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bayan ko
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The 36 best restaurants in Chicago you have to try

There's no shortage of fantastic food in this city, but these Chicago restaurants make our short list of top eats

By Morgan Olsen

October 2020: The temperature is dropping, the leaves are turning and the best restaurants in Chicago are preparing for winter. For some, that means going into temporary hibernation, like Michelin-starred Elske, which will shutter until early 2021. For others, the new season marks a rebirth, as seen with both Oriole and Parachute reopening. We've also shuffled the list to signal boost some fantastic cheap eats that are easy on your wallet and are sure to provide comfort this fall. Bundle up and make a reservation: These are the best restaurants in Chicago right now.

The best restaurants in Chicago come in all shapes and sizes, from pizza joints and Michelin-starred heavyweights to some of the best cheap eats Chicago has to offer. The cuisines are just as varied, with every corner of the globe represented through Korean, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean and Indian fare. Whether you're a lifelong resident or simply visiting for the weekend, stuffing your face at one of these restaurants is easily among the best things to do in Chicago. This belt-busting food scene shows no signs of slowing down, so we cut to the chase and ranked our essentials—the absolute best restaurants in Chicago. We call it the Time Out EAT List.

Our editors scour the city for great dishes, excellent value and insider info. They pay their way and sometimes, like the rest of us, their delivery driver gets lost. The EAT List is a unique, authentic snapshot of Chicago's ever-evolving dining experience right now: We update it constantly with the best new restaurants in Chicago as well as decades-old stalwarts that keep us coming back for more. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a remarkable food truck: If it’s on the list, we think it’s terrific, and we bet you will too.

We should also note that a number of the best chefs, restaurants and concepts in the city have been welcomed into the Time Out Market Chicago. Because that is the highest honor we can award, and we now have a tighter relationship with them, establishments related to market vendors have all been included in the EAT List but not ranked alongside other great establishments in the city. You can find those amazing places below.

If you've tried something you love on this list, share it under the hashtag #TimeOutEatList to show your appreciation. Plus, find out more about how we eat through Chicago to make the list.

The best of the city under one roof

Time Out Market Chicago
Photograph: Mark Ballogg

Time Out Market Chicago

Restaurants West Loop

We've rounded up the best chefs in the city to join us at Time Out Market Chicago, a culinary and cultural destination in the heart of Fulton Market. The 50,000-square-foot space houses multiple kitchens, three bars and one jaw-dropping rooftop terrace—all spread across three floors. Our mission is simple: Bring the pages of Time Out Chicago to life with the help of our favorite chefs, the ones who wow us again and again. (You can read more about our delicious curation process here.)

Best restaurants in Chicago

virtue, catfish, erick williams
Photograph: Gary Adcock / Studio37

1. Virtue

Restaurants Soul and southern American Hyde Park

You can practically feel the soul oozing out of chef-owner Erick Williams's menu at Virtue in Hyde Park. The food here is inspired by the Southern experience of cooking and spotlights heritage recipes like gumbo, fried green tomatoes (some of the best we’ve ever had), shrimp and grits, blackened catfish and banana pudding that's loaded with Nilla wafers. Second only to the food is the ambiance, which is sexy without trying too hard—perfect for a cozy date night. The new wraparound patio expands the restaurant's footprint when the weather allows, and nearby Lake Michigan beckons for a post-dinner stroll.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

2. Lula Cafe

Restaurants Eclectic Logan Square

This Logan Square darling has been doing the whole farm-to-table thing long before it was a thing. And though Lula hasn't resumed indoor or outdoor dining, chef-owner Jason Hammel offers an unbelievable to-go menu that allows diners to bring home brunch, lunch and the restaurant's famous farm dinners. Place your order in advance and pick up at Lula's nifty carryout window. Fair warning: You will be tempted to toss in something sweet from pastry chef Emily Spurlin—just go with it.

Photo: Martha Williams

3. J.P. Graziano Grocery

Restaurants Italian West Loop

J.P. Graziano's has been in business since 1937, but its wait-worthy subs have only been on the menu since 2007. None of the sandwiches will set you back more than $12, but the Italian is our favorite: a bunch of meats—hot capicola, Volpi Genoa salami, hard salami and mortadella—plus provolone, tomato, lettuce, red wine vinegar and oregano on a long roll from D'amato's Bakery. Order ahead, pick up at the window and grab a bottle of giardiniera or muffuletta to take some of the magic home.

Photograph: Diego Padilla

4. Tzuco

Restaurants River North

Beloved chef Carlos Gaytán recently made his triumphant return to Chicago with Tzuco, a breathtaking River North restaurant that pays homage to his hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico. It won't take you long to realize that this restaurant is different—the interior is unlike anything we've ever seen in Chicago, designed with an earthy palette and outfitted with thorn-covered vines and other artifacts native to Huitzuco. The menu, too, honors his hometown and his mother's cooking techniques. The chicharron de pescado is a standout favorite, with a whole fried fish, chunks of tender meat, tangy salsa, pickled veggies and feta cheese foam.

Birrieria Zaragoza
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

5. Birrieria Zaragoza

Restaurants Mexican Archer Heights

Thick handmade tortillas, salsas made to order, bright-pink agua fresca. You can get all of that to go. Their only purpose, however, is to accompany this restaurant’s signature platters of chopped goat meat Unlike other birrierias, this goat doesn’t touch a consommé until it’s plated, when some of the tomato-based broth is spooned over it. At that point, a good dousing of the restaurant’s intricate hot sauce, and maybe a squeeze of lime and some onions, is all you need for the city’s best goat tacos. Give 'em a ring at 773-523-3700 to place your carryout order, as dine-in service is not yet available.

Photograph: Jason Little

6. avec

Restaurants Mediterranean West Loop

We have to believe that there are very few restaurants in the world that are as consistently special as avec, a Randolph Street stalwart that dishes out Midwestern-influenced Mediterranean fare with a killer wine list to match. It's the kind of spot that makes us swell with pride for our dining scene, the kind of place we can't help but flock to even though there are plenty of newcomers to try. The chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates are as good as everyone says, and an order of the "deluxe" focaccia stuffed with taleggio and ricotta cheeses is an absolute must for the table.

Photograph: Erica Gannett

7. Superdawg Drive-In

Restaurants Hot dogs Norwood Park

An old-fashioned drive-in where uniformed servers bring your order directly to your car window, Superdawg is inadvertently a restaurant perfectly suited to the age of social distancing. Nearly everything on the menu (including the delicious namesake all-beef frank loaded with Chicago-style toppings) comes nestled amid crispy crinkle-cut "Superfries" in a colorful, cartoon-covered box. If you're not craving a hot dog, you'll also find double-decker "Whooperburgers" and creamy "Supershakes." Don't have a car? You can walk up and place an order at the window or get Superdawg delivered.

2016 Galdones Photography LLC
Photograph: Eugene Galdones

8. Giant

Restaurants American creative Logan Square

Whenever someone tells us that they have more than a month's lead time to book a special-occasion dinner, we point them to Giant, a teeny-tiny mammoth of a restaurant located in Logan Square. The small patio out back books up fast (and for good reason), but with carry-out now available, it's easier than ever to get your hands on chef-owner Jason Vincent's hit list. Day One favorites include the biscuit with tingly jalapeño butter as well as the stick pecan smoked ribs.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

9. Daisies

Restaurants Logan Square

Nothing turns a shitty day around like a big bowl of pasta that's made with love. That's why we head to Joe Frillman’s noodle-centric Logan Square spot when we've been through the ringer. The menu is built around a roster of rotating pasta dishes that change with the season to highlight super-fresh ingredients like rhubarb, stinging nettle and green garlic. Each bite tastes a bit more special when you hear about Frillman Farms, which is owned and operated by Frillman's younger brother, Tim, and provides produce to the kitchen (as well as many other top eateries across the country).

Pizza Friendly Pizza
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

10. Pizza Friendly Pizza

Restaurants American Ukrainian Village

Inhabiting the former Bite Cafe space, Pizza Friendly Pizza is a scrappy and hopeful collaboration between friends Noah Sandoval (Oriole) and Bruce Finkelman (Empty Bottle). Like its name suggests, the star of the menu is pizza—more specifically, thick Sicilian-style 'za available by the slice or the whole pie. There are four varieties to choose from, including pepperoni and basil with aged parmesan as well as mushroom and Calabrian chili with burrata. Fine-dining chef Noah Sandoval says he worked tirelessly on the winning recipe, and the final product sports a thick and bubbly crust that's anchored by crispy, caramelized edges.

Photograph: Ally Straussner

11. Boka

Restaurants American creative Lincoln Park

In its 15-plus years on Halsted Street, Boka has racked up a trophy case worth of awards, including one long-standing Michelin star and a handful of Jean Banchet Awards. But we prefer to let chef-partner Lee Wolen’s impeccable techniques—on everything from dry-aged beef tartare and grilled octopus to ricotta dumplings—do the talking. It'd be a shame to leave without something sweet from pastry chef Meg Galus, who whips up dreamy, sugar-filled confections that will have you floating out of the restaurant on a cloud at the end of the night.

Lem's Bar B Q sign
Photograph: Courtesy Lem's Bar B Q

12. Lem’s Bar-B-Q

Restaurants Barbecue Greater Grand Crossing

Chicago may not be known as a barbecue destination in its own right, but Lem's single-handedly puts the South Side on the map with its unique aquarium-style smoker, which weighs in at 64 square feet. Regulars love the rib tips and hot links—and luckily, the combo meal gets you a taste of both. It's takeout only at Lem's, so plan on dining in your car or taking this saucy feast home.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

13. Oriole

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Chicago is home to oodles of fine dining experiences—from big names like Alinea to newcomers Smyth and Elske. But no foodie's checklist is complete without Oriole, a West Loop restaurant from chef Noah Sandoval. The $215 multi-course menu is filled with clever, beautiful, indulgent bites that allow guests to be swept up in the experience. If we may offer just one piece of advice, it's this: Don't peek at the menu before visiting; allow each plate to be a surprise, as the kitchen intended.

galit, sandy noto, hummus, food, restaurant
Photograph: Sandy Noto

14. Galit

Restaurants Israeli Sheffield & DePaul

When we heard that New Orleans chef Zachary Engel of Shaya was packing up his bags and moving to Chicago, the anticipation was palpable. The James Beard Award winner didn't let us down with Galit, his Middle Eastern eatery in the heart of Lincoln Park. The kitchen orchestrates a parade of hummus, fire-roasted veggies and proteins, balloon-shaped pita and addictive sides. Better yet? The newly expanded sidewalk patio offers more room to dine alfresco, and we can confirm that Engel's food travels beautifully via delivery if you'd rather stay on the couch.

Osteria Langhe
Photograph: Martha Williams

15. Osteria Langhe

Restaurants Italian Logan Square

Regional Piedmontese cuisine is Osteria Langhe's focus, and that means ingredients like truffles, cream and eggy pastas appear on the menu. The space is warm and cozy, and you'll want to order a bottle of well-chosen wine for the table before diving into the food. The plin, miniature agnolotti filled with cheese, are beautiful and light; the beef tartare is impeccably seasoned; and the vitello tonnato tops tender slices of beef with a vibrant tuna citrus caper aioli. In case you needed further proof that Osteria Langhe has elevated Chicago's Italian restaurant scene, order the creamy panna cotta to finish the evening.

Friend of the Devil with Andrew Brochu
Photograph: Simon Davies

16. Friend of the Devil (Devil Dawgs)

Restaurants Wicker Park

If you ever dined at Roister in the West Loop, you've probably tried Andrew Brochu's top-notch fried chicken—it's easily one of the best versions of the dish in the city. After leaving the fine-dining restaurant, Brochu planned to strike out on his own with a new restaurant that was slated to open this year. One global pandemic and a lost lease later, Brochu is instead taking up residence at Devil Dawgs in Wicker Park with one of the finest pop-ups we've seen this year. He's serving a lineup of dressed-up dogs, smash burgers and several chicken sandwiches. First-timers should go classic with the World Famous, which finds the buttermilk fried chicken dolled up with chamomile mayo, dill pickles, lettuce and a tangy sunchoke hot sauce on a toasted brioche bun. Take your feast to nearby Wicker Park and picnic on the lawn.

Demera ethiopian
Photograph: Courtesy Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

17. Demera Ethiopian

Restaurants Ethiopian Uptown

With more than a decade of experience under its belt, most Chicagoans know Demera on a first-name basis. The restaurant is a crown jewel of the city's dining scene and a must-visit for anyone who's craving traditional Ethopian eats. Owner Tigist Reda is backed by years of watching and helping the women in her family cook. If it's your first time, do like the regulars and order a shareable messob, which is loaded up with your choice of meat and veggie dishes to sample with a friend.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

18. Mi Tocaya Antojería

Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

Chef Diana Dávila recreates childhood memories through her food, offering guests a lineup of soul-warming familiares like carne asada, pollo con mole negro and costillas en chamoy—all served with plenty of fixings to make it a meal. Day One favorites like peanut butter y legua and chile-ash–dusted guac are still on the menu, and a new slate of cocktails rounds out the mix. Snag a seat on the patio, order takeout or plan a picnic on the boulevard (the crew will provide blankets and bring your order to you!).

Photograph: Jason Little

19. Smyth + The Loyalist

Restaurants American creative West Loop

John Shields and Karen Urie Shields’s two-for-one special in the West Loop offers a fine-dining tasting menu upstairs (plus a brand-new patio on Ada Street) and the city's best burger (yeah, we said it) in the sultry basement, which recently rolled out a new French-focused menu. Talk about a winning combination. Here's your game plan: Hit the Loyalist on any ole Friday night for patties and a cocktail, and save Smyth for a birthday or anniversary.

Marie's pizza & liquors
Photo: Jessica Dixon

20. Marie’s Pizza & Liquors

Restaurants Pizza Albany Park

Contrary to most of the country’s opinion, Chicago does not dine on deep-dish alone. We much prefer tavern style, a pie with cracker-thin crust topped with bubbled, almost crispy, cheese that’s cut into squares rather than triangles. Since 1940, this liquor store/bar/restaurant has been serving a very tasty version. The old-school red booths, martini specials and occasional roaming quartet only add to Marie's one-of-a-kind vibe.

ina mae, jaclyn rivas
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

21. Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods

Restaurants Wicker Park

Named after chef-owner Brian Jupiter's great-grandmother, Ina Mae Tavern brings the Big Easy to Bucktown, with a lineup of po' boys, fried chicken, fresh seafood and crave-worthy sides. The dining room is welcoming, but come summertime, the sidewalk patio is where it's at. Order a frozen daiquiri from the walk-up window before snagging a seat and tucking into a stacked Nashville fried chicken po' boy.

Photograph: Matthew Gilson

22. Alinea

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Park

Chef Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin-starred institution hasn't reopened its Lincoln Park dining room to the public just yet, but the high-end restaurant has revolutionized that takeout game during lockdown with its multi-course takeout feasts that are priced under $60 per person. For a limited time, you can even raid Alinea's wine cellar when you order carryout, opting to toss in rare finds that range from champagne and dry whites to a big, bold Burgundy.

Red Hot Ranch's special burger. Two thin burger patties with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and their special sauce. Get it at their new location in Lakeview: 3055 N Ashland Ave.
Photograph: Hannah Bourne

23. Red Hot Ranch

Restaurants Hot dogs Lake View

What Chicagoan hasn't found themselves at Red Hot Ranch in the wee hours of the morning in search of sustenance? For less than $5, one of the city's best cheeseburgers is yours—with thick-cut fries to boot! Thin, griddled patties shine with a little help from melty cheddar, LTO and special sauce. It's simple but undeniably decadent. Still hungry? Toss in a half-order of fried shrimp, which arrive golden in hue and accompanied by cocktail sauce for dipping. Then, sit back and let the food comma commence.

Photograph: Nick Murway

24. Carnitas Uruapan

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

Carnitas are sold by the half-pound at this no-fuss shop with locations in Pilsen and Gage Park, but you can also get the signature slow-cooked pork stuffed inside individual tacos for a quick carnitas fix. Don't forget an order of the addictive jalapeño-tomato salsa and a chicharron for the road.

Lil' Parachute
Photograph: Courtesy Lil' Parachute

25. Parachute

Restaurants Korean Avondale

Earlier this summer, owners Beverly Kim and John Clark made the tough decision to temporarily shutter their award-winning restaurants in Avondale, but after a few months of rest, the couple is back at it. Parachute is now Lil' Parachute, a temporary takeout-only concept that showcases more traditional Korean fare in the form of a rotating prix fixe menu. For $45 per person, you'll get a multi-course meal that includes a smorgasbord of starters as well as a main course of your choice. It's a twist fit for 2020 that has serious staying power.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

26. Vajra

Restaurants River West/West Town

Named for a mythical weapon used by the Hindu God of Thunder, Vajra illuminates the diminutive yet diverse country of Nepal through adaptations of the dishes co-owner Dipesh Kakshapaty grew up eating in bustling Butwal, from tandoori-roasted game to soothing root-veg curries. Executive chef Min Thapa’s lovely renditions of traditional Nepali dishes join a small handful of Indian staples like biryani, vindaalu and naan. Don't plan on dining in just yet—everything is available to go, including a range of delicious cocktails.

Cellar Door Provisions
Photograph: Cellar Door Provisions

27. Cellar Door Provisions

Restaurants American Logan Square

If we could sum up the experience at Cellar Door Provisions in just one word, it would be "precious." That's not to say the tiny Logan Square cafe is contrived. Rather, every dish is crafted with an extraordinary level of care and attention. The menu changes as often as the weather and showcases seasonal ingredients like black garlic, sunchoke, turnip and squash. For the time being, diners can only order curbside carryout, but don't fret: You can still tack on the fan-favorite canele, one of the all-time best versions of the caramelized pastry in Chicago.

bayan ko
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

28. Bayan Ko

Restaurants Filipino Lincoln Square

Melding Filipino and Cuban cuisines under one roof, husband-and-wife team Lawrence Letrero and Raquel Quadreny honor their respective immigrant roots at Bayan Ko in Ravenswood. Fill your table with crab croquetas, lumpia Shanghai, ceviche and salted caramel flan. The flavors play together beautifully and occasionally collide on a single plate, as is the case with the Bayan lechon, with hunks of crisp fried pork belly, garlicky mojo and a tangle of sweet Filipino papaya slaw. To dine on the patio, you'll need to place your order in advance through a reservation—and don't forget to B.Y.O.B.!

Photograph: Martha Williams

29. Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria

Restaurants Pizza Ashburn

Serving pizza to Chicagoans since 1949 (although this location opened in ’65), Vito and Nick’s is the king of thin-crust pizza done Chicago-style. With Old Style on tap and the Bears on TV, surly waitresses shuffle bubbling-hot pies to a full room of revelers. The crispy but pliant crust, tangy sauce and top-quality sausage separate this pizza from other Chicago thin-crusts.

monteverde, jason little, burrata e ham
Photograph: Jason Little

30. Monteverde

Restaurants Italian West Loop

Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg has perfected the art of house-made pasta—among many other things. Her West Loop restaurant is delightfully relaxed and immersive, allowing diners a great view of the kitchen’s noodle-making station. Anything that comes from this portion of the dining room is bound to be delicious, but we’re also quite fond of Grueneberg’s piattini, or small plates, with favorites like the beautiful burrata e ham and Oma’s Green Mountain salad, which is piled high with pea tendrils, avocado and crunchy veggies. On your way out, shop the new Mercato for fresh house-made pastas and sauces to go.

Photograph: Brendan Lekan

31. Calumet Fisheries

Restaurants Seafood South Deering

Remember the bridge-jumping scene in Blues Brothers? It happened right next to Calumet Fisheries, Chicago’s quintessential cash-only seafood takeout counter. The best way to get there is to drive—your car will double as your table when you leave with your bounty. You’ll find plenty of smoked-fish (the restaurant’s specialty) and fried-fish dinners, but we love to nosh on the crispy shrimp and smoked salmon.

Photograph: Jessica Lynn Capron

32. Café Marie-Jeanne

Restaurants Cafés Humboldt Park

Though dine-in service hasn't yet resumed at Café Marie-Jeanne, there's plenty to savor on the carryout menu, including a lineup of BBQ frites. Choose from meaty delights like smoked chicken, duck leg, summer sausage and rabbit, then walk over to Humboldt Park or a proper picnic—assuming you can make it four blocks without devouring your spread. In that case, toss in a pint of sorbet or a bottle of wine to make the magic last.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

33. Proxi

Restaurants Global West Loop

Be forewarned: A trip to Proxi will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. It’s not that the menu is lacking; on the contrary, it’s rife with so many tough decisions that you’ll have to book a second visit to try it all. Chef Andrew Zimmerman takes diners on a worldwide tour with flavor-packed dishes like tempura elotes, red lentil hummus and wood-grilled baby octopus in tandoori marinade. From the bartenders and servers to everyone hustling behind the scenes, the staff has an attention to detail that goes a step above the rest.

Photograph: courtesy the Publican

34. The Publican

Restaurants American West Loop

The tagline for this West Loop mainstay is laughably accurate: “Beer, pork and oysters.” Though meat is certainly the draw, the menu boasts a range of beautiful veg-heavy dishes, like the barbecued carrots, avocado salad and seasonally adorned pappardelle pasta. An absolute must for the sidewalk patio is the charcuterie plate, which changes from week to week but always has a solid mix of choices from pâtés to sausages and head cheese served with pickles and mustard.

unsplash, sushi, nigiri, kelvin zyteng, chopsticks
Photograph: Kelvin Zyteng via Unsplash

35. Lawrence Fish Market

Restaurants Seafood Albany Park

You might walk right past this takeout-only spot in Albany Park if you don't catch the small neon sign in the window that reads "sushi" with a fish jumping out of the water. That'd be a mistake, as Lawrence Fish Market is one of the city's best-kept secrets. Part fish market, part sushi shop, this unassuming storefront specializes in affordable trays of fresh maki, sashimi and nigiri—perfect for a hungry couple or small, sush-obsessed family.

Photograph: Donna Rickles

36. Smoque BBQ

Restaurants Barbecue Irving Park

If you're on a mission for stellar barbecue, look no further than Smoque in Irving Park. The crew here doesn't believe in taking shortcuts, meaning each rub, smoke, sauce and cut of meat has gone through a lengthy vetting process. The fruits of this painstaking labor include lip-smacking ribs, smoky brisket and juicy pulled pork—all of which can be savored via delivery, takeout and patio dining. Save room for house-made sides and desserts—we're particularly fond of the BBQ beans and melt-in-your-mouth peach cobbler.

Local chefs, restaurants and concepts we love so much that we welcomed them into Time Out Market


4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Japanese River West/West Town

Chefs Ajay Popli and Nelson Vinansaca run the kitchen at this superb Japanese spot, which has some of the city's best sushi and ramen. The warm, cozy room seems to encourage you to stay for hours, sipping sake or cocktails like an old-fashioned made with seaweed-infused Japanese whiskey and yuzu-pineapple bitters. Start with the chef's choice sashimi, which includes 14 slices of neatly sliced seafood, including a meaty piece of octopus and salmon that nearly melts in your mouth. The special nigiri section includes treats like rice wrapped with crab and festooned with spicy Alaskan king crab. But sushi at Arami doesn't just benefit seafood lovers—yasai (vegetables) are available as maki or nigiri and include a slice of tender eggplant squiggled with peanut–red miso dressing.

Goat Albondigas at Dos Urban Cantina
Photograph: Courtesy Dos Urban Cantina

Dos Urban Cantina

Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

Brian Enyart and Jennifer Jones Enyart lay claim to the ultimate Chicago love story: They met while working under storied chefs Rick Bayless and Charlie Trotter, respectively. Years later, they opened Dos Urban Cantina in Logan Square, where they use contemporary ingredients and flavors to put their own spin on Mexican staples, like the tamal tots—hunky nuggets of masa served with spicy habanero crema. The only way you can mess up your order here is by skipping Jennifer’s famed chocolate cake, which we’re convinced is laced with loads of cocoa and pure magic.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

El Che Bar

Restaurants American West Loop

Housed in the former Checker Taxi building, El Che Bar is Chef John Manion’s Argentine-American restaurant, a love letter to his time traveling throughout the country. Locally sourced vegetables, grilled meats, and whole seafood are cooked on custom-built grills and chapas in an open hearth. Menu standouts include herbed Parisian gnocchi with mushroom stroganoff, swiss chard, charred rosemary vinaigrette, shaved parmesan and hazelnuts, the spiced quail with jalapeno and coriander salsa verde, saffron cous cous, dried apricots and pomegranate. The beverage program centers on spirits of the Americas and the dessert offerings trades in your average chocolate lava cake for the playful flavors of fire cakes, melting pionono and smoking affogato.

Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki


Restaurants American creative River North

So you’re new to the whole fine-dining thing, eh? This River North spot is a good place to start. Helmed by owner Ty Fujimura and chef Brian Fisher, Entente drops pretension in favor of approachability, offering a curated menu of rotating appetizers and entrées plus food-friendly wines and cocktails. Day-one favorites include the wedge salad—a halo of iceberg lettuce filled with creamy green-goddess dressing and topped with chunks of bacon, tomato puree and gobs of Cambozola cheese—and the Carolina Gold, a warm hug of a dish that’s topped with shaved truffles, pea tendrils, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a duck egg.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas


Restaurants Vietnamese Lower West Side

When we think about HaiSous, in Pilsen, two words come to mind: unapologetically authentic. Thai and Danielle Dang’s Vietnamese kitchen is nothing short of delightful, and we’re willing to bet you haven’t had anything like it in Chicago—or anywhere else. Unsurprisingly, our favorite menu section is called “For Fun,” and it includes refreshingly delicious starters like prawn summer rolls, tender octopus with confit eggplant and a papaya salad that’s dotted with chef Dang's house-made Vietnamese beef jerky. The $44 chef’s tasting menu reads like a hit list of the joint’s most popular dishes and provides a no-brainer entry point for newcomers.

Lost Larson
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

Lost Larson

Restaurants Andersonville

This Andersonville bakery and café pays homage to the neighborhood's Scandinavian roots in the most delicious way. Chef and owner Bobby Schaffer—whose star-studded resume includes Grace and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York—is the culinary mastermind behind a drool-worthy pastry program that encompasses cardamom-scented chocolate croissants, lingonberry almond cakes and calamansi meringue tarts. Savory enthusiasts have plenty to look forward to, too, with Lost Larson's selection of open-face sandwiches that are topped with fresh produce and quality meats. The shop doesn't close after the sun goes down, but instead turns into Vinbar, a natural wine bar offering pours by the bottle and glass plus composed plates that spotlight farmers-market–fresh ingredients. It's the kind of place you'll find the excuse to visit for breakfast, lunch and dinner—which is A-okay in our book.

Mini Mott, Mott, Burger, Wings, logan square
Photograph: Morgan Olsen

Mott St. + Mini Mott

Restaurants Logan Square

Only in Chicago could a burger be so good that it deserved its own eatery. The story of Mini Mott's signature dish began in 2016, when the patty at parent spot Mott St was recognized as one of the nation's best. At the time, the burger was available only at the restaurant's tiny bar. Mini Mott was born to supply the demand, turning out juicy patties layered with melted American cheese, hoisin aioli, pickled jalapenos, miso butter, pickles, sautéed onions and a cloud of sweet-potato frizzles. We'll give you a second to catch your breath.

pretty cool ice cream, ice cream, popsicle
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Pretty Cool Ice Cream

Restaurants Logan Square

Inspired by the memory of standing at the end of her driveway with change in her pocket, waiting on the ice cream truck, Dana Salls Cree opened Pretty Cool Ice Cream in Logan Square. The cute-as-a-button shop slings beautiful popsicles in fascinating flavors. Lick a peanut butter-potato chip custard bar, a plant-based blue moon pop or a strawberry buttermilk bar. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear that classic ice cream truck jingle from your childhood.

Purple Pig
Photograph: Morgan Olsen

The Purple Pig

Restaurants Contemporary American Streeterville

Purple Pig is one of those essential Chicago experiences you want to share with out-of-town friends and family, as if to say, "We've got it good." No matter the day or season, the River North restaurant likely has a line out the door—and for good reason. Chef and owner Jimmy Bannos Jr.'s menu is filled with carnivorous delights like housemade 'nduja, ham croquettes, crispy pig's ears, duck sausage and beef tendon chicharrones. Pair your meaty bits with a food-friendly pour from the lengthy wine list and lose yourself in the restaurant's natural clamor.

Photograph: Brendan Lekan

The Art of Pizza

Restaurants Pizza Lake View

What makes Art Shabez's slices stand out in a bona fide pizza town like Chicago? Sure, the gooey mozzarella, fennel-flecked Italian sausage and market-fresh veggies are all stellar, but the real star of the show is the fan-favorite red sauce, which bursts with vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh oregano and basil, and a faint hint of red pepper. Luckily for us, the stuff is slathered all over every pie. The Art of Pizza has elevated itself to the status of an institution, making it an essential for anyone who claims to be a pizza aficionado or for anyone who loves pizza, which is everyone.

Duck Fat Dog
Photograph: Martha Williams

The Duck Inn

Restaurants American Bridgeport

Located on the border between Bridgeport and Pilsen, the Duck Inn is chef-owner Kevin Hickey's temple to carnivores, with offerings like duck wings coated in Japanese BBQ sauce, a signature rotisserie duck with all the fixings and the famous Duck Inn Dog. To be fair, calling it a ‘hot dog’ doesn’t quite do it justice. The sausage—a decadent blend of all-natural beef and duck fat—is grilled and topped with elevated Chicago-style ingredients: house-made relish, beer mustard, pickled serrano chilies, a fat pickle, garden-fresh tomatoes, raw onions and a dash of celery salt.


Restaurants Pan-Asian Wicker Park

Chef Bill Kim keeps our bellies happy with his playful menu of Asian staples at this sunshine-filled restaurant in Wicker Park. Start with an assortment of dumplings, which are available by the piece in flavors like pork and cilantro and chicken red curry. You'll want to save room for hearty entrees like ramen with braised pork belly, creamy coconut curry pho, fried rice bowls and Thai fried chicken. The youngsters won't feel left out: The kids' menu offers fan-favorites like belly-warming noodle soup and PB&J soft serve.

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