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. Acadia

    $$$$ | South Loop

    The Northeast coast makes a splash in the South Loop with this elegant enclave, where dishes are fresh, inventive, and often have a rather modernist...Read More

  • 2. 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...Read More

  • 3. Gather

    $$ | Lincoln Square

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

  • 4. Giant

    $ | Logan Square

    Huge flavors come roaring out of the tiny kitchen at Giant, where chef Jason Vincent takes crowd-pleasers like pasta, vegetarian dishes, and American classics and...Read More

  • 5. Hopleaf

    $$ | Far North Side

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

  • 6. North Pond

    $$$$ | Lincoln Park

    A former Arts and Crafts–style warming house for ice-skaters at Lincoln Park’s North Pond, this romantic gem in the woods fittingly champions an uncluttered culinary...Read More

  • 7. Oriole

    $$$$ | West Loop

    There aren’t many restaurant dinners that start by entering through an alley and into a freight elevator, but nothing about Oriole is typical, from the...Read More

  • 8. The Publican Restaurant

    $$ | West Loop

    Don't call this beer-focused hot spot a gastropub—chef Paul Kahan prefers "beer hall" (though wine is available, too) and with the long communal tables, at...Read More

  • 9. Walker Bros. Original Pancake House

    $

    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...Read More

  • 10. Walker Bros. Pancake House

    $

    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...Read More

  • 11. 3rd Coast Cafe & Wine Bar

    $ | Near North Side

    The oldest coffeehouse in the Gold Coast pleases just about everyone with breakfast all day, a nightly dinner specials. They stay open until 9 pm...Read More

  • 12. Allium

    $$$ | Near North Side

    Believe it or not, one of Chicago's finest hot dogs is hiding at the Four Seasons luxury hotel, and the famed Chicago-style dog with "housemade...Read More

  • 13. Batter & Berries

    $ | Lincoln Park

    Bright yellow walls and a soundtrack of classic house music make for a convivial atmosphere at this daytime spot, a favorite with students from nearby...Read More

  • 14. Beatrix

    $$ | River North

    If you’re finding it difficult to accommodate everyone’s cravings, Beatrix is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. The restaurant offers comfort food with a healthy twist for breakfast,...Read More

  • 15. Billy Goat Tavern

    $ | River North

    The late comedian John Belushi immortalized the Goat's short-order cooks on Saturday Night Live, barking their signature, "No Pepsi, Coke!" and "No fries, cheeps!" at...Read More

  • 16. Billy Goat Tavern

    $ | Near North Side

    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,...Read More

  • 17. Brett's Kitchen

    $ | River North

    Under the El at Superior and Franklin, Brett's Kitchen is an excellent spot for a quick pastry, sandwich, or omelet. It's super casual: order at...Read More

  • 18. Cellar Door Provisions

    $$$$ | Logan Square

    Seasonality is the watchword at this modern spot, where the menu changes constantly but the dishes are always executed with the utmost care. Filled with...Read More

  • 19. Cherry Circle Room

    $$$ | Chicago Loop

    Mid-century style reigns at this wood-paneled clublike restaurant, where the menu draws inspiration from the landmarked space's previous incarnation as a tony men's club. The...Read More

  • 20. Daisies

    $$ | Logan Square

    Neighborhood foodies flock to this minimalist dining room for handmade pastas dressed in the season’s best produce and kooky but quaffable cocktails like a margarita...Read More

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