Narrowing down Chicago’s best restaurants is no easy feat — this is a foodie town after all. For this herculean task, we’ve picked several indelible nosh zones in diverse categories — new and timeworn, casual and upscale — so that you can decide where to go for your next romantic date, kid-friendly brunch, entertainment hot spot, or pizza splurge.
Multi-aged families will find the right atmosphere at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago’s chic Torali. Enjoy lite bites, coffee and a selection of juices in The Café; a thoughtful sit-down meal indoors at the Italian steakhouse, Torali; or, our favorite, shared plates and drinks, with stunning city views atop Water Tower Place, at Rooftop at Torali.
Okay, doughnuts aren’t exactly a wholesome meal, but you won’t regret a visit to the vault to pick up a lemon poppy seed, triple chocolate, pistachio or coconut cream old-fashioned delectable ring of goodness. Pair it with a macchiato or strong drip coffee and you’ll be good to go. Arrive early because these artisan treats are made in small batches—when they sell out for the day, you can’t get more until the next morning.
Pro tip: 3 Arts Club Café, located inside Restoration Hardware, also serves up Doughnut Vault treats so if you don’t want to fight the long line, pop in there.
The chicken, which is antibiotic free and humanely raised, comes from Miller Amish Farms in Indiana. A large number of ingredients, in fact, are responsibly sourced — from the cornmeal in the muffins to the honey in the butter. Diners can feel good knowing that the dishes here, created by executive chefs Joshua Kulp and Christine Cikowski and chef de cuisine Cam Waron, come from area farmers and compatible businesses.
If they can find the red door to get inside, kids can order a Junior Spy Meal, with bottomless sides and a souvenir color-changing cup at spy-themed SafeHouse Chicago. Your little investigators can test out their espionage skills by scoping out the secret passageways and interactive spy gear. Don’t miss the daily magic shows at The Magic Lounge, included in the price of the dining package. This is one of the most fun restaurants in Chicago for kids during the day, or for adults at night, there's a dance club and bar for the 21 years-old and over set.
Live music, a Chicago River location, belly-warming food, and an insightful cocktail menu attracts Chicagoans through the doors of River Roast. Expect American tavern fare with a delightful twist, presented in a rustic-chic upscale restaurant with two bars. Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano is the mastermind behind River Roast as well as other Chicago favorites, Spiaggia (Michelin-starred and a favorite of Michelle and Barack Obama) and Terzo Piano (located in the Art Institute of Chicago).
If playful, colorful and casual is your jam, you’ll want to dine at Twisted Hippo, where “Embrace Your Strange” emblazons the outside wall. Several thoughtful details set this newly opened eatery apart from other Chicago taprooms, namely the all-inclusive pricing — no tipping is required. Hearty stews, sandwiches, salads and more are on the menu as well as interesting beers like the Coconut Umbrella, Jittery Nickel and Sorach-Hey-Hey.
This newly opened California-inspired hot spot, brought to you by One Off Hospitality, serves up flatbread pizzas baked in hearth ovens. Popular dishes include tempura fried rockfish, ricotta dumplings and whole roasted duck. The beverage program embraces an extensive list of cocktails, spirits, beer and wine — including, of course, lovely California reds.
Packed with history dating back to Chicago’s Jazz Age, Booth One, a reinvention of the iconic Pump Room, has a special Frank Sinatra private booth and other surprises. Black and white photographs of celebrity visitors dot the walls throughout this classic Chicago social hub, located inside the Ambassador Chicago, in the heart of the Gold Coast. American fare with fresh seasonal ingredients and cocktails that are created as nods to timeless favorites are served up in a well-lit dining space, creating a romantic and relaxing atmosphere.
Fine Midwestern cuisine is the name of the game at Blackbird, a restaurant that has many accolades swirling around its chefs and owners: executive chef Paul Kahan is the winner of a James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef and Best Chef of the Midwest, and owner Donnie Madia and architect Thomas Schlesser won a James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design. Duck, sturgeon, beef striploin and tongue, pork belly and dry-aged beef tartare light up the menu as well as a table-side cheese presentation of artisanal and farmhouse specialty cheeses. Order off of the seasonal tasting menu for dinner or, if you arrive earlier, the popular lunch prix fixe.
Chicago has 22 Michelin-starred restaurants, all worth a night out, including: Elizabeth Restaurant, Goosefoot, Band of Bohemia, Parachute, Entente, North Pond, Alinea, Temporis, Topolobampo, Oriole, Acadia and many others. For 15 years, Boka has been one of the best award-winning restaurants in Chicago, currently with Lee Wolen, Meg Galus, Brianna Meyers, Richard Graham and Kim Mok at the helm. Expect a visually stunning interior to match the deserved seven consecutive Michelin Stars.
For a truly indelible dining experience, with one of the best Chicago addresses, dine at Everest. Indulge in a seven course menu of French cuisine, with expertly paired wines, created by chef Jean Joho. Tables are decorated with unique bronze sculptures and walls are adorned with paintings created by local Chicago artist, Adam Siegel. Situated on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Everest offers diners a dazzling view of the city.
Chicago is known for its deep dish pizza and, of course, there are hundreds of pizzerias to choose from to grab a slice. Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, Pequod's, Pizzeria Uno, Gino's East and Vito and Nick's are popular haunts around this town. A unique stand out, however, is Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., which doesn't exactly serve up deep dish per se, but instead, they make a topsy-turvy cheesy pot pie that's turned upside down onto your plate. The ambiance is cozy and seating is limited — prepare to wait to get a spot in this basement brownstone.