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. Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli

    $ | West Loop

    The corned-beef sandwich here is the one that other local delis aim to beat. Manny's has always been popular with Chicago politicians—so if...Read More

  • 2. Cafe Jumping Bean

    $ | Pilsen

    You'll find Mexican hot chocolate, focaccia pizzas, and fresh sandwiches at this cozy neighborhood coffee shop. ...Read More

  • 3. Chez Joël Bistro Français

    $$ | Little Italy | French

    Unlike the rest of Taylor Street, which is predominantly Italian in allegiance, Chez Joël waves the flag for France. The sunny, cozy bistro...Read More

  • 4. Dusek's

    $$ | Pilsen | Eclectic

    Pilsen is primarily known for its Mexican food, but more recently the neighborhood has been attracting high-end names, including this next-level...Read More

  • 5. El Milagro Tortilla

    $ | Pilsen

    The chicken mole and the rest of the home-style Mexican food served here come with very reasonable prices attached. ...Read More

  • 6. Emperor's Choice

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    This sophisticated restaurant sets out to prove that Chinese specialties can get beyond deep-fried prawns and Kung Pao chicken, and it succeeds...Read More

  • 7. Han 202

    $$$ | Chinatown | Chinese

    Tasting menus tend to come with sky-high prices, but that's not the case at this BYOB spot in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood, just south...Read More

  • 8. Honky Tonk Barbeque

    $$ | Pilsen | Barbecue

    The twang of country meets the tang of barbecue sauce at this Pilsen spot known for award-winning barbecue. There's definitely plenty of meat...Read More

  • 9. Joy Yee Noodles

    $$ | Chinatown

    From a massive menu, pan-Asian dishes arrive in a flash. The mouthwatering portions may be huge, but the prices aren't. ...Read More

  • 10. Lao Sze Chuan

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    If you're looking for spicy, filling food and great prices in Chinatown, check out this Szechuan kitchen from Tony Hu, the neighborhood's most...Read More

  • 11. Mario's Italian Lemonade

    $ | Little Italy

    If you visit Taylor Street from May to mid-September, be sure to stop at Mario's Italian Lemonade, a neighborhood staple since the '50s. Everyone...Read More

  • 12. Nightwood

    $$ | Pilsen | Modern American

    It's almost as if a piece of Brooklyn touched down here on the southern border of the Pilsen neighborhood. Everyone who works here appears to...Read More

  • 13. Nuevo León

    $ | Pilsen | Mexican

    Fill up on the exotic (tripe soup) or the familiar (tacos) at this bustling, family-run restaurant in the heart of Pilsen, Chicago's Mexican...Read More

  • 14. Phoenix Restaurant

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    This bustling dim-sum house can feel overwhelming with the hordes of diners who flock here on weekends, and service can be brusque, but even...Read More

  • 15. 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. ...Read More

  • 16. Pompei Little Italy

    $ | Little Italy | Pizza

    Cheap, cheerful, and fast—what's not to love about Pompei? Little Italy's only casual café with a strong kitchen specializes in square slices...Read More

  • 17. 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...Read More

  • 18. Sweet Maple Café

    $ | Little Italy | American

    On a Sunday morning, this breakfast-all-day spot is easy to find on Taylor Street: just look for the line out the door. In fact, expect a line...Read More

  • 19. Three Aces

    $ | Little Italy | Italian

    The rustic menu here, heavy on pasta and pizza, fits nicely among the Little Italy neighbors, but the grittier rock and roll vibe and free-flowing...Read More

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