CHIGuide

The 25 Best Restaurants In Chicago

Meet our 25 highest-rated restaurants.
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photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Have you ever woken up and thought, “Gosh, I’d love to eat at a second-best restaurant today?” Of course you haven’t. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or are visiting for the first time, it’s human nature to want to experience the best of the best. And that’s exactly why we wrote this guide.

These are the highest-rated restaurants in Chicago—the ones we’d sit in an hour of traffic on the Dan Ryan to get to and wouldn't complain if it were two. Food and experience are both taken into consideration, and any type of dining establishment is fair game. On this list you’ll find fancy spots, casual hangouts, and walk-up windows. Every city has its classics and its hot new places, but these are restaurants where greatness is guaranteed.

THE SPOTS

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$$$$Perfect For:Fine DiningImpressing Out of TownersSpecial OccasionsUnique Dining Experience
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In a perhaps not-very-interesting turn of events, Chicago’s most famous restaurant is also our highest-rated. If you have a fancy restaurant bucket list, Alinea is probably on it. Of course, fame and 50-minute features on Chef’s Table don’t necessarily mean a place is worth your time (or in this case, several hundreds of dollars)—but Alinea definitely is. Regardless of which tasting menu you choose (there are three ranging from $315-$495 with between 10-15 courses), the mish-mash of flavors is devastatingly good with Thai, Mexican, and French inspirations all at play. And a meal here is also guaranteed to be an experience—with theatrics (like fog machines), molecular gastronomy (egg “yolks” that transform into bread), and great servers (who are genuinely funny) that you won’t easily forget.


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$$$$Perfect For:Serious Take-Out OperationSpecial OccasionsDate Night

Kasama is a chameleon. By day this Ukrainian Village Filipino spot is a low-key cafe that serves a longanisa breakfast sandwich (as spotted on season two of The Bear) that could lure any chronic snooze button-hitter out of bed. By night it transforms into a softly lit, fine dining restaurant. Whether we’re just grabbing lunch or celebrating an anniversary with a $255, 13-course dinner, the warm service and spectacular food have us wishing every meal had an “instant replay” option. And we’d gladly get stuck in a never-ending loop if it meant constantly getting to relive dishes like umami-packed mushroom adobo with mussel emulsion and their pear granita halo halo.


If Xocome Antojeria in Archer Heights were a movie, then the protagonist would be the unbelievable masa, the base for the restaurant’s incredible tacos, tlacoyos, picaditas, enchiladas, and giant quesadillas. And while the masa is the main reason we wish this counter-service spot were open for longer hours (they close at 8pm) the fillings aren’t just supporting characters—they’re stars in their own right. Xocome uses tender filet mignon for their asada, and everything from the rich red mole to the earthy huitlacoche hongos is perfectly seasoned. The long menu can be overwhelming, so to avoid an existential crisis make sure you get a tlacoyo, something filled with carne asada, and a pambazo just for fun. Everything’s made-to-order, so expect to wait a while for your food. But just sit back, enjoy whatever concert they have on the TV, and get ready for the best Mexican food in Chicago.


This tasting menu spot doesn’t have a team of servers in uniform, wine pairings, or a hushed atmosphere filled with couples who just dusted off their anniversary outfits. It’s a BYOB place in Wicker Park that serves an incredible 14-course dinner for $165 set to the soundtrack of alt hip-hop. The chefs are also the servers, and they’ll casually drop foie gras pancakes in a raisin-miso broth on the table as if they aren’t about to change your life. The restaurant is tiny, the bathroom is in the center of the kitchen, and speaking of the kitchen, yes the table next to you just gave them a six-pack. The food is phenomenal, with just enough molecular gastronomy to let you know whoever’s cooking can’t be that drunk. Expect to be offered shots of whiskey at the end of your meal.


If you’ve read this far, clearly Chicago isn’t suffering from a shortage of incredible tasting menu spots. Oriole is another one that will give you one of the best meals of your life for a high price tag ($295). Despite the price, the environment (which you enter through a non-working freight elevator in an alley in the West Loop) isn’t stuffy at all. Attentive servers provide just the right amount of context while presenting you with dishes that will reframe your thoughts—like a truffle pasta with the power to finally convince you that truffles aren’t just a scam. And when it's time for the foie gras course (billowy foie mousse topped with blueberries on toasted brioche) you'll be moved to a counter seat in front of the open kitchen because we can only assume the chefs want to watch your face while you eat it.


A few things set Chicago apart from other major U.S. cities. One, you can find reasonably sized apartments that won’t force you to store your old yearbooks in your oven. Two, we have Monteverde. This is the first place we make reservations at when someone from the East Coast tells us they're visiting. Every Italian dish is fantastic, from the housemade pastas like cacio e pepe and gnochetti con pesto, to the ragu alla Napoletana (with perfectly cooked pork shank, sausage, meatballs, and fusilli), which is one of the most delicious plates of food we’ve ever eaten. And we’ve yet to find a scenario where coming here isn’t a great idea. Come here on a date, come with a group, or come alone and sit facing the pastificio so you can smile maniacally at all the pasta you can’t wait to consume.


One-year anniversary? Your boss's boss is visiting from corporate? Just want a perfectly cooked bone-in ribeye and piece of chocolate cream pie that’s so good you’ll order a second for the car ride home? Go to Bavette’s. This dark steakhouse (filled with plush leather booths and 1920s jazz music) is like hanging out in the windowless parlor of some rich old lady’s mansion. Everything about the space seems designed to keep you there forever, including a basement that has its own separate vibe (that vibe is “sexy Blair Witch house party with no visible exits”). It’s also the best steakhouse in a city full of them. And that said, some of the best dishes here (like the fried chicken, short rib stroganoff, and complimentary bread—yes it’s that good) aren’t even steak at all.


Alegrias and its big, fat 8.9 rating is on a stretch of Ashland teeming with mariscos restaurants. Naturally, you might wonder: What makes this West Town spot so special? Is it because it’s BYOB? That there’s a sidewalk patio and garage-style windows? Charmingly chaotic nautical decor and a goofy shark painting ushering you to the upper level? Yes to all of the above. But our love for this place is primarily because of the incredible seafood. Like a platter of prawns swimming in a buttery Nayarit sauce begging to have their little heads sucked clean, or an entire stuffed lobster crammed with so much tender seafood it’s obscene. There’s nowhere we’d rather go with a group, where the meal is guaranteed to include satisfied groans, discarded shells, empty bottles of hot sauce, and joy.


At some point during a meal here everyone experiences what we call “The Galit Moment”—the inevitable realization that this place is f*cking good. The smoky cinnamon-braised brisket hummus could make it happen. Or it could be the falafel with mango and pickled turnips. Perhaps the mushroom-stuffed cabbage with saffron mujadara will be the culprit. This Middle Eastern spot’s $88 tasting menu is just that great. And with a relaxed, airy dining space that works just as well for a casual date with yourself as it does for a special anniversary, any reason to visit Galit is the best one.

photo credit: Kim Kovacik

Despite the aggressive name (and the fact that Warlord doesn’t take reservations), this New American spot in Avondale is very welcoming. Chefs will playfully present a Miller High Life like it’s a vintage cabernet, and tell you to stay at your candlelit table for as long as you want—and since they're open until 2am, that can be a pretty long time. The food is why you’ll want to stay forever. The menu changes everyday, which is both exciting—"this ramp pasta is incredible"—and bittersweet—"will I ever see these miso butter scallops again?" It’s playing hard to get, and makes us want this spot even more. But at least there is one constant on the menu, an incredible burger that is guaranteed to pair well with the High Life.


Every single taco at this counter-service Logan Square taqueria is impressive, and your “favorite” is whichever one we happen to be eating at that moment. They’re all made with chewy handmade corn tortillas with your choice of filling—like morcilla (made with blood, bread, onion, and apples that’s topped with brown butter salsa macha), duck carnitas, and tender al pastor. And while there are no tables inside, they have a busy covered sidewalk patio that feels like a neighbor's backyard party. Bring a six-pack from the liquor store next door, look for an open seat, and prepare to make friends.


The sandwiches at J.P. Graziano are so incredible, we had a friend fly across the country with a muffaletta in their carry-on, eat it the next day, and still declare it the one they’ve ever had. This iconic family-run Italian deli and sub shop in the West Loop has been around since 1937, long before the West Loop was the Disney World of restaurants. The industrial-looking exterior hasn’t changed since the neighborhood was full of meatpacking warehouses, and inside they’re making some of the most delicious Italian subs and sandwiches in the city. And now that J.P.’s takeout window is open until 1am on the weekends, it provides a way better late-night option than we deserve.


Blah blah blah, Chiu Quon is technically a bakery, not a restaurant. We don’t care. Any place where we can grab a seat, order something for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and eat while watching someone lovingly fold dumplings and hand-pull noodles is a restaurant. This cash-only spot has been in Chinatown for over 40 years, and there is no better place in the city for steamed rice cakes with shrimp, soft and fluffy baked BBQ pork buns, and egg tarts with flaky crusts that will stick to your lips and embarrass you if you don’t check the mirror after inhaling one.


If a restaurant on this guide specializes in one thing (in Birriera Zaragoza’s case, goat) it has probably catapulted itself into being the platonic ideal. This braised meat at this tiny taqueria in Archer Heights is the gold standard by which all other Chicago birrierias are judged. The goat is tender and juicy, and has just the right amount of funkiness that’s balanced out by their smoky arbol consomé. And the handmade tortillas are the best goat delivery system. This place is what makes all the other birria spots in the city necessitate a Rocky-style training montage just to compete.


5 Rabanitos in Pilsen is where we take out-of-towners to show off Chicago’s great Mexican food scene. It’s colorful and crowded, busy with large groups sharing platters of crispy carnitas, couples splitting the enchiladas, and poor hungover souls fighting for their lives over steaming bowls of pozole. There’s no wrong way to order here—get the tacos, anything from the huge vegetarian menu, the carne asada, or the very spicy ahogada torta. The menu is long, and the service is so friendly you won’t want to leave. Even when they (very politely) ask you to because they’re closing for the night.


Kyoten was our highest-rated sushi restaurant until it was dethroned by Kyoten Next Door, its younger sibling. This 10-seat sushi omakase takes everything that's great about the original and does it better in a more casual setting and for less money. It's still expensive ($159 for 18 courses) but dinner at this Logan Square spot involves phenomenal nigiri made with high-quality fish, heavily seasoned large-grained rice, and a piece of blowtorched wagyu that puts your favorite steakhouse to shame. Kyoten Next Door is where to go for a reminder that Chicago does sushi as well as New York or LA.

If you press your face up against the window of Obelix, well, you’ll want to wash your face. You’ll also see what appears to be a typical, white-tablecloth French restaurant. It’s not. While this River North spot is a place where the waitstaff folds our napkin whenever we leave our seat, it’s also somewhere we can casually pop in for drinks with friends and split foie gras tacos at the bar. Obelix expertly walks the tightrope of feeling formal without being stuffy. And that same balance is present in its menu filled with a mixture of classics like escargot and playful, fusion-y ones like the foie-co. Somehow, Obelix has made eating 10-day dry-aged duck breast and French onion soup exactly what we want to be doing with our Saturday night.


Daisy’s will do more to improve your quality of life than a team of personal assistants ever could. Not only does this New Orleans-inspired restaurant in Hyde Park have the best po’boys we’ve encountered in Chicago, but it’s also a blast. The spacious, counter-service restaurant has staff that makes us laugh, live music, and boozy batch cocktails that aren’t too sweet. Along with po’boys, the menu has classics like fried chicken and a rich seafood gumbo that's especially lovable because a little crab claw cheerfully pokes out of it—encouraging you to accept things as they are. And while Daisy’s is extremely casual, it’s still a great place to celebrate a birthday, promotion, anniversary, or your fictitious personal assistant’s birthday.


It would hurt our souls to publish a list of best restaurants in Chicago without including deep dish. Thankfully Pequod's is incredible, so we don’t have to. This sports bar in Lincoln Park is our highest-rated pizza spot in Chicago, and is the one place we tell people visiting Chicago for the first time to go. Unlike traditional Chicago-style deep dish (the often maligned version with sauce on top) Pequod’s does pan-style pies, with a spicy sauce underneath the toppings and a thick and airy crust. What really sets the pizza here apart, though, is the “caramelized” crust, a.k.a. the burnt edges of crispy cheese around the edge. And now that Pequod’s takes reservations, you don’t need to wait hours for a table.

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On the surface, Giant seems like every other new American restaurant we’ve encountered over the past decade—meaning it has a minimalist aesthetic and a seasonal small plates menu that reads like a game of Mad Libs. So why do we take every possible opportunity to tell people to eat here? Because this white-brick-wall-and-wood filled spot manages to make a dish like “broccoli chickpeas mint” a must-order (it has a lot to do with fried garlic and honey) along with every other incredible thing on the menu that includes 45 unmentioned ingredients. The servers are always coolly enthusiastic about whatever they’re serving, and despite the small space you never feel cramped or desperate to get your check.


When all else fails, go to Avec. The food at this West Loop Mediterranean small-plates place always makes us happy—particularly staple dishes like the bacon-stuffed, chorizo-wrapped dates, and the taleggio flatbread. The communal dining room feels like a wooden shoebox, so you’ll probably be sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers. But these strangers are having a wonderful meal, which means this crowded place is always enjoyable whether you’re here celebrating a birthday, or on a 76th date with the person you share a Netflix account with. It’s imperative to eat at Avec at least once a year to remind yourself how reliably outstanding it is.


photo credit: Kim Kovacik

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In a city full of classic Ukrainian spots, this place is an exciting addition. Eating at Anelya feels like a fever dream. Trippy flower-like lamps shower this Avondale restaurant in colorful light, while servers zip around with sparkly zakusky carts to the tune of European synthpop. But the excitement really ramps up once the food joins the party. Tiny trout roe tarts cram the flavors of a lox bagel into a single bite, and the lokshyna’s comforting layers of garlicky egg noodles and farmer’s cheese could dethrone ice cream as the go-to post-break-up food. Add Anelya’s boozy housemade vodka infusions and delicious not-too-sweet napoleon to the mix, and you have the best Ukrainian meal in the city.

We love this multi-faceted Scandinavian restaurant in the West Loop. With the option of either a $125 nine-course menu or ordering a la carte, this bright and airy spot works well for both a special occasion or something a bit more low-key. It doesn’t matter whether you’re kicking off the tasting menu with “tea of lightly smoked fruits and vegetables," sharing small plates of housemade pasta or cured fluke, or on a solo mission to eat sunflower seed parfait with bee pollen—coming here is always a great choice. Plus, they have an outdoor area with a fireplace that’s great for drinks before or after dinner.


Whether you grab a seat at this counter-service Nepalese spot or get your meal to go, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re eating the best momos in Chicago. The Momo World specializes in (you guessed it) momos, and we’ve never ordered one we didn’t immediately want to give a standing ovation. Want something simple? Get the tender and chewy steamed. Is Mars in Scorpio and you’re in the mood for something saucy or smokey? Go for the tomato-y jhol or crispy tandoori momos served on a skewer. With so many preparations and different flavorful fillings like chicken, pork, or vegetable, there’s a celestially dictated momo for everyone.


Spacca Napoli is a reason to be jealous of people who live in Ravenswood. Not because it’s a quiet neighborhood filled with lush trees and charming single-family homes. But because it means you’re within walking distance to this casual Italian spot’s outstanding Neapolitan pizza. The pies here have inviting, melty centers, puffy edges, and perfectly thin crust. If you eat inside you can see the wood-burning oven responsible for these perfect pizzas in action, but our favorite way to “do” Spacca is by sitting on their sidewalk patio with a glass of wine in hand, and approximately five pizzas on the table.


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