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. Bistro Campagne

    $$$ | Lincoln Square

    For rustic French fare on the North Side, this is the place to come: the classic, seasonally changing French dishes are top-notch, while the lovely,...Read More

  • 2. Bistronomic

    $$ | Near North Side

    Classic French dishes using local and sustainable ingredients have been the ethos of Bistronomic (Bistro-Economic) since it opened in 2011. Escargots, onion soup, and mains...Read More

  • 3. CDA

    $$$ | Near North Side

    French cuisine sometimes gets knocked for being too rich, too heavy, and too expensive, but that's an image that French-Canadian-born chef Cliff Crawford is doing...Read More

  • 4. Chez Joël Bistro Français

    $$ | Little Italy

    Unlike the rest of Taylor Street, which is predominantly Italian in allegiance, Chez Joël waves the flag for France, and it’s a favorite with the...Read More

  • 5. Everest

    $$$$ | Chicago Loop

    You might not expect romance at the top of the Chicago Stock Exchange, but at Everest, there are sweeping westward views of the city's sprawl,...Read More

  • 6. La Sardine

    $$ | West Loop | French

    We don't know if the sardine reference was meant to telegraph the seating arrangements, but, yes, it's snug here. Still, the solid menu of...Read More

  • 7. Les Nomades

    $$$$ | Near North Side

    Intimate and elegant doesn't make headlines, but Les Nomades quietly serves some of Chicago’s best French food in the warm dining room of this Streeterville...Read More

  • 8. Mon Ami Gabi

    $$ | Lincoln Park | French

    Although there are now satellite restaurants in the Chicago suburbs and across the country, the original Mon Ami Gabi has not lost its charm...Read More

  • 9. Pierrot Gourmet

    $ | Near North Side

    Despite the legions of shoppers on Michigan Avenue, there are few casual cafés to quell their collective hunger, making this bakery-patisserie-café a welcome spot any...Read More

  • 10. TRU

    $$$$ | Near North Side

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

  • 11. Brasserie Jo

    $$ | River North

    Come for the frites alone at Jean Joho's (he of Everest fame) fun and more affordable brasserie. It's authentic down to its zinc-top bar proffering...Read More

  • 12. Henri

    $$$ | Chicago Loop

    A little French decadence never hurt anyone, so prepare to get the white-tablecloth treatment at this elegant French-American fine dining restaurant overlooking Millennium Park. Inspired...Read More

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