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EAT List Daisies
Photograph: Neil Burger

The 38 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
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March 2021: Chicago has increased capacity for indoor dining, which means that plenty of the best restaurants in Chicago have cautiously reopened their doors to welcome in guests. Just as many are sticking to takeout and delivery for the time being, so be sure to call ahead before heading out. No matter your comfort level, the best restaurants in Chicago could use your support right now—and this list can help you get started. The latest additions include Jeff & Judes, a Jewish deli offering stacked sandwiches to-go, and Bokuchan's, a delivery-only concept specializing in Japanese curry and katsu. Take a look at what's new or rediscover an old favorite when you order from the best restaurants in Chicago this month.

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.

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.

Best restaurants in Chicago

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

1. Virtue

Restaurants Soul and southern American Hyde Park

What is it? Chef Erick Williams's love letter to the Southern experience of cooking through passed-down recipes and reimagined expressions.

Why we love it: You can practically feel the soul oozing from the menu at this Hyde Park restaurant. It's because Williams cooks with his heart, whether he's plating fried green tomatoes with tender shrimp and creamy rémoulade or he's fixing his famous collards, which arrive studded with hunks of smoked turkey meat. Second only to the food is the ambiance, which is sexy without trying too hard—perfect for a cozy date night when indoor dining resumes.

Lula Cafe
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

2. Lula Cafe

Restaurants Eclectic Logan Square

What is it? A unanimously beloved neighborhood darling that's been doing the whole farm-to-table thing long before it was a thing.

Why we love it: Though Lula has kept its doors closed for most of 2020, chef-owner Jason Hammel and his team offer an unbelievable to-go menu that allows diners to bring home brunch, lunch and the restaurant's famous farm dinners. The latter is a multi-course meal that highlights the freshest seasonal ingredients and makes you feel like you're dining in a restaurant—even if you haven't stepped outside in a week.

Time Out tip: A nifty walk-up window serves hot coffee and sweets from talented pastry chef Emily Spurlin.

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tzuco
Photograph: Neil Burger

3. Tzuco

Restaurants River North

What is it? Chef Carlos Gaytán's splashy Chicago comeback: a breathtakingly beautiful River North restaurant that pays homage to his hometown of Huitzuco, Mexico.

Why we love it: Though it's a relative newcomer, Tzuco has already cemented its place among the city's best restaurants, thanks in no small part to Gaytán's French-inspired Mexican cooking. The French onion soup, for instance, is imbued with meaty poblano peppers, and the steak tartare is remixed with pickled jalapeños, cilantro, and guacamole.

Time Out tip: A heated, all-season patio makes it possible to dine outdoors no matter the forecast, but you must check out the otherworldly dining room when it reopens.

Birrieria Zaragoza
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

4. Birrieria Zaragoza

Restaurants Mexican Archer Heights

What is it? A family-owned Mexican spot in Archer Heights that's the G.O.A.T. when it comes to goat meat.

Why we love it: 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 the 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 hot sauce, and maybe a squeeze of lime and some onions, is all you need for the city’s best tacos.

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Shrimp and Grits
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

5. Luella’s Southern Kitchen

Restaurants Soul and southern American Lincoln Square

What is it? A living, breathing ode to chef-owner Darnell Reed's great grandmother and culinary inspiration, Luella Funches, who settled in Chicago in the '40s.

Why we love it: It's the ultimate taste of the south in Chicago, with exemplary takes on classic dishes. The burger is upgraded with pimento cheese and Nashville-hot bacon, while the collard greens are stuffed with bits of ham and roasted garlic. But Reed's chicken gumbo is a work of art in and of itself—the dark roux is scented with Creole seasoning and jam-packed with andouille sausage and Delta rice.

Time Out tip: Schedule a return visit to pick up goodies from Reed's newest venture, Baye's Little Bakery, which specializes in sweet treats like brown butter sticky buns and pecan pralines.

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Photo: Martha Williams

6. J.P. Graziano Grocery

Restaurants Italian West Loop

What is it? An iconic family-owned sandwich shop that deals in Italian stackers as big as your bicep that are layered with the best cold cuts in town.

Why we love it: 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.

Time Out tip: Toss in a bottle of giardiniera or muffuletta to recreate the magic at home.

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Photograph: Jason Little

7. avec

Restaurants Mediterranean West Loop

What is it? A Randolph Street stalwart that dishes out Midwestern-influenced Mediterranean fare with a killer wine list to match.

Why we love it: We have to believe that there are very few restaurants in the world that are as consistently special as avec. 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.

Jeff & Judes reuben
Photograph: Courtesy Jeff & Judes

8. Jeff & Judes

Restaurants Jewish Ukrainian Village

What is it? A self-described "Jew-ish" deli named after Chef Ursula Siker’s parents and inspired by the kind of places where she ate growing up in Los Angeles.

Why we love it: Nearly everything on the menu is made in-house, including various breads, the corned beef and the lox. The generous portions mean that it's easy to fill up quickly, though it's difficult to resist ordering a stacked reuben, a cup of matzo ball soup and latkes. You can even snag beautiful loaves of challah and marble rye bread to take home.

Time Out tip: Get your order in well in advance of weekend brunch hours—Jeff & Judes is a popular spot for take out on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Superdawg1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Erica Gannett

9. Superdawg Drive-In

Restaurants Hot dogs Norwood Park

What is it? An old-fashioned drive-in where uniformed servers ferry hot dogs, fries and malts straight to your car window.

Why we love it: Besides the nostalgia factor? 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."

Time Out tip: Don't have a car? You can walk up and place an order at the window or get Superdawg delivered.

daisies
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

10. Daisies

Restaurants Logan Square

What is it? The noodle palace turned sandwich shop that Joe Frillman built in Logan Square.

Why we love it: There's something about tucking into a bowl of handmade pasta that feels like a big, warm hug. That's why we ring Daisies when we've had a long day. The menu is built around a roster of rotating pasta dishes that change with the season to highlight super-fresh ingredients like lentils, 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).

Time Out tip: Stop by during the day to order a divine sandwich and shop the backroom market, which is stocked with fresh produce and elevated pantry treats.

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

11. Lem’s Bar-B-Q

Restaurants Barbecue Greater Grand Crossing

What is it? A rite of passage for local and visiting chowhounds alike, Lem's is an institution-status barbecue house that deals in meaty things and fried chicken.

Why we love it: 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.

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

12. Galit

Restaurants Israeli Sheffield & DePaul

What is it? New Orleans chef Zachary Engel's (Shaya) raved-about entry to Chicago's dining scene: a Middle Eastern eatery in the heart of Lincoln Park

Why we love it: When we heard that Engel was packing up his bags and moving to Chicago, the anticipation was palpable. And so far, the James Beard Award winner hasn't let us down. Whether you're dining in or ordering takeout, the kitchen orchestrates a parade of hummus, fire-roasted veggies and proteins, balloon-shaped pita and addictive sides. Better yet? A selection of the restaurant's next-level wine list is available to go, with excellent bottles from Israel, Palestine and beyond.

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Kasama
Photograph: Tim Flores

13. Kasama

Restaurants Ukrainian Village

What is it? A modern Filipino-American bakery and restaurant from husband-and-wife team Tim Flores and Genie Kwon (Oriole), Kasama boasts a menu that'll have you saying "I'll take one of each."

Why we love it: Besides the fact that Flores and Kwon opened a restaurant in 2020? Kasama is a breath of fresh air in a year of pizza, sandwiches and fried chicken (not that there's anything wrong with any of those things). Start with the pastries, if only so you don't fill up too fast; the ham and cheese danish with raclette fondue is an early favorite, and the chocolate-salted caramel tart is easily split between two diners. And then there's the Filipino Breakfast, which comes loaded up with longanisa or tocino, a fried egg and pickled papaya—all served atop a mound of fragrant garlic fried rice. Good luck not returning back on a weekly basis to try something new.

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Photograph: Martha Williams

14. Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria

Restaurants Pizza Ashburn

What is it? The king of thin-crust pizza done Chicago-style.

Why we love it: Serving pies since 1949 (although this location opened in ’65), Vito and Nick’s is a Chicago tradition. Though nothing compares to sipping an ice-cold Old Style in the dining room while catching a glimpse of the Bears game on TV, the cash-only shop is dealing in takeout for now. The cracker-thin, tavern-style crust is loaded up with rich red sauce, gooey mozzarella and fennel-flecked sausage chunks; test the limits with a few more toppings—we like mushroom, pepper, onion and black olives on ours.

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Photograph: Ally Straussner

15. Boka

Restaurants American creative Lincoln Park

What is it? The fine-dining beacon that started Boka Restaurant Group, one of Chicago's finest culinary collectives.

Why we love it: 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 skip dessert from celebrated pastry chef Meg Galus, who whips up dreamy, sugar-filled confections with serious range—from matcha canele to one of the world's best chocolate cakes.

Photograph: Nick Murway

16. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

What is it? Known to many as QXY, this Chinatown mainstay is the dumpling authority of Chicago.

Why we love it: When it comes to dumplings, we're of the mindset that more is always better. It's why we flock to QXY for the seemingly endless menu that details dozens of fillings that are sorted by protein—from pork and pickled cabbage to scallop and lotus root. If you can dream it, they probably have it. Place your order with the whole household in mind—that way, you can try a few different flavors in one sitting.

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Osteria Langhe
Photograph: Martha Williams

17. Osteria Langhe

Restaurants Italian Logan Square

What is it? An intro course to regional Piedmontese cuisine through truffles, cream and eggy pastas.

Why we love it: Allow us to count the ways. 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.

Bokuchan's Japanese Curry House
Photograph: Courtesy Bokuchan's Japanese Curry House

18. Bokuchan's Japanese Curry House

Restaurants Japanese Avondale

What is it? Chefs Shin Thompson (Furious Spoon) and Liga Sigal pay homage to Japanese curry and katsu with this delivery and pick-up concept.

Why we love it: Bokuchan's curry is faithful to the variety that's popular in Japan, using a slightly sweet sauce that's thicker and less spicy than the curry found in Indian dishes. You can get it topped with fried chicken breast, Berkshire pork cutlets or king oyster mushrooms—and there's also an extremely spicy variety featuring a habanero-Cayenne chili blend. Just make sure to leave room in your order for the nori flake-covered curry fries and the chewy matcha chocolate chip cookies.

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Demera ethiopian
Photograph: Courtesy Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

19. Demera Ethiopian

Restaurants Ethiopian Uptown

What is it? A crown jewel of the city's culinary scene and a must-visit for anyone who's craving traditional Ethopian eats.

Why we love it: With more than a decade of experience under its belt, most Chicagoans know Demera on a first-name basis. 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

20. Mi Tocaya Antojería

Restaurants Mexican Logan Square

What is it? Translating to "my namesake" in Spanish, Mi Tocaya is a term of endearment that chef Diana Dávila has bestowed upon her neighborhood Mexican restaurant in Logan Square.

Why we love it: Dávila recreates childhood memories through her food, offering guests a lineup of soul-warming familiares like duck carnitas, wild boar barbacoa and elote-style spaghetti squash. The guac, which is dusted with chile ash, is still on the menu, and a new slate of cocktails rounds out the mix (the Ancestral Corn Old Fashioned is brilliantly balanced and truly unique).

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21. 5 Loaves Eatery

Restaurants Soul and southern American Greater Grand Crossing

What is it? A cornerstone of Chicago's South Side culinary scene, 5 Loaves Eatery is a family-friendly beacon that specializes in daytime dining.

Why we love it: The ethos behind the restaurant is one of faith, community and the cathartic experience of breaking bread with neighbors. The menus reflect that sense of warmth, with hearty omelettes, stacks of lemon zest pancakes and some of the tastiest fried chicken in town.

Pizza Friendly Pizza
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

22. Pizza Friendly Pizza

Restaurants American Ukrainian Village

What is it? Helmed by a fine-dining chef, this scrappy new pizza shop sells slices and whole pies from a to-go window in the alley behind the Empty Bottle.

Why we love it: When shit hit the fan earlier this year, friends Noah Sandoval (Oriole) and Bruce Finkelman (Empty Bottle) teamed up to open a new concept in the former Bite Cafe space. Like its name suggests, the star of the menu is pizza—more specifically, thick Sicilian-style 'za that's deliciously bubbly yet awesomely crunchy. There are a handful of varieties to choose from, including pepperoni and basil with aged parmesan as well as the super-fresh rapini and lemon with smoked black pepper.

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ina mae, jaclyn rivas
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

23. Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods

Restaurants Wicker Park

What is it? Named after chef-owner Brian Jupiter's great-grandmother, Ina Mae Tavern brings the Big Easy to Bucktown.

Why we love it: Don't get us wrong—we love Jupiter's O.G. West Town spot, Frontier, but there's something about Ina Mae that feels deeply personal. A tribute to New Orleans cuisine, the menu revolves around a roster of po' boys and fried chicken. Try both with the Nashville fried chicken po' boy, which is dressed in a tongue-tingling hot sauce and served on freshly baked French bread.

Time Out tip: The walk-up window is always stocked with liquid courage, whether it's frozen daiquiris in the summertime or boozy hot buttered rum come winter.

Giant food truck
Photograph: Kristen Mendiola

24. Giant

Restaurants American creative Logan Square

What is it? In normal times, a teeny-tiny mammoth of a restaurant that nails simple, unpretentious Midwestern fare. At the moment, a roving food truck.

Why we love it: In a time when everyone is pivoting, Giant is tackling new and old with ingenuity. Its regular menu items—like saffron-scented tagliatelle and parmesan-crusted onion rings—are still available for takeout whenever you please. But you should also keep an eye on the restaurant's brand-new food truck, which pulls over at Chicago parks to peddle pizza, burroti and doughnuts.

Time Out tip: The best way to track Giant's food truck and contemplate your order is through Instagram.

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25. Lao Peng You

Restaurants Chinese Ukrainian Village

What is it? A cozy hideout for noodle-loving, dumpling-adoring Chicagoans.

Why we love it: Brothers Eric and Daniel Wat looked to family traditions to dictate their thoughtful menu. The dumplings are crafted by hand and stuffed with everything from pork and dill to squash and pea tip; they're served in an aromatic broth that tastes of shrimp, sesame, soy, garlic and chili oil. But you mustn't overdo it on dumplings, if only to ensure you still have room to slurp dan dan noodles, devour the addictive eggplant salad and eat a round of awe-inspiring green onion bread on your way out.

Marie's pizza & liquors
Photo: Jessica Dixon

26. Marie’s Pizza & Liquors

Restaurants Pizza Albany Park

What is it? Part liquor store, part bar, part restaurant, Marie's is a relic of yesteryear that serves some of the finest pizza in Chicago.

Why we love it: 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, Marie's has been serving a very tasty version, which can be your whenever you please thanks to the modern convenience of carryout and delivery. Recreate the Marie's experience at home by pouring yourself a martini and queuing up your favorite jazz ensemble on Spotify.

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Cellar Door Provisions
Photograph: Cellar Door Provisions

27. Cellar Door Provisions

Restaurants American Logan Square

What is it? A small but mighty Logan Square café that harnesses the power of super-seasonal ingredients to blow your mind (and your taste buds).

Why we love it: If we could sum up the experience at Cellar Door Provisions in just one word, it would be "precious." That's not to say it's contrived. Rather, every dish is crafted with an extraordinary level of care and attention. Right now, you can take home that experience with Cellar Door's three-course takeout feast, available Wednesday through Saturday for less than $40 per person—a steal in our book.

Photograph: Matthew Gilson

28. Alinea

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Park

What is it? Chicago's lone three-Michelin-starred restaurant, helmed by the great chef Grant Achatz.

Why we love it: Arguably Chicago's finest fine dining restaurant, Alinea hasn't had a "regular" service in months. Earlier this year, it replaced its pricey multi-course dine-in menu with a more affordable and approachable takeout package that you can usually snag for under $40 per person. Achatz still does most of the cheffing, but diners are asked to heat up and plate the courses themselves (it's half the fun, trust us!).

Time Out tip: Carryout customers can raid Alinea's wine cellar before checking out, with somm-pulled bottles ranging from $25 to $65.

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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

29. Red Hot Ranch

Restaurants Hot dogs Lake View

What is it? A no-fuss, late-night siren song that slings some of the tastiest burgers in town.

Why we love it: 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

30. Carnitas Uruapan

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

What is it? An ode to pork that dates back to 1975, when Inocencio Carbajal brought his famed recipe to Chicago from Michoacan, Mexico.

Why we love it: What's not to love about a storefront that sells carnitas by the half-pound? Customers even get to select their meat, with choices ranging from ribs and shoulder to skin and belly. Go with the surtida, a sampler platter of all the cuts served with salsa, tortillas and all the fixings. If you've got a long car ride home, an order of chicharron should tide you over.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

31. Vajra

Restaurants River West/West Town

What is it? Named for a mythical weapon used by the Hindu God of Thunder, Vajra illuminates the diminutive yet diverse country of Nepal.

Why we love it: Though we'll never be able to plate our food as precisely as executive chef Min Thapa, we're just elated that we can get Vajra's authentic Nepalese and Indian dishes at home. Do yourself a favor and spring for the dishes you may not recognize, like the dilliwala aalu tikka, a duo of crispy mashed potato cakes that are stuffed with spiced lentils. Skip dessert in favor of a to-go cocktail or two from head bartender Juanjo Pulgarin, who incorporates ingredients like raw honey shrub, truffled maple syrup and star fruit syrup.

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

32. Monteverde

Restaurants Italian West Loop

What is it? Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg's pasta playground in the West Loop.

Why we love it: Italian food is meant to be shared, and at Monteverde, that's never an issue. Fill your table with a smogasboard of small plates, handmade pastas and shareable mains (read: they're freakin' huge). You absolutely mustn't skip the burrata e ham starter—which comes with warm English muffin-like rounds called tigelle—nor the spaghetti al pomodoro, a simple but soul-affirming dish that stars Grueneberg's spot-on roasted tomato sauce.

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RasDashen.venue.jpg
Photograph: Julia Stotz

33. Ras Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant

Restaurants Ethiopian Edgewater

What is it? A 20-year-old Edgewater stalwart that's named for the tallest mountain in Ethiopia.

Why we love it: Founder Zenash Beyene left Ethiopia as a refugee at 15 years old before landing in Chicago and working a series of odd jobs. Eventually, she saved up enough money to rent a space on Broadway and open Ras Dashen, where she cooks Ethiopian favorites, like fragrant yebeg dereq tibs—a dish that finds lamb pan-fried with onions, garlic, peppers and rosemary. Beyene's daughter, Maritu Tqkala, has recently taken the reins to ensure her mother's culinary legacy (and sambusas) endures.

Photograph: Jason Little

34. Smyth + The Loyalist

Restaurants American creative West Loop

What is it? John Shields and Karen Urie Shields’s two-for-one special in the West Loop: a fine-dining destination upstairs and the city's best burger in the sultry basement.

Why we love it: You can choose your own adventure at this double feature—and neither option will lead you astray. Cozy up on the couch with the Loyalist's famed Dirty Burger, a messy medley of cheesy, oniony goodness that's now available for takeout and delivery. Or pull out the placemats for Smyth's multi-course takeaway meals, which can be easily reheated at home and will surely win you household hero of the week.

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Photograph: Donna Rickles

35. Smoque BBQ

Restaurants Barbecue Irving Park

What is it? An exemplary North Side barbecue joint devoted to the meatier things in life—from brisket and pulled pork to slabs of baby back ribs.

Why we love it: 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.

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Photograph: Brendan Lekan

36. Calumet Fisheries

Restaurants Seafood South Deering

What is it? Chicago’s quintessential cash-only seafood smokehouse, located just north of the Indiana border.

Why we love it: Remember the bridge-jumping scene in Blues Brothers? It happened right next to Calumet Fisheries. The best way to get there is to drive—mostly because your car will double as your table when you leave with your bounty. One of the state's few remaining smokehouses, Calumet smokes all of its own seafood in-house using only natural wood. You can taste the difference when you sample the salmon, catfish and sturgeon—all of which are available by the pound. That shouldn't stop you from tacking on an order of crispy shrimp and cocktail sauce, the perfect grab-and-dunk appetizer for eating on the go.

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Photograph: courtesy the Publican

37. The Publican

Restaurants American West Loop

What is it? A West Loop shrine to beer, pork and oysters, all helmed by chef-Partner Paul Kahan.

Why we love it: Restaurant group One Off Hospitality boasts an all-star lineup of eateries, but the Publican is one of its crown jewels. Though meat is certainly the draw, the menu also boasts a range of beautiful veg-heavy dishes, like the barbecued carrots and the herb-adorned little gem lettuce. 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.

burger, fd, food, eating, community tavern, 100 Best, martha williams, chi_fd_communitytavern_ss_0415
Photograph: Martha Williams

38. Community Tavern

Restaurants Pan-Asian Portage Park

What is it? A modern American restaurant with serious pan-Asian influence.

Why we love it: Beyond serving one of Chicago's best burgers (we mean it), Community Tavern is a special neighborhood gem that we return to again and again without tiring of the menu that husband-and-wife team Joey and Brenna Beato have dreamed up. There's always something new to explore, whether it's a new variety of dumpling the kitchen has perfected or a funky new fusion dish like the loaded kim-cheese fries.

Time Out tip: If you give them a ring, a member of the Community staff can probably deliver your meal for no additional charge—a win-win for you and the restaurant.

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

Arami

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.

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Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

Entente

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Urbanbelly

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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