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 | American

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

  • 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...Read More

  • 3. Gather

    $$ | Lincoln Square | American

    Class meets comfort in this upscale neighborhood eatery. The service is top-notch and everything on your plate is made in-house from scratch...Read More

  • 4. Hopleaf

    $$ | Far North Side | American

    When hops devotee Michael Roper added a dining room onto the back of his beloved tavern, swillers were thrilled with the opportunity to sop...Read More

  • 5. Spacca Napoli Pizzeria

    $ | Ravenswood | Pizza

    Despite Chicago's renown for deep-dish pizza, locals are swept away by the thin-crust Neapolitan pies at this bright Ravenswood gem. Finely...Read More

  • 6. Ann Sather

    $ | Lakeview | Scandinavian

    This Scandinavian mini-chain, open since 1945, is a Chicago institution for good reason: the aroma of fresh cinnamon rolls, Swedish pancakes...Read More

  • 7. Ann Sather

    $$ | Lakeview

    This nominally Swedish mini-chain serves breakfast until midafternoon, including legendary lingonberry pancakes and giant cinnamon buns. Other...Read More

  • 8. Arun's

    $$$$ | Irving Park | Thai

    One of the finest Thai restaurants in Chicago—some say in the country—is also one of the most expensive, featuring only seven-course tasting...Read More

  • 9. Big Jones

    $$ | Far North Side | American

    Even if you weren't raised by a Southern grandmother, the heirloom cooking at this Andersonville restaurant will make you feel right at home...Read More

  • 10. Bistro Campagne

    $$ | Lincoln Square | French

    If you're looking for rustic French fare on the North Side, this is the place to come: crispy roast chicken with mushroom ragout, steak piled...Read More

  • 11. Bobtail Ice Cream Company

    $ | Lakeview

    Head here for shakes, sundaes, and ice cream in flavors like Lakeview Barhopper, Cubby Crunch, and Daley Addiction. ...Read More

  • 12. Café Selmarie

    $ | Lincoln Square | Café

    For a light meal in Lincoln Square, line up at this bakery-turned-café, a long-standing favorite among locals—especially during warmer months...Read More

  • 13. Chicago Brauhaus

    $ | Lincoln Square | German

    The German immigrants who settled in Lincoln Square have mostly moved on, but they left behind the Brauhaus, an Oktoberfest of a restaurant...Read More

  • 14. DMK Burger Bar

    $ | Lakeview | Burger

    Chef-owner Michael Kornick knows fine dining, but he is also a longtime fan of the simple burger. The two worlds commingle at DMK Burger Bar...Read More

  • 15. Julius Meinl Café

    $ | Lakeview | Café

    Viennese coffee roaster Julius Meinl operates this very European café in an unexpected location at the intersection of Addison and Southport...Read More

  • 16. Kitsch'n on Roscoe

    $ | Lakeview | American

    If you love all things '70s, you'll love Kitsch'n as much as the regulars. It's a diner in retro garb, with lava lamps and vintage appliances...Read More

  • 17. Mia Francesca

    $ | Lakeview | Italian

    Moderate prices and a smart, urbane style drive ceaseless crowds to this Lakeview storefront. Enlightened Italian dishes like classic bruschetta...Read More

  • 18. Reza's

    $$ | Andersonville

    Outstanding Persian cuisine (think kebabs, dolma, and charbroiled ground beef with rice) is dished out at Reza's. On weekdays, its $10 lunch...Read More

  • 19. Smoque BBQ

    $ | Irving Park | Barbecue

    The sweet smoky aroma wafting out of this casual barbecue spot always attracts a crowd, and while the line to order at the counter extends out...Read More

  • 20. Sola Restaurant

    $$ | North Center | American

    While you can dine very well in Chicago's neighborhoods, most local joints aren't as ambitious as Sola, which would be right at home downtown...Read More

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