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. Hopleaf

    $$ | Far North Side | American

    When hops devotee Michael Roper added a dining room onto the back of his beloved tavern, swillers were thrilled with the opportunity to sop...Read More

  • 2. 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

  • 3. Mindy's Hot Chocolate

    $$ | Bucktown | American

    The city's most celebrated pastry chef, Mindy Segal, goes solo at Hot Chocolate, and as you might expect, it's a hit for a really great dessert...Read More

  • 4. Slurping Turtle

    $$ | River North | Japanese

    Slurping is not only allowed at this casual River North noodle shop—it's encouraged. Chef Takashi Yagihashi's ramen gained a cult following...Read More

  • 5. The Purple Pig

    $$ | River North | Mediterranean

    The Magnificient Mile is known for many things—stunning architecture, historical landmarks, world-class shopping—but dining isn't usually one...Read More

  • 6. 312 Chicago

    $$ | Loop | Italian

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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Belly Q and Urban Belly

    $$ | West Loop | Korean

    Chef-owner Bill Kim expands his Belly empire, moving his flagship ramen restaurant Urban Belly under the same roof as his trendy Korean barbecue...Read More

  • 9. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

    $$ | Lincoln Park | Spanish

    The name is kitschy cute, and it's jammed with partying Lincoln Parkers, so you might not think the food is a selling point—but you'd be wrong...Read More

  • 10. Café Iberico

    $ | River North | Spanish

    A Spanish expat from Galicia runs this tapas restaurant hailed by visiting Spaniards and local families, dating couples, and cheap chowhounds...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. 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

  • 14. De Cero Taqueria

    $ | West Loop | Mexican

    Sometimes you want celebrity chef–made regional Mexican, and sometimes you just want a really good taco. For the latter, as well as zesty margaritas...Read More

  • 15. Dusek's

    $$ | Pilsen | Eclectic

    Pilsen is primarily known for its Mexican food, but more recently the neighborhood has been attracting high-end names, including this next-level...Read More

  • 16. Ed Debevic's

    $ | River North

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

  • 17. Emperor's Choice

    $ | Chinatown | Chinese

    This sophisticated restaurant sets out to prove that Chinese specialties can get beyond deep-fried prawns and Kung Pao chicken, and it succeeds...Read More

  • 18. 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

  • 19. Green Street Smoked Meats

    $ | West Loop | Barbecue

    Taking a cue from the barbecue kings of Texas, this cool smoke joint is a little bit Southern, a little bit hipster. It’s best to queue up...Read More

  • 20. Joe's Seafood, Prime Steaks & Stone Crab

    $$$ | River North | Seafood

    Joe's may be far from the ocean, but the winning combination of stone crabs and other seafood, as well as prime steaks, has made this outpost...Read More

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