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. 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 312 Chicago

    $$$ | Chicago Loop

    Part handy hotel restaurant, part Loop power diner, and all Italian down to its first-generation chef, Luca Corazzina, 312 Chicago earns its popularity with well-executed...Read More

  • 4. Caffè Baci

    $ | Chicago Loop

    For breakfast, lunch, or a quick snack, this is a great find. Try a "Jojo," the bistro's signature sandwich—it's a filone (an Italian baguette) stuffed...Read More

  • 5. Coda di Volpe

    $$ | Lakeview

    With Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified pizza (that means these are legit Neapolitan-style pies), an airy dining room, a lively bar, and a drinks list packed with...Read More

  • 6. Gino's East

    $$ | River North

    Grab a seasonal brew and watch a game on the big screen, fill up on yummy Chicago deep-dish pizza, or catch a nightly stand-up comedy...Read More

  • 7. Gioco

    $$ | South Loop | Italian

    The name means "game" in Italian, and the restaurant fulfills the promise not with venison, but in the spirit of having fun. The decor is distressed...Read More

  • 8. Mia Francesca

    $ | Lakeview

    Moderate prices and a smart, urbane style drive crowds to this Lakeview storefront for enlightened Northern Italian dishes like pasta, pizza, and antipasti made with...Read More

  • 9. Nico Osteria

    $$$ | Gold Coast

    On a premier corner of the Gold Coast, in The Thompson Chicago, is this seafood-focused gem helmed by award-winning chef Jacob Verstegen. Go here for...Read More

  • 10. Osteria via Stato

    $$ | River North

    It's easy, crowd-pleasing Italian here, with an array of classic pasta, salads, meat, and seafood dishes. If you opt for the $39.95 prix-fixe, you pick...Read More

  • 11. Petterino's

    $$ | Chicago Loop

    Theatergoers to the Goodman, the Palace, and the Oriental pack Petterino's (next door to the Goodman lobby) nightly, though this Italian supper club with framed...Read More

  • 12. Pompei

    $ | Little Italy

    Head to this branch of a local restaurant empire for salads, house-made pasta, and its famous thick, bready squares of pizza....Read More

  • 13. Tortello

    $$ | Wicker Park

    A selection of fresh handmade pasta produced with top-quality Italian flour anchors the menu at this counter service spot, where checkered linoleum flooring and a...Read More

  • 14. Trattoria No. 10

    $$$ | Chicago Loop

    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 floors, all...Read More

  • 15. Baffo

    $$$ | River North

    Chicagoans are typically wary of outside chefs, but it seems that celebrity chef Mario Batali has received the local stamp of approval judging by the...Read More

  • 16. Bar Toma

    $$ | Near North Side

    Italian culinary master Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia and Terzo Piano) has reclaimed the Water Tower tourist trap area as Chicago's landmark piazza with his neighborhood...Read More

  • 17. L'Appetito

    $ | Near North Side

    For great Italian sandwiches, try this deli and grocery off the John Hancock Center's lower-level plaza....Read More

  • 18. Vivo

    $$ | West Loop

    Vivo was trendy on this west-of-the-Loop stretch long before Randolph Street's restaurant row got hot, and it still draws a crowd. It may be slightly...Read More

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