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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Chant

    $$ | Hyde Park | Asian

    Asian-cuisine purists might raise their eyebrows at dishes such as Peking duck tacos or Thai hummus, but Chant's Asian-inspired global cuisine...Read More

  • 10. Chicago Brauhaus

    $ | Lincoln Square | German

    The German immigrants who settled in Lincoln Square have mostly moved on, but they left behind the Brauhaus, an Oktoberfest of a restaurant...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. Ed Debevic's

    $ | River North

    The purposefully sassy waiters and waitresses at this touristy '50s-style diner keep the crowds entertained. ...Read More

  • 13. 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

  • 14. Edzo's Burger Shop

    $

    Northwestern students and suits line up here for burgers (ground in-house), nine kinds of french fries (try the ones with truffle salt and Parmesan...Read More

  • 15. 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

  • 16. Epic Burger

    $ | South Loop | Burger

    After walking through exhibits at the Art Institute, follow the local college crowd to this order-at-the-counter eatery. While the ambience...Read More

  • 17. Garrett Popcorn

    $ | Loop

    Lines form early and stay throughout the day. The popcorn is so popular that there are nine other Chicago outlets plus branches in Dubai, Hong...Read More

  • 18. 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

  • 19. 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

  • 20. Kitsch'n on Roscoe

    $ | Lakeview | American

    If you love all things '70s, you'll love Kitsch'n as much as the regulars. It's a diner in retro garb, with lava lamps and vintage appliances...Read More

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