Photo courtesy of the Duck Inn

Letter of RecommendationChicago

The Duck Inn in Bridgeport Nails the Neighborhood Restaurant


Chicago has a North Side versus South Side rivalry that stretches well beyond sports teams. More often than not, the South Side’s food is overlooked in favor of the bustling restaurant scenes in the West Loop or further north.

The Duck Inn, however, is a true gem of the South Side, a neighborhood spot done right in every conceivable way. 

The restaurant is in Bridgeport, just bordering the predominantly Mexican (and rapidly gentrifying) area of Pilsen. Bridgeport is not a tourist destination. It’s not across from Millennium Park, it’s not in the heart of downtown or on the lakefront. No, Bridgeport is a working class South Side neighborhood, close to the historic Union Stock Yards and home to the Chicago White Sox.

To get to the Duck Inn, you have to know where you’re going, and that’s where its charm begins. The restaurant is on the corner of a regular neighborhood block with family homes on one side, an auto repair shop across the street, and plenty of free parking. There are no other restaurants or bars on this street; the Inn is nestled in like a little hideaway. 

It’s a block that chef and owner Kevin Hickey knows well: He grew up on it.

Hickey opened the Duck Inn in December of 2014, and even before the concept was nailed down, he knew the neighborhood would be part of the restaurant’s identity. Hickey purchased the space from a family who had run the place as a tavern for three generations, and the name came from his great-grandmother, who owned a diner of the same name. Hickey, who previously ran the acclaimed Allium at the Four Seasons Hotel, originally envisioned two different concepts: a fun neighborhood bar in the front and a more formal dining room in the back. The two ideas, however, quickly merged, and today, the Duck Inn is a comfortable spot for nearly any occasion. 

The Duck Inn’s signature rotisserie duck. Photo courtesy of the Duck Inn
The Duck Inn’s signature rotisserie duck. Photo courtesy of the Duck Inn

There’s an immediate cozy feeling when you walk in; the dim lighting, low ceiling, and brick interior shut out the outside world. The bar’s high, cushioned chairs beg you to relax, while the booth-like seats along the wall are perfect for friend catch-ups. Toward the back, there’s a small dining area with nine or so tables for larger groups. On my first visit, there was a family of four enjoying a Friday night dinner, a couple on date night, and a table of eight clinking glasses in celebration. 

Hickey is known for his whole rotisserie-roasted duck, which must be reserved ahead of time. Slow-roasted for three hours, and accompanied by duck-fat potatoes and a duck jus reduction, it’s absolutely worth booking in advance, as there’s a limited number available nightly. (Take a look next to the votive candle on each table — if you spot a little rubber duckie, that’s your clue that that table has a duck en route.)  

In addition to the rotisserie duck, the Duck Inn is also known for its duck fat hot dog, their take on a classic Chicago-style dog. The sausage is made by local Bridgeport manufacturer Makowski’s Real Sausage Co., and it arrives grilled and topped with homemade mustard, relish, pickled hot peppers, pickles, tomatoes, onions, and celery salt, all packed onto a brioche poppy seed bun (natch). One bite of the snappy dog and you’re practically at the ballgame. 

The Duck Inn is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant you need to visit.

There’s also a beer-battered morel and artichoke salad, walleye with celery root hash browns, and fried cheese curds to round it out. This is the kind of place where you could come in for happy hour on Wednesday night and leave with your wallet intact, but also come in on a Saturday evening and wow your out-of-town guests with caviar and a ribeye. 

Whether you know this city like the back of your hand or you’re a visitor looking to experience Chicago like a real Chicagoan, the Duck Inn is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant you need to visit. My only regret is not making it there sooner. 

Angela L. Pagán is a Chicago-native journalist with a passion for both food and writing. Read her reports on the fast food industry, food trends, and more here, and see more of her writing here. While you’re at it, give Resy a follow, too.