Chicago’s Best Restaurants…according to me!
What are Chicago’s best restaurants? This city is inarguably a world class food town. Whether you want high end, Michelin star options or hot dogs, pizza and great ethnic street food, Chicago has got you covered. I’ve lived here for 17 years now and continue to cover the food scene for work (and fun!). These are my favorites. Feel free to add yours in the comments as things are always changing and I may need reminding of some too!
Breakfast, Brunch, and Cafes
I used to never like eating breakfast out. I didn’t get it. I didn’t eat much for breakfast anyway. Why spend all that cash? Then I started trying some of Chicago’s finest and now I’m definitely drinking the Kool-Aid (well, OJ with a side of eggs benedict, in my case).
- Uncommon Ground
- Bakin’ & Eggs
- Tweet (fresh, natural choices; always busy)
- Glen’s Diner
- Café Selmarie
- Southport Grocery & Cafe
- The Bagel (a Jersey girl’s favorite!)
- M. Henry
- Bongo Room (love the back patio in Andersonville)
- 3 Arts Club Cafe (stunning atrium)
- Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club (far northwest side, so cute and good)
- Cafe Boulangerie (near Lincoln Square, french pastry treats and sandwiches!)
- Intelligentsia (locally grown favorite)
- Bow Truss Coffee
- Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
- Katherine Anne Confections (get the flight…decadent!)
So…how do I say this without getting hate mail? I don’t tend to eat donuts! I know, crazy. But hey, I eat enough food and some sweets so I am happy to NOT cultivate a love of donuts for my own health! But thanks to my friend Leigh over at Campfires and Concierges, I can still bring you Chicago’s best donut shops.
Lunch, Sandwiches, Light Meal
I love me some sandwiches. Subs, panini, a good egg salad on rye, I’m in. Secretly (no more), it’s my dream to open up a café & sandwich shop. I’ve done stories on enough, plus I worked in one in Melbourne, Australia. I’m ready.
- Frances’ Deli (old school)
- The Bagel
- Chicago Bagel Authority
- Cemitas Pueblas
- Conte de Savoia
- Bun Mi Express
- Milk & Honey
- Saigon Sisters
- French Market
- Jersey Mikes Subs (yes!)
- Native Foods Cafe
- La Boulangerie
- Astoria Cafe (adorable Serbian cafe for borek and cakes!)
Pricey, Trendy, and Actually Awesome
These are those spots always listed in the ‘hot’ lists. They’re trendy, a bit of a scene (which is becoming less and less ‘my scene’), but for good reason…they’re just damn good.
- The Girl and the Goat
- The Purple Pig
- The Bristol
- Duck Duck Goat
- Ella Elli
I have to admit, with the plethora of ethnic food in Chicago, Italian often takes a backseat. I grew up eating it back east, and a lot of that now seems more American than Italian to me. But I still dig some awesome eggplant parmigiana or a pasta with vodka sauce.
- Nico Osteria
- Mia Francesca
- Piccolo Sogno
This list is going to be somewhat short. I’m a New Jersey girl at heart. This is the ONE and only thing I just cannot sink my teeth into in Chicago—Chicago-style pizza. But luckily there is actually many more types of pizza here than some may realize. There are a few good NY-style pizza places and some great thin-crust/Neapolitan spots as well. And research actually shows most Chicagoans normally eat thin crust anyway! Here is some of Chicago’s best non-deep dish pizza. For more check out my whole post dedicated to our thinner, less bread-like pizza aka thin crust!
- Spacca Napoli
- Stella Barra
- Café Luigi
- Pat’s Pizza
- Pizza Serio
- Jimmy’s Pizza
- Bonci (Roman-style pizza, great toppings!)
- Pizzaeria Bebu (we hope only temporarily closed!)
- Forno Rosso
Another favorite of mine. Great spices and flavor, this is my new comfort food (it used to be Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, so this is quite a step up!)
- Ema (trendier, top Chef spot. Love it!)
- Aba (the newer amazing rooftop spot from same owner of Ema)
- Noon-O-Kabab (Delish Persian food. Get the Kashke-bademjan!)
- Salam (BEST hummus in the city!)
- Old Jerusalem
- Sultan’s Market
- Naff Naff Grill
- I Dream of Falafel
I love Greek food and haven’t really had a bad meal in Greektown, but there are some faves.
- Athena (huge summer patio)
- Greek Islands
- Barbra Yianni
- Athenian Room
Chicago has some of the best Mexican food this side of…well, the Rio Grande. In fact, our largest minority is Mexican and many of them are now accomplished chefs with their own restaurants. ¡Que bueno!
- Frontera Grill
- Lena Brava
- Big Star
- Chilam Balam
- Bien Trucha (way out into the western burbs, but oh, worth the train ride!)
One of my faves. Some raw fish and soy sauce and I’m a happy gal most days of the week. Healthy, fresh, and yumm-o.
- Sai Café
- Mirai Sushi
- Itto (closed!)
- Sushi Joon
I grew up eating Chinese. Now I never eat Chinese (well except when I’m home and I go with my dad to the Chinese Buffet—the Jewish-American’s homeland). No Chinese on this page. To me, Thai just seems fresher, less greasy and just good. Oh and it’s usually cheap.
- Cozy Noodles
- Tac Quick Thai
- Always Thai
- Miss Asia
- Arun’s (for a splurge, check out this upscale Thai)
- Rainbow Thai
- Urban Belly
- San Soo Gab San (fun, table-side Korean BBQ)
- Saigon Sisters
- Pho 888
- Hai Yen
- Miss Saigon
Best “Chicago” Food
To me, Chicago is good at all foods, but there are some old-school signature foods we are known for: steak, Italian Beef, deep-dish pizza. I don’t normally eat this food, but I have eaten at these joints and they were pretty damn good. So there’s that.
- Burt’s Pizza
- Chickie’s Beef
- GT Fish & Oyster
- Fish Bar
- Shaw’s Crab House (old classic; amazing brunch buffet!)
- Quality Crab & Oyster Bah
On the flip-side of all the meat and potatoes that Chicago used to be known for, is some healthy and yummy stuff that’s not all weeds and twigs.
- Chicago Diner
- Urban Vegan
- Native Foods Cafe
- Ethiopian Diamond
- Devon Avenue
- Protein Bar
- Majani Soul Vegan
- Veggie Grill
- Kale My Name Vegan
Bar Food and Gastropubs
- Park Grill
- Piccolo Sogno Garden
- Moody’s Pub
- Gene’s Sausage Shop Rooftop
- Jerry’s Sandwiches Back Patio in Andersonville
- Summer House Santa Monica
- J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln
- Bongo Room Andersonville
For the full comprehensive list see my guide to the best outdoor dining in Chicago!
Cozy Fireplace Eating
Local, Delicious, Cheap Joints
Gourmet and Specialty Markets
- French Market
- The Goddess & Grocer
- Southport Grocery
- Middle East Bakery and Grocery
- Gene’s Sausage Shop
- H-Mart (Korean wonderland)
- Seafood City (Huge filipino supermarket)
What do you think? What did I forget? I still have new places I need to try out too!
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Wow, this is great – and so much work! You should totally write an ebook!!
Thanks Jan! It’s been over a decade in the making! 🙂
Awesome, really well-thought-out list. Wow and thanks! Want to suggest Mom’s Old Recipe Mexican Restaurant. Kinda hard to find unless you are eagle-eyeing at 5760 N. Milwaukee Ave. Super-yum.
Mmm..thanks Tracy! Have to try out Mom’s! I love the hidden ‘hood gems.
I’m always hungry!
Yum! I’m definitely bookmarking this for the next time I visit Chicago 🙂
Thanks Sam! Let me know when you’re in town would love to meet in person…and eat of course! 🙂
Bookmarking this for my much dreamed about trip to Chicago…Thank you!
Thanks Abi! Do let me know when you get here…preferably in warmer months! 🙂 It’s a great city and I’ve so enjoyed living (and eating) here the last 17 years!
Mary @ Green Global Travel
Amazing list of food options, and all the pictures look so delicious! No one will have trouble finding somewhere to eat in Chicago!
Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
Holy Moly this is a massive list! So many great places to try when I return to the Windy City.
It’s funny that when people ask me to name my favorite restaurant in NYC, I can never say just one, because there are so many great restaurants. My list would probably looks something like this!
Thanks Chanel!! It’s a labor of love for sure. It’s tough to keep up with Chicago restaurants…NYC must be impossible! But I’m always willing to try. 🙂
So many of my favorite restaurants listed here. Yum. Makes me hungry for Chicago food. Thanks for the reminders.
Thanks Tricia! Glad some of your faves are here! After living in Chicago for 16+ years, I’m starting to think I’m getting old school since there are so many new places that aren’t even new anymore! Did you used to live here?
Yes I lived there for 2 years (2012-2014). I list some of your choices on my blog as well as others.
Thanks Tricia! Why’d you leave??
I would like to try at least some of these when I come to Chicago this week. Tha ks for sharing these.
What did you try in Chicago?!