CHIGuide

The Best Restaurants In The Gold Coast

Our favorite places to eat in the neighborhood.

The Gold Coast isn’t suffering from an identity crisis. It knows exactly what it is: a rich neighborhood full of expensive high rises, historic mansions, luxury boutiques, and dogs in baby carriages. And it gives exactly zero f*cks what you think. But there happen to be some excellent restaurants in the area that are worth a visit, so forget any hangups you may have about pets with their own personal shoppers, and check these places out.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Matthew Reeves

Adalina review image

Adalina

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Do you like a large dining room and a sea of white tablecloths? How about servers in tuxedo jackets? Well, you will find all of these things at Adalina, an upscale Italian restaurant in the Gold Coast. And even though this sounds like the ingredients of a stuffy restaurant, this spot definitely isn't. In fact, this place is kind of a crowded sh*tshow, which, frankly is part of the fun. Plus, the food is good. The menu has dishes like gnocco fritto with prosciutto, whipped ricotta, and honey (a fantastic starter) housemade pastas like a wonderful ravioli with corn, truffle, and balsamic drizzle, and entrees like a tender bone-in veal parmigiana. Come here with a group for a fun, fancy dinner, or on a date where you don't care if it's loud and you like to people-watch.


This is the epitome of a classic Chicago steakhouse, and one of the most iconic restaurants around. You can expect fantastic steaks, traditional sides, and great service, all right in the middle of the unfortunately named “Viagra Triangle.” But you won’t just be eating with high-rolling Gold Coasters—it’s usually full of tourists and Chicagoans celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, too. The massive desserts here are no joke - the signature carrot cake literally weighs about six pounds. So bring a sturdy tote bag if you plan on taking a slice home.


Just about everything we just said about Gibson’s can also be applied to Hugo’s, since they share a kitchen and have the same owners. But while Gibson’s focuses on steak, Hugo’s is a seafood spot. Even though both restaurants cater to the same kind of clientele, Hugo’s feels a bit more stiff, with service that’s unapologetically old-school. Come here when you want to celebrate, have a business dinner, or just sit at the bar by yourself with giant slice of cake and oysters—maybe that will liven the place up a little bit.


Maple & Ash imageoverride image
8.1

Maple & Ash

$$$$(312) 944-8888
Hours:SATURDAY11:00AM to 12:00AM

There’s nothing understated about Maple and Ash. It has chandeliers, candelabras, and a $200 tasting menu called “I don’t give a f*@ck,” which you can opt for if you want the kitchen to decide what you eat. But we’re not complaining. It’s a great restaurant that can support either a large group or a quiet dinner for two. This is where to eat when an occasion calls for going all out, and you want to do so in a space that feels kind of like the mansion from Dracula. (At least, the one from the ’90s movie version with Keanu Reeves and Gary Oldman’s hairstyle that looks like a butt.)


Yes, this is the bar/restaurant you have to walk through to get to Maple & Ash. But as far as this guide is concerned, it counts as a separate place. The Bar is much more casual, and while there is some menu crossover, the elevated bar food here is for the most part completely different. You can get a cheeseburger, lamb chop lollipops, or some charred bratwurst, and the outdoor patio is perfect for eating lunch while wishing-slash-pretending that you don’t have to go back to work.


This Italian restaurant in the Thompson hotel is never as busy as it should be, considering how great the food is. Nico’s menu is seafood-focused, but our favorite things to get are primarily the pastas and desserts. And while there’s a good chance you’ll be able to walk in and get a table in the main dining room, we prefer sitting at the long chef’s counter. It gives us a view of the open kitchen, and we can stare blankly at the cooks while we eat our rigatoni with bolognese and panna cotta.


It’s not the most subtle name, but it definitely gets the point across. This Gold Coast restaurant is the third location of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat (the others are in Hyde Park and Orland Park). As you might have deduced from the name, it’s a plant-based restaurant with vegetarian versions of tasty things like buffalo shrimp, hoagies, cheesesteaks, and pizza puffs. Just know that this place is takeout-only, so plan on getting your vegan loaded fries to go.


Most places in the Gold Coast are either high-end or ultra-casual. If you want something more mid-range, though, don’t give up—try La Storia. This place is serving pretty good Italian food in a space that’s nice, but still relaxed. You’ll be eating with the Gold Coast regulars, i.e. business folks and old money, and it isn’t exactly inexpensive, but it still feels like it could be at home in any Chicago neighborhood. Try the excellent housemade pastas.


It’s not surprising that The Brasserie is expensive, given that it’s located in the Waldorf Astoria. This isn’t the type of place where you might forget you’re in a hotel either—you need to take an elevator to the second floor to reach it. But the dining room is large and comfortable, with a huge bar and a view overlooking the neighborhood shops. The menu has classics like steak frites and tartare, with a few dishes (like a foie gras parfait) that keeps it interesting. Just understand that after dinner, you might not be able to afford shopping anywhere nearby.


Bistronomic is another French spot, but more casual than Margeaux, and manages to remain (reasonably) affordable. This place has a straightforward menu, with dishes like duck breast and escargot, and everything is solid. But compared to everything else, the desserts stand out—like their excellent “black and white” creme brulee (topped with bittersweet chocolate), which is a good enough reason by itself to come here.


Blue Door is a Southern restaurant where you can get comfort food like fried chicken, or go for more creative seasonal options like duck confit with parsnips. It’s located in the carriage house of the Biggs Mansion, and the inside has the kind of elegant, old-world feel a modern building just can’t fake. There’s also a great courtyard patio, which is one of the most serene outdoor seating areas in the city. It’s good for date night, dinner with the parents, or even a relaxing meal with good friends.


Eating in the center of a five-story Restoration Hardware’s giant atrium sounds like it’s just a small step above getting lunch at the mall, but we love the 3 Arts Cafe and completely embrace it. The space alone is impressive, with glass ceilings, couches, and a water fountain underneath a giant crystal chandelier. You’re also here for the food, which is never disappointing. This place is open every day for breakfast, brunch, and early dinner (it closes at 8pm), and we like it best at lunchtime, when it’s bright inside and we can eat a truffle grilled cheese before touching all the stuff we can’t afford at Restoration.


This Vietnamese restaurant has been around for so long that you might have forgotten all about it (since 1996, which makes it about 100 years old in restaurant years). But Le Colonial recently moved, and like your brother who refuses to leave Beverly, it’s still in the Gold Coast. Now it’s on the third floor overlooking Oak Street, but has the same sort of 1920s French-colonial atmosphere as before, with indoor palm trees and lots of wicker and bamboo. Come with your parents and get shrimp and chicken beignets, followed by the Goi Bo. It’s quiet, kind of fancy, and an acceptable alternative to a place serving six-pound pieces of cake.


Chicago Q

$$$$(312) 642-1160
Hours:SATURDAY11:00AM to 12:00AM

This is an upscale BBQ place that feels kind of like a fancy Southern home inside. You’re here for tender ribs, addictive complimentary pickles, and excellent sides like mac and cheese and cornbread. There’s a front patio for warm days, a second-floor wine room for intimate events, and large leather booths that can fit big groups. We’re not sure that eating here before trying on a Louis Vuitton suit is a good idea, but we’re also not sure it’s a bad one.


Don’t dismiss this place because it’s at the bottom of a Hilton. Mirai serves great sushi, from sashimi and nigiri to more creative rolls. It’s not cheap, because good sushi never is, but it’s also not super fancy or overpriced. It’s one of our favorite sushi spots in the city, and good enough to warrant a visit even if you’re not already in the area.


We’re big fans of this little counter-service Indian spot. The menu is short–they have some build-your-own rice bowls and wraps (with chicken or paneer and tikka sauce). But the best things at Moti are their chaats, particularly the bhel, samosas, and the pani puri. Everything is nicely spicy and perfect for a quick, affordable meal before you decide to go spend $80 on a pair of socks.


Perfect for when you’re with a group that can’t make a decision, or by yourself looking for something casual. This place has the type of broad menu that normally raises red flags (when we see barbecue ribs, ahi tuna, and pizza all at the same place, we don’t expect much), but in this case, it actually delivers. You can get something low-key and kind-of-healthy that’s still a step up from take-out food, and many times less expensive than that steakhouse tasting menu you were considering as a backup.


Jake Melnick’s feels a little out of place on the corner of Wabash and Superior, but we are glad it’s there. Let’s be clear—we don’t think Melnick’s is winning any awards for an all around phenomenal restaurant anytime soon. But they do have great wings, a lot of TV’s, and a solid beer list, all of which make it enough of a reason to have on the radar if you're in the neighborhood. The wings are crispy and plump, with flavors like firecracker, Buffalo, and whiskey BBQ—which is made with whiskey and bacon. So, no explanation needed for why that last one happens to be our favorite.


Temporarily Closed

Technically this place is on the border of the Gold Coast and Streeterville, but it’s worth crossing that busy part of Michigan Avenue for. Marisol is located in the MCA, and it serves food you want to eat even if you’re not here looking at art installations featuring a singular cotton ball under black light. You’ll find dishes like sunflower seed hummus, housemade pastas, and fried quail with date honey that tastes like fancy chicken and waffles. Plus, the versatile space has a bar area that’s casual enough for a bite with a few friends, and a separate section perfect for dinner with someone who wants to talk about how cotton balls represent consumerism. Or something.

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