When it comes to dining out, we are positively spoiled. As of 2020, the city is home to 25 Michelin-starred kitchens that range from one of the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago to an experimental tasting menu that breaks all the rules. One of the fanciest breweries in Chicago even made the list—the first of its kind for Michelin. The best part? You don't have to drop an entire paycheck to enjoy Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago—there are a handful of affordable (and very approachable) options on this year's lineup.
So, how does it all work? The Michelin Guide assesses the best restaurants in Chicago on a number of criteria, but the coveted stars are awarded based on quality of food alone. Inspectors look for top-notch ingredients, mastery of flavor and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his or her cuisine, overall value and consistency. One star represents high quality cooking that's worth a stop; two stars indicate excellent cooking that's worth a detour; and three stars denote exceptional cuisine that's worthy of a special journey. With all of that in mind, take a look at the Chicago restaurants that earned Michelin stars for 2020.
Chef Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin-starred institution (the only one of its kind in Chicago) is a total sensory experience. In 2016, the Lincoln Park stalwart underwent a massive renovation, swapping its dark, sexy interior for an airy, timeless space. Though Alinea’s tasting menus will set you back $205 to $395 a person, every course is a theatrical masterpiece delivered with flawless service: Prepare for lots of dry ice, exotic fruits and playful servingware. End the evening with one of Achatz’s signature helium taffy balloons, which fill the dining room with smiles and high-pitched laughter.
Serving New American dishes inspired by coastal Maine, Acadia is the brainchild of chef Ryan McCaskey, who opened this consistently great fine-dining establishment in the South Loop in 2011. Over the last handful of years, Acadia has garnered praise from the Michelin Guide (rising from one to two stars in 2015) as well as the Jean Banchet Awards and area critics. Guests can dine a la carte at the bar or opt for the 10-course tasting menu. The latter goes for $185 and includes a lineup of rotating dishes inspired by McCaskey's upbringing in Maine. The current menu features dishes like A5 Miyazaki with charred pineapple yuzu kosho and uni mayonnaise as well as a strawberry mousse with duck yolk crema.
Chicago is home to oodles of fine dining experiences—from big names like Alinea to newcomers Smyth and Elske. But no foodie's checklist is complete without Oriole, a West Loop restaurant from Noah Sandoval. The $215 14-course menu (with a few additional treats tossed in) is filled with clever, beautiful, indulgent bites that allow guests to be swept up in the experience. If we may offer just one piece of advice, it's this: Don't peek at the menu before visiting; allow each plate to be a surprise, as the kitchen intended.
John Shields and Karen Urie Shields’s two-for-one special in the West Loop offers elevated tasting menus upstairs and the city’s best burger (yeah, we said it) in the dark, sultry basement. But we're here to talk about what's happening on the ground floor, at Smyth, where diners can book three different experiences, including the reasonably priced $95 tasting menu. The offerings change daily based on the couples' trips to a 20-acre farm located south of the city. The stunning and delicate dishes on offer incorporate fresh, seasonal produce, making every experience feel very, very special.
Make note: This Ravenswood spot is the first-ever Michelin-starred brewpub, which means you should start with a beer (Jasmine Rice is our go-to). There's an affordable tasting menu, but you can just as easily piece together a stellar lineup from the à la carte offerings. If you can, grab a seat at the chef's table, where you can watch the culinary team plate lobster-ricotta ravioli and build intricate desserts. Return for brunch on Saturday and Sunday, when you can tuck into caviar crepe cake and a Croque Madame dripping with caramelized onions.
The unshakable Blackbird set down roots in the West Loop before it was the place to be for restaurants. One look at the menu and it's not hard to see why—roasted rohan duck with artichoke, marinated mussels with yuzu, and kampachi crudo with roasted potato dashi. But the best deal can be yours over the lunch hour: $28 for a high-end three-course tasting menu. For that price, you can afford to throw in a bottle of wine.
In its 16 years on Halsted Street, Boka has racked up a trophy case worth of accolades, 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 chilled beef tartare and grilled octopus to ricotta dumplings—do the talking.
The self-proclaimed "most unlikely of Michelin-starred restaurants," EL Ideas is situated in Douglas Park and offers set, group-based seatings Tuesday through Saturday. The crew here aims to take the stuffiness out of the fine-dining experience and removes the barrier between diners and chefs through an open floor plan. Think of it like a dinner party at a new friend's home—if that friend served 10-plus courses and charged you $155 for a seat.
Whimsy is the name of the game at Iliana Regan’s Lincoln Square restaurant, which is equal parts fascinating and adorable. The plates here are works of art and culinary prowess, combining unlikely ingredients like stone fruit, mushroom and pepita. Or foie gras, caramel corn and bubblegum ice cream. Look out for Regan's brilliantly themed menus, such as Dr. Seuss and Wes Anderson.
Translating to love in Danish, Elske is an appropriate name for a venture from husband-and-wife team David and Anna Posey. Take the guesswork out of the experience and order the semi-affordable tasting menu, priced at $95 per person, then sit back and prepare to be wowed by the unbelievably precious New American fare. Best to save room for Anna’s delightful desserts, like a sunflower seed parfait with sour honey, licorice and bee pollen.
So you’re new to the whole fine-dining thing, eh? This Lakeview 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. The easygoing dining room, which is often bumping Run the Jewels and Kendrick Lamar, doesn’t hurt either. 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.
For 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. 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 $165 tasting menu starts with an oceanic lobster salad paired with a smooth-as-silk cauliflower purée. From there, it’s on to carefully executed dishes such as wild Alaskan halibut, Colorado lamb and Midwestern cheese, each given some sort of Alsatian flair or French accent. If you’re looking for fancy, you found it.
Owners Chris and Nina Nugent preside over this intimate 30-seat, BYOB-friendly Lincoln Square destination that incorporates classic French techniques with modern, playful touches. The multi-course menu goes for $145 a head (did we mention the BYOB policy and the fact that they don't charge a corkage fee?) and lasts for approximately three hours. Diners can expect wildly creative platings and intensely seasonal ingredients like summer truffle, English peas, meyer lemon and fennel.
Located below Kumiko in the West Loop, Kikkō is the intensely intimate counter located in the basement of Kumiko, where chef de cuisine Mariya Russell and executive chef Noah Sandoval execute a pristine seven-course menu alongside creative director and cocktail guru Julia Momose. The tight menu is a parade of perfectly executed bites, like the pristine king salmon sashimi and the sweet-meet-savory Japanese milk bread, which is topped with fermented ice cream and truffle shavings.
Celebrated sushi chef B.K. Park serves an extensive omakase menu at this small West Loop restaurant, which fetches $175 a head for up to 25 courses. The menu, which is sprinkled with pieces of sashimi and nigiri, fluctuates with the seasons and includes indulgent morsels like king crab with uni miso, A5 wagyu butter and potato chip. The sushi counter boasts just 12 seats (there are an additional 10 seats behind it in the dining room), and each seating is limited to two hours. No need to rush: The chefs are trained to keep things moving at a comfortable pace.
Team Alinea opened this experimental West Loop restaurant in 2011 to showcase themed menus that rotate every four months—from tapas to vegan to French. The name reflects Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas's desire to constantly start over and reinvent the menu. Diners can expect all-out theatrics in plating and presentation, making each experience a memorable one.
Okay, so technically you’re not eating outside, but when you’re only a few feet from a pond in the middle of Lincoln Park, you’re as close to nature as it gets in the city. Even more so when you sample chef Bruce Sherman’s latest creations, concocted with as much locally grown organic food as he can get his hands on. Sherman’s ever-changing offerings have included Gulf shrimp and Manila clam with black olive capellini, snap peas, and carrot-shrimp broth topped with pecorino and crumbs, and Alaskan halibut served with red and white quinoa, cucumbers, bing cherries, mint, and cucumber broth—perfectly lovely reminders of the time of year in case you can’t get a window table.
Nestled in Avondale, Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim’s Korean-American restaurant has become a fast favorite since opening in 2014. If you can, grab a seat at the kitchen counter: You’ll get up close and personal with funky dishes like grilled mackerel with onions and wasabi and a chocolate tart with lapsang souchong. Make room at the beginning of the meal for an order of the dense, still-warm baked potato bing bread, which will surely pull you back again and again.
The omakase menu at this tiny West Loop restaurant changes daily based of of chef Sangtae Park's whims and what's in season and available to him. But if you're willing to put your trust—and $125—in the knowledgeable sushi chef, you can indulge in a 17-course menu that's packed with appetizers, sushi and dessert. Reservations are available at 5:30 and 7:30pm, and only 16 guests are served each evening at the omakase counter.
If you're driving down Ashland Avenue looking for this fine-dining legend, you might just miss it—unless, of course, you know what you're looking for: an inconspicuous storefront that could just as easily be a neighborhood dive bar. The infamously difficult-to-book restaurant just started taking reservations via Tock (lucky you), making it easier than ever to experience chef Micahel Carlson's nine-course tasting menu. Psst: It's good form to bring a bottle of booze or a six-pack of beer for the kitchen.
Andrew Zimmerman's warm, elegant West Loop stalwart is a destination for constantly changing dishes like wagyu beef tri tip with Asian pears, maitakes and cabbage as well as lemon doughnuts with grapefruit curd and cardamom. The bar program, under Keith Meicher, turns out well-balanced drinks, while Jennifer Wagoner's wine list is among the city's best. No time for dinner? Try some of Zimmerman's exceptional charcuterie in the bar.
Spiaggia has long been Chicago's shrine to fine Italian cuisine, churning out pristine house-made pasta, like a tangle of tagliatelle swimming in fennel pork sausage, fresh tomato sauce and garlic. Diners can go a la carte or leave their fate in the chefs' trusty hands with a multi-course tasting menu. Bonus points: Tony Mantuano's Mag Mile restaurant is the proud home of Top Chef Season 15 winner Joe Flamm.
This demure, 20-seat West Town spot is a newer addition to Chicago's collection of Michelin stars after being added in 2019. The 11-course tasting menu runs guests $145 and includes artfully plated dishes like salmon garnished with uni and eggplant or the "Birthday Cake," which captures the essence and smell of blown-out candles. Michelin inspectors called it "the epitome of serenity, sophistication and subtlety."
Topolobampo ("Topolo" for short) is the most sophisticated and upscale of Rick Bayless's restaurants. As with all of Bayless's restaurants, the products used here are local and seasonal. So whether you're eating from the marisquera (sustainable seafood bar) or choosing one of the platillos fuertes (usually a protein—hen, lamb, lobster—dressed in a complex, chili-based sauce), you know you're eating the best the season has to offer. An ever-changing menu means it's hard to predict exactly what will be on offer day to day—but because Bayless is involved, it never really feels like a gamble.
Helmed by chef Mari Katsumura, Yūgen melds contemporary Japanese cuisine with classic French techniques, resulting in a beautiful tasting-menu experience in the West Loop. The address and dining room may look familiar: The space formerly housed three-Michelin–starred Grace. At Yūgen, guests are invited to splurge on a $205 11-course tasting menu, which includes delicate dishes like savory egg custard with Santa Barbara uni, foie gras and Asian pear.