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A person uses a spoon to pull cheese from the top of French onion soup
Photograph: Jordan Johnson

The 14 best French restaurants in Chicago

Feast on the city’s finest crêpes, steak frites and innovative French fusion.

Amy Cavanaugh
Written by
Shanti Chu
Contributor
Amy Cavanaugh
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From opulent seafood towers to savory eggplant crêpes, the city’s French restaurant scene is thriving and experiencing a renaissance. Similar to the recent uptick in Italian restaurants throughout the city, French cuisine in Chicago has become more affordable, vegetarian-friendly and innovative than ever. You have cozy, traditional Parisian bistros, swanky wine bars and casual brasseries to choose from as you sip tea, absinthe or a full-bodied and refined Cabernet Sauvignon. While French food is known for its buttery palate, heavy meats and pungent cheeses, the pastries at these bakeries and restaurants will be the perfect sweet night cap to your meal as you ponder de Beauvoir’s existentialism. Check out our list of Chicago’s best French restaurants so you can dive into gooey French onion soup or tap your spoon on some crispy crème brulée.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

Best French restaurants in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Bucktown
  • price 2 of 4
Yes, it’s small and crowded, and you’ll have to wait at the bar for a bit even with a reservation. But it’s the closest thing Chicago has to that adorable little bistro in Paris. Regulars have their never-fail favorites: the flaky, caramelly onion tart; the robust onion soup with a gluttonous amount of Gruyère; the butter-topped steak flanked by perfectly crisp frites; and the simple profiteroles.
  • Restaurants
  • Crêperies
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

Since 1972, La Crêperie has been serving up some of Chicago’s best sweet and savory crêpes for brunch and dinner. Hungry diners have at least 25 crêpe options to choose from along with substantial savory vegetarian options such as their spinach-creme crêpe. This French bistro not only has a charming indoor space but also quaint and spacious outdoor seating. You can find wines from all over France but especially from the Bordeaux and Rhône valley regions.

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  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Logan Square

Satiate your thirst for wine, cheese and music in this dimly lit wine bar located underneath Testaccio. Soif means “thirst” in French and its menu is curated to quench your thirst by featuring classic and iconic French wines, Parisian cocktails and Belgian beer. Soif has recently expanded its food menu, serving French classics like escargot and caviar. For something more casual, their grilled cheese with truffle honey is absolutely heavenly. Listen to some ambient and new wave DJs every weekend to elevate your experience as you enjoy the comfort of the bar’s red velvet banquette. Reservations are recommended.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

If you’re looking for classic Parisian cuisine in an endearing setting, Lettuce Entertain You’s Mon Ami Gabi (“My Friend Gabi”) is the place to be. Executive Chef David Koehn has revamped the menu with a roster of new options, including melted brown butter brie, steak tartare and skate wing schnitzel that will transport you to France for the night. Their decadent profiteroles, filled with vanilla ice cream and homemade chocolate fudge, are also a must-order. Mon Ami Gabi offers a weekly dine-in or carry out prix-fixe deal for $50, which includes a freshly baked baguette accompanied by a sweet cream butter, a special carrot amuse bouche, a small green salad, duc a l’orange and almond and raspberry macarons.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

In early 2022, brothers Oliver and Nicolas Poilevey—who also helm cozy neighborhood darling Le Bouchon, which their parents opened—debuted a less traditional, yet innovative French spot, Obelix. While Obelix boasts French classics like French onion soup and escargot, the restaurant also serves  modern Chicago twists that integrate French classics such as the “Foie-Co,”  a foie gras taco with salsa macha and grape jam. Don’t end your meal before dessert as they have an enticing dessert menu from pastry chef, Antonio Incadella, formerly at Spiaggia.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Lake View

Treat yourself to some delightful French pastries at Maison Parisienne, a laid-back French cafe with locations in Lakeview and Lincoln Park. From macarons to croissants to quiche and opera cakes, local Francophiles will rejoice. If you’re overwhelmed by the options, indulge in an assorted croissant box where you can try one of each of their croissants for $27.50. For something more savory, order a Mediterranean tartine with a side salad featuring chia seeds, avocado, tomato, feta and olive oil on a French baguette. Coffee and tea lovers will enjoy the extensive beverage menu to go along with their sweet treats.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • North Center

Chef-owner Rob Shaner opened Robert et Fils (“Robert and Sons”) as a tribute to his late father, Bob, whom he spent time with in Paris. This upscale yet charming restaurant and wine bar features Parisian cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. An all-day cafe menu is an option for those looking for a quick espresso and pastry that can bleed into the restaurant’s happy hour, which features a buy one, get one free deal for wine by the glass. There’s also mussel night on Wednesdays where you can dip your fries and toast into a hearty red or white mussel broth. Dinner is served Thursday through Saturday with classics like French onion soup made with a chicken broth, mushroom toast on housemade sourdough with kombu, and a juicy duck confit with frites.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

An authentic French experience doesn’t have to cost as much as your rent at Chez Moi (French for “my house”), where dining transports you to the home of the restaurant’s late chef, Dominique Tougne. The no-frills yet delightful space serves classic French dishes from northeast and southwest France. Come for a casual weekend brunch and enjoy traditional classics such as quiche Lorraine, croque monsieur and eggs benedict. For dinner, order escargot wrapped in a pastry crust, cassoulet Toulousain or a vegetarian cassoulet, and cap the night off with Gateau Breton—a buttery French cake with caramel sauce—for dessert.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

Carrie and Michael Nahabedian (Naha) opened Brindille as a homage to their favorite Parisian spots, making it the perfect posh, romantic restaurant to impress a date. Brindille boasts an excellent cheese selection and a menu of French classics such as “Belle du Jour” oysters, a rotating selection of oysters served with smoked trout roe, Normandy seaweed cider and basil oil. After tasting some fresh, beautiful oysters, try the sturgeon caviar, a Julia Child-inspired dover sole and buttery veal. The decadence doesn’t end before dessert though, so order an elevated chocolate eclair with a glass of Champagne to conclude a magical night. For a daytime dining experience, try one of the restaurant’s French afternoon tea experiences with crumpets and finger sandwiches to keep you caffeinated and full.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Loop

Fresh seafood is the name of the game at Venteux (French for “windy”), a brasserie on the first floor of the Pendry Hotel serving French food with a Chicago twist from executive chef Whitney McMorris. Fresh oysters are flown in from the east and west coasts daily, and you can try them for $1 on Oyster Tuesdays starting at 4pm. If you’re with a group, indulge in a fresh seafood tower, or try their chilled caviar served with egg yolk and chilled vodka. For brunch, you can explore something innovative such as the bánh mi hash featuring lemongrass, cilantro and short rib, or try the veggie-forward Ratatouille pasta with eggless Bearnaisse.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Little Italy, UIC
  • price 2 of 4

While many French restaurants focus on Parisian cuisine, Chez Joel features southern French cuisine with Parisian staples. You can find simple yet mouthwatering French dishes with a global twist from brothers Joël and Ahmed Kazouini. The decor is minimal and classy with French posters, floor-to-ceiling windows at the front and a welcoming back patio. You can snack on some baked brie or grilled Spanish octopus, but if you’re super hungry, try the restaurant’s braised lamb shank, crispy coq au vin or Bouillabaisse Marseillaise—a seafood stew from Marseilles in the southern tip of France.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Rush & Division
  • price 2 of 4

Martial Noguier (one sixtyblue and Café des Architectes) opened this more casual French venture, but his food is still refined. He focuses on classics, like a notably smooth country pâté, textbook ravioli, tender steak frites and juicy chicken, while the vibe is bustling French bistro. While French restaurants aren’t known to be vegetarian-friendly, Bistronomic has a secret vegetarian menu with options like ratatouille and homemade ravioli. Grab a seat on the patio for prime Gold Coast people-watching.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Lincoln Square
  • price 2 of 4

​​With a name that translates as “countryside bistro,” this restaurant is so warm and inviting we could stay all night. Ingredients are fresh and meld into French bistro classics with unforgettable flavors. There isn’t a bad thing on the menu, but if we had to limit ourselves, we’d go with onion soup, mussels steamed in white wine, roasted chicken and pan-seared hanger steak flanked by amazing frites. Don’t forget the luscious brioche bread pudding with figs, brown butter and a caramel sauce.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Streeterville
  • price 3 of 4

After more than 30 years in business, this is still one of the most regal restaurants in town. Owner Mary Beth Liccioni keeps the grounds (a townhouse built in 1895) decked out like something out of Dynasty: lush fabrics, ornate carpeting, giant arrangements of flowers. But the ever-changing French-American menu, featuring items such as rack of lamb and slow-roasted veal tenderloin with seasonal accompaniments, keeps the food current (if still pretty rich). Guys, make sure you’re wearing a jacket—this is one place where rules actually mean something.

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