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. Au Cheval

    $ | West Loop

    A menu packed with burgers, fries, and chopped liver might sound like a classic dive, but Au Cheval is no greasy spoon—exposed brick, dim lighting,...Read More

  • 3. Boka

    $$$$ | Lincoln Park

    If you're looking for a Steppenwolf pretheater dinner on North Halsted Street, this upscale spot gets the foodie stamp of approval. The seasonally driven menu...Read More

  • 4. Chicago Cut Steakhouse

    $$$$ | River North

    As if steak houses don’t offer enough luxury already, Chicago Cut takes decadence to the next level with sumptuous red banquettes, floor-to-ceiling windows, and prime...Read More

  • 5. Frontera Grill

    $$ | River North

    Devotees of Chef Rick Bayless queue up for the bold flavors of his distinct fare at this casual restaurant brightly trimmed in Mexican folk art,...Read More

  • 6. 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

  • 7. Girl & the Goat

    $$ | West Loop

    Bravo's Top Chef Season 4 champion Stephanie Izard's always-packed restaurant lives up to the hype, serving her personal brand of sharable, eclectic plates with seasonal...Read More

  • 8. Little Goat

    $ | West Loop

    Following the wild success of her flagship restaurant, Girl & the Goat, Top Chef alum Stephanie Izard switched gears with this all-day counterpart. The diner/bakery/bar...Read More

  • 9. Lula Café

    $$ | Logan Square

    Locals worship Lula Café, a neighborhood favorite that has been serving modern, seasonal dishes (and a cult-favorite brunch menu) in a spacious location with counter...Read More

  • 10. Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

    $ | 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—as the saying goes,...Read More

  • 11. Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

    $$ | West Loop

    Classic meets innovative at chef Sarah Grueneberg’s forward-thinking Italian restaurant, where a strategically placed mirror grants diners a view of pasta makers rolling and filling...Read More

  • 12. 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

  • 13. 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

  • 14. Sepia

    $$$$ | West Loop

    The name may evoke nostalgia for the building's gritty past as a print shop, but Sepia is thoroughly forward-thinking in both its design, which features...Read More

  • 15. Spiaggia

    $$$$ | Near North Side

    Refined Italian cooking dished alongside three-story picture-window views of Lake Michigan make Spiaggia one of the city's top eateries. Executive chef Joe Flamm, the Top...Read More

  • 16. 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

  • 17. The Purple Pig

    $$ | River North

    The Magnificent Mile isn’t usually known for dining, but locals and tourists alike love the Purple Pig, a Mediterranean wine bar with a deep wine...Read More

  • 18. Topolobampo

    $$$$ | River North

    Chef-owner Rick Bayless wrote the book on regional Mexican cuisine—several books, actually—and here he takes his faithfully prepared regional food upscale. Next door to the...Read More

  • 19. 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

  • 20. Adorn Bar & Restaurant

    $$$ | Near North Side

    James Beard--award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer explores the use of ingredients from close to home while preparing global cuisine at this sleek restaurant on the seventh...Read More

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