Chicago Restaurants

Sure, this city has great architecture, museums, and sports venues. But at its heart, Chicago is really a food town. This is evident in the priority that good eating takes, no matter the occasion. Rain or shine, locals will wait in a line that snakes around the corner for dolled-up doughnuts at Doughnut Vault. They’ll reserve part of their paychecks to dine at inventive Alinea. And they love to talk about their most recent meal—just ask.

It's no wonder that outdoor festivals are often centered on food, from Taste of Chicago in summer, which packs the grounds at Grant Park, to smaller celebrations, like the German-American fest in Lincoln Square, a mini-Oktoberfest in fall.

Although the city has always had options on the extreme ends of the spectrum—from the hole-in-the wall Italian beef sandwich shops to the special-occasion spots—it's now easier to find eateries in the middle that serve seasonal menus with a farm-to-table mantra. For the budget conscious, it's also a great time to dine: some talented chefs aren't bothering to wait for a liquor license, opening BYOB spots turning out polished fare (just try Ruxbin in West Town).

Expect to see more Chicago chefs open casual concepts—Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan, and Michael Kornick have a head start with their respective sandwich, taco, and burger spots. Yet the goal remains the same: to feed a populace that knows good food and isn't willing to accept anything less than the best. In the following pages, you'll find our top picks, from quick bites to multicourse meals, in the city's best dining neighborhoods.

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  • 1. Chicago Diner

    $ | Boystown | Diner

    Belovedby vegetarians and vegans, this eatery should also appeal to anyone simply looking for a satisfying, comforting meal. The Chicago Diner...

    Belovedby vegetarians and vegans, this eatery should also appeal to anyone simply looking for a satisfying, comforting meal. The Chicago Diner offers meat-free variations on favorites from a wide range of cuisine types—American, Mexican, Mediterranean, Thai—it’s all here, and it’s all delicious. You’ll want to save room for a milk shake so good you won’t believe it’s not dairy. Be prepared for a wait during peak dining hours.

    3411 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Illinois, 60657, USA
    773-935–6696
  • 2. Crisp

    $ | Lakeview | Korean

    This Lakeview hole-in-the-wall specializes in Korean fried chicken glazed in a variety of unusual sauces ranging from sweet and “Seoul spicy...

    This Lakeview hole-in-the-wall specializes in Korean fried chicken glazed in a variety of unusual sauces ranging from sweet and “Seoul spicy” to, as the menu puts it, “suicide.” Despite all that juice, the chicken still remains miraculously, well, crispy. The “Buddha bowl” bi bim bop and Korean burritos are also packed with freshness and flavor, especially when paired with traditional, tangy kimchi.

    2940 N. Broadway St., Chicago, Illinois, USA
    773-697-7610
  • 3. Walker Bros. Pancake House

    $ | American

    Be prepared to stand in line for the mouthwatering apple cinnamon pancakes, a massive disk loaded with apples, or the German pancake, a puffy oven-baked...

    Be prepared to stand in line for the mouthwatering apple cinnamon pancakes, a massive disk loaded with apples, or the German pancake, a puffy oven-baked circle topped with powdered sugar. There are several branches, but the original Wilmette restaurant is where scenes from the 1980 movie Ordinary People were shot.

    153 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette, Illinois, 60091, USA
    847-251–6000

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>
  • 4. Big Bowl

    $ | River North

    The chef at this Pan-Asian restaurant is a stickler for using natural ingredients, and the menu of Thai and Chinese dishes has many options...

    The chef at this Pan-Asian restaurant is a stickler for using natural ingredients, and the menu of Thai and Chinese dishes has many options for those seeking gluten-free or vegetarian options.

    60 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois, 60611, USA
    312-951–1888

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Sun.–Thurs. 11:30–10, Fri.–Sat. 11:30–11
  • 5. Billy Goat Tavern

    $ | Near North Side | Coffee

    Behind and a level down from the Wrigley Building is the inspiration for Saturday Night Live's classic "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger, cheeps, no fries, no Pepsi,...

    Behind and a level down from the Wrigley Building is the inspiration for Saturday Night Live's classic "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger, cheeps, no fries, no Pepsi, Coke" skit. Grab a greasy burger at this no-frills grill, or just have a beer and absorb the comic undertones.

    430 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois, 60611, USA

    Known For

    • <PRO>Double Cheezborger</PRO>
    • <PRO>"Enter at your own risk" sign</PRO>
    • <PRO>SNL connection</PRO>
  • Recommended Fodor’s Video

  • 6. Caffè Baci

    $ | Chicago Loop

    For breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack, this is a great find. Try a "Jojo," the bistro's signature sandwich—it's a filone (an Italian baguette) stuffed...

    For breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack, this is a great find. Try a "Jojo," the bistro's signature sandwich—it's a filone (an Italian baguette) stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, basil, and plum tomatoes.

    2 N. LaSalle, Chicago, Illinois, 60602, USA
    312-629–2216

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed weekends
  • 7. Chant

    $$ | Hyde Park

    Asian fusion is the name of the game at this lively Hyde Park restaurant, where Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, and other influences mingle on a...

    Asian fusion is the name of the game at this lively Hyde Park restaurant, where Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, and other influences mingle on a menu that ranges from classic to creative and even includes some American staples for tamer diners. With an energetic atmosphere, plenty of dishes for sharing, and a menu that takes dietary restrictions into account, Chant is an easy spot for groups to gather.

    1509 E. 53rd St., Chicago, Illinois, 60615, USA
    773-324–1999

    Known For

    • Relaxed atmosphere
    • Live music
    • Signature martinis and cocktails
  • 8. Edzo's Burger Shop

    $

    Northwestern students and suits line up here for burgers (ground in-house), nine kinds of french fries (try the ones with truffle salt and Parmesan), and...

    Northwestern students and suits line up here for burgers (ground in-house), nine kinds of french fries (try the ones with truffle salt and Parmesan), and spicy Mexican-chocolate shakes.

    1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston, Illinois, 60201, USA
    847-864–3396

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.
  • 9. Gino's East

    $$ | River North | Italian

    Grab a seasonal brew and watch a game on the big screen, fill up on yummy Chicago deep-dish pizza, or catch a nightly stand-up comedy...

    Grab a seasonal brew and watch a game on the big screen, fill up on yummy Chicago deep-dish pizza, or catch a nightly stand-up comedy act at the graffiti-covered Gino's East.

    500 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, Illinois, 60654, USA
    312-988–4200

    Known For

    • <PRO>writing on the walls</PRO>
    • <PRO>option to ship Chicago-style pizza nationwide</PRO>
    • <PRO>impressive floor-to-ceiling view</PRO>
  • 10. Goddess and Grocer

    $ | Bucktown | Café

    Tasty sandwiches and salads that please vegans and carnivores alike are served at Goddess and Grocer. ...

    Tasty sandwiches and salads that please vegans and carnivores alike are served at Goddess and Grocer.

    1649 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, Illinois, 60647, USA
    773-342–3200
  • 11. Heaven on Seven

    $ | Chicago Loop

    This Loop legend is famous for casual Cajun breakfasts and lunches that have area office workers gladly lining up to be served....

    This Loop legend is famous for casual Cajun breakfasts and lunches that have area office workers gladly lining up to be served.

    111 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, Illinois, 60602, USA
    312-263–6443

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.
  • 12. Medici on 57th

    $$ | Hyde Park | Coffee

    Opened almost 60 years ago, Medici has served generations of University of Chicago students and faculty, many of whom carved their name on the tables...

    Opened almost 60 years ago, Medici has served generations of University of Chicago students and faculty, many of whom carved their name on the tables and walls.

    1327 E. 57th St., Chicago, Illinois, 60637, USA
    773-667–7394

    Known For

    • Pizza and burgers
    • Popularity with locals
    • Relaxed and welcoming atmosphere
  • 13. Nookies Too

    $ | Lincoln Park

    Heaping breakfasts, available anytime, make this spot a favorite with the neighborhood's late-night crowd. There are also branches in Old Town, Lakeview, and Edgewater....

    Heaping breakfasts, available anytime, make this spot a favorite with the neighborhood's late-night crowd. There are also branches in Old Town, Lakeview, and Edgewater.

    2114 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Illinois, 60614, USA
    773-327–1400

    Known For

    • <PRO>brioche French toast</PRO>
    • <PRO>cozy environment</PRO>
    • <PRO>family friendly</PRO>
  • 14. Nookies Too

    $ | Lincoln Park

    Heaping breakfasts, available anytime, make this spot a favorite with the neighborhood's late-night crowd. There are also branches in Old Town...

    Heaping breakfasts, available anytime, make this spot a favorite with the neighborhood's late-night crowd. There are also branches in Old Town, Lakeview, and Edgewater.

    2114 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Illinois, 60614, USA
    773-327–1400
  • 15. Oasis Cafe

    $ | Chicago Loop

    If your taste buds crave a quick Middle Eastern fix, make your way to the back of the Jewelry Mall, walk up to the counter,...

    If your taste buds crave a quick Middle Eastern fix, make your way to the back of the Jewelry Mall, walk up to the counter, and place your order for creamy hummus, crispy falafel, grape leaves, a shish kebab sandwich, or another snack. It isn't fancy, but it's good, and the service is snappy.

    21 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, Illinois, 60602, USA
    312-443–9534

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Mon.–Sat. 10–5 pm, Closed Sun.
  • 16. Petersen's Ice Cream

    $

    This old-fashioned parlor, which sells sundaes, shakes, malts, and cones of homemade ice cream, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019....

    This old-fashioned parlor, which sells sundaes, shakes, malts, and cones of homemade ice cream, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019.

    1100 Chicago Ave., Oak Park, Illinois, 60302, USA

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Jan. and Feb.
  • 17. Pompei

    $ | Little Italy

    Head to this branch of a local restaurant empire for salads, house-made pasta, and its famous thick, bready squares of pizza....

    Head to this branch of a local restaurant empire for salads, house-made pasta, and its famous thick, bready squares of pizza.

    1531 W. Taylor St., Chicago, Illinois, 60607, USA
    312-421–5179

    Known For

    • <PRO> </PRO>
  • 18. R.J. Grunt's

    $ | Lincoln Park | Burger

    Just outside Lincoln Park, R.J. Grunts has been serving killer milk shakes and burgers since 1971. It is also known for its famous (and gargantuan...

    Just outside Lincoln Park, R.J. Grunts has been serving killer milk shakes and burgers since 1971. It is also known for its famous (and gargantuan) salad bar.

    2056 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago, Illinois, 60614, USA
    773-929–5363
  • 19. Skylark

    $ | Pilsen | American

    Located at the unassuming intersection of Halsted and Cermak, this dimly lit, cash-only dive bar is off the beaten track but well worth the...

    Located at the unassuming intersection of Halsted and Cermak, this dimly lit, cash-only dive bar is off the beaten track but well worth the journey. Locals love its cheap, greasy comfort food—especially the tater tot basket and mac and cheese plate.

    2149 S. Halsted St., Chicago, Illinois, USA
    312-948–5275
  • 20. Valois

    $ | Hyde Park | Coffee

    This cash-only Hyde Park institution serves big portions of no-frills diner classics cafeteria-style. President Obama ate here often during his University of Chicago days, and...

    This cash-only Hyde Park institution serves big portions of no-frills diner classics cafeteria-style. President Obama ate here often during his University of Chicago days, and the restaurant still posts a “President Obama’s Favorites” menu.

    1518 E. 53rd St., Chicago, Illinois, 60615, USA
    773-667–0647

    Known For

    • Breakfast
    • Loved by all walks of life
    • Friendly staff

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No dinner

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