Ema, located in the heart of the River North neighborhood, is a Mediterranean restaurant featuring light tapas style dishes.

My Inner Shakti goes out to eat

Vishnu keeps a pretty close eye on the Chicago restaurant scene, so when he suggested we make a reservation at Ema for date night , I was game!  We went in knowing the restaurant received mixed reviews on different platforms.  There are raving fans on one end of the spectrum, and there are those who will never return on the other.  By the end of our meal, we fell somewhere in the middle.


The overall ambiance at Ema is fun and trendy.  The restaurant is brightly lit and very simply decorated.  I liked the clean look.

What I didn’t like was how closely the tables are placed next to each other.  I kind of felt like we were all eating on top of each other.

Vishnu liked the bar set up and went on to tell me that one day we would have something like this in our home.  Ummm…we don’t even drink that much!

Ema Chicago bar set up


The service we received at Ema was the true highlight of our meal.  Our waitress was attentive without being overbearing.  She also made great suggestions when it came to ordering our drinks and overall meal.  Her guidance was on point and even pushed us outside our comfort zone a little (when it came to dessert!).


Ema’s menu is comprised of tapas style dishes that are meant to be shared.  There are dips, cold mezzes, hot mezzes, salads, and kebabs.  I was pleasantly surprised with the large number of vegetarian options.  We definitely didn’t leave hungry!

Vishnu and I ordered a few dishes to share based on our waitress’ recommendations.

We started with an almond and garlic hummus – the favorite of the night!  Both the flavor and texture were very pronounced – rich, nutty, and very creamy. It came with warm, soft, pillowy pita bread.

Ema - Chicago - Almond and Garlic hummus

We also ordered the crispy Halloumi with dates.  I wanted this dish to be mouth-watering delicious, but instead, it ended up being satisfactory.  I enjoyed the first few bites, especially those when a piece of cheese and a date came together.  It was a little too much for me after a while.

Ema - Chicago - Crispy Halloumi with Dates

We also ordered the falafel dish to share.  I expected this to be everything (so many good reviews both online and from friends).  The presentation was beautiful, and I appreciated the crunchy exterior.  They lost me with the tablespoon of tzatziki sauce smeared on the bottom of the plate.  I wanted a lot more because without it the falafels tasted dry.  Again, not horrible but not amazing either.

Ema - Chicago - Falafels

And finally, Vishnu ordered the chicken kebab to round off his meal.  He enjoyed this dish and said the chicken was flavorful and moist.  But again, he wished there was more sauce.  Almost a complete win!

Ema - Chicago - Chicken Kebab

Of course, no date night would be complete without dessert.  Ema’s dessert menu is full of tasty treats, and based on the numerous reviews I read online, the honey pie was a clear winner, so we went for it.  This pie was a cross between a Greek cheesecake and a custard (with a side of roasted grapes).  The slight tang and honey flavors were on point, however, the sesame seeds sprinkled on top were not.  There was absolutely no need for them, and they didn’t complement the other flavors at all.  If there’s a next time at Ema, I’m going for the chocolate tart.  Always go for the chocolate dessert!

Ema - Chicago - Honey Pie

Vishnu and I also ordered a cocktail each to accompany our meal, and we both loved what we ordered (Rose and Rose for me (a light fruity wine mix) and the Savory Hunter for him (a smoky margharita type drink)).

Like I said, even though our meal was good and not great, we had a great time trying Ema and spending time together.  And now I’m more determined than ever to find a Mediterranean restaurant worth writing home about!

Does your city have a really good Mediterranean restaurant?

By Parita

5 thoughts on “Ema – Chicago, Illinois”
  1. Bummer it wasn’t the most exemplary experience, but at least now you know! Ann Arbor’s crown jewel for Mediterranean food is a place across from my office called Jerusalem Garden. It’s so stupid cheap with sandwiches/pitas, appetizers, soup, entrees and it’s been an institution here in A2 for who knows how long. However, I fall in the 1% who find it less than stellar. Their falafel is way too greasy for my taste and there’s nothing super great about anything else I’ve had there. The place REB and I go to is on the border of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor called Palm Palace. While the service is “meh” and the food isn’t suuuuper over the top, they make a legit spicy hummus we cannot get enough off, their pita bread are like little pillows of heaven and the garlic sauce is enough to ward off vampires for 20 years or more. It’s our go-to if we want takeout or delivery!

  2. its always a bummer when you kind of like a restaurant but you don’t. there is a Mediterranean place here that is loved by everyone as they have awesome lunch buffet. since i could never make for their lunch buffet, i went for dinner and didnt really have a good experience..i was home yesterday and went for lunch buffet to give a try again- so so good..hopefully you will find something you love very soon!
    dixya @food, pleasure, and health recently posted…Easy Chicken Seekh KebabMy Profile

  3. That hummus flavour sounds SO on point- need to try and recreate something similar at home! Next time you are in London, please add Maroush to your list. It’s a Lebanese restaurant with the yummiest options, many of which are vegan!
    Khushboo recently posted…My M & S grocery favouritesMy Profile

  4. The Honey pie definitely looks interesting. If I ever see that in a Greek restaurant, then I will definitely have to check it out. As for good Mediterranean restaurants here in Toronto, I can’t think of any right off the top of my head. However, we do have an annual Greek festival called “Taste of the Danforth” that is one of the most popular street festivals we have in the Summer. They shut down the main street in Greektown for the weekend so visitors can sample different Greek food from all the local restaurants in the area. Does Chicago have something similar? Might be a good way to scope out some slightly better Mediterranean restaurants in Chicago since I gather Ema was a bit “average” for your liking according to this post.

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