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Bubbling shrimp at etta
Photograph: Jaclyn RivasBubbling shrimp at etta

The 50 best dishes and drinks in Chicago in 2018

From breakfast to booze, these are the all-time best dishes we tried in Chicago in 2018

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Written by
Morgan Olsen
&
Maggie Hennessy
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We’re officially stuffed. Throughout 2018, we sampled our way through some of Chicago’s best restaurants—both newcomers and mainstays—to hunt down knockout dishes and drinks that left us feeling inspired. We ended up with a collection of menu items that is as diverse as the city itself, from lobster dumplings and vegetarian sushi to a surprisingly awesome apple martini and a stack of lemon-blueberry pancakes. Better yet: Most of the dishes and drinks on this year's list ring up under $15. Check out the amazing morsels and tipples that top this year's list and plan your upcoming dining adventures accordingly.

Best dishes and drinks of 2018

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • West Loop

Roulades of thigh and breast meat encase garlicky hen sausage—all painted with schmaltz before cooking to deepen the fowl’s earthiness. It’s paired with potato dumplings and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, lending the dish a nostalgic, Stroganoff-like feel. $28.

Editor's note: The dish has since changed to include Green Circle chicken leg, chanterelles, kale and a smoked egg yolk.

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  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Wicker Park
  • price 2 of 4

Ignore the fact that you don’t love the word smelt (really, the small, mild-tasting fish deserves a better name) and dig into this salad of Parmesan-tempura–battered smelt, Bibb lettuce, dill and butter-pickle mayonnaise. Oddly enough, this dish tastes just like a Big Mac. How’d they do that? $12.

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Matt’s Veal Parm
Photograph: Pablo Ponce

20. Matt’s Veal Parm

There’s no denying that Matt Wachsman and Jon Glaser make a damn good veal parm sandwich, but half the fun is walking into a stranger’s apartment to get it. The duo hosts pop-up events at home (buy a ticket to get the address) and donates all proceeds to Purple Asparagus, a Chicago nonprofit that educates children and their families on nutrition. Oh, and did we mention that the sammy is out of this world? $14.

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  • Restaurants
  • Old Town

An apple martini in 2018? Trust us on this one. Crafted with vodka, apple brandy, green-apple liqueur, lemon juice and demerara syrup, this sophisticated quaff is the grown-up version of the lip-puckering stuff you slurped down in college. $14.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Bridgeport
  • price 1 of 4

You can’t call yourself a real Chicagoan until you’ve visited this Bridgeport gem, which specializes in tavern-style thin crust. If it’s your first time, order the sausage pie, which has a thin-crust base, savory tomato sauce and some of the best Italian sausage in the city. $10.30–$23.

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  • Bars
  • Logan Square

Derived from the elegantly brazen Boulevardier, this subtle variation subs in half the whiskey base with cognac for a stronger backbone; next, it’s embittered with Campari and smoothed over with sweet vermouth. The result is an ideal synthesis of flavors. $12.

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The best dishes and drinks of 2017

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The best dishes and drinks of 2016

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The best dishes and drinks of 2015

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The best dishes and drinks of 2014

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The best dishes and drinks of 2013

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