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tzuco
Photograph: Neil Burger

The 31 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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July 2020: There's no denying that Chicago's dining scene has changed dramatically over the past few months as restaurants fight to survive. We've watched Michelin-star holders turn to takeout and neighborhood eateries reinvent themselves as bodegas. Along the way, we've poured one out for those that didn't make it, like wine bar Income Tax and fine-dining beacon Blackbird.

Simultaneously, the hospitality industry is in the midst of a necessary reckoning, which calls on owners to re-examine workplace culture, fair wages and employee safety. Diners, too, are being empowered to put their money where their mouths are by supporting and celebrating BIPOC-owned restaurants throughout the city.

Right now, we realize that everyone is moving at a different pace—some folks are excited to dine alfresco, while others are sticking to takeout for the foreseeable future. The EAT List aims to help you navigate Chicago's dining landscape no matter your comfort level. We'll update this list often in an effort to keep you informed and to shout about the most innovative new offerings (Like Lula Cafe's carryout menu and Tzuco's dining room expansion). Don't forget to wear a mask, respect social distancing rules and tip generously.

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.

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. Diners can snag a seat inside or on the new wraparound sidewalk patio; the takeout menu boxes everything up to go.

Photograph: Jason Little

2. 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.

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Photograph: Diego Padilla

3. 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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

4. 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 on-site dining, chef-owner Jason Hammel offers a fantastic to-go program that allows fans to bring home brunch, lunch and those 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.

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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: Ally Straussner

6. 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.

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daisies
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

7. 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).

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

8. 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.

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

9. 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

10. 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.

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Photograph: Courtesy Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

11. 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.

elske patio
Photograph: Carolina Mariana Rodríguez

12. Elske

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Translating to "love" in Danish, Elske is an appropriate name for a venture from husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey. Though the relatively affordable tasting menu (priced at $95) is a no-brainer for special occasions, the à la carte menu makes Elske surprisingly accessible for an average weeknight. Piece together a progression of savory plates from David—they're always changing and loaded with farmers-market fresh produce—and save room for Anna's otherworldly desserts. Not ready to hit the town just yet? A new multi-course to-go menu rolls out weekly, offering a taste of Elske from the comfort of your home.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

13. 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!).

Marie's pizza & liquors
Photo: Jessica Dixon

14. 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.

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Photograph: Matthew Gilson

15. 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.

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Photo: Martha Williams

16. 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.

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ina mae, jaclyn rivas
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

17. 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: Jason Little

18. 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.

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Superdawg1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Erica Gannett

19. 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.

acadia, jaclyn rivas
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

20. Acadia

Restaurants Contemporary American Near South Side

Acadia is one of just three Chicago restaurants with two Michelin stars, an honor that befits chef Ryan McCaskey's South Loop institution. Though you can't yet indulge in the restaurant's 10-course feast, the patio flaunts a summer-ready, seafood-centric menu that includes a jam-packed lobster roll, oysters by the half-dozen and steamed mussels. The curbside takeout menu boasts throwback, diner-inspired delicacies, including a mushroom swiss burger, meatloaf and chicken pot pie.

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Photograph: Nick Murway

21. 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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

22. 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.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

23. 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.!

VitoandNicks.pizzerias.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams

24. 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.

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

25. 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.

CalumetFisheries1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

26. 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.

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Photograph: Jessica Lynn Capron

27. 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

28. 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.

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Photograph: courtesy the Publican

29. 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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

30. S.K.Y.

Restaurants Lower West Side

The entire pan-Asian menu at chef-owner Stephen Gillanders’s first solo venture—named for his wife’s initials—reverberates with meticulous skill, humor and heart. And lucky for us, it's all available for takeout. Yes, even the famous Maine lobster dumplings and the crispy fried chicken served with fermented hot sauce and creamed corn. Ready to venture out? Limited in-house dining has also resumed, with new hours on Monday and Tuesday.

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Smoque.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Donna Rickles

31. 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

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: 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

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.

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HaiSous
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

HaiSous

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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