Chi-town is brimming with culture and culinary adventures. With nearly 200 art galleries, over 200 theatres and more than 7,300 restaurants to choose from there is something for everyone. If you find yourself in Chicago and want to dive into the foodie scene here are 17 restaurants worth your consideration.
Girl and The Goat
Since 2010, Girl And The Goat has been serving up boldly flavored foods with a side of global influence. To compliment your dining experience they have an international selection of wines concentrating on small producers. You can also find a rotating list of craft beers with a nod to local Chicago breweries. The menu has a little something for everyone. Try the green garlic pierogies with smoked tomato-rhubarb relish or the escargot ravioli. Finish off with caramel corn & malt balls. If Girl & Goat is on your list, make reservations in advance! If you are flying solo, you can usually find a seat at the bar. Dinner will set you back anywhere from $20-60.
This is the South courting Chicago. Big Jones is all about southern heirloom cooking. Updated centuries-old recipes provide the diner with a unique experience. The fare also focuses on sustainably grown heritage and heirloom crops and livestock, sustainable seafood, and historic recipes from the Southern culinary literature. Go for the weekend brunch. But if you find yourself at Big Jones during the week try the crawfish etouffee, the curry peanut bisque, or the best-fried chicken in town. Reservations are recommended for brunch. You can spend $12-20 for lunch and about $14-28 for dinner.
Southport Grocery and Cafe
Southport Grocery and Cafe is perfect for a weekday breakfast when it is less busy. You can find breakfast served here all day. Everything is made in-house including bread pudding pancakes, grown-up pop tarts, and grilled coffee cake. While you are there check out their gourmet grocery. You can find wines, pasta sauces, soup mixes, spices, chocolate sauce, spreads, hot sauces, and more. Southport Grocery and Cafe is budget-friendly. You’ll spend around $12 for breakfast.
Band of Bohemia
The first Michelin-starred brewpub lies on the North side of Chicago. Five-star dishes emerge from the free-spirited kitchen. Band of Bohemia isn’t your average pub. Bring an adventuresome palate. Try the gnocchi, with rabbit confit and nettle pesto or the Lamb Saddle with fava beans and lamb bacon. The food is delicious, but the menu is somewhat limited. Their desserts are about as fun and funky as you can get. (Go for the fermented banana cheesecake!) Entrees range from $27-48.
Cindy’s is perched at the top of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. The rooftop restaurant and open-air terrace offer glorious panoramic views. The tastefully simple dining room is fresh, and the menu is new American. Go for brunch when you can enjoy egg dishes, pancakes, fruit and a selection of pastries. The “platters” option from the menu, is great if you are sharing with a group. The food is good, the view is better. Try the “Apothecary Service,” potions or elixirs from the bar. The Grey Garden might be my new favorite. Breakfast and lunches range from $12-$28. Dinners are around $18-60.
This Korean-American restaurant in Avondale is one of the most sought-after tables in town. Parachute is listed as one of the best restaurants in America by Eater. The quirky mom-and-pop restaurant from a former “Top Chef,” is where it’s at. Try their famous “bing bread,” it’s like a Korean spin on a baked potato or the Soft Tofu Stew with octopus, wild shrimp, and saffron. There are several cool and crazy dishes to delight the foodie in you. If you are up for a culinary adventure, you won’t be disappointed. Entrees are $15-30.
For the best burger in Chicago (arguably the best in the United States), try Au Cheval. It’s famous, crowded and they don’t take reservations. Conde Nast lists it among the best restaurants in Chicago. Bon Appetit, Travel + Leisure, and InStyle also weighed in on its noteworthy cheeseburger. It will be the best $12 you’ve ever spent on a burger. Check it out and see why people can’t shut up about it! Be prepared to wait.
This former underground supper club team reached notoriety with this creative spin on Macau cuisine, a Luso-Asian-Portuguese fusion. The Macanese table includes ingredients and techniques from Portugal, India, South-East Asia, Africa, and China. Fat Rice is giving new life to a quickly diminishing cuisine. Fat Rice is one of the toughest reservations in Chicago, so you’ll have to wait your turn. You’ll sit at either communal tables or at a diner-esque counter. Don’t miss out on ordering the “Fat Rice,” the Chicago/Macanese pork chop sandwich. Old-school hip-hop sets the vibe. Don’t forget to check out the bakery, cocktail lounge, and tasting menus. Dinner entrees are $15-30.
Owen & Engine
Owen & Engine is a British inspired cult favorite. The fish and chips are as close to authentic British fish and chips you’ll find this side of the pond. You can also order other traditional British dishes like “Bubble & Squeak” and “Bangers and Mash.” Furthermore, they serve dishes like Morracan Curry Falafel and Charred Octopus. You are looking at about $12-40 for a dinner entree.
Lula Café was farm to table long before it was trendy. More than a decade later, it’s no wonder why people flock to Lula Cafe. Creative, delicious, and locally-sourced, the menu, offers seasonal fare. Expect to wait for brunch. However, weekday breakfasts are a perfect time to check Lula out. Grab the delicious Smoked Lake Trout Scramble for breakfast. Breakfasts can be had for about $14, Lunch is around $15, and dinners are about $11-30. They have a Six Course Vegetarian Tasting menu for $60 that is so delicious! The dinner presentations are works of art. I can’t get enough of Lula’s.
If you haven’t had a hot dog in Chicago, you are going to have to stop at Portillo’s Hot Dogs. Make sure you get a hot dog, an Italian beef and…. chocolate cake shake. You have to. That is what natives do! Take a slice of old-fashioned chocolate cake for later. You can grab lunch here for under $10 and tell all your friends back home that you had the real deal.
No visitor to the Windy City should leave without experiencing Chicago-style thick-crust pizza. So Pequod’s isn’t exactly the deep dish you would expect. However, Chicagoans give Pequod’s the respect and love that any other traditional deep-dish pizza place would have. Pequod’s pies are the pan variety, a deep doughy pizza that includes an excellent crispy caramelized crust made from baking cheese on the outside to give it that toasted/burnt appearance. The crunch is masterfully done. Expect to pay around $25 for a 16″ pizza.
If you’ve ever wondered what eating in a wooden galley would be like, Avec is your place. It’s cozy and narrow, with a long bar and communal tables. Avec doesn’t take reservations. Eating in a galley may not sound particularly appealing, but the fantastic food and service are worth it. The Mediterranean, meets midwest plates are consistently delicious. Order the bacon-wrapped dates and the taleggio flatbread with a side of honey. Lunches are around $12-30, while dinners run about $18-35.
If you can’t afford Alinea at $300-500 a whack, don’t worry, Roister is from the same team. It’s more casual and less expensive. (Ha! That’s relative). There’s a busy open kitchen in the middle of the dining room concentrating on new American food. The food is fantastic, and it gives you a taste of what Alinea might be like. Try the fried chicken and crispy potatoes. The menu is very limited, and you can spend $28-$115 for an entree.
Located at the Water Tower, Foodease is a combination restaurant and market. It’s definitely one of the most budget-friendly places you will eat at in Chicago. Vegetarians and Vegans can rejoice. There are plenty of fresh fruit and veggie options to create your own salads. They also have soup bar, sushi and sandwich counter. You can grab lunch for around $10-15.
The Publican’s eclectic menu pays homage to oysters, pork, and beer. Inspired by simple farmhouse fare in what appears to be a European beer hall. Enjoy classic Belgian-style mussels to porchetta. The rotating menu reflects the best seasonal and local ingredients available. I’m not going to lie, the charcuterie plate is damn good. The presentations are simple and free of adornment. Gather around a giant wooden communal table and order the bread plate with the three spreads to start. Entrees are anywhere from $18-60.
The Chicago Diner
Meat-free since ’83, The Chicago Diner is a vegetarian’s paradise. The Butternut squash fritters with a soy-based lime “yogurt” sauce are delicious! My favorite is Buddha’s Karma Burger, a perfectly curried sweet potato-tofu patty with grilled pineapple, avocado and chimichurri sauce. The Pumpkin Pie milkshake is also worth having. The service is prompt and cheerful. You can grab lunch for under $20, but they are also open for breakfast and dinner.