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15 restaurants that define Chicago

A photo of Red logo
by Kristine Hansen and Sarah Freeman
Updated December 15, 2023

The Windy City has long prided itself on its groundbreaking restaurant scene. But in recent years, the rest of the country has noticed as well. Chicago’s best restaurants have routinely scooped up MICHELIN stars and launched the careers of star chefs such as Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard.

An opulent Gold Coast restaurant shakes up long-standing steakhouse traditions. An acclaimed Peruvian chef brings Andean bounty to River North. An unassuming Ukrainian Village spot recently became the world’s first MICHELIN-starred Filipino restaurant.

There’s never been a better time to celebrate the iconic spots that have shaped Chicago’s restaurant scene into the juggernaut it is today. Read on for a guide to 15 spots that are essential to the city.

A photo of Boka restaurant
4.8
4.8 (6964)
$31 to $50
Contemporary American
Lincoln Park
About the restaurant

Boka’s approachable, seasonally driven New American menu scored the restaurant a MICHELIN star, three stars from The Chicago Tribune, and James Beard Awards nominations, solidifying it as one of Chicago’s most exciting restaurants. Renowned chef Lee Wolen has a knack for taking seemingly simple preparations and adding depth, texture, and an unexpected flavor or two. For instance, foie gras toast is served with cranberry, cinnamon, and satsuma, while Wolen’s signature roasted chicken gets the gourmet treatment with Jerusalem artichoke, maitake, and sherry. These dishes are served in Boka’s beautifully designed dining rooms, each of which feels like its own little world with living green walls and oversized circular banquettes.


Top review
Roryvip
Dined 5 days ago
Boka never fails to be an amazing experience. You can tell this restaurant has been one of Chicago's best for decades. Everything is perfect every time! Treat yourself to the scallops and never skip dessert!
A photo of Parachute restaurant
4.6
4.6 (1718)
$31 to $50
Korean
Avondale
About the restaurant

This small but mighty restaurant punches far above its weight, serving up Korean American mash-ups that earned it a MICHELIN star, a spot on Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant list, and a James Beard Award. When Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim reopened Parachute after a short hiatus in 2022, they vowed to dig deeper into Korean food with dishes designed for sharing, such as seafood pancakes and rice and fish cakes in gochujang sauce. Parachute’s second chapter also expanded its spirits list, allowing diners to enjoy specialties such as chungju (clear rice wine), plus off-beat wines.


Top review
Anne
Dined on Mar 22, 2024
We LOVED everything we ate at Parachute. We shared the Korean fried chicken, haemul pajeon, 30 day dry aged bulgogi, yukgaejang, and s'mores patbingsu. The vibe ws really fun and our service was great. When they open again, I'm certain they will bring the same care and expertise to another excellent experience.
A photo of Café Ba-Ba-Reeba restaurant
4.8
4.8 (9065)
$30 and under
Tapas / Small Plates
Lincoln Park
About the restaurant

Long before the small plates concept dominated almost every new restaurant, Café Ba-Ba-Reeba (part of the venerated Lettuce Entertain You Group, which includes other Chicago stalwarts such as Shaw’s Crab House and RPM Italian) served tapas to the denizens of Lincoln Park. In fact, when the restaurant opened in 1985, it introduced Chicagoans to paella, patatas bravas, and other highlights of Spanish cuisine. Today, tourists and locals still flock to the restaurant to sample six different styles of sangria and snack on chorizo-wrapped dates and tortilla española. They also head over to fortify themselves on the weekend with a perennially packed tapas brunch, featuring items such as waffle-battered chicken on a stick with maple syrup and chorizo mac and cheese, or a twist on avocado toast spiked with Fresno chiles.


Top review
HEKK
Dined on Jul 15, 2024
Great restaurant! Fun to sample and taste the ! Atmosphere is pleasant.
A photo of Maple & Ash restaurant
4.7
4.7 (4278)
$31 to $50
Steakhouse
Gold Coast / Streeterville
About the restaurant

In a city filled with steakhouses boasting decades of history, Maple and Ash represents the next generation of the genre. The sprawling restaurant puts opulence front and center, from its velvet dining chairs and soaring ceilings to the wine list, where the priciest bottle is $10,000. Cocktail fans might better appreciate the restaurant’s martini lounge, however. There are other luxuries available on the menu, created by acclaimed chef Danny Grant (of RIA fame) such as a wagyu beef carpaccio topped with king crab, truffle, and supreme caviar or the Eisenhower, a 40-ounce porterhouse that the kitchen cooks directly in coals left over from the wood-fired grills. Surf is strong here, too, such as wild striped bass and New Zealand king salmon. For those who would rather sit back and let the kitchen decide, there’s a $200 tasting menu, cheekily named the “I Don’t Give a F*@k” option.


Top review
Jordanvip
Dined 7 days ago
We did the IDGAF menu which was a ton of fun and great value. A lot of food with pasta, steak, salad, ahi tuna, seafood tower, etc. highly recommend.
A photo of Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse - Chicago restaurant
4.8
4.8 (8445)
$31 to $50
Steakhouse
Gold Coast / Streeterville
About the restaurant

To say Gibsons is popular would be an understatement—it’s one of the highest-grossing independent restaurants in all of Chicago. It’s also a local press darling and was depicted on FX’s The League. The restaurant’s prime location just off the Magnificent Mile (there are two other outposts in Rosemont and Oak Brook) and commitment to quality have fueled its reputation as a Chicago classic since it opened in 1989. Once you’re in the door, the dining room’s pressed-tin ceilings amplify laughter and conversations, fueling a boisterous atmosphere. But Gibsons owes its staying power to its steaks: The restaurant is the first in the country to have its own USDA certification, Gibsons Prime Angus beef. If you’ve got room for dessert, get the towering carrot cake or chocolate mousse pie, multi-layer creations the heights of which echo the city’s distinguished skyscrapers.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 1 day ago
One of our favorite places to eat. Great place for lunch with family or friends. Excellent food and drinks along with amazing service.
A photo of Tanta restaurant
4.7
4.7 (4953)
$31 to $50
Peruvian
River North (Chicago)
About the restaurant

Tanta owner and Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award winner Gastón Acurio is one of Peru’s most famous chefs, using his international restaurants as unofficial ambassadors for the country’s cuisine. The menu in Chicago highlights a full range of Peruvian food, showcasing ingredients from both its mountains and oceans and combining them with the techniques and ingredients brought to the country via generations of immigrants from Japan, Spain, China, and Italy. The result is an inimitable dining experience where Chicagoans flock to try dishes such as Chaufa Aeropuerto, a mixture of pork fried rice, shrimp omelet, vegetables, and a Japanese-influenced nikkei sauce that’s best enjoyed on the restaurant’s seasonal rooftop patio. Pair it with one of the innovative pisco drinks, such as Ainoko, a mix of pisco, sake, lychee, yuzu, lemon, and a togarashi lemon wheel.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 7 days ago
Amazing food experience and drinks thanks manny for your suggestions in food and drinks
A photo of Shaw's Crab House & Oyster Bar - Chicago restaurant
4.8
4.8 (14020)
$50 and over
Seafood
River North (Chicago)
About the restaurant

Though the nearest shoreline is Lake Michigan, Chicagoans have ocean access via Shaw’s, the city’s top seafood destination since it opened in 1984 (another has since opened in Schaumburg). Shaw’s is renowned for its extensive oyster selection and relationships with fishermen all over the world. Head to the wood-paneled dining room to feast on blackened mahi mahi from Costa Rica or pan-seared Alaskan halibut. Snag a bar stool at the old-school oyster counter for a quick bite, where the well-versed shucker can talk you through the characteristics of each variety, popping open the bivalves right before your eyes.


Top review
blount1bruce
Dined 1 day ago
Great service & atmosphere. Food was excellent! Will have this as a must-do in Chicago from now on.
A photo of Gene and Georgetti restaurant
4.7
4.7 (5786)
$50 and over
Steakhouse
River North (Chicago)
About the restaurant

Chicago’s oldest steakhouse, established in 1941, has hosted celebrities ranging from Frank Sinatra to Will Ferrell, plus Lake Forest native Vince Vaughn, and cultivated a devoted following among locals. Gene & Georgetti has soldiered on even with other steakhouses popping up all over the city, pivoting gracefully to provide reliable service, decadent cuisine, and a glam ambiance. The menu remains close to what it was when the restaurant opened, and the kitchen dishes out beautifully marbled steaks, double-cut lamb chops, and red-sauce favorites including eggplant parmigiana. Seasonal specials such as white truffles are rolled out throughout the year. In its softly lit, red-carpeted room, it’s easy to lose track of time, order another bottle of wine, and linger.


Top review
OpenTable Diner
Dined 4 days ago
Excellent staff, good, vibes. One of the top steakhouses in Chicago
A photo of Kumiko restaurant
4.7
4.7 (723)
$50 and over
Dining Bar
West Loop
About the restaurant

The team behind West Loop’s fine-dining sensation Oriole runs this modern cocktail bar that creative director, co-owner, and cocktail maven Julia Momosé (also a 2022 MICHELIN Exceptional Cocktails Award winner) describes as “a cocktail party with the world’s best hors d’oeuvres.” The restaurant’s Japanese-inflected drinks include the Moonrise Daiquiri, an unexpected mix of Bolivian cola bitters, green tea, lime, sake, and rum. Drinks are best paired with imaginative small plates such as Japanese fried chicken and Berkshire pork served with milk bread, cabbage, and fermented chile paste. The winning drinks and snacks combos landed Kumiko a spot on the Chicago Tribune’s 2019 list of best restaurants, a MICHELIN star, and a mention as one of Time’s 100 Greatest Places in 2019.


Top review
OpenTable Dinervip
Dined 5 days ago
Delicious innovative cocktails, the drinks are very well thought out, especially the component flights.
A photo of Girl & the Goat restaurant
4.8
4.8 (14434)
$30 and under
Contemporary American
West Loop
About the restaurant

Stephanie Izard shot to fame when she won the fourth season of Bravo’s Top Chef. She then parlayed that attention into a series of successful Chicago restaurants with the Boka Restaurant Group. They upped the ante for casual but ambitious dining in Chicago, beginning with Girl & the Goat, which spawned two more Chicago eateries (Duck Duck Goat and Cabra), plus two cookbooks and a line of crunches, spices, and sauces. A James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2013 further cemented Izard in Chicago’s dining scene. As the name implies, Girl & the Goat offers a meat-heavy menu but one that brings in a chorus of textures, flavors, and inspirations. The namesake goat appears in empanada form with pickled kumquats, piparra peppers, and idiazabal, an unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region. It also shows up as confit goat belly with pecans and pickled persimmons. The ingredient even makes its way onto the drinks menu in the form of goat fat-infused bourbon, the star component in the iconic Goat Fashioned.


Top review
KaySvip
Dined 6 days ago
The food was great and the best was the salmon poke . The inside was loaded with but good vibes but we got a table outside and really enjoyed the food .
A photo of Sepia restaurant
4.8
4.8 (5192)
$50 and over
Contemporary American
West Loop
About the restaurant

Chicago stalwart Sepia serves an ever-changing seasonal American menu folding in locally sourced ingredients from sustainable farmers. It’s an approach that earned the restaurant a MICHELIN star—on top of the constellation of star reviews since it opened in 2007. The splurgy tasting menu from lauded chef Andrew Zimmerman consists of four courses, ranging from dishes such as venison shabu-shabu (accented by hon-shimeji mushroom, chestnuts, and chile crisp) and ricotta cavatelli with Parmesan butter, pine nut, and crispy sourdough. Select the wine pairing option to try sommelier Alex Ring’s selections for the full package. And rest assured you’re in capable hands: the Jean Banchet Awards named Ring Chicago’s Best Sommelier in 2022.


Top review
Erik
Dined 1 day ago
Sepia is an amazing experience from the amazingly beautiful food to the quality of the service and hospitality of the entire staff.
A photo of Elske restaurant
4.7
4.7 (1114)
$50 and over
American
West Loop
About the restaurant

Chefs David and Anna Posey’s first solo venture–in Danish, “elske” means “to love”—takes the form of an airy West Loop restaurant complete with a cozy courtyard. The couple’s creative take on casual fine dining earned the space a MICHELIN star five years in a row, plus two James Beard Award nominations. The restaurant offers a nine-course set menu and a la carte menus. The former takes diners on a tour of Scandinavia via the restaurant’s now-famous duck liver tart with toasted buckwheat and salted ramps, roasted sablefish (with shrimp, cauliflower, and marigold), and toasted yeast ice cream with a chicory cruller. Enjoy a glass of glögg—red wine with mulling spices, aquavit, and almonds—in front of the outdoor fireplace after dinner. Executive pastry chef Anna Posey’s enchanting creations include dark-chocolate cake flavored with black olive and lavender.


Top review
Debbievip
Dined 3 days ago
I have never tasted so many different flavors. Both of you are phenomenal chefs. I would love to return. It was truly an amazing experience. Thank you
A photo of Rose Mary restaurant
4.7
4.7 (3017)
$30 and under
Croatian
West Loop
About the restaurant

There are many perks that come with winning a season of Top Chef, and one of them is opening the restaurant of your dreams. Chef Joe Flamm did just that in 2021 when he opened Rose Mary in the West Loop. The restaurant tips a hat to his Italian heritage and his wife Hillary Flamm’s native country of Croatia with dishes such as gnocchi with beef cheek pašticada, a braised beef dish from the northwestern Balkan Peninsula. It’s this heartfelt blend of two comforting cuisines that earned Rose Mary its reputation as one of Chicago’s hottest new restaurants. Must-try vegetable-forward dishes include charred Brussels sprouts, coal-roasted beets, and burek soparnik, a traditional Croatian pie with Swiss chard and cheese.


Top review
mgapp
Dined 1 day ago
Every dish was well conceived amd delicious. Amazing service. We will be back!
A photo of Riccardo Trattoria restaurant
4.7
4.7 (2757)
$30 and under
Italian
Lincoln Park
About the restaurant

This love letter to northern Italy is the brainchild of chef-owner Riccardo Michi, whose family has operated a restaurant in Milan since the 1940s. Riccardo Trattoria was conceived in 2006 and earned Bib Gourmand status from MICHELIN for three consecutive years. Specials of the day keep the menu fresh but it’s also packed with well-executed favorites including arancini, risotto, and odes to regions across Italy, such as Genovese-style pesto with trofie pasta and chicken breast Milanese.


Top review
stevefvip
Dined 3 days ago
Ricardo’s tagliolini with Summer truffles is to die for. Their Timbalo (eggplant with zucchini and Parmesan) is delightful. What a gem of a neighborhood restaurant!
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