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Chicago has really, really good food, so if you’re a foodie like me, you’re going to love Chicago. Chef Grant Achatz, a prominent figure in the culinary world, adds to the city’s culinary brilliance. Chicago was named Restaurant City of The Year by Bon Appétit, and it’s no wonder with culinary talents like Chef Grant Achatz making their mark here. The James Beard Awards even moved to Chicago, further solidifying its position as a food mecca. Not to mention, in the Michelin Guide 2018, Chicago had an impressive 25-star winners and 54 Bib Gourmand Winners, showcasing the extraordinary dining experiences the city has to offer.
Alinea is a popular restaurant in Chicago but not everyone wants to drop $$$. The tasting menu for two without wine pairings costs almost $700!
SEE ALSO: 7 Best Bars In Chicago
I spent a weekend eating my way through the city, and after 13 amazing meals, I left Chicago happy with a food coma. In addition to eating really good food, I loved exploring each of the neighborhoods (Lincoln Park, River North, Logan Square, South Side, South Loop, West Town, Bucktown, Pilsen, Andersonville) shopping at the vintage boutiques, trying craft cocktails at local bars, and even just chatting with the locals at the coffee shops.
This is my ultimate food guide to Chicago, with a French and Spanish twist, on where to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, and desserts. There’s more to Chicago than just deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, and Michelin stars.
Among the diverse culinary experiences, I stumbled upon a fantastic pizzeria in Logan Square, where they served the most scrumptious thin-crust pizzas I’ve ever tasted. The wood-fired oven gave their pizzas a delightful crispy texture, and the array of toppings left me spoilt for choice. It quickly became one of my favorite food spots in the city.
Alinea is a popular restaurant in Chicago, but not everyone wants to drop $$$. The tasting menu for two without wine pairings costs almost $700!
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Before you start exploring all the vintage shops like the trendy Moon Voyage shop to classic pieces from Vintage Underground, and unique boutiques in Wicker Park, you need to fuel up on a hearty breakfast and the spot to go is Dove’s Luncheonette. This American neighborhood diner will take you back to the soul and blues era of Chicago in the 1960s and 70s with its comfort food and full mezcal and tequila bar. The chicken fried chicken was one of the best I’ve ever had and love that Dove’s Luncheonette serves local coffee, Dark Matter. Pro tip: Play a song on the jukebox for just a dime.
What to order: chicken fried chicken and burnt ends hash
1545 N. Damen, doveschicago.com
You have to eat doughnuts when visiting Chicago and the spot to go is Firecakes. The artisanal donuts are made in small batches from an old family recipe with flavors like buttermilk old fashioned to candied pepper bacon and maple long john. The Tahitian vanilla iced is what Firecakes is known for but might as well get the Valrhona chocolate iced to eat later.
What to order: Tahitian vanilla iced
68 W Hubbard St, firecakesdonuts.com
When I walked by Stan’s and saw all the beautiful doughnuts in the case, I had to go in! Greeted by the smell of freshly baked doughnuts and a super cute Instagrammable space makes Stan’s a must eat stop in Chicago. The Le Stan’ Croissant Donut was layers and layers of flaky goodness with a creamy center.
What to order: Le Stan’ Croissant Donut
1560 N Damen Ave, and multiple other Chicago locations, stansdonutschicago.com
Kick off the weekend with a Vietnamese brunch at HaiSous Carte, a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard “Best New Restaurant” Award. Opt for the $25 brunch pre-fixe that comes with Gỏi Đu Đủ (papaya salad), Hến Xúc Bánh Đa (chopped clams with grilled rice crackers), and Phở Mẹ Tôi (beef pho). I also highly recommend ordering the carte bánh xèo (Vietnamese pancake), egg coffee, tequila, and mezcal cocktails.
What to order: brunch pre-fixe and bánh xèo
1800 S Carpenter St, haisous.com
If you’re thirsty and hungry, order the Sumo Mary with chorizo – it’s GIANT, specially crafted by Sunda’s executive chef. The Sumo Mary comes with a grilled cheese, steamed duck bao bun, crab handroll, crispy pork belly, wok-fired shishito peppers, applewood bacon, sunda potatoes, lumpia, takuan, and kai-lan, all served in Chicago-style. Might as well order a bowl of ramen, more duck bao, fat rice, and dumplings while you’re at it.
Sunda is an Asian fusion restaurant that features Japanese, Chinese (including Chinatown-inspired dishes), Korean, Thai, and other Southwest Asian cuisines, with the added flavor of chorizo in their Sumo Mary for an extra punch of taste, personally curated by their talented executive chef. The dining scene at Sunda is lively and diverse, offering a vibrant mix of flavors and textures that cater to every palate. Amidst the bustling atmosphere and delightful array of dishes, the dining scene at Sunda creates an unforgettable experience for its patrons, thanks to the innovative creations of their executive chef. Whether you’re seeking a social gathering with friends or a memorable culinary adventure, Sunda’s dining scene is sure to leave a lasting impression.
What to order: duck buns, Sumo Mary, octopus sashimi, and ramen.
110 W Illinois St, sundachicago.com
Chicago’s most beloved Italian restaurant, Spiaggia, has a sister restaurant, Cafe Spiaggia, with a more casual Italian menu and a spacious dining room. The pasta is all made in-house with the freshest ingredients.
Don’t feel bad ordering an extra bowl of pasta because you’re going to walk it off when you go shopping on Magnificent Mile.
What to order: guanciale bucatini and coppa & pork pate charcuterie
980 North Michigan Avenue 2nd Floor, spiaggiarestaurant.com
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
While Honey Butter Fried Chicken is most famous for their signature chicken dishes, wegans and vegetarians will have great options here too. Try the homemade lemon ginger ale to wash down. Each week they have Wing Wednesdays and Nacho Thursdays. If you enjoy their cocktails, you can take a bottle home that will sell their in-house Mimosa and Candied Jalapeno Margaritas for takeaway.
3361 N Elston Ave, Chicago, IL 60618, honeybutter.com/
If you’re looking for a true BBQ destination, look no further than Smoque BBQ. This popular spot slings ribs, brisket, pulled pork and more, all slow-smoked to perfection. The space is simple and unpretentious, with community tables that encourage guests to mingle. The real stars of the show are the barbecue dishes, which are delicious and sure to satisfy even the most discerning palate. So next time you’re in the mood for some mouth-watering BBQ, be sure to check out Smoque BBQ. You won’t be disappointed.
3800 N Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60641, smoquebbq.com
If you’re looking for an authentic Italian beef experience, this is the place to go. Tiny and unassuming, this cash-only hot dog stand has been serving up some of the best beef in Chicago since 1961. The sausage and beef are both delicious, and the Italian ice is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. The fries and shakes are also worth trying . Overall, this is a great spot for a quick bite, and it’s definitely worth the trip to Lincoln Park.
2300 N. Lincoln Ave, johnnys-beef.com
When there is a conversation about tacos in Chicago, one always joint always stands out, Antique Taco al pastor, known for its delectable and authentic Mexican fare. However, if you’re seeking an extraordinary culinary experience, look no further than the renowned Chef Grant Achatz. His innovative and visionary approach to gastronomy has earned him international acclaim, making him a true culinary maestro. While Antique Taco boasts a unique antique style and offers an impressive Taco 10 Pack, Chef Grant Achatz takes diners on a transcendent journey through his artistry. His restaurant, Alinea, is a gastronomic masterpiece, pushing the boundaries of taste, texture, and presentation. Combining fresh, local ingredients with unparalleled creativity, Chef Grant Achatz’s creations are a true delight for the senses. So, whether you’re in the mood for Antique Taco’s flavorful al pastor or craving an unforgettable culinary adventure, Chicago has it all.
1000 W 35th St + 1360 N Milwaukee Ave, antiquetaco.com
Butcher & the Burger
Chicago is known for many things, but one of its most underrated features is its food scene. In particular, the city is home to some of the best burgers bars in the country. Butcher & the Burger is one such spot. This Chicago joint is all about customization: choose your meat blend, choose your seasonings, choose your bun, choose your toppings. The bison burger is something new to try, but they’ve also got classics with a choice of house prime, grass-fed, and sirloin, all with the option to double up on the patty. In addition to great food, Butcher & the Burger also has a fully operational butcher shop on-premise. So if you’re looking for a delicious and unique burger experience, make sure to add Butcher & the Burger to your Chicago food bucket list.
1021 W Armitage Ave, butcherandtheburger.com
Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen
Chicago is known for its food, and Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen is one of the best restaurants in the city. Located in the West Loop, Manny’s serves up Jewish deli fare with a twist. Popular items include bagels, their signature reuben and daily specials. But what really sets Manny’s apart is their commitment to quality. All of their deli meats and cheeses are sourced from local farms, and their bread is baked fresh daily. So if you’re looking for the best Chicago has to offer, look no further than Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen.
1141 S Jefferson St, mannysdeli.com
Girl & The Goat
Considered one of the best fine dining restaurants in Chicago, Girl & The Goat is Stephanie Izard’s first restaurant after winning Top Chef that features rustic small dishes. Girl & The Goat is one of the hardest tables to get in Chicago but if you go early (like I did right when they opened) you can snag a walk-in seat.
We ordered the wood oven-roasted pig face and it was incredible with the crispy shoestring potatoes. It comes with a sunny side up egg that once you mixed with everything else on the plate becomes a creamy sauce and ties it all together.
What to order: wood oven-roasted pig face
809 W Randolph St, girlandthegoat.com
Fulton Market Kitchen
Located in Chicago’s West Loop, Fulton Market Kitchen menu is rustic with a touch of artistry. The foie mousse is served in a mandarin orange jelly mold in the shape of a mandarin with toasted sourdough. It’s a great place to hang out and enjoy cocktails and food while taking in all the local art in this cool warehouse space.
What to order: foie mousse, chili garlic Brussels sprouts, and lamb shank.
311 N Sangamon St, fultonmarketkitchen.com
Au Cheval was my last meal in Chicago and the one hour wait was totally worth it. Sometimes the wait can be three hours long. Grab a seat at the bar to witness all the burger magic happening right before you eyes but know that you’ll want to eat everything. The hardest decision you’ll have to make is whether you want a single (comes with two patties) or double burger (three patties). We got the single burger with fries and a root beer float.
What to order: double burger with bacon and a root beer float.
800 W Randolph St, auchevalchicago.com
Chicago is a city with no shortage of great restaurants, but Parachute is one of the best. This modern Korean-American spot serves up creative cuisine that will please even the most discerning diner. The decor is chic and the cocktails are strong, making it the perfect place to enjoy a night out on the town. And if you’re looking for something truly special, the Bibimbap is not to be missed. Trust me, this is one Chicago restaurant you won’t want to miss.
3500 N Elston Ave, parachuterestaurant.com
Chicago is known for its amazing food scene, and Virtue is one of the best bars in Hyde Park. Chef Erick Williams’s rigorous Southern cooking is paired with wines and cocktails in a chic and funky setting. The restaurant is located in Hyde Park within view of the University of Chicago, and it is an inviting retreat with a welcoming atmosphere. The dining room is striking and an energetic kitchen, and the menu features amazing items like skillet corn bread with honey butter and rice with chicken gizzards. This restaurant is a must-visit for anyone visiting Chicago.
1462 E. 53rd St., virtuerestaurant.com
Chicago is filled with incredible bars and restaurants, located in the River North area Tzuco is truly in a league of its own. The upscale regional Mexican cuisine is unlike anything else in the city, and the stylish setting is perfect for a night out with friends. But the real star of the show is Michelin star chef Carlos Gaytan, whose stunning desserts are not to be missed. The all-season patio is also a great spot for dining during Chicago’s long winters. Whether you’re looking for an intimate dinner for two or a night out on the town, Tzuco is sure to impress.
720 N State St, tzuco.com
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse is a classic Chicago steakhouse on the Gold Coast. It is known for its excellent steaks, traditional sides, and great service. It’s usually full of tourists and Chicagoans celebrating special occasions, so if you’re looking for a truly authentic Chicago dining experience, this is the place to go. The Spicy Lobster Cocktail, scallops, and the W.R. Chicago Cut 22oz bone-in ribeye but really, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. So next time you’re in Chicago, be sure to check out Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse – you won’t be disappointed!
Chicago is well known for its food scene, and Kasama is one of the best places to get a taste of the city’s culinary diversity. The bakery and restaurant offers a unique combination of sweet and savory pastries, as well as modern Filipino dishes. The laid-back atmosphere is perfect for enjoying a meal with friends or family, and the coffee and wine selections are sure to please any discerning palate. For those looking for an unforgettable dining experience, Kasama is definitely worth a visit.
1001 N Winchester Ave, kasamachicago.com
If you’re looking for an exquisite Japanese dining experience, look no further than Kyōten. This elegant sushi bar offers an omakase menu with sake pairings that is sure to delight your senses. Under the skilled hands of Chef Otto, each dish is a work of art, created with the utmost precision and attention to detail. The Edomae sushi discipline forms the foundation of Kyōten’s cuisine, with a focus on purity, harmony, and balance. And with ingredients sourced from the finest purveyors in Japan and beyond, you can be sure that each dish is of the highest quality. The Omakase Dinner is between $440-490 per person. You’ll need to put a deposit down to secure the reservation. So if you’re seeking an incomparable culinary experience, be sure to reserve a spot at Kyōten.
2507 W Armitage, kyotenchicago.com
Galit is a chic new Middle Eastern eatery that is quickly becoming the talk of the town. The menu features a unique 4-course choose your own adventure format that allows diners to customize their meal to suit their palate. The dishes are inventive and delicious, and the cocktails are creative and refreshing. The atmosphere is hip and stylish, and the service is attentive and professional. Whether you’re looking for an intimate dining experience or a lively night out, Galit is the perfect spot.
2429 N. Lincoln Ave., galitrestaurant.com
If you’re looking for an inventive and unique culinary experience, look no further than Jeong. This Korean restaurant offers elegant presentations and full-flavored dishes that are sure to please even the most sophisticated palate. The beautiful minimalist space and attentive service create the perfect atmosphere for a romantic night out or special occasion. And with passionate young chefs at the helm, you can be sure that every dish is prepared with care and precision. From the delicate salmon tartare to the earthy kimchi truffle, each bite is a flavor explosion. Be sure to try the beef and sunchoke croquette – it’s simply irresistible! Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for a new dining option, Jeong is sure to exceed your expectations.
1460 W Chicago Ave, jeongchicago.com
Cellar Door Provisions
Cellar Door Provisions is a much-loved restaurant that had to close its doors during the pandemic. Thankfully, it has since made a comeback with a small but mighty dinner menu and an impressive selection of natural wines. If you’re looking for a casual but chic dining experience, this is the spot for you. Walk-ins are welcome Wednesday through Saturday at 5:00 PM. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.
3025 W. Diversey Avenue, cellardoorprovisions.com
Chicago is a foodie’s paradise, and Alpana is one of the hottest restaurants in the city. Located in the Gold Coast neighborhood on the corner of State and Pearson, Alpana is a stylish bistro with the perfect wine-pairings set in a relaxed environment. The outdoor patio is heated and covered, making it the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine and some of Singh’s delicious dishes. Wild Mushroom Ravioloi, Faroe Island Salmon, and Braised Boneless Ribs are just some of the popular choices on the menu. Whether you’re looking for a romantic night out or a place to celebrate with friends, Alpana is the perfect spot.
831 N State St, alpanachicago.com
Union is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal and a local beer. The new American food menu features sustainable Midwest cooking, and the 24 local draft beers are the perfect pairing. The restaurant is located in a historic neighborhood, and the atmosphere is perfect for a night out with friends or a date night. The service is top-notch, and the food is sure to please. Popluar dishes include the Union Burger, Swordfish Spiedini, and the Wood Grilled Pork Chop. Whether you’re looking for a casual night out or a sophisticated dining experience, Union is the perfect spot.
2202 N California Ave, unionlogansquare.com
NoodleBird at Fat Rice
The genius behind Fat Rice has recently rebranded into what is now NoodleBird. This Asian-inspired diner offers a unique dining experience that you won’t find anywhere else. The food is absolutely amazing, and the atmosphere is perfect for a night out with friends. I highly recommend trying the live-fire charcoal-grilled chicken paired with a beer. For a quick snack, try the flaky egg custard tart or grab a milk tea to go.
2957 West Diversey Avenue, noodlebird.com
For the best view of the city and an excellent meal, go to River Roast Steakhouse that’s right on the river inside the historic Reid Murdoch building. The Hogan’s charcuterie with chef’s selection housemade & local charcuterie is one of the best charcuterie boards I’ve ever had. Avondale is a must-try addition to this already delightful menu, and don’t forget to savor their delicious grits as a side, which perfectly complements their diverse offerings.
Oh, and here’s a little secret for all you food enthusiasts out there: River Roast also serves an exquisite wagyu steak that will leave your taste buds in pure bliss! From there, you’ll choose from a whole chicken, rack of pork, big fish (crispy or fire-roasted), roast beef, Avondale, or the ‘Sunday Supper’ prime rib (available only on Sundays). We got the bbq whole chicken with River Roast potatoes and it was so good. Next time, I’m getting the fire-roasted branzino with Mediterranean chips.
If you have a party of 6, order the social house smash punch! It’s the perfect way to complement your delectable wagyu experience at River Roast Steakhouse.
What to order: whole chicken, fire-roasted fish, and Hogan’s charcuterie
315 N. LaSalle St. riverroastchicago.com
To be honest, I came to Cone Gourmet because I wanted an Instagram-worthy ice cream shot but the marshmallow ice cream with Lucky Charms cereal is really good.
What to order: marshmallow ice cream with Lucky Charms cereal
1047 W Madison St, conechicago.com
Confession: I found Bombobar on Instagram and had to get photos of their donuts with the squeeze me bottle and the over-the-top hot chocolates. So tempted to get the bombo box that comes with a dozen but I settled for the salted caramel bomboloni and funfetti hotter chocolate.
What to order: bomboloni(s) and hotter chocolates
832 W Randolph St, bombobar.com
Warm Belly Bakery
I couldn’t leave Chicago without freshly baked cookies and the place to go is Warm Belly Bakery. Warm Belly has over 70 varieties of homemade cookies including the unique ube cookie. Order a couple of them to go for the flight home and you’ll thank me later for this pro tip.
What to order: ube cookie and birthday cake cookie
1148 W Monroe St, warmbellybakery.com
Other popular restaurants in Chicago
- Monteverde – ($$$) Italian restaurant
- Blackbird Restaurant – popular American restaurant for its fixed-price lunch menu
- avec – Meditteranean and Midwestern restaurant
- Boka – ($$$) American cuisine with a garden patio
- Smyth – ($$$$) if you’re looking to splurge on a fine dining experience, this high-end New American restaurant has tasting menus and wine pairings
- The Loyalist – ($$$) also by Smyth, is The Loyalist that’s a bi-level New American kitchen and bar
- The Purple Pig – ($$) Mediterranean restaurant that just reopened on Magnificent Mile known for its pork dishes
- Mi Tocaya Antojería – ($$) neighborhood Mexican restaurant located in Logan Square with small plates and tacos
- Xoco – ($$) Chef Rick Bayless owns several restaurants in Chicago and Xoco is the casual Mexican street food spot
- The Publican – ($$$) American restaurant with seafood and pork entrees served on communal tables
- Lula Cafe – farm-to-table American restaurant in Logan Square
- Oriole – ($$$) high-end restaurant in West Loop with an extended tasting menu by a Michelin star awarded Chef that includes caviar
- Pequod’s Pizza – ($$) one of the best spots for deep-dish pizza in Chicago. I had the little 7″ pan cheese pizza right before a flight and it hit the spot! Good option if you need takeout.
- Momotaro – ($$$) modern Japanese restaurant with sushi and robata
- Smoque – ($$) considered as Chicago’s most acclaimed barbecue restaurant with good brisket
- Acadia ($$$$) – upscale New American restaurant inspired by coastal Maine that has two Michelin stars