Chicago's Urban Garden of Eatin'

Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the beautiful gardens around the city. One such garden that many foodies can appreciate is the organic garden of our very own, Top Chef Master, Rick Bayless. I took some friends yesterday to Rick Bayless's house and we had a fabulous time learning all about Rick Bayless's Edible Garden...

Located on three adjacent city lots in Chicago's Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood, this complete organic garden serves as a model for urban food production and demonstrates that gardens can be simultaneously functional and beautiful. With a mix of traditional beds, raised beds, containers, vertical and indoor garden spaces, we were all inspired and left with a multitude of ideas and techniques to incorporate into our own garden spaces... and such a greater appreciation for sustainable living.

The garden tour  was led by Rick's gardener, Bill Shores. Bill manages Rick's organic garden where he grows salad greens, herbs, tomatoes and chile peppers for Rick’s restaurants, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and Xoco. The garden includes a 1000 square foot production vegetable garden along with extensive landscaped gardens, an attached greenhouse, composting systems and container displays. Bill also manages a rooftop garden growing tomatoes and chili pepper in 80 earthbox planters above Rick's restaurants.


Upon entering, you'll first come across Rick's outdoor kitchen. Complete with a dishwasher, fridge, grill and even wood burning oven, it's an outdoor space that I certainly wish I had! The ample amount of counterspace alone is reason enough to be jealous...

The outdoor kitchen above is directly adjacent to Rick's kitchen, where filming of his television cooking show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, is done.

As you walk past the kitchen entrance and into the back, you'll then see the amazing 'production garden.' It's here where all the salad greens for Rick's restaurants are grown. These greens are densely grown for more effective use of space, keeps the soil moist and prevents the growth of weeds.

Just beyond the production garden, Rick has a small section that lies in the very back of his property known as his 'kitchen garden.' Here, you'll find microgreens growing in small containers, several varieties of mint, and even some squash!

As you go through the kitchen garden, you'll come to a section dedicated to Mediterranean herbs, which have special needs to really thrive well. These herbs are in a bed situated in the sunniest spot of the garden where the soil is mixed with sand to mimic the Mediterranean terrain these herbs are originally grown in. Here you'll find thyme, oregano, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, savory, sage, etc...

There is also a section dedicated to more herbs, which are also used at his restaurants. He's got a fantastic supply of organic Italian parsley, cilantro, garlic chives, rosemary, and sage...

Tomatoes also have their own section in the garden. Here is a wall of tomatoes growing, some of which are heirloom tomatoes...

A few steps from the tomatoes are compost boxes which line the side of the house....

The following pics are from the immediate back side of the house. Here, some decorative plants reside as well as a few fruit trees, such as this lime tree...

Above the previous section mentioned, Rick has a balcony and attached greenhouse. Here, more plants are grown and the greenhouse is utilized all year round to keep production continuous.

Here's a view of the back of the house with the production garden, balcony and greenhouse..

One of my most favorite parts of Rick's garden is this entertaining section, which is directly across from the production garden. Wouldn't you just love the opportunity to kick back with some great music, food grilling away and a delicious margarita in hand here?!


A great decorative addition of the entertaining space is a koi pond with a waterfall feature, that's surrounded by bamboo and other Asian foliage... and off to the side are some small trees like this bay tree (with bay leaves - left) and avocado tree (right)...

The entertaining section is partially covered and hanging from the overhead trellis are grapes and peas... talk about using every available space!

I love that Rick doesn't have a shortage of outdoor living space. If you thought the outdoor kitchen and the above entertaining section was enough, check out the living space located in the last corner of his property! Just off the entertaining section, you'll find the following walkway leading to a comfy covered sitting area and patio set...

 Overall, the tour was fantastic and we had such a great turnout of folks attending. Because it was such a successful and popular event, I'll be hosting the same tour next summer and will be including a dinner at Rick's restaurant, Frontera Grill immediately following the tour. I can't wait and know it will be an even more amazing experience next year!


  1. Amazing!!! I totally should have done this when I was in Chicago - next time I'm there I will message you to get the details!

  2. Wow nice, too bad I don't live close! This just makes me wanna start my own garden, haha. Actually, I might!

  3. Hi... I just happened upon your blog. Love all the great recipes.

  4. I wish I were there:)

    I used to live in Chicago for 3 years, and love the city and the gardening activities.

    Jay Chua

  5. Being a great lover of garden art, I enjoyed going through your blog.

  6. That is awesome!! absolutely beautiful!! He has such a great garden! I would have loved to see it! Very neat!

  7. Awesome and prefect garden you have. Very pleasant to look at cause it so clean and green. I love it.