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. Acadia

    $$$ | South Loop | American

    The Northeast coast makes a splash in the South Loop with this elegant enclave from chef-owner Ryan McCaskey. Dishes are fresh, inventive, and...Read More

  • 2. Alinea

    $$$$ | Lincoln Park | American

    Believe the hype and secure tickets—yes, tickets—well in advance. Chicago's most exciting restaurant demands an adventurous spirit and a serious...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. Boka

    $$$ | Lincoln Park | American

    If you're doing Steppenwolf pretheater dinner on North Halsted Street, this upscale spot gets the foodie stamp of approval, especially with...Read More

  • 5. Gather

    $$ | Lincoln Square | American

    Class meets comfort in this upscale neighborhood eatery. The service is top-notch and everything on your plate is made in-house from scratch...Read More

  • 6. Grace

    $$$$ | West Loop | American

    Breakout culinary star Curtis Duffy (veteran of Avenues and Alinea) makes a home for his inventive white-tablecloth cuisine at this West Loop...Read More

  • 7. Spiaggia

    $$$$ | Near North | Italian

    Refined Italian cooking dished alongside three-story picture-window views of Lake Michigan make Spiaggia one of the city's top eateries. The...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Arun's

    $$$$ | Irving Park | Thai

    One of the finest Thai restaurants in Chicago—some say in the country—is also one of the most expensive, featuring only seven-course tasting...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. Balena

    $$$ | Lincoln Park | Italian

    This place burst onto the scene with a prime location across from Steppenwolf Theatre and a sexy Italian-inspired design that draws a respectable...Read More

  • 13. Bistro Campagne

    $$ | Lincoln Square | French

    If you're looking for rustic French fare on the North Side, this is the place to come: crispy roast chicken with mushroom ragout, steak piled...Read More

  • 14. Café des Architectes

    $$$ | Near North | French

    French cuisine sometimes gets knocked for being too rich, heavy, and expensive, but this is an image that Southern-born chef Greg Biggers is...Read More

  • 15. Chez Joël Bistro Français

    $$ | Little Italy | French

    Unlike the rest of Taylor Street, which is predominantly Italian in allegiance, Chez Joël waves the flag for France. The sunny, cozy bistro...Read More

  • 16. Coco Pazzo

    $$$ | River North | Italian

    The spread of antipasti that greets you upon entrance into this Tuscan-inspired restaurant is a sign of good things to come. Coco Pazzo serves...Read More

  • 17. Everest

    $$$$ | Loop | French

    No one expects romance at the top of the Chicago Stock Exchange, but Everest does its best to throw you a curve wherever and whenever. Consider...Read More

  • 18. 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

  • 19. Le Bouchon

    $$ | Bucktown | French

    The French comfort food at this charming-but-cramped bistro in Bucktown is in a league of its own. The onion tart has been a signature dish...Read More

  • 20. Les Nomades

    $$$$ | Near North | French

    Intimate and elegant doesn't make headlines, but Les Nomades holds a torch for tender refinements. Wood-burning fireplaces and original art...Read More

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