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 pa
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 f
Sure, this city has great architecture, museums, and sports venues. But at its heart, Chicago is really a food town. Thi

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. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Ann Sather

    $$ | Lakeview

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

  • 7. Bar Toma

    $$ | Near North | Italian

    Italian culinary master Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia and Terzo Piano) has reclaimed the Water Tower tourist trap area as Chicago's landmark piazza...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Belly Shack

    $ | Logan Square | Eclectic

    Chef Bill Kim affectionately refers to Belly Shack as his "love story," because the menu fuses his Korean roots and his wife's Puerto Rican...Read More

  • 10. Big Bowl

    $ | River North

    The chef at this Pan-Asian restaurant is a stickler for using natural ingredients, and the menu of Thai and Chinese dishes has many options...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. 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

  • 14. 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

  • 15. Cafe Jumping Bean

    $ | Pilsen

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

  • 16. 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

  • 17. Caffè Baci

    $ | Loop

    For breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack, this is a great find. Try a "Jojo," the bistro's signature sandwich—it's a filone (an Italian baguette...Read More

  • 18. Chicago Catch 35

    $$$$ | Loop | Seafood

    You can eavesdrop on advertising types who do the after-five mix-and-mingle at this spot on the ground floor of the Leo Burnett Building. When...Read More

  • 19. 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

  • 20. Dove's Luncheonette

    $ | Wicker Park | American

    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

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