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12 Must-Try Restaurants in Chicago

6 min read

By Hannah Stephens

  • Chicago is home to some of America’s best restaurants and award-winning chefs.
  • Many Chicago restaurants showcase fresh local produce, meat and cheeses alongside high-quality global ingredients.
  • Consider booking a kitchen table at a fine dining restaurant for a private multicourse tasting menu.
  • The city offers informal, welcoming dining options catering to families with young children.

Chicago is well-known for its range of sophisticated yet unpretentious restaurants, and it’s the ideal place to visit if great food is an essential part of your vacation. The best eateries in Chicago are diverse, but many make the most of seasonal Midwestern ingredients. Whether you want a relaxed spot for a family meal or an elevated fine-dining experience, you’ll be able to find a restaurant on this list to satisfy any food craving.

1. Boka

Situated on the edge of Chicago’s historic Ranch Triangle neighborhood, Boka celebrates seasonal ingredients produced by its local partners. This ultra-modern eatery has maintained Michelin-starred status since 2011, and the Chicago Tribune named executive chef Lee Wolen “Chef of the Year.”

Boka offers a sophisticated a la carte menu featuring contemporary American dishes and hosts parties for private dining on its enclosed terrace. Guests can also enjoy a seven-course tasting menu with standard or reserve wine pairings, and the menu changes daily to reflect the availability of fresh produce.

Shutterstock/Rudy Balasko

2. Alinea

Alinea is just a stone’s throw from the Steppenwolf Theater in the picturesque Lincoln Park neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. The restaurant offers multiple dining experiences, including multisensory dishes in the first-floor gallery and multicourse tasting menus in the salon. Alternatively, parties of up to six people can enjoy private dining at the kitchen table.

This sleek eatery specializes in beautifully plated modern American cuisine. It holds a prestigious status as one of just 14 Michelin three-starred restaurants in the United States and ranked number 15 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list — the highest ranking for any North American restaurant.

Shutterstock/Pamela Brick

3. Chez Moi

If you prefer a relaxed, homey atmosphere, Chez Moi in Lincoln Park is hard to beat. This traditional French bistro prides itself on providing warm, friendly service in cozy, comfortable surroundings.

Chez Moi’s mouth-watering brunch and dinner menus feature all the classic dishes you’d expect from an authentic French eatery, including coq au vin, beef bourguignon, and escargots. The restaurant offers several delicious vegetarian options, including a moreish vegetarian cassoulet. It’s also the ideal place for a meal out with the whole family, thanks to its dedicated kid-friendly menu and informal ambiance.

Shutterstock/Maria Sbytova

4. Hinoki Sushiko

Hinoki Sushiko in Bucktown offers one of Chicago’s most breathtaking restaurant interiors, and the ultra-modern wood-paneled ceiling is a particular highlight. It’s the ideal place to enjoy traditionally made sushi, with a team of expert chefs preparing your meal before your eyes.

Guests can choose between two dining options, thanks to Hinoki Sushiko’s unique two-story concept. The first floor serves contemporary, comforting Japanese classics in more relaxed surroundings, and you can choose from a range of craft cocktails and sakes to complement your meal. Meanwhile, the second story is home to Chicago’s largest flat-seating Omakase dining room, where you can experience a refined 15-piece set meal.

Shutterstock/John Gress Media Inc

5. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

Experience authentic Spanish tapas, pintxos and sangria in lively, informal surroundings at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! in Lincoln Park. This inviting, family-friendly eatery is the ideal setting for a relaxed brunch or dinner, and its broad menu offers dishes to suit most tastes and dietary requirements.

You’ll find plenty of classic favorites at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!, including spicy patatas bravas and handmade beef empanadas. There’s also a whole menu section devoted to vegetarian dishes and plenty of delicious gluten-free options. You can pair your meal with a selection of high-quality Spanish wines or six unique sangria recipes.

Shutterstock/Felix Mizioznikov

6. Ina Mae Tavern

In the heart of Chicago’s trendy Wicker Park neighborhood sits the Ina Mae Tavern, a charming, laid-back eatery serving classic New Orleans-style comfort food. The varied menu features a range of delicious chicken dishes served with the restaurant’s signature buttermilk biscuits. It also showcases traditional fish and shellfish options and offers several smaller plates suitable for vegans.

The Ina Mae Tavern is the ideal spot for enjoying a slice of Wicker Park’s vibrant cultural scene alongside great food and craft cocktails. The restaurant hosts blues music performers every Thursday from 7 p.m. and provides a lively entertainment and music events schedule.

Shutterstock/Page Light Studios

7. etta

Boasting two stylish locations on N. Clark Street and W. North Avenue, etta restaurants offer delicious, rustic dishes around a cozy wood-fired hearth. This unique layout allows guests a delightful glimpse into the preparation process, and you can watch the chefs cooking spit-roasted meat over the hearth and wood-fired pizzas in the brick oven.

etta’s menu features traditional pasta dishes, fresh salads and fire-baked breads, and it also offers an impressively extensive wine and craft beer selection. However, the star of the show is the restaurant’s wood-fired picnics, which include roasted pork belly or short ribs accompanied by crunchy veggies, fresh bread and a range of delicious condiments.

Shutterstock/Page Light Studios

8. Schwa

Schwa is the brainchild of chef Michael Carlson, a Chicago native named one of the best new chefs by Food & Wine magazine in 2006. GQ later touted Schwa as “The Most Revolutionary Restaurant in America” in 2009, and for good reason. This Wicker Park restaurant’s winning formula combines seasonal ingredients and intimate, minimalistic dining spaces.

Schwa’s unique and compact menu features elegant meat, fish and vegetarian options, with each dish centering around three flavors. Its diverse offering allows guests to sample fresh global ingredients, such as black trumpet, Thai banana and soju.

Shutterstock/Page Light Studios

9. Monteverde

Warm and inviting, Monteverde is the perfect place to satisfy a craving for Italian cuisine. This West Loop restaurant offers traditional Italian comfort food alongside exciting global fusion dishes. It also boasts an extensive gluten-free menu and multiple vegetarian options, making it an excellent choice for parties with differing dietary requirements.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg is highly celebrated, receiving the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: Great Lakes” award in 2017. Monteverde has also won its fair share of awards, including the “Best Restaurant Award” at the Jean Banchet Awards in 2018.

Shutterstock/John Lupu

10. Topolobampo

Founded in 1989, Topolobampo has a solid reputation as one of the best places to experience authentic Mexican cuisine in Chicago. Situated in the River North neighborhood, this colorful yet elegant restaurant offers a unique dining experience and cozy, inviting interiors. Guests can enjoy delicious snacks and drinks in the comfortable lounge before heading to the colorful dining room for a tasting menu with wine and spirit pairings.

Topolobampo boasts a Michelin-starred chef and was featured in the Good Food 100 between 2017 and 2019. It also offers outstanding service, reflected by its nomination for an “Outstanding Service” award by the James Beard Foundation from 2011 to 2016.

Shutterstock/Oleg Podzorov

11. Dear Margaret

French-Canadian cuisine showcases seasonal local fare, such as game meat, lake fish and fresh produce, with minimal waste. Fortunately, there’s no better place to experience this unique food tradition than Dear Margaret. This cozy eatery aims to recreate the feeling of a comforting meal at your grandmother’s table, and it’s probably the only Chicago restaurant to make a food critic literally weep with delight.

There’s no poutine in sight on Dear Margaret’s menu, although its pommes frites fried in beef tallow are not to be missed. Dishes feature the best Midwestern ingredients, including steelhead trout, local corn and artisanal cheeses. The menu helpfully orders dishes from smallest to largest to help you select the correct amount of food for your hunger levels.

Shutterstock/Luis Boucault

12. Tanta

Tanta is an ultra-modern and funky restaurant serving delicious Peruvian food in the West Loop neighborhood. The menu celebrates fresh, flavorful street food, including empanadas, grilled meat and fish skewers and papitas fritas. However, some dishes include diverse global flavors for a unique fusion twist.

This restaurant is famous for its Pisco Sour cocktail, Peru’s national cocktail containing pisco, lime and bitters. However, it also serves a range of craft cocktails, beers and wines from around the world. There are even multiple soft options if you want to sample the cocktail list without the alcohol.

Shutterstock/Jill Battaglia

Hannah Stephens


Hannah Stephens lives in Kent in the United Kingdom with her husband and young son. She is a qualified elementary teacher and has been working as a commercial writer for over four years. When she's not busy creating content, Hannah enjoys cooking, learning new languages, and walking in the beautiful countryside near her home.



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