Chicago is an amazing city that everyone needs to visit! It has beautiful architecture, a vibrant social life and amazing food! There are a ton of restaurants for you to choose from so I had my lovely intern Emily a Chicago native create a list of 35 amazing restaurants waiting for you in Chicago!
- Big Star (Wicker Park, $$)
The tagline of “Tacos, Whiskey, and Honky Tonk” says it all. Big Star is the perfect place to kick up your feet after a long work week and drown your stresses in great Mexican food and superb on-tap margaritas. If tequila isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Big Star’s beer, whiskey, and bourbon selection doesn’t disappoint.
- Portillo’s (River North and South Loop, $)
Have you really been to Chicago if you haven’t eaten at Portillo’s? Their Italian beef and chocolate cake shake are a must for everyone–Chicagoan and tourist alike. Order a hot dog with everything and don’t you dare put any ketchup on it.
- Rainbow Cone (Beverly, $)
This isn’t technically a restaurant, but Rainbow Cone is a Chicago classic. Order the Original–a cone with Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio and Orange sherbet layered together. I know it sounds weird, but even I was pleasantly surprised.
- Kuma’s Corner (Avondale, $$)
Zagat rates Kuma’s Corner as one of the top 10 burger joints in the city. Order one named after the bands they have blasting in the background and indulge in their extensive beer menu. Don’t forget to ask your server about their charity of the month and see how Kuma’s Corner gives back.
- Au Cheval (West Loop, $$)
Quite literally the best burger place in town. So good, in fact, that the wait can be up to three hours. If you’ve got time to kill and want to see what all the hype’s about, give Au Cheval a shot.
- Bandera (Streeterville, $$)
Don’t be put off by the dress code–Bandera is well worth the collared shirt. Must-try dishes include the skillet cornbread and rotisserie chicken. Indulge your senses with upscale American favorites and live jazz performances.
- Lou Malnati’s (Everywhere, $$)
Deep dish pizza is a cornerstone of the Chicago food scene, and Lou Malnati’s is home to some of the best deep dish around. I’m a fan of the personal-size pizza because I don’t like to share, but they offer deep dish options that serve up to four.
- Garrett’s Popcorn (Everywhere, $)
While it isn’t technically a restaurant, you can’t miss a trip to Garrett’s Popcorn. A Chicago staple since 1949, their gourmet treat comes in nine mouth-watering flavors. If you want a true Chicago experience you have to get the Garrett Mix–a combination of CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp.
- Parachute (Avondale, $$)
Parachute is a small Korean-American restaurant run by a husband and wife team. You may have seen the wife portion of this duo, Beverly Kim, on Top Chef Season 9. Their restaurant is praised for it’s family-like feel. Diners sit with strangers as the chow down on bing and kimchi. Large groups should make reservations as the restaurant fills up quickly.
- SteakBar (Old Town, $$$)
If a donut wall is the only kind of wall you’re interested in building, I highly recommend SteakBar and it’s Almost Famous Brunch. Open from 10am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday, the Almost Famous Brunch is very famous for the iconic donut wall, bottomless mimosas, and boozy cupcakes and gelato. During my last visit, I gorged on freshly made Nutella crepes, waffles, oysters, and more. By the time we finished, my boyfriend practically had to roll me to the car.
- The Publican (West Loop, $$$)
The Publican is a favorite for brunch and dinner with items meant to showcase fresh ingredients from the farm and the sea. In fact, they are so intent on emphasizing local goods, their menu can change daily to do so. Beer aficionados take note–The Publican is home to some pretty unusual offerings so be sure to take advantage.
- Stan’s Donuts (Wicker Park, Streeterville, Lakeview, South Loop, Magnificent Mile, $)
With flavors ranging from glazed to Captain Crunch, Stan’s Donuts can satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth. Coffee, tea, and their newly added frappes round out the menu to create the perfect pick-me-up on a blustery Chicago morning.
- Girl & The Goat (West Loop, $$)
If you’ve ever looked up a list of top Chicago restaurants, you know Girl & The Goat. It’s so good, in fact, you have to make reservations at least a month in advance. Once you do make it to a table, enjoy a plethora of small dishes that are guaranteed to wow. The goat empanadas come highly recommended.
- Frontera Grill (River North, $$)
Owned by Chef Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill serves exquisite Mexican food. The restaurant has consistently held a position at the top of every list imaginable–best margaritas, best guacamole, etc. It is a must-see restaurant for any foodie visiting Chicago.
- Big Jones (Andersonville, $$$)
Looking for a taste of the South? Look no further than Big Jones. Shrimp and grits, cornbread, and other mouthwatering classics are made with locally sourced ingredients. Big Jones’ brunch is top-notch, and their mimosas are thought to be some of the best in the city.
- Summer House Santa Monica (Lincoln Park, $$)
West Coast meets the Midwest at Summer House Santa Monica. The beach-themed decor sets the mood while glasses of select Californian wines help you find your happy place. Dive into a plate of melted burrata before your main course and then end the night with a treat from their much-loved cookie counter.
- Mahalo (Wicker Park, $$)
Find your Hawaiian paradise in the Windy City. Poke bowls, coconut shrimp, and The Big Kahuna (a drink for two served in a whole pineapple) lend to the restaurant’s island vibes as does the intimate rooftop seating area. Mahalo is the perfect place to enjoy a drink during the last few days of summer in the city.
- Grace (West Loop, $$$$)
Prepare yourself (and your wallet) for a dining experience that’s completely out of the ordinary at Grace. The 3-star Michelin rated restaurant offers two dinner options, Flora and Fauna, that consist of 8-12 tasting dishes. Flora emphasizes vegetables while Fauna highlights seafood and meat. Wine pairings are offered with each dish and diners say they are a must. The experience is so popular reservations have to be made well in advance–nearly three months!
- Alinea (Lincoln Park, $$$$)
Having recently gone through a massive renovation, Alinea is back and better than ever. Similar to Grace, they offer three tasting menus: The Kitchen Table, The Gallery Menu, and The Salon Menu. With prices ranging from $175 to $385 per person, guests say the experience is worth the cost of this 3-star Michelin restaurant.
- Harry Caray’s – 7th Inning Stretch (Streeterville, $$)
Home to the announcing legend, Harry Caray’s is the best place to catch a game. Get a taste for Chicago’s beer with the Taste of Chicago beer flight and chow down on the Holy Cow! burger before ending your meal on a sweet note with the Banana Nutella shake. If you can still walk after all that, head out of the restaurant and into the Chicago Sports Museum. This is a must-see for any sports fan.
- The Purple Pig (River North, $$)
This is the gastropub of your dreams. Diners rave about the pig’s ear and eggplant dishes served with wines carefully curated by The Purple Pig’s in-house sommelier. They don’t take reservations so plan to visit during off hours or be prepared to wait.
- Rickshaw Republic (Lincoln Park, $)
Home to Indonesian street food, Rickshaw Republic is must-taste restaurant. Share small plates like the Bala Bala Fritters with friends or order a full dish of Beef Rendang for yourself. The spot is family-run and their passion shows in the quality of their food and service staff.
- Pierogi Heaven (The Loop, $)
Chicago is home to one of the largest Polish populations outside of Poland so it’s no surprise we reap the culinary benefits. Enjoy more than 11 different types of pierogi with a side sauerkraut or red borscht for a reasonable price. You’ll walk out with a full belly and a full wallet, completely satisfied.
- The Bongo Room (Wicker Park, Andersonville, South Loop, $$)
Another brunch favorite, the Bongo Room offers sweet and savory options. Their pancake options include Banana, Pumpkin Spice, and Caramelized Apple. If you’re really looking to indulge, try the Chocolate Tower French Toast. Diners without a sweet tooth will love the Shrimp Eggs Benedict. Arrive early if you want to grab a seat. The Bongo Room does not take reservations.
- Signature Room at the 95th (Magnificent Mile, $$$$)
Prepare yourself for one of the best views of the city. Signature Room at the 95th is on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center, the fourth tallest building in Chicago. The price is a bit steep, but most diners says the breathtaking views are worth the price. The Signature Room at 95th is a great place for a romantic or celebratory dinner.
- Crisp (Lakeview, $)
You’ll fall in love with Crisp’s Seoul Sassy Korean fried chicken. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Diners are also enamored by the restaurant’s affordable prices. Perfect for a date night or night out with friends. Even though they are known for their fried chicken, don’t miss other fan favorite dishes like the Big Boy Buddha Bowl.
- Cheesie’s (Lakeview, Wicker Park, Food Truck, $)
Looking for the perfect post-bar snack? Cheesie’s has you covered. The restaurant features 12 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches, at least four of which I can personally vouch for. Order The Mac and watch all your drunk munchie dreams come true.
- Sun Wah BBQ (Uptown, $$)
Fans of this restaurant know the Peking Duck is a must-order and many suggest you place your order when you make your reservation because it sells out quickly. Despite its popularity and massive menu, Sun Wah BBQ keeps prices low making it an affordable and delicious dinner option.
- Lillie’s Q (Bucktown, $$)
Who can say no to moonshine and good BBQ? Lillie’s Q features sauces that represent different parts of the south and impart a plethora of flavor into whichever cut of meat you choose. My personal favorite is the Carolina, but ask your waiter for suggestions. Finish off your meal with LQ’s famous banana pudding before settling in to your food coma.
- Bite Cafe (Ukrainian Village, $$)
Bite Cafe is one of the top brunch spots in the city. With options like breakfast poutine, pork hash, and, my personal favorite, Challah French toast, you can’t go wrong. It’s BYOB so don’t forget the OJ and champagne.
- Green Street Smoked Meats (West Loop, $)
Bring on the Texas BBQ! The waits are long, but the brisket is worth it. Once you grab your food, find a seat at one of the communal tables and let Green Street Smoked Meats show you why they’re considered one of the best BBQ joints in Chicago. Already in line for seconds? The line wraps around the bar so feel free to grab a drink (or two) while you wait.
- Momotaro (West Loop, $$$)
Get a taste of Tokyo in Chicago when you visit Momotaro. They offer a wide selection of modernized Japanese dishes including nigiri, washugyu, and unagi don buri. But their food isn’t the only “wow” factor. Momotaro also offers sake by glass and bottle alongside a varied and unique cocktail list. For people only interested in a drink, go to the lower level and experience the izakaya–a more traditional Japanese bar.
- Smoque BBQ (Irving Park, $$)
BYOB and melt-in-your-mouth brisket? Yes please! Smoque BBQ’s best dishes include their St. Louis ribs, sliced brisket, and BBQ beans. Yes, beans. Don’t let the main course make you forget their equally noteworthy sides. Bring some of the goodness home by purchasing a bottle of their Memphis style BBQ sauce.
- Pequod’s Pizza (Lincoln Park, $)
It’s deep dish pizza even non-pizza fans love. Service outside the restaurant (i.e. the line) is just as good as inside with a special drink deal thanks to their sister restaurant, Whale Tale. Get a buzzer, get a free drink “non-alcoholic”) and wait for your chance to bite into some legendary deep dish. If you don’t have time to waste, order takeout or come during a weekday afternoon.
- Gene and Jude’s (River Grove, $)
While not technically in Chicago proper, Gene and Jude’s consistently tops all the “best of” hot dog lists. Their story begins with consuming a sad, soggy hot dog outside Wrigley Field in 1945. Less than a year later, Gene and Jude’s was born and gifted the Chicagoland area with the best Depression dog in the US. A depression dog is hot dog with yellow mustard, onions, hot peppers, a dash of relish, and topped with a fistful of fries. 70+ years later, and now with Rachael Ray’s stamp of approval, Gene and Jude’s holds strong to their motto–No seats. No ketchup. No pretense. No nonsense.
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