CHIGuide

The 25 Best Restaurants In Chicago

Meet our 25 highest-rated restaurants.

The 25 Best Restaurants In Chicago  guide image

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

photo credit: Matthew Gilson

Alinea review image
9.4

Alinea

$$$$(312) 867-0110
Hours:WED
5PM-12AM

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. The $295, 15-course 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.


Kasama is a chameleon. By day this Ukrainian Village Filipino spot is a low-key cafe that serves a longanisa breakfast sandwich 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 $235, 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.


photo credit: Sandy Noto

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9.3

Esmé

$$$$

If we tell you to spend $200 on a 12-15 course tasting menu, you can count on getting goosebumps at least once during the meal. This fine-dining spot in Lincoln Park has everything we look for in a dinner designed to make us feel as luxurious and cared for as a cherished racehorse. The three-hour dinner never drags, courses flow together seamlessly, and (most importantly) each experiential dish is fun without being too whimsical. A singular charred rib with banana caramel, for instance, comes wrapped around a ceramic “bone” you eat like a Flintstone character. There’s also savory sweet potato ice cream topped with caviar, and a canapé that tastes like a Cheeto from the future. Plus, the magician that did the restaurant’s lighting made sure everyone looks like they’re wandering around naturally FaceTuned.


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 7pm) 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 12-course dinner for $170 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.


photo credit: Garrett Sweet

Oriole review image
9.2

Oriole

$$$$(312) 877-5339
Hours:WED
5:30PM-9:30PM

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 ($285). 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 dish is fantastic, from the housemade pastas like cacio e pepe and tortelli di zucca, 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 zesty Tangier sausage. Perhaps the mushroom-stuffed cabbage with saffron mujadara will be the culprit. This Middle Eastern spot’s $78 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.


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), campechano, 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.


We’re constantly spamming our friends with reminders about the huaraches at this tiny counter-service spot in Edgewater. But with perfectly seasoned al pastor and pillowy housemade masa, you’ll become Huaraches Doña Chio’s unofficial spokesperson, too, after trying their huaraches. And it’s not just the namesake dish that’s fantastic—their enchiladas bathed in a deeply smoky mole made by the owner’s grandma in Mexico will take up permanent residence in your daydreams. While it’s not exactly a place big enough to host your next family reunion, if you’re looking for a place to have an incredible Mexican meal alone or with just your inner circle, this is the spot.


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.


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.

The Best Pizza Places In Chicago  guide image

CHI Guide

The Best Pizza Places In Chicago

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: Haas and Haas

Parachute imageoverride image
8.7

Parachute

RESERVE A TABLE

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open table
$$$$773-654-1460
Hours:WED
5PM-10PM

Like a family member who you’ve cheered on through all their phases—JV tennis underdog to that brief stint as a farmer in the Netherlands—we’ve gladly supported each of Parachute’s iterations. From its start as a Korean American restaurant, to the takeout-only era where it was selling take-and-bake bing bread, this place is consistently exceptional. Now it’s strictly a Korean restaurant, serving a short menu of dishes like pork bossam with perfectly rendered belly and tender collar, and spreads of flavorful banchan that make a trip here worth it on their own. The small space is as charming as ever, with an open kitchen so you can keep an eye on your twe gim tempura, and an eclectic soundtrack playing everything from Diana Ross to Oasis.


We don’t say this lightly: Soule has the Feel Good Factor™. This soul food restaurant in West Town will improve your mood, even on the darkest day of winter, when you spent three hours fighting with neighbors over the lawn flamingo you used to call dibs for your parking spot. And while that’s partly due to the upbeat atmosphere and servers who sit down at your table while you order (who are so likable you want them to stay), the delicious soul food (like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and peach cobbler) is also key. Whether or not you actually need to be comforted, the comfort food here will do the job.


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.


An under-the-radar burger joint in the West Loop…just kidding. This place is so legendary, that there’s an Au Cheval shuttle from O’Hare for people visiting Chicago. But the burger (which is indeed wonderful, with its grilled double patty, thick-cut bacon, and buttery bun) isn’t the only reason to wait three hours to eat inside this walk-in-only restaurant masquerading as a dark bar. Dishes like the bone marrow with oxtail marmalade are outstanding, the duck heart hash is fantastic, and the glazed chicken wings should be on your table, too. Yes, the wait is ridiculous, but when that blessed text message letting you know your table is ready arrives, sit down, settle in, and ignore the impatient people staring hungrily from the vestibule.


Rose Mary has been booked since before it even opened, which isn’t surprising considering this place is from a popular Top Chef winner and in a popular neighborhood. But this hyped-up spot is also a great restaurant. The crni rizot is what the ocean would taste like if it made a wish to become risotto. There’s a plate of cevapi, and the garlicky sausages are perfect for sharing, and incredible pastas. And despite every table being filled, you’ll always be seated in a timely fashion, have a relaxed dinner with clairvoyant servers who bring the check exactly when you’re ready to leave. . Which, by your last course, will be never.

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