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 pa
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 f
Sure, this city has great architecture, museums, and sports venues. But at its heart, Chicago is really a food town. Thi

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. Au Cheval

    $ | West Loop | American

    A menu packed with burgers, fries, and chopped liver might sound like your classic dive, but Au Cheval is no greasy spoon. Exposed brick, dim...Read More

  • 2. Big Star

    $ | Wicker Park | Mexican

    It's cramped and noisy, and the service is often ambivalent, but most locals are willing to bear the substantial waits at Big Star because the...Read More

  • 3. Blackbird

    $$$$ | West Loop | American

    Being cramped next to your neighbor has never been as fun as it is at this hot spot run by award winning chef Paul Kahan. Celebs pepper the...Read More

  • 4. Chicago Cut Steakhouse

    $$$$ | River North | Steakhouse

    As if steak houses didn’t offer enough luxury already, Chicago Cut takes decadence to the next level. Sumptuous red banquettes and floor-to...Read More

  • 5. Chicago Diner

    $ | Boystown | American

    Belovedby vegetarians and vegans, this eatery should also appeal to anyone simply looking for a satisfying, comforting meal. The Chicago Diner...Read More

  • 6. Frontera Grill

    $$ | River North | Mexican

    Devotees of chef-owner Rick Bayless queue up for the bold flavors of his distinct fare at this casual restaurant brightly trimmed in Mexican...Read More

  • 7. GT Fish & Oyster

    $$ | River North | Seafood

    The "GT" here stands for chef-partner Giuseppe Tentori, whose latest restaurant coup reinterprets the classic seafood shack as a refined,...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. 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

  • 12. 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

  • 13. 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

  • 14. Travelle

    $$$ | River North | Mediterranean

    The luxurious Langham Hotel doesn’t disappoint with this swanky Mediterranean restaurant located on the second floor. Cushy white leather seats...Read More

  • 15. 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

  • 16. 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

  • 17. Baffo

    $$$ | River North | Italian

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

  • 18. 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

  • 19. 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

  • 20. 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

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