khmer spices.

One of the best Greek restaurants around, this suburban landmark has a welcoming and large dining room good for groups and families. While everything here is memorable, kebob fans can treat themselves to a trio plate with chicken, pork, and beef. 

Sabri Nihari is one of the best restaurants along Devon, with a dependable menu of Pakistani favorites. The Malai chicken boti is silky and tender, cooked over charcoal and marinated with yogurt and ginger. Lamb chops are also stellar.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

This small, dark, self-described “claustrophobic” spot in Lincoln Square may not attract outsized attention from the uninitiated, but local skewer aficionados know the Korean pub fare at Dancen is anything but ordinary. Equipped with a built-in flattop grill, the venue draws throngs after dark for all kinds of sizzling, charred kabobs that range from beef, pork, and quail to mushroom, ginkgo nut, and grilled garlic.

Spacious and unfussy, Kabobi delivers both on flavor and affordability (especially at lunch) with plentiful portions of freshly grilled meat. Kebab offerings include lamb, filet mignon, and ground beef, nicely complimented by crunchy and fresh vegetable side dishes.

An Albany Park restaurant institution for more than four decades, Noon O Kebab has tripled in size over the years to accommodate the kebab-seeking hoards that beat a path to the family-run restaurant. The large menu ranges from Persian classics to grilled skewers stacked with juicy cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, and salmon, and is well-suited to groups.

Widely seen as the purveyors of some of the most desirable shish kabobs in town, Northwest Side favorite Mr. D’s continues to be a force in Montclare. The charred, marinated, and grilled pork tenderloin reigns supreme on the menu, though patrons shouldn’t miss the opportunity to pair their meat with immaculately crispy fries.

This tiny Lincoln Park fast-casual packs a punch thanks to high-quality meats from Slagel Family Farms. These skewers are a little more expensive than most are used to spending when ordering a rice or salad bowl. But the souvlaki (the pork, especially), is worth it. And customers can add extra meat.

Peranakan cuisine — a culinary genre created by the descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Indonesia, Singapore, and surrounding regions — is hard to find in Chicago, save for the efforts of restaurateur Victor Low (also behind Serai), who unveiled Kapitan in late 2020. The menu leaves ample room for exploration, but the uninitiated can ease into the experience with succulent grilled satay (chicken, beef, or tofu) smothered in rich peanut sauce.

It may not be in Greektown, but Taxim has brought the spirit of Philoxenia — Greek hospitality — to Wicker Park with a hit-studded menu and delightful rooftop space that’s ideal for Chicago’s all-too-short summer. When it comes to skewers, diners should seriously consider the souvlakia, a wood-grilled pork shoulder with grilled tomatoes, mint yogurt sauce, and capers.

This prized local hot spot has set a tough-to-beat standard for Turkish food, including wood-grilled lamb, beef, and chicken kebabs. Serious skewer fans may want to opt for the chefs’ mixed grill, a combination of chicken, beef medallions, scallop, shrimp, and doner.

Elaborate and colorful sushi has a tendency to get top billing at this West Town favorite, but the robust robata selection is noteworthy too. Omnivores and vegetarians will find a menu of skewered delights like squid karaage, nasu (eggplant), beef short rib, and cauliflower.

Skewers are by their nature an ideal street food, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to chow down in humble digs. For an upscale take, there’s modern Mediterranean restaurant Ema from chef CJ Jacobson and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a breezy and beautiful spot in River North. A section of the menu is entirely dedicated to kebabs such as grilled halloumi, chicken kefta, lamb and beef kefta, and salmon with sweet peppers.

Food was never going to be an afterthought at the lounge neighboring Michelin-starred Ever. Curtis Duffy’s staff can bring out curated caviar selections, but the chef has also developed some skewers that are presented beautifully. Everyone can enjoy this caliber of elegant bar food. There’s wagyu and chicken, but try the hiramasa.

As izakaya-style dining has taken measured steps toward prominence in Chicago, TenGoku Aburiya is showing locals and visitors comfortable and delicious take on the casual Japanese culinary genre. The menu lavishes special attention on kushiyaki with a plethora of choices, from tskune (meatballs) and unagi to shishito peppers and beef tongue.

Tucked inside the Loop’s Urbanspace Washington food hall lies Bhoomi, an ambitious upstart that aims to bring well-earned exposure to Indian street-style grilled meats. Despite India’s significant focus on vegetarian cooking, the country has a storied history of kebabs, brought to the country through the influence of the Mughal Empire. The stall features varieties like paneer, chicken, salmon, prawns, and more.

Chef John Avila celebrates regional cuisine from his mother’s hometown of Tomohon, Indonesia, at his popular stall inside Revival Food Hall. There is no shortage of exciting choices on the menu, including Sate Ayam, grilled chicken skewers, and beef satay, both served with a side of peanut sauce.

Satisfy those pressing skewer cravings at this Chinese barbecue spot that features an assortment of lamb, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and vegetarian kebabs. There’s something for nearly everyone, especially those who appreciate organ meats like tripe, heart, and tendon, as well as the carnival of textures they provide.

A Chinese chain that debuted in 1987, Mrs. Gu has accumulated a loyal following over the years with the magical combination of skewers and hot pot. Patrons can select their own skewers from a station and bring them back to their table to cook in a pot of steaming broth. The customizable service style makes for a fun night out with a group of friends or family.

Bridgeview is a competitive place when it comes to cuisine from Middle Eastern countries, but Al Bawadi has carved out a seemingly unshakable niche as an icon in the area. From the traditional decor and impressive menu with a selection of mesquite-grilled kebabs, there’s a reason city dwellers make the trip.

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