Chicago is known for lots of things, and the food is definitely at the top of the list. With iconic restaurants such as Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse and The Signature Room at the 95th to local franchises like Portillo's, Chicago is a foodie's paradise, but many of the smaller local female-owned businesses are often overlooked. Some of the best restaurants and cafes Chicago has to offer are run by strong, hard-working women, and they deserve more recognition. With that in mind, here is a short list of some of the must-try Chicago restaurants that are proudly run by women. 

1. Amy's Candy Bar

Owner: Amy Hansen

Location: 4704 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

This one's for all the chocolate lovers. Amy Hansen opened Amy's Candy Bar in 2011, but her love for sweets started at a very age as she baked with her Grandmother Geraldine. Her shop is filled with decadent sweets such as handcrafted Chocolate Cashew Turtles, Koval Bourbon Whiskey Truffles, S’MORES Candy Bar, a variety of Signature Caramels, and Ruby Chocolate Bars, just to name a few. Even if you don't live in Chicago, you can still enjoy sweets from made by Amy Hansen by ordering online.

2. Aya Pastry

Owner: Aya Fukai

Location: 1332 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Aya Pastry is an amazing little bakery located in West Town and run by Pastry Chef Aya Fukai, where she bakes delicious breads and pastries such as focaccia, pull-apart milk bread, classic butter croissants, and Samoa Cakes. Aya Fukai's tasty creations even won her the titles Eater’s National Pastry Chef of the Year in 2016 and the Chicago Tribune’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2018. You go, girl!

3. Bittersweet Pastry 

Owner: Mindy Gohr

Location: 1114 W Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657

Even though Bittersweet Pastry has the word bitter in its name, there is nothing bitter about this cafe. Founded in 1922, Bittersweet Pastry is known for its custom wedding and celebration cakes, which Oprah and Michael Jordon were also keen of, as well as tarts, French macarons, and hand-decorated cookies made form scratch. If you're looking for something a bit more savory, Bittersweet offers hearty quiches and a wide range of delicious sandwiches.

4. Black Dog Gelato 

Owner: Jessica Oloroso

Locations: 859 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

1012 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60607

2662 N Sawyer Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Chicago native Jessica Oloroso decided to open her very own scoop shop in 2010, where she would be able to create and share delicious gelato flavors with fellow gelato lovers. The name of this ice cream shop is as unique as the flavors it serves. Ever tried Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel Gelato or Blueberry French Toast Gelato? Well, here's a place where you can do that. While flavors change monthly, they never disappoint. 

5. Brown Bag Seafood

Owner: Donna Lee

Locations: multiple locations

Founder Donna Lee opened Brown Bag Seafood with the goal of providing Chicagoans with healthy, quick and affordable seafood. What started as a single restaurant located near Millennium Park in Chicago has now grown to 8 shops spread across the Chicagoland area, and it doesn't look like they are going to stop growing any time soon. Brown Bag Seafood offers a nice variety of seafood from grilled salmon to crispy shrimp and curry fish cakes to lemon broiled white fish, all of which can be served as a sandwich, salad, power bowl, and more. This is a great place to enjoy a healthy meal that taste good and is affordable. 

Read more about Donna Lee and her team here

6. Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant and Bar

Owner: Almaz Yigizaw

Location: 6120 N Broadway St Chicago, IL 60660

Open for over 20 years, Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant and Bar is run by Chef Almaz Yigizaw who shares her culture with the community through authentic Ethiopian dishes. This vibrant restaurant serves a large variety of different dishes and even sampler plates for customers who want to get a taste of everything. Plus, it's located near Loyola University Chicago Lakeshore campus, making it the perfect place for hungry college students who want to try rich flavors of Ethiopia. 

7. Hewn Bread 

Owners: Ellen King and Julie Matthei

Location: 1733 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201

While not technically located in Chicago, Hewn Bakery is a wonderful women-owned small business that's a must for carb lovers. This rustic bakery makes bread, scones, muffins, cookies, and other sweets from scratch using local grain, plus special weekend pastries and treats that are posted on their Instagram page. With so many tasty options to choose from, which one would you try first?

8. Raw Chicago

Owners: Polly Byrd and Margo Gaza

Location: 51 W Huron St, Chicago, IL 60654

Chicago Raw is a mother and daughter run business that aims to spread awareness about the benefits of eating plant-based and make it accessible to everyone. All of the food at RAW is freshly package, raw vegan, and served in to-go containers for convenience. Whether you're looking for a superfood smoothie, nourishing açaí bowl, fresh vegan meals, or just a warm cup of tea, RAW is the place to visit.

9. Split Rail

Owner: Zoe Schor

Location: 2500 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Who doesn't love some good ol' fried chicken? Owner and executive chef, Zoe Schor, is the master mind behind Split Rail, and her goal is simple – to make the best fried chicken you've ever had in your life. Whether you're a meat eater or a vegan, Split Rail is a great place to go to for some crispy fried chicken, a side of crispy tater tots and smokey BBQ sauce. Also, don't forget to check out the awesome bagel sammies chef Zoe Schor is whipping up for the weekend. 

#SpoonTip: Split Rail's Vegan Fried "Chicken" is made from homemade seitan strips.

10. Sweet Maple Cafe 

Owner: Laurene Hynson

Location: 1339 W. Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607

Run by Laurene Hynson since 1999, Sweet Maple Cafe is lovely little cafe that serves family recipes as well as new recipes developed by Laurene herself.  The walls are decorated with old family photos, giving this cafe a homey feel, and the menu is filled with a variety of omelets, big breakfast plates, country scrambles, homemade home fries, plus pancakes and french toast. You'll definitely feel like part of the Sweet Maple Cafe family when you visit.

11. Wheat's End Cafe

Owners: Susan McMillan and Amelia Fonti

Location: 2873 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657

The story of Wheat's End Cafe began eight years before the doors opened in 2015 when current chef and friend of the co-owners, Lina Elakhaoui, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Co-owners Susan McMillan and Amelia Fonti decided to open Wheat's End Cafe to provide a place where gluten-intolerant customers could enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal with their friends and family. All of the food and drinks at Wheat's End Cafe are 100% Gluten Free, and there are also vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free options. With dishes like Spicy Chicken & Waffles and savory Turkey Cranberry Panini, you'll forget that there's no gluten.

#SpoonTip: Read more about the beginnings of Wheat's End Cafe here.

12. XO Marshmallow 

Owners: Kathryn Connor and Lindzi Shanks

Location: 6977 N Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60626

XO Marshmallow is the perfect cafe for marshmallow lovers. This cafe serves up childhood favorites such as classic s'more and warm hot chocolate, but that's just the beginning. They sell a huge variety of different marshmallow flavors that include Cereal Milk, Champagne, and Rose Gold Rosé, plus other treats like marshmallow turtles and edible cookie dough cups. I almost forgot to mention, but XO Marshmallow does nationwide shipping just in case you were wondering.

Women can do anything they set their mind to, and their hard work deserves more recognition so make sure to help by supporting women-owned businesses. Also, this is just a short list of some of the wonderful women-owned businesses in Chicago, and there are so many other amazing restaurants and cafes in Chicago run by women. So next time you're in Chicago make sure to check out these places for some seriously delicious eats.