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. 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. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. TRU

    $$$$ | Near North | French

    More than a decade after TRU opened under the direction of former chef/partners Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand, the award-winning progressive French...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Ed Debevic's

    $ | River North

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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. mk

    $$$$ | River North | American

    Foodies and fashionistas flock to owner-chef Michael Kornick's ultrahip spot for its sleek look and elegant menu. In a renovated former commercial...Read More

  • 11. Morton's, The Steakhouse

    $$$$ | Loop | Steakhouse

    Morton's in the Gold Coast neighborhood can be more fun, but this location, a spin-off of the Gold Coast original, is one of Chicago's best...Read More

  • 12. NoMI Kitchen

    $$$ | Near North | American

    Suits and ties are no longer de rigueur at the Park Hyatt's NoMI Kitchen, a seventh-floor lifestyle-focused concept that goes along with NoMI...Read More

  • 13. Sepia

    $$$ | West Loop | American

    The name may evoke nostalgia for the building's gritty past as a print shop, but Sepia is thoroughly forward-thinking in both its design (glassed...Read More

  • 14. Shanghai Terrace

    $$$ | Near North | Chinese

    As precious as a jewel box, and often as pricey, this red, lacquer-trimmed 70-seat restaurant hidden away in the Peninsula Hotel reveals the...Read More

  • 15. Sixteen

    $$$$ | River North | American

    Uninterrupted views of the landmark Wrigley Building, Lake Michigan, and the Chicago River make it easy to overlook the food at Sixteen—but...Read More

  • 16. The Lobby at the Peninsula

    $$$ | River North | American

    While most contemporary restaurants lean toward the avant garde, The Lobby continues the tradition of classic upscale hotel dining with all...Read More

  • 17. RIA

    $$$$ | Near North Side | French

    After a few moments of oohing and ahhing over the fairytale castle facade of the Waldorf-Astoria, head to the third floor for a romantic evening...Read More

  • 18. Henri

    $$$ | Chicago Loop | French

    A little French decadence never hurt anyone, so prepare to get the white-tablecloth treatment at this elegant French-American fine dining restaurant...Read More

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