The Best Restaurants in Chicago

What makes the Windy City a food destination? Pizza, burgers, tacos, and soooo much more.

27 min read

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When I’m headed into Chicago for the day, the first thing I get sorted is my eating itinerary. I’ve been writing about Chicago restaurants and sampling my way through the city for years now, and my bucket list of foods and restaurants to try is always getting longer. This list represents a mix of my favorites, spots on my forever bucket list, and some of the iconic Chicago restaurants that helped put the Windy City on the food map.

Pequod’s Pizza


Whenever an out-of-towner asks for a deep-dish recommendation in Chicago, Pequod’s is always the first place I suggest. Pequod’s does pan-style pies, with sauce underneath the toppings (unlike traditional Chicago-style deep dish, which has sauce on top). But that’s not why Pequod’s is special. What makes Pequod’s pizza a bucket list-worthy food is its caramelized crust with burnt cheese on the edges of the pie.

Au Cheval


Since debuting in 2012, Au Cheval’s cheeseburger has ranked highly among the best burgers in Chicago — and the entire country. The legendary cheeseburger features two griddled patties topped with gooey melted American cheese, house-made pickles, onions, and a dollop of dijonnaise, all sandwiched between a squishy toasted bun. Au Cheval’s cheeseburger is also available for delivery from Small Cheval. Sure, there are other solid items on the menu at this diner-style bar and restaurant from nationally-acclaimed Hogsalt Hospitality, but the burger is what made Au Cheval famous and what you should undoubtedly order.

ROOH Chicago


At this highly acclaimed modern Indian restaurant along Chicago’s Restaurant Row, classic Indian dishes are reimagined using modern techniques and international flavors. Think kulcha with Tillamook cheddar and shishito peppers folded into the flatbread, and sweet potato chaat alongside kale tempura and yogurt mousse. In my opinion, ROOH’s greatest creation is the paneer pasanda, featuring expertly prepared paneer in a buttery rich and smooth red pepper makhani sauce.



This Logan Square spot serves slightly cheffy Midwestern-inspired food that’s easy to fall in love with. At Giant, rather than one or two outstanding dishes, they’re all hits. Chefs Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader make boring food exciting (see: broccoli with smoked pepper sauce, seared flank steak, or the tagliatelle with Dungeness crab and chili butter). Whatever you do, don’t miss the corn biscuits.

Lula Cafe


When Lula Cafe first opened its doors back in 1999, it was Chicago’s foremost farm-to-table spot. Today, this Logan Square institution has developed a city-wide following for award-winning chef and owner Jason Hammel’s ingredient-driven, vegetable-forward cooking. On the New American-esque menu, you’ll find everything from brunch essentials to dinner entrées, all showcasing uber-seasonal ingredients and sustainably sourced meats. Be sure to try the Lula ’99 turkey sandwich, which has been on the menu since day one. The classic breakfast burrito and spicy peanut noodles are also longtime hits.

Taqueria Chingon


This Mexico City-style taqueria on the border of Bucktown and Logan Square serves up a rotating selection of flavor-packed street tacos made with handmade tortillas and housemade salsas. Tacos that make regular appearances include traditional ones like al pastor and carne asada as well as lesser-known options like a blood sausage taco and one filled with duck carnitas and chicharrons.

Smyth + The Loyalist


Smyth + The Loyalist is a dual-concept restaurant that features a three-Michelin-starred modern tasting-menu restaurant on the first floor (Smyth) and a casual bar below it (The Loyalist). While Smyth gets most of the accolades, The Loyalist serves an outstanding cheeseburger (nicknamed the Dirty Burg). The patty is made from a blend of chuck, short rib, and ground bacon, and is topped with melted American cheese, housemade pickles, a mess of pickled and charred onions, and a saucy onion-infused mayo. It’s the only entree on the delivery menu, so it’s really what you’re coming here for. (Lucky you.)



Created by legendary Chicago chef Paul Kahan, Avec is a Chicago institution known for its Midwestern takes on Mediterranean classics. More than 20 years later, Avec’s focus is the same as it’s always been: simple food executed at a high level. Three menu items have remained on the menu, unedited from their original recipes, since the restaurant’s inception and are still drawing crowds all these years later. These include, of course, Avec’s famous chorizo-stuffed and bacon-wrapped dates, the deluxe focaccia stuffed with ricotta and taleggio, and the potato and salt cod brandade. These hits and more can also be found at Avec’s second location in River North.

Sochi Saigonese Kitchen


Since opening in 2021, Sochi Saigonese Kitchen has been introducing Chicagoans to the regional flavors of Saigon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City) with a menu filled with authentic Vietnamese dishes. The egg rolls wrapped in thin rice paper are the best way to start a meal here. Locals also rave about the Saigon pho with beef bone broth that’s simmered for 10 hours.

The Chicago Diner


“Meat-free since ’83” is the slogan at The Chicago Diner, one of the OG vegetarian spots in the city. It has gained a following for its veg-friendly spins on diner-style classics, such as a Reuben filled with corned beef-style seitan, a monte cristo with fried tofu, and potato tempeh hash. Today, the menu has expanded to include a range of vegan and gluten-free items as well. The aforementioned Reuben, gyros, vegan cinnamon roll, and vegan milkshakes are some of the most popular items.

Chef's Special Cocktail Bar


At this neighborhood favorite from the folks behind Giant, classic Chinese-American dishes are replicated using modern techniques and a cheffy flair. The menu includes all of the mainstays you’d expect, plus a selection of rotating chef’s specials. As with Giant, there isn’t a bad dish on the menu, but you can’t go wrong with the egg rolls filled with Berkshire pork shoulder and Gulf rock shrimp, or the fiery hand-pulled dan dan noodles.

Smoque BBQ


Though far from the South, Smoque BBQ has consistently ranked among the best barbecue spots in the country since opening in 2006. The menu pays homage to a variety of styles, including Texas, Kansas City, and Memphis. If you have to choose one thing, go for the brisket, which stays true to traditional Austin-style. Make it a combo and you also get to choose two sides, which are all made from scratch. The homemade mac ’n’ cheese, brisket chili, and BBQ beans with caramelized onions and brisket bits are all excellent.

Coda di Volpe


Located in the heart of Chicago’s Southport Corridor, Coda di Volpe shines a spotlight on traditional VPN-certified Neapolitan pizzas made with high-quality ingredients imported from Italy. For non-pizza options, diners should look to the house-made pastas, like the bucatini cacio e pepe with Belper Knolle cheese and salt-cured black peppercorn, and arugula salad with pickled and roasted grapes.

Tribecca's Sandwich Shop


Chef Becca Grothe shows off her sandwich wizardry at this small Avondale shop. Grothe’s sandwiches are inspired by the Midwestern classics she grew up eating and are built using ingredients sourced from local farms, bakeries, and markets. The most popular sandwich here is the signature Cubano, which is loaded with ham from Twin Oaks Meats and pork from Slagel Family Farms. And the vegetarian version made with mojo-marinated Phoenix Bean tofu is just as good as the original. Both the original and vegetarian version feature a pHlour Bakery ciabatta bun and Pickled Prince pickles along with Swiss cheese, mustard butter, and chipotle aioli.

Osteria Langhe


This Italian restaurant is helmed by chef Cameron Grant, who did a stint at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Piedmont, Italy, back in the day. Naturally, this place serves Piedmontese fare. Pastas are made in house; get the hand-pinched plin (mini agnolotti) stuffed with La Tur cheese. The prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loin and the silky-smooth vanilla panna cotta serve as further proof that Osteria Langhe is one of the best restaurants in Chicago.

Alla Vita


At this West Loop crowd-pleaser from chef Lee Wolen (also the chef behind Michelin-starred Boka), you’ll find all the Italian carbs you crave. Starting with the wood-fired bread topped with Taleggio, orange blossom honey, and black pepper is non-negotiable. Same goes for the ricotta dumplings in a cacio e pepe sauce. You should also direct your attention to the chicken Parm, which manages to stay crunchy while sitting in a fire-roasted tomato marinara en route to your door.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken

There’s a lot of really excellent fried chicken in Chicago, but I’m partial to Honey Butter Fried Chicken (and so is Stephanie Izard). This popular Avondale spot has been serving up excellent fried chicken with honey butter for more than a decade. For first-timers, a great place to start is with one of the multi-piece baskets of breasts, thighs, and drumsticks served with honey butter and honeycomb-shaped cornbread.

Sophia Steak


This North Shore neighborhood steakhouse describes its dishes as “anti-steakhouse” takes on the classics. While many Chicago steakhouses are known for bedazzling diners with huge portions, Sophia takes a different approach, prioritizing responsible portions and reasonable prices. The ordering move here is the Sophia-style eight-ounce Black Angus filet with roasted mushrooms and cognac cream.

Frontera Grill


Frontera Grill hardly needs an introduction. This world-famous Mexican restaurant from Rick Bayless has been one of Chicago’s best restaurants since it opened in 1987. Although it’s no longer the hottest new restaurant in town, Frontera Grill is constantly adding new flavors and dishes to the menu, like slow-cooked suckling pig and crispy duck carnitas, and continues to be one of the best places for creative Mexican food in the city.

Southport Grocery & Cafe


For the past 20 years, Southport Grocery and Cafe has reigned as one of Lakeview’s best brunch spots, gaining a loyal following for its all-day breakfast and lunch menu — not to mention its city-famous cupcakes. Fans rave about the breakfast sandwich, which stacks ginger-sage sausage, local butterkäse cheese, a mustard-maple drizzle, arugula, and an over-easy egg on a house-made English muffin. Don’t sleep on the bread pudding pancakes, either.

Robert’s Pizza & Dough Company


At this Streeterville pizzeria, native New Yorker and certified pizzaiolo Robert Garvey churns out some of the best pies in Chicago. After spending 20 years testing dough recipes to create a crust that strikes the perfect balance between crunch and chew, Garvey finally succeeded and opened Robert’s in 2016. To his artisan thin crust, Garvey adds winning topping combinations (e.g., brussels sprouts and bacon, fennel and honey) that prove greater than the sum of their parts.

Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse


Arguably Chicago’s most iconic steakhouse, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse has been an institution since opening its doors in 1989. This place serves all the cuts you’d expect to find, like filet mignon and New York strip, plus more uncommon selections like the big-as-your-dinner-plate 48-ounce porterhouse. If you’re on the fence about what to get, the 22-ounce W.R. Chicago Cut is the steak that Gibsons is most famous for. This bone-in ribeye has been Gibsons’ best-selling steak since making its debut in the mid-90s. It’s named after Chicago Tribune food critic William Rice, whose idea it was for Gibsons to add this signature steak to the menu.

Gilt Bar


Since opening in 2010, this River North gastropub from Hogsalt Hospitality (Au Cheval) has earned many a Bib Gourmand for its modern tavern fare. On the menu, you’ll find a near-exact replica of the famous Au Cheval burger as well as excellent house-made pastas like the spicy vodka rigatoni and orecchiette with spicy pork sausage. There’s only one steak on the menu — the coal-fired rib eye — but it just so happens to be one of the best steaks in the city.

Ciccio Mio


This Italian joint from Hogsalt Hospitality (Au Cheval, Gilt Bar) has earned back-to-back Bib Gourmand awards for its delicious renditions of saucy Italian-American classics. Start with an order of the rustic fennel bread before carb loading on a house-made pasta like spicy vodka rigatoni, black truffle bucatini, or lasagna Bolognese rotolo. Save room for dessert because the chocolate pastry-cream-filled cannoncini, their flaky take on cannoli, are not to be missed.



At River North’s Sushi-San, you’ll find izakaya-inspired apps and Asian fusion entrées on the menu, but you’re likely here for the sushi, which is always fresh and expertly prepared. You can order maki rolls, nigiri, and sashimi a la carte, but your best bet is to order one of the restaurant’s signature San-Sets. Each one has a different assortment of sushi. For example, the Mr. Maguro Set has ten pieces of bluefin tuna sashimi and nigiri plus a maki roll, and the Mega Set has 16 varieties of sashimi and nigiri and two rolls. These are designed for sharing and are an affordable way to try a variety of Sushi-San’s best offerings.

Pleasant House Pub


Pleasant House Pub is a restaurant and bakery that specializes in classic British-style savory pies, known here as “Royal Pies.” All pies are handmade and feature a flaky, buttery crust and hearty, wholesome fillings. Choices range from traditional British fillings, like steak and ale and chicken balti, as well as less traditional ones like a vegan squash and sweet potato pie with North African spices.

Piece Pizzeria & Brewery


This Wicker Park pizzeria and brewery has been serving up New Haven-style pizzas and award-winning microbrews since 2001. Apart from Piece’s two specialty pizzas (Hot Doug’s Atomic Pizza and the HBFC Pizza), all of the pies here are BYO (build your own). For the best results, Piece suggests only adding up to three toppings. If you’re going true New Haven-style, try one with white sauce and clams.



Located next to Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, Brobagel comes from Piece owner Bill Jacobs, who ran Jacobs Bros. Bagels with his three brothers in the ’80s and ’90s. At Brobagel, bagels are made from scratch the same way they were back in the day: boiled in water, hand-dipped in seeds, baked on redwood planks, and finished on the oven’s hearth. There’s a standard array of flavors available, and you can get them with house-made schmears (try the sriracha cream cheese) or in sandwich form.

High Five Ramen


This Japanese-inspired ramen lair is known for serving some of the city’s best — and spiciest — bowls of ramen. High Five’s signature ramen features a traditional tonkotsu-style miso broth that’s cooked with pork bones for 18-plus hours. The broth is then spiked with Sichuan peppers and dried Japanese chiles. While spice-averse eaters can enjoy their ramen with “no spice,” those who can handle the heat can order their ramen at the ¼ spice, ½ spice, or full spice level. Those who dare can order their ramen with High Five’s “face-numbing, tear-jerking, unbearable” Kanabo spice.


Successfully opening a restaurant in 2020 is a big deal. Being named one of the best restaurants in America by food critics is an even bigger deal. Evette’s accomplished both. First-generation Lebanese American chef Mitchell AbouJamra, who named the restaurant after his grandmother, marries Lebanese and Mexican culinary traditions here. If you choose to order the tacos (as you should), go for the grilled halloumi and spit-roasted chicken shawarma versions.



Sister restaurant to Chicago’s highly-regarded Ema, Aba is a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with a California accent. The menu is mainly comprised of dishes that are meant to be shared, like spreads (don’t overlook the crispy short rib hummus) and mezze options, including crispy potatoes with mizithra cheese and Brussels sprouts tossed with an almond and cashew dukkah and drizzled with harissa honey.

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House


In 1997, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House opened its doors in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood right next to sister restaurant Gibsons. In addition to serving Gibsons’ steaks, Hugo’s menu also features a premier selection of seafood that’s flown in fresh daily from the East and West coasts. The ordering move here is the jumbo lump crab cake, which weighs in just shy of a half-pound.



This Italian-inspired retreat in Logan Square offers upscale Roman comfort foods. Freshly made pastas are the star here, so be sure to try the orecchiette di cacio e pepe or the bucatini alla carbonara. Testaccio also makes good use of the wood-burning oven that was left behind by the building’s former tenant, so you’ll also want to check out the seasonally rotating selection of entrées on the menu under “Forno a Legna.”

Prime & Provisions


This luxe steakhouse in the Loop serves some of the best steaks in the city. You’ll find only Linz Heritage USDA Prime Black Angus steaks here, which are dry-aged on-site in a Himalayan salt-lined aging room to further enhance the natural flavors of the beef. Beyond steak, you don’t want to miss the thick-cut bacon appetizer coated in a winning combination of black pepper, maple syrup, and dark chocolate.

Longman & Eagle


Since opening in 2010, this popular Logan Square gastropub has been lauded for its nose-to-tail, farm-to-table cooking. Chef Brian Motyka prioritizes sourcing ingredients from local farmers and food producers and places a huge focus on seasonality, so the menu changes often. But you can expect items like the wild boar sloppy joes and vegan cashew “sour cream” and onion dip to make regular appearances.

Big Star


This modern Mexican taco slinger from One Off Hospitality (Avec, The Publican) is a Chicago icon. Both the OG in Wicker Park and the newer Wrigleyville location have become go-tos for excellent guac, refreshing margs, and tacos made with hand-pressed tortillas. Go-tos are the crispy pork belly tacos with tomato-guajillo salsa and the beer-battered fish tacos with chipotle mayo and cabbage slaw.



​​This casual Croatian cafe in River North serves a short menu of healthy-ish breakfast and lunch dishes. For breakfast, Doma’s ćevapi, a sandwich of beef sausages and flatbread served with salted clotted cream and roasted pepper-eggplant spread, is the hangover cure you’ve been looking for. For lunch, omnivores should opt for Brato’s Turkey Sando, with turkey from Slagel Family Farms, bacon, house-made tahini slaw, dijonaise, and butterkäse cheese. The vegan Kata’s Klub, with roasted butternut squash, avocado, and house-made tahini slaw, is another stand-out.

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant


This authentic Ethiopian restaurant in Uptown from chef and owner Tigist Reda has been winning over diners since opening in 2007. To experience the best of what Demera has to offer, you’ll want to order one of the messob options, ashared platter of meat and vegetable dishes. Another good move: Order the sambussa sampler, featuring a combo of all five of Demera’s sambussa offerings (beef, chicken, cheese, lentil, and spinach) served with a sweet and spicy awaze sauce.

MingHin Cuisine


MingHin Cuisine is one of Chicago’s best Chinese restaurants. It is most loved for serving an all-day menu of classic and contemporary dim sum, with around 100 different dim sum dishes to choose from. Some of their signature dishes include the crackling Macau-style roasted pork belly, shrimp dumplings with green chives, pork and shrimp siu mai, and steamed BBQ pork buns.

Ghareeb Nawaz


The original location of this Indian-Pakistani spot has been a favorite on Chicago’s Devon Avenue (aka Little India) since it first opened in the early ’90s. Today, Ghareeb Nawaz has multiple locations in the Chicagoland area that all serve up hearty portions of authentic Indian specialties, like butter chicken, biryani, and daal, for low prices; even after raising prices due to inflation, most menu items still ring up around $10.



Born in Seoul and raised in Chicago, chef Bill Kim is a classically trained fine-dining chef known for his boldly flavored, borderless approach to Korean fare. Some of his most popular creations at Urbanbelly include the coconut curry pho, togarashi fries, and spicy chicken katsu ramen. If you can’t decide what to get, Kim makes ordering easier on indecisive diners with his “Phat Style” bowls that come loaded with three different proteins (lemongrass chicken, pork belly, and shrimp).

GG’s Chicken Shop


This casual counter-service spot in Chicago’s Southport Corridor comes from chef Lee Wolen of Michelin-starred Boka and Alla Vita. Over the years, Wolen has become somewhat of a legend when it comes to poultry (his roasted chicken at Boka and his chicken parm at Alla Vita are renowned city-wide). Wolen debuted GG’s Chicken Shop in 2020, running it as a virtual restaurant from Boka’s kitchen during the pandemic. In 2023, GG’s found its permanent home where diners can order Wolen’s celebrated chicken sandwiches, whole rotisserie chicken dinners, and more.



This reliable Lincoln Park neighborhood restaurant first opened back in 2009 as Gemini Bistro and was the first restaurant from Ballyhoo Hospitality (Coda di Volpe, Sophia Steak). In 2017, Gemini underwent renovations and dropped “Bistro” from the name. But some things didn’t change, including the faithful and familiar menu of American bistro-type dishes showcasing Midwest seasonality. Well-executed favorites include roasted salmon served with fregola sarda (a type of Sardinian pasta akin to couscous) as well as the steak frites.