If there is one thing Chicago is known for, it is for the amazing array of food. There are literally thousands of restaurants in Chicago and the metropolitan area, many of which are known around the world for their famous dishes like the Chicago style pizza or Italian beef.
But which are the best restaurants in Chicago, and where should you eat when you visit the Windy City?
The Best Restaurants in Chicago
There are no shortages of restaurants in Chicago. You could literally eat at a different restaurant for every meal for an entire year, and you still would have only scratched the surface.
In no particular order, the following list offers you an array of some of the best restaurants in Chicago, no matter your particular cuisine penchants.
Free Rein is an all-day restaurant located in the Loop. As this is the center of the city, you would expect one of the best restaurants in Chicago to be located here.
This restaurant, at the St. Jane Chicago hotel, is helmed by a Michelin starred chef. The offerings of this place are a Midwestern influence brasserie. Breakfast here is simple, yet elegant, with offerings such as fine omelets and hash.
The lunch and dinner are more elegant affairs with food ranging from kampachi crudo to culinary riffs on Greenriver classics, such as whitefish toast and saffron spaghetti.
2. Mini Mott – Logan Square
Mini Mott is a burger place located in Logan Square on Mott Street. This restaurant’s claim to fame is the well-known double patty burger.
Mini Mott offers different versions of its well-known burger, including a single patty, or even a vegetarian version that is made with jackfruit.
Other well-known offerings include garlic confit fries, everything bagel-inspired chicken wings and an in-house made ice cream.
3. Etta – Bucktown
Etta is located in Bucktown and is known for food that’s cooked in a hearth, and then delivered to your plate.
The restaurant has a cozy atmosphere, combined with a seasonable fare.
The restaurant offers dishes such as rotating wood-fired pizza with unique toppings and corn garganella with morels.
Other food you can expect is summer squash and tomatoes, heath-glazed lamb, or lavender roasted apricots with cream and oat crumble.
4. Bixi – Logan Square
Bixi is an Asian-inspired brewpub located in Logan Square.
This versatile restaurant offers beverage selections that should appeal to those new to drinking beer, all the way up to the very experienced connoisseur.
With a variety of offerings, you will find drinks that include golden ale that has been blended with jasmine tea, summer pale ale with just a hint of strawberry and lemongrass, and beer that has an infusion of mandarin oranges and coriander.
To top it off, you can get amazing food that includes beef tongue salad or a crispy whole fish.
5. Bellemore – West Loop
This Chicago eatery in the West Loop hosts a versatile menu of Eastern European flavors.
The menu combines ideas such as oyster custard and Osetra caviar, lemon dressed apple, crème fraiche, dry aged duck that has a glaze of raspberry vinegar, and duck heart en crepinette.
For those who are curious to taste test this varied fare before ordering, there is a six-course taste-testing menu.
6. Boka – Between Lincoln Park and Old Town
Boka is a Michelin-starred atmospheric restaurant that has enough versatility that it works perfectly for a date night as well as it does for surprising someone with a jaded palate.
Boka features a unique atmosphere which has a “living wall” full of anthropomorphized animal paintings.
The menu itself is an adventure of mixing various complementary flavors and textures to create a unique dining experience. A dish that perfectly illustrates the menu of this restaurant is the Wolen’s Heirloom Carrots. This dish is a mixture of pistachio crumbles, bulgur, and smoked goat cheese.
7. The Silver Palm – River West
On our list of the best restaurants in Chicago, we couldn’t leave off the unique opportunity to fine on an old train car while eating one of the country’s best sandwiches.
The dining room for the Silver Palm restaurant is a parked 1947 railroad dining car. The legendary sandwich featured here is called the 2 Piggy. This sandwich is a towering stack of smoked ham, pork tenderloin, bacon, melted Gruyere, an onion ring, which is all topped off with a fried egg.
4 out of 5 stars
8. Lem’s Bar-B-Q – Park Manor
If barbecue is your thing, then you need to check Chicago’s best BBQ joint, which is also its oldest. This BBQ restaurant is credited with bringing the rib tip to Chicago.
When you come here, you’ll find it’s a no-frills, family-run place that has followed on in its late founder’s footsteps.
Eating here will almost always require having to wait in line, but the food is worth it.
9. The Dining Room at Kendall College – Goose Island
For the budget-minded who are looking to experience finer dining, this is a great option.
This dining area is found on the third floor of the Goose Island culinary school and gives you a three-course meal for $29 while also providing an amazing view of Downtown Chicago.
This is a teaching restaurant that gives training to advanced students in both its culinary and hospitality programs. Students prepare and serve everything on a menu that changes every season.
One great advantage of this dining experience is that the students show great hospitality and are eager to help provide you with a great dining experience.
10. La Chaparrita – Little Village
While Chicago has no shortage of taquerias, La Chaparrita is a rather unassuming one that is attached to a grocery store located in the Little Village neighborhood.
This hole in the wall restaurant boasts a large menu of tacos with various offerings.
All of the meats are cooked to perfection with just the right measure of spices.
11. Au Cheval – West Loop
Another great restaurant located in the Loop, Au Cheval is famous for having a three-hour wait to sample their cheeseburger.
By ordering a single, you get a double patty of umami-rich beef that is covered with mild American cheese, Dijonnaise, and pickles with the option of an egg and bacon.
And if you are looking for something besides a burger, they have plenty of other worthy dishes to try.
12. Alinea – Lincoln Park
As we continue to look for the best restaurants in Chicago, the fine dinging restaurant Alinea in Lincoln Park is at the top of that list.
Alinea is the creation of chef Grant Achatz and has received numerous awards and has been regularly named one of the best restaurants in Chicago, as well as in the United States.
Each dining experience is a culmination of both culinary expertise and a flawless service. The depth of your dining experience begins as you enter and continues until you leave.
13. Oriole – West Loop
Oriole offers diners a 15-course menu for a low $195. Each plate of the menu is intended as a surprise by the kitchen. As you progress through the meal, you will see that each bite is designed to be intelligent, indulgent, and beautiful. This unique approach to fine dining sweeps guests up in the experience of dining there unlike any other restaurant.
14. Lula Café – Logan Square
Located in Logan Square, Lula Café is a humble but special location for dining, especially at brunch.
Since opening its doors in 1999, Lula’s has become a neighborhood institution that everyone should try. Before the concept of farm to table became a trend, Lula’s was already doing it.
For brunch, there is an offering of coconut brioche French toast with banana pastry cream and kaffir lime. For those looking for dinner, there is an offering of white sweet potato soup with black walnuts, white soy, cardamom and pink lady apples.
15. Elske – Near West Side
Elske is a restaurant run by the husband and wife team of David and Anna Posey. The name of their restaurant is taken from Danish and means “love.”
Everything from the name to the aesthetic has been influenced by the Posey’s travels to Denmark. It is set up as a clean and simple restaurant with a minimalistic plating style.
Diners can make a choice between an $85 tasting menu, or they can create their own dining experiences by choosing from the a la carte menu.
Seasonal dishes such as sprouted lentil crepe with smoked white fish are offered.
Before you leave, you can sit by the fireplace in the restaurant’s protected courtyard.
16. Sushi Para II – Lincoln Park
One of the many all-you-can-eat sushi places in Chicago, Sushi Para II is one of the highest quality options for budget-friendly meals. Each person pays only $20 for the all-you-can-eat menu and may choose between a variety of sashimi, sushi, and tempura selections, as well as appetizers like seaweed salad, and have a cup of green tea.
When you’ve finished your first serving, you may simply request a second sheet to order from and start all over again. Or, if you run out of green tea, just let them know, and they’ll bring the pot by again to serve it fresh and hot.
5 out of 5 stars
17. 11 Degrees North – Lakeview
11 Degrees North is one of the cute little cafes on Belmont street near Boystown. Here you’ll find a variety of café menu choices, including the Argentine-inspired arepas – basically a cornmeal pocket filled with deliciousness.
Sauces and condiments like avocado mayo, cilantro garlic sauce, adobo ranch set apart the menu from most cafes, along with their fresh ingredients.
You can try their signature bowls, the South American arepas, biscuits and bagels, or their absolutely delightful Nutella hot chocolate drink.
18. Pete’s Pizza – Edgewater/North Center
You’ve probably heard of Gino’s, Lou Malnati’s, and Giordano’s, but until you’ve had Pete’s Pizza, you haven’t truly indulged in all of the best of Chicago’s deep dish and stuffed pizzas.
Pete’s has two neighborhood locations. One is located in the heart of Edgewater, a thriving, culturally diverse neighborhood full of restaurants and diners, artists and little free libraries. The other is located on Western Avenue in North Center/St. Ben’s neighborhood.
You’ll find the stuffed pizza absolutely amazing, and, honestly as good, if not better, than the more famous competitors. And you won’t have to wait nearly as long to get a slice or a whole pizza made.
They have other offerings as well, of course, including a variety of pastas, sandwiches, and comfort food items like mac ‘n cheese or fried chicken and fries.
Bonus: Pete’s Pizza offers gluten-free pizzas that far outrank the competition.
19. Am Thai Sushi Bar and Cuisine – Albany Park
This little whole in the wall in the Albany Park neighborhood is nestled into a string of local shops and grocery markets owned by pre-dominantly Hispanic neighbors.
Surprisingly, you’ll find some of the absolute best sashimi in Chicago here. The fish is fresh and so well-prepared that it practically melts on your tongue.
Be sure to check out the variety of Thai and Japanese offerings available, including their fantastic Pad Thai and Pad Kra Pow.
20. Silver Spoon Thai Cuisine – Near North Side
Another hole in the wall, this place is a little easier for tourists to find, as it’s located near the Magnificent Mile.
If you walk along Rush Street, going south from Chicago Avenue, you might or might notice the little restaurant on the right, situated down in the basement of the building beneath a sushi restaurant called Friends.
Step down into the cellar restaurant, or in a good weather, pick a seat on the sidewalk, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a local gem that not many tourists seem to find.
The Pad Woon Sen is one of the best, if not best, in town, made with glass noodles, a flavorful sauce, and a variety of fresh vegetables and your choice of protein.
The appetizers, entrees, and desserts are all delicious, and you won’t pay a fortune to enjoy this food in the heart of downtown.
Dining Out in Chicago
Chicago truly is a foodie’s paradise. With offerings ranging from a parked dining train car with awesome sandwiches, to hole in the wall joints that serve up the best sashimi you’ve ever had, you won’t be disappointed.
Be sure to check out restaurants in multiple neighborhoods in Chicago before leaving, and always share your thoughts on review sites so that other diners may learn the best restaurants around.