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

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

  • 2. Spiaggia

    $$$$ | Near North Side

    Refined Italian cooking dished alongside three-story picture-window views of Lake Michigan make Spiaggia one of the city's top eateries. Executive chef Joe Flamm, the Top...Read More

  • 3. Allium

    $$$ | Near North Side

    Believe it or not, one of Chicago's finest hot dogs is hiding at the Four Seasons luxury hotel, and the famed Chicago-style dog with "housemade...Read More

  • 4. Everest

    $$$$ | Chicago Loop

    You might not expect romance at the top of the Chicago Stock Exchange, but at Everest, there are sweeping westward views of the city's sprawl,...Read More

  • 5. Mercat a la Planxa

    $$$$ | South Loop

    Catalan-inspired restaurant Mercat offers a stylish respite from Michigan Avenue with a view of Grant Park and a menu of small to midsize plates, all...Read More

  • 6. NoMI Kitchen

    $$$$ | Near North Side

    The views of Michigan Avenue from the floor-to-ceiling windows are breathtaking at the Park Hyatt’s NoMI Kitchen, a seventh-floor lifestyle-focused concept that goes along with...Read More

  • 7. Shanghai Terrace

    $$$ | Near North Side

    As precious as a jewel box, this red, lacquer-trimmed 80-seat restaurant hidden away in the Peninsula Hotel reveals the hotelier's Asian roots. Come for stylishly...Read More

  • 8. Signature Room at the 95th

    $$$$ | Near North Side

    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...Read More

  • 9. Tavern at the Park

    $$$ | Chicago Loop

    With its unique take on American classics and a splendid view of Chicago's Millennium Park, this spot is a near–Michigan Avenue gem. Three stories, including...Read More

  • 10. The Lobby at the Peninsula

    $$$ | River North

    While many contemporary restaurants lean toward the avant-garde, The Lobby continues the tradition of classic upscale hotel dining with all the frills. During the day,...Read More

  • 11. The Plaza

    $ | Chicago Loop

    A seat outside at the summertime-only Plaza, shaded with a rainbow of umbrellas and in full view of Millennium Park, is one of most desired...Read More

  • 12. Travelle at The Langham

    $$$ | River North

    The luxurious Langham Hotel doesn’t disappoint with this elegant American restaurant located on the second floor, where cushy white leather seats pamper guests gaping at...Read More

  • 13. Henri

    $$$ | Chicago Loop

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

  • 14. Japonais by Morimoto

    $$$$ | River North

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

  • 15. Perennial Virant

    $$$ | Lincoln Park

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

  • 16. Sixteen

    $$$$ | River North

    Uninterrupted views of the landmark Wrigley Building, Lake Michigan, and the Chicago River make it easy to overlook the food at Sixteen—but you shouldn't. Located...Read More

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