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 Cut Steakhouse

    $$$$ | River North | Steakhouse

    As if steak houses didn’t offer enough luxury already, Chicago Cut takes decadence to the next level. Sumptuous red banquettes and floor-to...Read More

  • 2. Little Goat

    $$ | West Loop | Eclectic

    Following the wild success of her flagship restaurant, the Girl & the Goat, Top Chef alum Stephanie Izard switches gears with this all...Read More

  • 3. Travelle

    $$$ | River North | Mediterranean

    The luxurious Langham Hotel doesn’t disappoint with this swanky Mediterranean restaurant located on the second floor. Cushy white leather seats...Read More

  • 4. 312 Chicago

    $$ | Loop | Italian

    Part handy hotel restaurant, part Loop power diner, and all Italian down to its first-generation chef, Luca Corazzina, 312 Chicago earns its...Read More

  • 5. Allium

    $$$$ | Near North | American

    Believe it or not, one of Chicago's finest hot dogs is hiding at luxury hotel Four Seasons. The hotel is still all swank, but the restaurant...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. Beatrix

    $$ | River North | American

    Finding it difficult to accommodate everyone’s cravings? Beatrix is the ultimate crowd pleaser, pulling only the best menu items from the Lettuce...Read More

  • 8. Billy Goat Tavern

    $ | Near North

    Behind and a level down from the Wrigley Building is the inspiration for Saturday Night Live 's classic "cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger...Read More

  • 9. Billy Goat Tavern

    $ | River North | American

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

  • 10. Brett's Kitchen

    $ | River North

    Under the El at Superior and Franklin, Brett's Kitchen is an excellent spot for a pastry, sandwich, or omelet. It's open until 4 am. ...Read More

  • 11. Café des Architectes

    $$$ | Near North | French

    French cuisine sometimes gets knocked for being too rich, heavy, and expensive, but this is an image that Southern-born chef Greg Biggers is...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. David Burke's Primehouse

    $$$$ | River North | Steakhouse

    Though local reception was initially cautious about New York celebrity chef David Burke running Primehouse in the boutique James Hote—after...Read More

  • 14. Dove's Luncheonette

    $ | Wicker Park | Diner

    None of award-winning chef-owner Paul Kahan’s restaurants are alike, so it's little surprise that his latest concept is another trendy original...Read More

  • 15. Ed Debevic's

    $ | River North | American

    Gum-snapping waiters in garish costumes trade quips and snide remarks with customers at this tongue-in-cheek re-creation of a 1950s diner, but...Read More

  • 16. Eleven City Diner

    $ | South Loop | American

    For all its great food, Chicago is not a big deli town, which endears Eleven City Diner, an old-school deli and family restaurant in the South...Read More

  • 17. Feast

    $$ | Bucktown | American

    The cozy fireplace and sofa-filled lounge create a fittingly social, casual setting for the arty Bucktown locals who dine here regularly. If...Read More

  • 18. Goddess and Grocer

    $ | Bucktown | Café

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

  • 19. Heaven on Seven

    $ | Loop | American

    Every day is Mardi Gras at Heaven on Seven, which pursues a good time all the time. The restaurant has a menu centered on a daring collection...Read More

  • 20. Heaven on Seven

    $ | Loop

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

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