French food is full of butter, cheese, and puff pastry - which means it’s pretty much the dream. Luckily, we happen to know the best spots to get it around the city. Whether you’re planning a casual dinner with friends, a fancy-ish date night, or a special occasion meal, use our guide to find exactly what you’re looking for.
This cafe in Humboldt Park is an all-day operation with an eclectic menu. You’ll find an assortment of things on toast (avocado, yes, but also calf brains), plus omelettes, salads, sandwiches, and a truly fantastic duck frites. It’s the type of casual neighborhood spot where you’ll see the chef chatting with the regulars, and people at the bar who look like they’ve been sitting there all day. The food and friendly environment may even make you consider moving just so you can be here more often.
Brindille is not interested in being anything other than a classic French restaurant. It’s an upscale place in River North, and it has a traditional appetizer/main course/dessert-style menu (no small plates here) - expect things like foie gras, butter-poached lobster, and almond clafoutis. The food is outstanding, but this is an especially good choice if you want to impress a date with fancy details. For example, your server may casually inform you that the silverware you’ve been using is 100 years old. So maybe make sure your date isn’t into “collecting” silverware that doesn’t belong to them.
Another Gold Coast French restaurant that’s nice enough for date night, but manages to remain affordable. Bistronomic has a straightforward menu, with dishes like duck breast and escargot, and everything is solid. The desserts here in particular stand out - like their “black and white” creme brulee (topped with bittersweet chocolate), which is really the only date we need.
It’s not surprising that Margeaux Brasserie is upscale and expensive, given that it’s located in the Waldorf Astoria in the Gold Coast. This is not the type of place where you might forget you’re in a hotel restaurant, either - you need to take an elevator to the second floor to reach it. Once you’re in the dining room, though, it does feel large and comfortable, with a huge bar and a view overlooking the high-end neighborhood shops. The menu has classics like steak frites and tartare, with a few more unusual things, like a foie gras parfait, to keep it interesting. Come here for a nice date - just understand that after dinner, you might not be able to afford shopping nearby anytime soon.
Chez Moi is a casual but nice French bistro in Lincoln Park. It’s small, rarely crowded, and not too expensive - all good qualities in a neighborhood restaurant. You’ll find plenty of classic dishes (like duck a l’orange) on the menu, and preparations change slightly with the seasons. Come with a date or group of friends for a casual weeknight meal - as long as none of your dinner companions is scared of butter, you’ll be good.
Located in the lobby of an apartment building in Lincoln Park, Mon Ami Gabi has an upscale French ambience, but isn’t overly fancy. It’s the kind of place you could easily see Ernest Hemingway pounding whisky at the bar, which makes you feel like you can do the same. At the very least, make sure to pound their French onion soup, which is excellent. This is a great spot for groups, or dinner with the parents.
One of the best French bistros in the city is actually in Little Italy. Chez Joel is small, has butcher paper on the tables, and is full of vintage posters that are cliche but still charming. The food here is fantastic - not groundbreaking, but perfect when you’re looking for a great steak au poive or coq au vin. Come here for a quiet neighborhood date night, even if you don’t live nearby.
When you imagine a quaint French restaurant, you probably think of something that looks a lot like Le Bouchon. It’s small and classically decorated, with a bar just big enough for you have dinner at if you so choose. It’s always crowded and a little loud, making it perfect for catching up with a few friends over cassoulet or bouillabaisse. In other words, Le Bouchon is the Paris of Wicker Park.
La Sardine feels like Le Bouchon’s more sophisticated grown-up sibling. Which isn’t totally surprising, since both restaurants are owned by the same people. As mentioned, La Sardine is fancier, and it’s in a bigger space in the West Loop. It’s perfect for date night or dinner with the parents.
If you’re hoping to make a good impression on a date near Lincoln Square, look no further than Bistro Campagne. The food here is seriously French - and the menu rarely changes, so it’s a good candidate if you’re on the hunt for a regular spot. They do an amazing beef bourguignon, and if the weather is nice, you should absolutely sit on the patio.
This is one of Chicago’s quintessential fancy French spots, and it’s been around for over 40 years. The restaurant is in a beautiful brownstone off of Michigan Avenue in Streeterville, and its high-class vibe is very present throughout your meal. You’re here for a four-course prix fixe menu that starts at $135 - or you can go with five courses for $145. And since you probably won’t be back anytime soon, you might as well.
Maude’s is more of a modern take on a French bistro than it is traditionally French. While there are plenty of standard French options and preparations (like mussels and cassoulet), you can also go for the “Almost French” dishes, like a French onion fondue dip - basically a French onion soup reduced to the point that you can spread it on bread. The downstairs space feels like a bistro, while the upstairs has more of a French speakeasy ambience. Come here on a date, or with friends who like spreading things on bread.
Did you know there’s a fancy French restaurant on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange? Now you do. Everest is stuffy, but the view is beautiful and the food is excellent. You can get three courses for $98, four for $135, or do the full-on eight-course tasting menu for $165. This is where to go with your rich aunt - and hope she’s paying.