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. North Pond

    $$$ | Lincoln Park | American

    A former Arts and Crafts–style warming house for ice-skaters at Lincoln Park's North Pond, this gem in the woods fittingly champions an uncluttered...Read More

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Green Zebra

    $$ | West Loop | Vegetarian

    Chef Shawn McClain took the vegetable side dish and ran it up the marquee, earning raves nationwide for giving vegetables the gourmet treatment...Read More

  • 5. Kinmont

    $$ | Near North | Seafood

    Who knew sustainability could be so sexy? Channeling the rustic sportsman’s clubs of the 19th century, this ethical fish restaurant from the...Read More

  • 6. Native Foods Café

    $ | Wicker Park | Vegetarian

    When Wicker Park's veggie-centric Earwax Café closed, vegans and vegetarians decamped to this new California transplant. Even devoted carnivores...Read More

  • 7. Perennial Virant

    $$$ | Lincoln Park | Eclectic

    Locavore obsessives should look no further than this farm-to-table gem facing Lincoln Park's seasonal farmers' market, the Green City Market...Read More

  • 8. Trattoria No. 10

    $$$ | Loop | Italian

    It's hard to camouflage a basement location, but Trattoria No. 10 gives it a good go with terra-cotta colors, arched entryways, and quarry-tile...Read More

  • 9. Xoco

    $ | River North | Mexican

    By opening a third restaurant next door to perennial favorites Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, celeb chef Rick Bayless has taken control of...Read More

  • 10. Province

    $$ | West Loop | American

    Many restaurants source local ingredients and recycle, but chef-owner Randy Zweiban takes sustainability a step further by housing his restaurant...Read More

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