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. 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

  • 2. Goddess and Grocer

    $ | Bucktown | Café

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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Milk & Honey Café

    $ | Wicker Park | Café

    Division Street has long been a prowl of night owls but with the growing number of spas and boutiques in the area, not to mention the many work...Read More

  • 5. Caffe DeLuca

    $ | Wicker Park | Café

    Caffe de Luca is the place to go when you crave air and light with your caffeine and calories. This sophisticated Bucktown spot hints at Tuscany...Read More

  • 6. Fox & Obel

    $ | Near North Side | Café

    Skip the tourist-trap funnel-cake fare at Navy Pier and opt instead for this riverside gourmet market just a block away. The prepared fine and...Read More

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