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Ever salmon dish
Photograph: Michael Muser

24 Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago

Take the guesswork out of dining when you nab a table at one of these Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago

Morgan Olsen
Zach Long
Written by
Morgan Olsen
&
Zach Long
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When it comes to dining out, Chicagoans are positively spoiled. As of 2021, the city is home to 24 Michelin-starred kitchens that range from one of the best Mexican restaurants in Chicago to the latest project from former Grace chef Curtis Duffy. One of the fanciest breweries in Chicago even made the list. And eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant doesn't mean dropping an entire paycheck on a meal—there are a handful of relatively affordable options on this year's lineup.

What's the deal with a tire company handing out stars to restaurant? The Michelin Guide (which began as a physical book issued to drivers) 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 cuisine 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 2021.

Three stars

Alinea
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 4 of 4

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.

Two stars

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Near South Side
  • price 4 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser (Grace) plunge back into Chicago's dining scene with Ever, a fine-dining beacon that offers a prix-fixe menu with eight to 10 courses focused on proteins from land and sea that are whipped into edible masterpieces. Almost as impressive as the fare is the dimly lit, seriously sexy dining room, designed by James Beard Award-winning architects LSA. Dubbed Duffy's "creative obsession," Ever promises an unparalleled dining experience that's refined, ambitious and intense—with a price tag to match.

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  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Near South Side
  • price 2 of 4

After outgrowing its Pilsen digs, Moody Tongue moved west to a sprawling, 28,600-square-foot space, giving the brewery more room to play. Executive chef Jared Wentworth oversees an intimate 28-seat restaurant within the space, offering a 12-course tasting menu based around seasonal ingredients and paired with the latest culinary-inspired creations from Moody Tongue brewmaster Jared Rouben. For fine-dining fans who also love craft beer, it's a heavenly match.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • West Loop
  • price 4 of 4

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.

One star

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Little Italy, UIC
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Square
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

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.

Also check out Brian Fisher's amazing eatery in Time Out Market Chicago.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Square
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Eclectic
  • West Loop
  • price 4 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 3 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Avondale
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • East Village

From the folks who brought us Beatnik and Celeste comes this lively West Town boîte that transports diners to the small fishing villages stationed along the coasts of Galicia and Portugal. As such, the menu here is rife with fresh-from-the-water seafood, sourced from family-owned business in both regions. If you can, reserve a seat at the 26-seat chef's island, where you can choose from a five- or 10-course tasting menu that highlights dishes not available on the regular dinner menu, like seaweed "spaghetti" with mussel carbonara.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • West Loop

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Wicker Park
  • price 4 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Streeterville
  • price 4 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • River West/West Town
  • price 3 of 4

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."

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • River North
  • price 4 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • West Loop

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.

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