The cuisines are just as varied, with every corner of the world represented through Korean, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean and Indian dishes. Whether you've been a lifelong resident or just visiting for the weekend, filling your face at one of these restaurants is easily one of the best things to do in Chicago. This belt-busting dining scene shows no signs of slowing down, so we got to the point and ranked our essentials as the best restaurants in town. An email you'll really love.
What is it? An excellent dining experience with two Michelin stars led by chef and owner Noah Sandoval. What is it? An old-school Italian meat and ice stand in Elmwood Park. What is it? A family-owned Mexican place in Archer Heights that is the G, O, A, T. When it comes to goat meat.
What is it? Kasama, a modern Filipino-American bakery and fine-dining restaurant created by Tim Flores and Genie Kwon (Oriole), has a Michelin-starred tasting menu and a selection of casual dishes throughout the day that will make you say, “I'll take one of each. What is it? A sushi counter with seating for eight people led by the bold and ambitious chef Otto Phan. What is it? An exclusive Korean restaurant by talented chef Dave Park and his partner Jennifer Tran. What is it? A European-style brewery focusing on pork and seafood from one of Chicago's most notable restaurant groups.
What is it? Chef and owner Stephen Gillanders' Pilsen restaurant, named after his wife's initials, offers an Asian-inspired menu that he's not afraid to experiment with. What is it? Translated into my namesake in Spanish, Mi Tocaya is an affectionate term that chef Diana Dávila has given to her neighborhood Mexican restaurant in Logan Square. What is it? A short Korean-American commercial for Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, James Beard winners. What is it? Chef Erick Williams' love letter to the Southern cooking experience through handed down recipes and reinvented expressions.
What is it? An opulent Gold Coast steakhouse that spares no expense to satisfy guests. What is it? The king of thin-crust pizza made the Chicago style. What is it? The gastronomic model founded by Boka Restaurant Group, one of the best culinary groups in Chicago. What is it? A cozy, British-inspired gastropub that's ideal for a couple of drinks or a full meal.
What is it? Top Chef alumna Sarah Grueneberg pasta park in the West Loop. What is it? A venerable sausage stand in River Grove. What is it? Chef Thai Dang and co-owner Danielle Dang's love letter to Vietnamese cuisine, which highlights rich flavors and overlooked dishes. What is it? An intimate Omakase restaurant with capacity for 10 people hidden inside Sushi-san.
What is it? A modern and exclusive Indian experience led by chef Sujan Surkar. What is it? Chicago's quintessential cash-only seafood smokehouse, located just north of the Indiana border. What is it? An excellent dining experience led by Michelin-starred chef Donald Young. What is it? A rite of passage for local chowhounds and visitors alike, Lem's is an institution-grade barbecue house that sells meaty produce and fried chicken.
What is it? An Asian-fusion venue that serves an eclectic selection of street-food-inspired sandwiches. What is it? A sandwich shop during the day and a Cambodian dining experience at night. What is it? A Peruvian standout who wears a fabulous rooftop during the summer months. What is it? A modern French bistro from the owners of Le Bouchon.
What is it? A beloved neighborhood family that has been doing all that “farm to table” stuff long before it even existed. What is it? Rick Bayless's innovative Mexican concept of fine dining. What is it? A South Asian concept that combines the region's street food with refined techniques. What is it? One of the few places in the city to enjoy Cambodian cuisine.
What is it? Known to many as QXY, this Chinatown pillar is Chicago's meatball authority. What is it? A simple siren call late at night that offers some of the tastiest hamburgers in the city. What is it? Taquería Chingón, a delicious homage to Mexico City's street restaurants, brings meat wrapped in pozole, ceviche and tortillas to Bucktown. What is it? An “untraditional” Chinese-American restaurant that only serves takeout and delivery.
What is it? Chicago's answer to Katz's Delicatessen, where cooks in paper hats serve gigantic sandwiches, plates of matzah ball soup and classic cafeteria dishes, such as meatloaf and pepper steak. What is it? An introductory course to Piedmontese regional cuisine with truffles, cream and egg pasta. What is it? Part liquor store, part bar, part restaurant, Marie's is a bygone relic that serves some of the best pizza in Chicago. What is it? A modern American restaurant with a strong Pan-Asian influence.
What is it? A Korean-inspired restaurant attached to Bridgeport's popular Maria's bar. What is it? A Logan Square brewery with an exceptional bread and pizza program. What is it? An unpretentious, warm and welcoming destination to enjoy delicious French-Canadian food. What is it? A dark, moody cocktail bar hidden behind a Chinatown takeaway restaurant.
What is it? A small Uptown pizzeria that specializes in great pies. What is it? A modern restaurant that has some of the longest lines in Chicago. What is it? Joe Frillman's noodle palace, which recently moved to a new, larger house in Logan Square. What is it? An ode to pork that dates back to 1975, when Inocencio Carbajal brought his famous recipe to Chicago from Michoacán, Mexico.
What is it? An Italian-American restaurant with capacity for 28 people in West Town that offers favorites such as minced salad, parmesan chicken and vodka rigatoni. What is it? A paradise for carnivores filled with duck fat sausages, duck wings and prime rib sandwiches, located on the Bridgeport-Pilsen border. What is it? An iconic family sandwich shop that sells biceps-sized Italian stackers with the best sausages in town. What is it? A Randolph Street stalwart who serves Midwestern-influenced Mediterranean dishes with an excellent wine list to go with it.
What is it? The only restaurant in Chicago with three Michelin stars, run by the great chef Grant Achatz. What is it? A taqueria attached to a corner store. What is it? A cozy hideaway for Chicagoans who love noodles and meatballs. What is it? An unpretentious neighborhood bar in Lincoln Park that serves Chicago-style pizza that's halfway between pan-fried pizza and the deep plate.
What is it? The long-awaited Fulton Market restaurant, run by Joe Flamm, winner of the Top Chef, combines his passion for Italian and Croatian cuisine. What is it? A tiny, gigantic restaurant that serves simple, unpretentious Midwestern food. What is it? Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser return to the Chicago food scene with a gastronomic model that offers a fixed menu of eight to ten courses. What is it? During the day, a place to have a cup of coffee and a Spanish sandwich served on a baguette (a sandwich).
At night, Bocadillo Market becomes a family-style Spanish restaurant, with tapas, olives and paella. What is it? With establishments in Lincoln Square and Uptown, Nhu Lan prepares bánh mì for both omnivores and vegetarians. What is it? Lawrence Fish Market, one of the best prices in town, is a cash-only seafood provider that pays only in cash and specializes in incredibly cheap sushi. What is it? The revival of a Chinatown classic, overseen by Kenny Yang of Strings Ramen Shops.
What is it? Rubi's permanent home in Pilsen, a longtime Maxwell Street Market taco vendor. What is it? A Chicago ice cream stand that has served a five-flavor cone for nearly a century. What is it? An exemplary North Side barbecue restaurant dedicated to the meatiest things in life, from brisket and shredded pork to chunks of St. What is it? A Costa Rican restaurant in Bucktown with a beautiful patio that's perfect for get-togethers with friends or a low-key date.
What is it? An old-fashioned drive-in theater where uniformed waiters bring sausages, chips and malts straight to the car window. What is it? A cafe focusing on meat and cheese, right next to the California Blue Line stop, that serves Metropolis coffee and sandwiches during the day, as well as cheese and cold cuts at night. What is it? Ina Mae Tavern, named after chef and owner Brian Jupiter's great-grandmother, brings the Big Easy to Wicker Park. What is it? A neighborhood bakery that serves a variety of incredibly creative delicacies, from an Italian meat galette to a brioche topped with pineapple, passion fruit and the delicious Tajín caramel.
What is it? An entirely plant-based (and gluten-free) concept by chef Rodolfo Cuadros, not far from his delicious Pan-Latin American restaurant Amaru in Wicker Park. Serving some of the best sushi in town, this warm and cozy room in West Town seems to encourage you to stay for hours, drinking sake and Japanese whiskey. Start with snacks like crispy chicken karaage or delicious roasted bone marrow served with ribeye tarare before moving on to the sashimi, nagiri, and maki selections. You'll find everything from bluefin tuna to Alaskan king crab on the menu, plus specialties that can be accompanied with optional caviar supplements.
But sushi at Arami doesn't just benefit seafood lovers. Yasai (vegetables) are available in maki or nigiri form and include a tender eggplant slice with miso and peanut dressing. When co-owners Manish and Rina Mallick first traveled to Goa, they were enthralled by the region's beautiful white sand beaches and Portuguese architecture. But the delicious cuisine of the coastal state of India left an even greater impression, with pristine seafood served alongside spicy curry and fluffy poi bread.
The couple founded Bar Goa with the help of chef Sahil Sethi to share these delights with Chicagoans, serving a variety of dishes that simply pair nicely with a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail. Steaming noodle bowls have been part of chef Bill Kim's menus since he opened his first restaurant, and diners have always been eager to savor his latest creations. Originally launched as an exclusive delivery concept, Bill Kim Ramen Bar specializes in broths that are based on Korean, Vietnamese and Mexican flavors, garnished with a creative variety of ingredients. Whether you're looking for a conventional bowl or ramen or something a little more adventurous, Kim has something you can spoonfully enjoy.
Stop by noon to enjoy chef Judy Contino's famous pastries and desserts, and you'll most likely be sitting in a chair at the charming little bakery for lunch. You won't go wrong with any of the few rotating options on the daily menu, such as carrot and jalapeño soup, spinach and ricotta quiche, or tuna salad sandwich. But make no mistake, it's all just a forerunner of that beautiful meringue tart and a long list of French-inspired pastries and baked goods. Mitchell AbouJarma, named after his Teta (“grandmother” in Lebanese Arabic) and inspired by the love she put into her kitchen, founded Evette's to share her delicious recipes with hungry Chicagoans.
Evette's, which serves dishes that convey bold Lebanese flavors, specializes in grilled shawarma, golden fries, and fresh salads that use as many local ingredients as possible. After a few bites, you may feel the heat of eating a carefully prepared meal. What type of cuisine makes you feel the most nostalgic? For chef Darnell Reed, it's about Southern food, such as fluffy cookies and very juicy fried chicken prepared by his great-grandmother, Luella, who arrived in Chicago in the 1940s via Morgan City, Mississippi. Reed's Lincoln Square restaurant pays homage to Luella with a menu inspired by her expert home cooking, which combines succulent fried chicken in double brine with buttermilk waffles and a delicious drizzle of syrup.
Take a bite and you'll wish you'd grown up eating Luella's meals too. Veterans of the Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Moto, chef D'Andre Carter and Heather Bublick founded Soul & Smoke as part of their catering company, but the concept has since taken on a life of its own. Headquartered in Evanston (with a takeaway location in Avondale and a kitchen at the Time Out Market in Chicago), the Soul & Smoke's menu is based on barbecued meats and homemade side dishes, including delicate smoked brisket and extremely creamy macaroni and cheese. Eat meat by the pound or between two rolls and don't lose sight of the Soul & Smoke food truck, which passes through farmers markets and festivals in Chicago and the suburbs.
Named after the Great Hall of Eternity in Norse mythology, Valhalla represents the greatest achievement of chef Stephen Gillanders' multi-decade culinary career, a journey that took him around the world while working for Jean-Georges Vongerichten before taking him to Chicago, where he opened the award-winning restaurants S, K, Y. Here at Time Out Market, Gillanders combines his experience as a globetrotter and his authentic dining experience to offer a tasting experience at the chef's counter with personal touches and luxurious cuisine that defies labels. Come in and get ready for a next-level meal, you could even call it heavenly. The best restaurants in Chicago come in all shapes and sizes, from Michelin-starred pizzerias and heavyweights to some of the best cheap restaurants Chicago has to offer.