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. So it’s understandable if you don’t find yourself here too often. But there do 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.
Somerset is one of the best restaurants in the entire city, and it’s good for a special occasion, but also just a nice night out. The American menu is versatile enough to please everyone, with dishes ranging from an excellent smoked beet tartare to pastas that outshine those at most of Chicago’s Italian restaurants. The space is upscale, with non-kitschy nautical touches, and the service is great. If you come here and don’t like your meal, you’re probably just wrong.
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.
There’s nothing understated about Maple and Ash, which positions itself as the “club kid” of the Gold Coast restaurants - a trendy alternative to spots like Gibson’s. It has chandeliers, candelabras, and a $145 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. Eight 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.
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 great 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 housemate pastas.
If you’re wandering around looking for Table 52, we have some sad news - it’s gone. But the good news is that it was replaced by Blue Door, where you can still 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, of course, which is never disappointing - unsurprisingly, since it’s from the same folks who run Au Cheval and Gilt Bar. 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 place has been around for so long you might have forgotten all about it (since 1996, which makes it about 100 years old in restaurant years). It’s an elegant Vietnamese spot with indoor palm trees and an ironwork balcony that looks like it belongs in New Orleans. Come with your parents and get shrimp and chicken beignets, followed by the Goi Bo - a cold spicy beef salad. It’s quiet, kind of fancy, and a totally acceptable alternative to a place serving six-pound pieces of cake.
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 excellent 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.
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.