Contemporary American restaurants in Chicago

Whether it's comfort food or new dishes using the best ingredients, these Contemporary American restaurants in Chicago don't disappoint.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Ada St.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Avec

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Photograph: Jill Paider

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: The Bristol

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Ikram Cafe

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Found

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Photograph: Jill Paider

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Gilt Bar

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Girl & the Goat

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Hopleaf

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Photograph: Nicole Radja

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Hot Chocolate

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Jam

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: The Lobby

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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Longman and Eagle

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Lula cafe

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: MK

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Photograph: Erica Gannett

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Nightwood

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: North Pond

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Photograph: Taylor Castle

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Old Town Social

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: The Publican

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Rootstock

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Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Ruxbin

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Photograph: Martha Williams

Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Sepia

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Photograph: Clayton Hauck

Telegraph is one of the best contemporary American restaurants in Chicago.

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Most Excellent Contemporary American Restaurants in Chicago: Trencherman

New American is basically a term describing food that doesn't fit under one certain category—and that's just fine by us. Just like the people in America (and Chicago), the dishes found at these restaurants are a mix of different nationalities and flavors. Whether it's Belgian-inspired mussels, awesome farm-to-table offerings or top-notch food by Top Chefs, the exciting menu items at these Chicago eateries will keep you coming back for more. All of these contemporary American resturants are must-visit places.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

Contemporary American restaurants in Chicago

Ada St.

Critics' pick

Michael Kornick and David Morton (DMK Burger Bar, Fish Bar) teamed with chef Zoe Schor (L.A.’s Bouchon and Craft) for this hybrid cocktail bar–restaurant. The room is lovely, and so is the food: Schor’s deep-fried black-eyed peas are the perfect drinking snack, and her light touch with steak (dressed in nothing more than brown butter), salads and even doughnuts makes sense with the food-friendly cocktails coming from behind the bar.

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avec

Critics' pick

This nationally acclaimed small-plates spot looks like a sauna, has communal seating, doesn’t take reservations and is loud as hell. But it remains the must-eat spot for foodies in the know. Chef Erling Wu-Bower mostly sticks to the Mediterranean formula that original chef Koren Grieveson put into place (and has wisely held on to her most famous dishes, such as the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates and the taleggio-filled foccacia). Is his food a little more involved—a little less simple—than the avec of the past? Sure. But despite the extra elements in his intoxicating squid-ink pasta dishes, or the layered flavors in his salumi plates, Wu-Bower's food is still pure, delicious avec.

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West Loop

The Bristol

Critics' pick

After three years, this popular Bucktown restaurant has matured, from its stronger than ever cocktail program, to its desserts, which pastry chef Amanda Rockman is hitting out of the park. We have a hard time moving away from Chris Pandel’s signatures, like the salad of heirloom apples and the devastatingly delicious egg-and-ricotta–filled raviolo, but it’s worth it to try the unusual, always-changing daily specials, from marinated beef tendon salad to cold-smoked salmon with bacon-dill dumplings.

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Bucktown

The Cafe at Ikram

The ladies who lunch have seriously been holding out on us: This restaurant on the second floor of Chicago’s most exclusive boutique is a gem. Blackbird alum Christopher Sullivan’s dishes are bright and beautiful, from the complimentary olives and bite-size gougéres that begin the meal to the creamy housemade ice creams that complete it. In between, main courses—such as a perfectly cooked salmon set atop snap peas, spring onions, fava beans and radishes in spring—overflow with the bounty of the season.

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Found

Owner Amy Morton (yes, those Mortons) and chef Nicole Pederson (formerly of C-House and Lula Cafe) have given Evanston the restaurant it’s been searching for: a place that’s casual (and relatively affordable) enough for Northwestern students seeking a sandwich and a beer and yet civilized enough for suburbanites wanting a three-course meal. Whether you like the found object–inspired decor is a matter of personal preference, but Pederson’s thoughtful, unfussy food (small plates like juicy lamb meatballs with pistachios, entrées like whole roasted trout with grilled lemon) has universal appeal.

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Gilt Bar

The service at chef Brendan Sodikoff’s loungey restaurant is at times infuriating and at times, well, serviceable—but either way, it’s the food that will make you a fan of this place or not. Those who stick to the simple stuff may find solace in this menu, which is full of well-cooked renditions of classics such as pot roast, gnocchi, bone marrow and roasted chicken. But the food is so simple that even slightly adventurous eaters may find themselves wanting for more.

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Girl & the Goat

Critics' pick

This West Loop restaurant from Top Chef Stephanie Izard is packed to the gills with diners seeking something more than the faddy pork-and-beer route. It’s refreshing that most of her menu goes the other way, with inspired vegetable and seafood dishes (and even desserts) that operate on a lighter, livelier plane. When Izard tops octopus with lemon-pistachio vinaigrette, pairs green beans with a fish sauce vinaigrette and serves bittersweet chocolate toffee alongside a shiitake-caramel gelato for dessert, she’s evolving contemporary Chicago cuisine.

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West Loop

Hopleaf

Thought this was just a bar to belly up to with a Belgian brew in hand? One bite and you’ll know there’s much more. Our perfect night involves sampling the drafts at the bar while slurping down the famous ale-steamed mussels, but you could also class it up, grab a proper table and dig into seasonal rotations such as wood-roasted spring chicken with morels and favas. Beer geeks know this is the place in town to school their palate on craft brews, and they do come in droves, but the addition of an adjacent space helps keep the place from feeling like a sardine tin.

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HotChocolate

Critics' pick

Mindy Segal rehabbed her Bucktown restaurant in the spring of 2012, making it sunnier and adding a huge garage door that opens to let in warm weather. Segal—first and foremost a pastry chef—also rehabbed her approach to desserts: Now, the pastry menu consists of a seasonal cake, pudding, pie, etc. as well as a five-course dessert tasting centered around a seasonal ingredient (Segal calls this a “study”). On the savory side, little has changed. The pretzel, the burger, the mac and cheese—breathe easy, it’s all still there.

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Jam

Critics' pick

Breakfast is dinnery at Jam: It starts with an amuse-bouche, and can continue with sophisticated dishes such as a breakfast sandwich featuring pork shoulder topped with plum preserve. Lunch is also a high-low experience: Homey soups are poured tableside, and what would otherwise be a basic kale salad is elevated by savory bread pudding croutons. Blue Plate specials read like diner staples and for dessert, there’s pie. What’s not to like?

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