Alinea The restaurant that cemented Grant Achatz’s star-chef status remains a mecca for culinary innovation, with recent wonders including a balloon made out of taffy and filled with apple-flavored helium. 1723 N Halsted St. 18-course tasting menu $210–$265.
Grace Curtis Duffy’s white-tablecloth newcomer takes diners not on a culinary thrill ride (à la Elizabeth or EL Ideas) but rather on a refined, artistic stroll. 652 W Randolph St (312-234-9494). Nine-course tasting menu $185.
L2O As if chef Matt Kirkley’s passionate personal blog (matthewkirkley.typepad.com) weren’t enough to pique our interest, the recent arrival of dessert superstars Michael Laiskonis (the pastry chef of Le Bernardin for eight years) and Amanda Rockman (formerly of the Bristol and Balena) has this serene seafood spot at the top of our dining wish list. 2300 N Lincoln Park West (773-868-0002). Five-course prix-fixe menu $140; 12-course tasting menu $198.
Masaki Few sushi restaurants transport you to Japan quite like this distinguished gem. Enjoy everything from exceedingly gracious service to the progression of every fish under the sea. 990 N Mies van der Rohe Way (312-280-9100). Five-course tasting menu $128.
Mastro’s There are a million steakhouses in this town, all charging more or less the same eye-popping prices for beef—so what makes this one special? Here, that steak will be seasoned, cooked and presented so impressively that every penny will seem worth it. 520 N Dearborn St (312-521-5100). Average steak $50.