While you may think Aurora is a mere suburb of Chicago, it’s actually a thriving city all its own, with plenty of attractions for families to enjoy. Its proximity to Chicago makes it an easy commute for weekend fun in the Windy City.
That said, Aurora is the second-largest city in Illinois, so you don’t have to make the trek to Chicago to delight in cultural, historical, and natural attractions. Families will love a trip to the Phillips Park Zoo or a picnic in the flower-ridden Cantigny Park.
Nature lovers can hike through one of the many nature preserves surrounding Aurora like the Blackwell Forest Preserve or the Oakhurst Forest Preserve. Aurora has various museums to explore as well, not to mention a diverse restaurant scene.
During my most recent trips to Aurora, I wanted to find excellent dining options that span the spectrum from hearty breakfasts to fuel the day’s activities to relaxing and luxurious dinners.
Basil’s Greek Dining
4000 Fox Valley Center Dr, Aurora, IL 60504
Basil’s Greek Dining is a refined yet family-friendly Greek and Mediterranean restaurant located in front of the Fox Valley Mall in a romantic modern dining space with a large open kitchen and outdoor patio. The staff is very hospitable and goes above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction.
Basil’s has a full bar with great cocktails and an extensive wine and beer list, not to mention a wonderful happy hour and weekly specials.
The flaming cheese dish known as Saganaki is delicious and served with kid-approved theatrics.
I loved their authentic Greek moussaka with eggplant, potato, ground lamb, ground beef, and bechamel, topped with fresh vegetables.
28 W New York St, Aurora, IL 60506
Located right on the water across from Downtown Aurora and just south of the North River Street Park, Ballydoyle is a lively, authentic Irish pub and restaurant.
The industrial-chic exterior opens into a fun, old-school interior with giant whiskey and beer barrels for tables and a large stage for consistent live music lineups.
You can even catch an Irish dancing performance! The drinks at Ballydoyle revolve around Irish favorites like whiskey, Guinness, and Irish coffees, but there are plenty of creative cocktails like Moscow Mules and fruity concoctions. The food is delicious, with everything from chicken pot pie to harp battered fish and chips.
Jake’s Bagels & Deli
220 N Broadway, Aurora, IL 60505
Owned and operated by the Jacobs family, Jake’s Bagels and Deli has been a downtown Aurora staple for over 40 years.
The Jacobs family use a prized family recipe to create countless varieties of steamed bagels to buy by the dozen or as a made-to-order bagel sandwich.
They have a full espresso bar, using locally roasted coffee, and they also make their own brand of flavored popcorn.
The friendly counter service café is a great spot for breakfast and lunch on the go. They have 17 different flavors of bagels from jalapeno egg to banana nut.
Additionally, there are 12 cream cheese flavors and an additional eight seasonal flavors. The combination possibilities are endless.
Two Brothers Roundhouse
205 N Broadway, Aurora, IL 60505
Whether you want live music, a private party, an artisanal coffee or beer, or a decadent dinner Two Brothers Roundhouse is a veritable one-stop-shop for entertainment, atmosphere, alcohol, and food.
Located in a massive and iconic 19th-century limestone roundhouse along downtown Aurora’s riverfront, Two Brothers has giant beer gardens surrounded by trees and a unique limestone interior with multiple banquet halls, beer brewery, dining spaces, and bars.
The Roundhouse has various cafes, supper clubs, and bars inside its massive complex, so you have your pick of menus.
I went to the tavern for a pint of artisanal beer and a delicious plate of fish tacos with west coast Dover sole, a cheese blend, soy-marinated cabbage, pico de gallo, radish, and ranch dressing served in a flour tortilla.
1649 Montgomery Rd, Aurora, IL 60504
Pie Boss is a bright, sunny, South African bakery owned by Ty, a South African transplant who wanted to bring the art of sweet and savory South African pies to Aurora.
Located right outside of Waubonsie Lake Park, Pie Boss is a casual counter café whose delectable and unique meat pies have been featured in the Tribune, Daily Herald, and Chicago’s Best.
Pie Boss’s unique selection of pies and pastries come in savory and sweet varieties. I recommend trying a few of each.
I loved the pepper steak pie with sirloin steak in a handmade black pepper gravy surrounded by the flakiest, most buttery pastry crust. For dessert, try the mini cherry pie with fresh cherries blended with sugar and spices.
Sushi + Rotary Sushi Bar
4430 Fox Valley Center Dr #106, Aurora, IL 60504
Teetering between Naperville and Aurora, Sushi + Rotary Sushi Bar brings the entertaining experience of a floating sushi bar that you might find on a busy Tokyo street corner to the greater Chicago Metropolitan area.
The Aurora location is one of four locations in and around Chicago. Skilled sushi chefs prepare countless sushi dishes that they then place on a conveyor belt circulating past every booth.
The hip, modern atmosphere and novel rotating self-service menu is a great place for business lunches, happy hours, and celebratory dinners.
They offer a wide variety of sushi, sashimi, nigiri, soups, and hot Japanese plates like pan-fried gyoza or fried chicken.
Endiro Coffee is a quaint and noble coffee house and breakfast eatery that strives to source its coffee beans from sustainable and fair-trade coffee growers around the world.
They have a lofty goal of ending child hunger through coffee partnerships and sales donations and have received the B Corp Global Climate Summit seal for meeting the highest standards of social and environmental impact.
Endiro Coffee has locations in Africa and, of course, in the heart of Aurora overlooking Stolp Island.
Undoubtedly the best place to get any kind of coffee or espresso drink, Endiro also offers a unique breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu with globally inspired dishes.
I enjoyed their Ugandan Rolex omelet, a street-style omelet with tomatoes and onions rolled up in a chapati-style wrap.
Double Yolk Pancake House and Restaurant
1555 Butterfield Rd #101, Aurora, IL 60502
Double Yolk Pancake House and Restaurant is a family-friendly breakfast and lunch eatery in North Aurora, serving classic American dishes in hearty portions in a casual and homey dining room.
The atmosphere is welcoming and lively with a massive diner-like menu featuring every kind of breakfast and lunch fare imaginable and in multiple varieties.
Whether you want pancakes or club sandwiches, you’ll find what you’re looking for. They are famous for their decadent pancake stacks that come in many different varieties from classic buttermilk to savory potato, to Swedish pancakes.
I went for the rich Tiramisu Pancakes layered with sweet chocolate cream cheese then topped with cocoa and drizzled with chocolate.
55 S Commons Dr, Aurora, IL 60504
Located between Fox Valley Mall and Spring Lake Park, Pomegranate Restaurant is a family-owned American restaurant and café in a modern space with high ceilings, hanging plants, and a beautiful wood bar space.
They serve breakfast and lunch from a wide-ranging menu of American classics, fresh coffee, and freshly squeezed juices.
Whether you want a Southwestern-style burrito, Southern biscuits and gravy, or a New York-style Reuben sandwich, Pomegranate has it all.
They have stir-fries, salads, hearty poultry and seafood entrees, burgers, and pasta for lunch. I loved their hearty Tijuana skillet with two eggs, chorizo, jalapenos, onions, salsa, cheddar cheese, and sour cream with a side of buttermilk pancakes.
1158 Douglas Rd, Oswego, IL 60543
Another friendly neighborhood diner, Benny’s Place is a Boulder Hill favorite for breakfast, lunch, and boozy brunches.
The large indoor dining space serves equally large portions of your favorite All-American breakfasts and lunches with wine, beer, and a great cocktail menu to boot.
Their diner-style menu has everything from pancakes to eggs benedict to burgers. I loved their bacon and egg quesadilla with diced crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, green onions, cheddar, and jack cheese with fresh salsa sour cream and hashbrowns.
If you want a delicious eggs benedict, my favorite was the Country Style benedict with poached eggs over a fluffy buttermilk biscuit with a sausage patty, then smothered in sausage gravy.
Whether you’re looking for a fancy Mediterranean dinner, a hearty all-American breakfast, or delectable coffee and African street food, you’ll find a wide variety of wonderful dining options in Aurora.
My eclectic list of the best restaurants in Aurora run the global gamut of cuisines while offering welcoming, homey, and fun environments.
If you want to head to the Windy City from Aurora, check out my list of excellent dining options in Chicago.