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. Alinea

    $$$$ | Lincoln Park | American

    Believe the hype and secure tickets—yes, tickets—well in advance. Chicago's most exciting restaurant demands an adventurous spirit and a serious...Read More

  • 2. Blackbird

    $$$$ | West Loop | American

    Being cramped next to your neighbor has never been as fun as it is at this hot spot run by award winning chef Paul Kahan. Celebs pepper the...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Girl & the Goat

    $$$$ | West Loop | Eclectic

    Bravo's Top Chef Season 4 champion Stephanie Izard's highly anticipated restaurant lives up to the hype, serving her personal brand of sharable...Read More

  • 5. Grace

    $$$$ | West Loop | American

    Breakout culinary star Curtis Duffy (veteran of Avenues and Alinea) makes a home for his inventive white-tablecloth cuisine at this West Loop...Read More

  • 6. Spiaggia

    $$$$ | Near North | Italian

    Refined Italian cooking dished alongside three-story picture-window views of Lake Michigan make Spiaggia one of the city's top eateries. The...Read More

  • 7. Topolobampo

    $$$$ | River North | Mexican

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

  • 8. TRU

    $$$$ | Near North | French

    More than a decade after TRU opened under the direction of former chef/partners Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand, the award-winning progressive French...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Arun's

    $$$$ | Irving Park | Thai

    One of the finest Thai restaurants in Chicago—some say in the country—is also one of the most expensive, featuring only seven-course tasting...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Everest

    $$$$ | Loop | French

    No one expects romance at the top of the Chicago Stock Exchange, but Everest does its best to throw you a curve wherever and whenever. Consider...Read More

  • 14. Fogo de Chão

    $$$$ | River North | Brazilian

    Gaucho-clad servers parade through the dining room brandishing carved-to-order skewered and grilled meats at this all-you-can-eat Brazilian...Read More

  • 15. Gene & Georgetti

    $$$$ | River North | Steakhouse

    This old-school steak house, in business since 1941, is a Chicago institution. It thrives on the buddy network of high-powered regulars and...Read More

  • 16. Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse

    $$$$ | Near North | Steakhouse

    Chicago movers and shakers mingle with conventioneers at Gibsons, a lively, homegrown, Gold Coast steak house renowned for overwhelming portions...Read More

  • 17. Japonais by Morimoto

    $$$$ | River North | Japanese

    As if this supersleek Japanese-fusion restaurant wasn't hot enough, Japonais got an added boost from the presense of internationally renowned...Read More

  • 18. Les Nomades

    $$$$ | Near North | French

    Intimate and elegant doesn't make headlines, but Les Nomades holds a torch for tender refinements. Wood-burning fireplaces and original art...Read More

  • 19. Maude's Liquor Bar

    $$$$ | West Loop | French

    A classic French menu of dishes like chicken liver mousse and French onion fondue is the only thing traditional about this sexy Randolph Street...Read More

  • 20. mk

    $$$$ | River North | American

    Foodies and fashionistas flock to owner-chef Michael Kornick's ultrahip spot for its sleek look and elegant menu. In a renovated former commercial...Read More

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