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. North Pond

    $$$ | Lincoln Park | American

    A former Arts and Crafts–style warming house for ice-skaters at Lincoln Park's North Pond, this gem in the woods fittingly champions an uncluttered...Read More

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. Japonais by Morimoto

    $$$$ | River North | Japanese

    As if this supersleek Japanese-fusion restaurant wasn't hot enough, Japonais got an added boost from the presense of internationally renowned...Read More

  • 6. Mercat a la Planxa

    $$$ | South Loop | Spanish

    Inside the Blackstone Hotel, this Catalan-inspired restaurant offers a stylish respite from Michigan Avenue. Philadelphia-based chef Jose Garces...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Perennial Virant

    $$$ | Lincoln Park | Eclectic

    Locavore obsessives should look no further than this farm-to-table gem facing Lincoln Park's seasonal farmers' market, the Green City Market...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Signature Room at the 95th

    $$$ | Near North | American

    When you've got the best view in town and a lock on special-occasion dining, do you need to be daring with the food? The Signature Room keeps...Read More

  • 11. 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

  • 12. Tavern at the Park

    $$$ | Loop | American

    Given its unique take on American classics and the splendid view of Chicago's Millennium Park, it would be a mistake to pass up this near–Michigan...Read More

  • 13. 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

  • 14. The Plaza

    $ | Loop | American

    Location trumps service at The Plaza, where a seat outside in summer, in full view of Millennium Park, is among the best in the city. The waitstaff...Read More

  • 15. 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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