The Best French Restaurants In Chicago
photo credit: GALDOPHOTO
We owe the French a lot. They gave us the Statue of Liberty, Léa Seydoux, and the very concept of a restaurant itself. Oh, and they also figured out that baking a layer of cheese on top of soup makes it taste delicious. Luckily, we happen to know the best French spots 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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
This River North spot looks like a typical white-tablecloth French restaurant. It’s not. Obelix expertly walks the tightrope of feeling formal without being stuffy. And that same balance is present in its menu, which is filled with a mixture of classic dishes like escargot and beef wellington, as well as playful, fusion-y ones like the foie gras-filled taco. Yes, we know the squab pithivier on the menu might say Serious French Restaurant, but it’s counterbalanced by a hip-hop playlist, and attentive servers who are chill enough to crack a few jokes.
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 barely big enough for you to 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 lapin en croute. In other words, Le Bouchon is the Paris of Wicker Park.
photo credit: Bistro Monadnock
Bistro Monadnock's entrance is on a tiny, easy-to-miss street that feels more like an alley. But it's worth seeking out (especially if you're in the Loop) since their French food is some of the best in the city, let alone in a neighborhood filled with fast-casual chains. The charming wooden space isn't too crowded, so spontaneously popping in for rich bouillabaisse by the open kitchen or escargot at the bar is very easy. And with a friendly chef who might show you what he just put in the dry-ager, plus servers happy to give a brief history lesson about the historic Monadnock building, every meal here makes being in the Loop an actually pleasant experience.
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.
photo credit: Kinship
The Loyalist is the casual French restaurant and bar in the basement of Smyth. It’s famous for its incredible burger, as evidenced by the conveyor belt of burgers coming out of the kitchen. But just because 95% of the tables at this crowded bar are filled with them doesn’t mean you should ignore the menu’s French dishes. Like the foie gras-filled eclairs, an otherworldly omelette filled with camembert and topped with buerre blanc, and beautifully seared gnocchi a la Parisienne. You can always order the burger for dessert.
This is a 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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
If you’re looking for a leisurely spot where you can commiserate about your former boss, or discuss important topics like the Bears relocation to Arlington Heights, book a table at Dear Margaret in Lincoln Park. This charming French Canadian restaurant has tasty dishes like foie gras terrine with fluffy milk bread, duck breast with lentils, and a friendly team who will leave you alone while you debate how French a French Canadian restaurant technically is. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place where you will want to take extra time to finish off that bottle of Pinot.
Bistro Campagne’s courtyard has brick walls, ivy, and lots of plants, and perfect for a quaint spot to have a romantic dinner outside. This French restaurant is also one of the best-kept secrets in Lincoln Square, which means the crowd (to the extent that there is one) is mostly regulars. You can eat inside too (the lovely little dining room is full of dark wood and tablecloths) but the outdoor patio is primarily where it's at. Stick with French classics, like escargot and boeuf bourguignon, and congratulate yourself on finding such a cute place.
One of the quaintest 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 some steak au poive or coq au vin. Come here for a quiet neighborhood date night, even if you don’t live nearby.
Located in the lobby of an apartment building in Lincoln Park, Mon Ami Gabi has an upscale 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 visiting in-laws.