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Photograph: Matt Haas

The 19 best fancy restaurants in Chicago

Whether you're celebrating a special occasion or balling out for no good reason, these fine-dining restaurants will do the trick

By Morgan Olsen

This may not be New York or San Francisco, but Chicagoans knows how to splash out on fine-dining experiences rife with caviar, truffles and palate cleansers. The best fancy restaurants in Chicago skip pretension and focus instead on spectacular flavors, wow-worthy presentation and killer wine lists, to boot. Whether you're looking to celebrate your birthday in Chicago or you just got a raise at work, these top-rated eateries will make you feel like a celebrity. From upscale sushi restaurants and posh steakhouses to raved-about tasting menus, there's something for every occasion. Take a look at our favorite fancy restaurants in Chicago and phone in your reservations ahead of time—tables at these top spots book fast.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Best fine dining in Chicago

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

1. Oriole

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Situated off the beaten path of Restaurant Row, just east of the Kennedy Expressway, Oriole didn't fall for the traditional trappings of a Michelin-starred restaurant. The cozy, understated dining room is just as welcoming of suits and LBDs as it is of T-shirts and jeans. Chef-owner Noah Sandoval dresses up the table with a parade of edible masterpieces—each bite more spectacular than the last. Do yourself a favor and don't peep the menu before you go—it's best to be surprised.

Photograph: Matthew Gilson

2. Alinea

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Park

Culinary mastermind Grant Achatz uses his three-Michelin-star restaurant in Lincoln Park as a stage. Sit back and enjoy the show, a well-orchestrated ride that plays with textures, temperatures and notions of “normal” cuisine, while somehow remaining grounded in season, flavor and flawless execution. Past menu stunners have included squab with peppercorn custard, sorrel and strawberries and cocoa-coated watermelon with cubed Kobe beef. But you never know what dish will steal the show when you’re in the audience.

Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

3. Bellemore

Restaurants American West Loop

This West Loop darling's decidedly sexy interior sets the scene for an extra-special date night or anniversary dinner. Chef-partner Jimmy Papadopoulos specializes in artistic American food that only elevates the experience, with exquisitely plated dishes and mind-blowing flavor combinations. An order of cloud-like Hawaiian rolls to start is an absolute must, as is a pair of after-dinner amaro daiquiris to end the meal.

Photograph: Isabelle Langheim

4. Blackbird

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

After more than 20 years in the West Loop, this iconic kitchen is still one of the city's best. In 2019, chef-partner Paul Kahan handed over the keys to the kitchen to executive chef Ryan Pfeiffer, who aims to revive the restaurant's rock 'n' roll soul. Pfeiffer recently introduced diners to the Reserve Tasting Menu, which changes on a whim and highlights super-rare ingredients. Also noteworthy is Blackbird's lunch prix fixe menu, which allows guests an appetizer, entree and dessert for—get this—just $28 a head. It's one of those undercover Chicago deals that's worth taking a leisurely lunch for.

Photograph: Jason Little

5. Smyth

Restaurants American creative West Loop

Husband-and-wife team John Shields and Karen Urie Shields own two dreamy restaurants at the same address: Smyth and the Loyalist. The latter, a dark, subterranean dining den, is suitable for midweek dinner and tipples. Save Smyth for a special occasion, when you can take your time on one of three coursed menus that range in price and duration. The Classic menu is priced under $100 (a steal!) and features some of the couple's best hits, like the creamy Maine uni glazed in egg yolk and a pillowy brioche doughnut with Marmite butter.

Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

6. Acadia

Restaurants Contemporary American Near South Side

Chef-owner Ryan McCaskey’s South Loop fine-dining respite is a study in rich whites, a rare exercise in the restaurant as a space of tranquility and elegance. The service is perfectly orchestrated, too, with staff seamlessly ushering in each course, explaining the chef's vision and refilling water glasses. Inspired by McCaskey's time spent in Maine, this Michelin-starred favorite also offers a more affordable bar menu, featuring one of our favorite burgers in all of Chicago.

© 2016 Galdones Photography
Photograph: Huge Galdones

7. Elske

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

Dining at Elske in the West Loop feels a lot like settling into a good friend's living room—if that friend were a Michelin-starred chef with a killer sense of style. Husband and wife David and Anna Posey make guests feel right at home with relaxed but professional service, divine eats and next-level desserts. Take the guesswork out of the evening by selecting the tasting menu (priced under $100) or choose your own adventure with the a la carte menu, which highlights some surprisingly affordable options. Build in time to have one last glass of wine in the courtyard next to the wood-burning fireplace.

8. Spiaggia

Restaurants Italian Streeterville

If you prefer to ball out on handmade pasta and fine Italian wines, take your paycheck to Spiaggia. Executive chef Eric Lees will fill your belly with delicate handmade noodles, burrata topped with caviar and saffron-scented risotto that practically melts in your mouth. The tasting menu changes quarterly, while the a la carte menu is no-brainer for returning customers. Allow beverage director Rachel Lowe and her team of sommeliers to guide you to the right wine or cocktail pairing for your meal—they've got a flawless track record.

Saffron rice on the Topolobampo Mexico City 1671 menu.
Photograph: Martha Williams

9. Topolobampo

Restaurants Mexican River North

Topolobampo is the most sophisticated jewel in Rick Bayless's culinary crown, offering three tasting menus for dinner and an ingenious 60-minute, three-course lunch menu. If you're here for dinner, opt for the Perfect Seven, a seven-course hit list of Bayless's spins on pozole, tacoles, mole and flan. Round out the meal with a Splurge Margarita, crafted with Don Julio 1942, Grand Marnier 100, fresh lime and agave syrup.

10. Everest

Restaurants French Loop

For more than 30 years, Everest has lived up to its name for those looking for a lavish experience, and in the process it has become the pinnacle of high-end French dining in Chicago. Situated atop the Chicago Stock Exchange, it is still the height of elegance, with views of the rooftops that made the city famous. Chef Jean Joho’s tasting menu is a lineup of carefully executed dishes such as seared foie gras, veal tenderloin and coconut soufflé, each given some sort of Alsatian flair or French accent. If you’re looking for fancy, you've found it.


11. Schwa

Restaurants Contemporary American Wicker Park

Fewer than 30 diners can fit in this tiny restaurant, and all of them must have made reservations weeks in advance. But if you manage to nab a spot, you’ll be treated to intriguing creations like pine-flavored peekytoe crabs with marinated royal king mushrooms or sumptuous venison with a white chocolate foam. The menu changes often, but whatever the kitchen has up its sleeve, you’re certain to have a meal like nowhere else in town. Psst: It's good form to bring a pack of beer or a bottle of bourbon for the kitchen.

Photograph: Eric Kleinberg

12. Swift & Sons

Restaurants Steakhouse West Loop

Harnessing Fulton Market's rich history as a meatpacking district, Swift & Sons brings the Chicago steakhouse into the 21st century with delicious results. Under the direction of executive chef Chris Pandel, the kitchen ferries out carnivorous treats like ruby-red filet mignon, seared scallops and tarragon-scented lobster bisque. Don't fill up on tartare—pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky's desserts are some of the best in town.

Photograph: Jason Little

13. EL Ideas

Restaurants Contemporary American Little Italy, UIC

We can appreciate the mission that fuels this Douglas Park restaurant: "Make fine dining cuisine and service approachable and fun instead of pretentious and stuffy." Inside the unmarked building, guests are treated to a multi-course experience that's part dinner party, part performance, which makes for a deliciously entertaining night out. Though menu components shift with the seasons, diners can expect to taste the restaurant's playful spin on French fries and ice cream, which is inspired by none other than McDonald's. We won't ruin the surprise, but let's just say it's not your typical fast food preparation.

Photograph: Martha Williams

14. Next

Restaurants Eclectic West Loop

To dine at Grant Achatz’s followup to Alinea is a rare—and rarefied—opportunity to submit yourself to a very specific vision of what great dining might look like. That vision changes every three months, from French fare to Italian staples to modern plates that don’t even look like food. We know what you're thinking: How does it compare to Alinea? Here, you can expect a more lighthearted dining experience that doesn't skimp on flavor or experimentation.

GT Prime
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

15. GT Prime

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

GT Prime is the kind of steakhouse that we imagine “Game of Thrones” characters might dine at in the 21st century. The cavernous space is decorated in jewel-toned seating, jewel-lined light fixtures and tasteful taxidermy. The menu modernizes the steakhouse with perfectly plated cuts of wagyu, dry-aged beef and other meaty delights like venison and lamb. Diners can expect high-end, cheffy starters, too, like seared foie gras, bone marrow and Spanish octopus. In other words, it’s not the best option for your vegetarian friends.

temporis, jaclyn rivas, west village
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

16. Temporis

Restaurants Contemporary American River West/West Town

The first thing you'll notice about Temporis is the noise level—or lack thereof. Even when it's filled to capacity, the handsome 20-seat dining room maintains a hushed tone. Chef Troy Jorge offers 5- and 10-course tasting menus that are inspired by produce grown in the restaurant's hydroponic garden. Expect a meat-heavy lineup that's rife with fine ingredients, like lobster, wagyu, black truffles and pork belly. Don't think twice about adding tacking on sommelier Don Coen's dynamic wine pairings.

Photograph: Martha Williams

17. Goosefoot

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Square

Chicago has a few far-flung places where chefs have carved out personal enclaves for high-level fine dining. But perhaps none were born with the maturity and finesse of this 34-seat, off-the-beaten-path BYOB from husband and wife Chris and Nina Nugent. Chris, a veteran of Les Nomades, brings precision to every dish on the nine-course tasting menu. The food is technically flawless, while Nina’s front-of-the-house charm brings the personality.

Photograph: Martha Williams

18. Elizabeth

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Square

Forager and self-trained chef Iliana Regan serves "new gatherer" cuisine at her tiny Lincoln Square storefront. Dishes may include thin slices of bear atop rice crisps, foie gras shaped like owls, or a fried hunk of mushroom with garlic aioli. Keep an eye out for Regan's themed dinners, which have included nods to Wes Anderson, Dr. Seuss and Stranger Things.

Photograph: Martha Williams

19. RPM Steak

Restaurants Steakhouse River North

This River North steakhouse from Lettuce Entertain You and TV personalities Bill and Giuliana Rancic isn't for the shy. Glitz and glam are offered by the ounce, with over-the-top menu items like hand-cut steak tartare, Millionaire's potato (it's smothered in fontina and black truffle), chocolate cake decorated with edible gold and a laundry list of Japanese and American wagyu options. It’s the kind of place you take your high-rolling friend who’s got a thing for vintage champagne.


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