best restaurants in Chicago: Acadia

Scallop à la Acadia (Photo courtesy of Acadia.)

Here’s an insider’s guide to the very best eats in Chicago. (Headed further north? Don’t miss our North Shore Dining Guide.)

KEY: BLD (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner); Br (Brunch)

Andersonville 

BIG JONES Southern

Just off a recent renovation, this is chef Paul Fehribach’s love letter to the American South, inspired by its people and history. The cornbread! The fried chicken! The Gumbo! All stellar. 5347 N. Clark St., 773-275-5725

LD, Br

HOPLEAF Gastropub

For 25 years, this has been THE place for mussels and frites, washed down with one of more than 60 different craft beers. If you can, save some room for charcuterie or maybe the Duck Reuben. 5148 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-334-9851

LD

Bucktown/Wicker Park

ADA STREET Global/Shared Plates

New chef Scott Sax brings a decidedly Latin flair to this charming resto, including pleasantly doughy Brazilian Pao de Quejo, tequila-glazed Grilled Baby Octopus, and Pork Adobo. The secluded outdoor patio is a super-fun summer destination. 1664 N. Ada St., 773-697-7069

D

THE BRISTOL Farm-to-Table

This Bucktown fave pulls in the fans who swoon for the housemade pasta, charcuterie, and snout-to-tail ethos (Crispy Pig Ears are a must). Craft cocktails and a strong brunch game keep things hopping. 2152 N. Damen Ave., 773-862-5555

D, Br

HOT CHOCOLATE American Comfort Food

James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal is more than a dessert queen; witness the brilliance of her Mac & Cheese, the perfect hamburger, or her Crispy Chicken with Grits. But if you leave without tasting her Malted Coffee Cocoa Nib Milkshake, you are clearly insane. 1747 N. Damen Ave., 773-489-1747

LD, Br

PIECE Pizza/Brewery

New Haven-style pizza at its finest (if you want to be taken seriously, order the clam with bacon), especially when accompanied by a growler of their award-winning brew. 1927 W. North Ave., 773-772-4422

LD

Downtown/Loop

ACANTO Italian

Terrific rustic Italian food is just within reach of Millennium Park and Chicago’s Cultural Mile. Order one of chef Christopher Gawronski’s thin-crust pizzas or tender pastas, a glass of wine, and relax. 18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763  

LD, Br

CINDY’S Mediterranean Shared Plates

rose: Cindy's

Cindy’s Howl at the Jun (Photo by AJ Trela.)

The panoramic rooftop patio views overlooking Millennium Park and Lake Michigan are worth it alone, but happily chef Christian Ragano turns out food both delicious and Instagrammable. The craft cocktails are on point as well. 12 S. Michigan Ave., 312-792-3502

LD, Br

THE DEARBORN Upscale Tavern

The perfect location for dinner before (or after — they’re open late!) virtually any Loop theater or concert, The Dearborn’s eclectic global cuisine covers the gamut from Korean BBQ Tacos to Shrimp and Octopus Ceviche, but they’ve also got a killer hanger steak, Fish & Chips, and a damn good burger. 145 N. Dearborn St., 312-384-1242

LD, Br

THE GAGE Gastropub

Oh, the Poutine! Was there ever a better use of fries and cheese curds? Plenty to love at this British-influenced stalwart across from Millennium Park. Top-notch steaks, craft beers, and house-made sausages. 24 S. Michigan Ave., 312-372-4243

LD, Br

HEAVEN ON SEVEN Cajun

The irrepressible Jimmy Bannos has brought smiles — and hot sauce — to hungry Chicagoans for decades. There’s no better Louisiana cuisine this side of the Mississippi. Gumbo, Po’ Boys, Crab Cakes, Jambalaya and more. 111 N. Wabash, 7th Floor, 312-263-6443

BLD 

TERZO PIANO Italian

The restaurant’s design is right at home in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. Chef/owner Tony Mantuano’s seasonal pastas, salads, and shared plates are stunning, too. 159 E. Monroe St., 312-443-8650

L, Br

Lincoln Park/Lakeview

ALINEA Tasting Menu

James Beard Award-winner and three star Michelin chef Grant Achatz has the world on a string. Reservations are rare, and the price is steep, but if you can, this is an experience you should have at least once. 1723 N. Halsted St., 312-867-0110  

D

BOKA Contemporary American

Chef Lee Wolen ably helms the BOKA Group’s flagship restaurant. Clubby and sleek interiors are the perfect backdrop for his lovely, seasonal American cuisine, and for pastry chef Meg Galus’ outstanding creations. 1729 N. Halsted St., 312-337-6070

D

MON AMI GABI French Bistro

You’ll find all the bistro classics on Chef Nelli Maltezos’ menu — Steak Frites, Frisée Salad, Onion Soup au Gratin — and they’re delightful every time. This longtime LEYE favorite, located in the landmark Belden Stratford, has terrific service and an approachable wine list. 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-348-8886

D, Br

NAOKI Sushi

Much-awarded sushi chef Naoki Nakashima is all about the freshest, most pristine sashimi and nigiri. Japanese small plates, specialty maki, and substantial sake and Japanese whiskey offerings round out the menu. 2300 N. Lincoln Park, 773-868-0002

D

NORTH POND Seasonal American

This Arts & Crafts beauty perches on the edge of a tranquil pond in verdant Lincoln Park, with an impeccable view of the Chicago skyline. James Beard Award-winning chef Bruce Sherman focuses on small local farmers to create his exquisitely prepared and presented dishes. 2610 N. Cannon Drive, 773-477-5845

D, Br

RICCARDO TRATTORIA Italian

Now THAT’S Italian — Northern Italian, to be exact. We’d be hard-pressed to name a favorite among the gems, but truly every risotto and pasta dish is like a quick trip to Milan or Florence. Authentic and delicioso. Sister restaurant Riccardo Enoteca is across the street. 2119 N. Clark St., 773-549-0038 

D

Logan Square/Avondale

ANIMALE Italian

best restaurants in Chicago: Animale

Pappardelle with Roasted Winter Veggies and Fontina (Photo courtesy of Animale.)

Toothsome housemade fresh pastas, salads, panini, and even a righteous burger with an Italian accent make this spot worthy of your time. Chef Cameron Grant knows what’s up. 1904 N. Western Ave., 872-315-3912

D, Br

DOS URBAN CANTINA Modern Mexican

Husband-and-wife chef team Brian and Jennifer Enyart opened this spot as a showcase for their modern Mexican cuisine. Octopus al Pastor with pineapple and adobo, and Masa Gnocchi in chorizo sauce are just a few of their inventive dishes. 2829 W. Armitage Ave., 773-661-6452

D, Br

FAT RICE Macanese

Another culinary couple, Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo, opened the first Macanese restaurant in Chicago, a happy combination of Southeast Asian, Portuguese, Indian, and Chinese food. The Arroz Gordo (“Fat Rice”) is like paella on steroids. 2957 W. Diversey Ave., 773-661-9170

LD, Br 

GIANT Global Cuisine

best restaurants in Chicago: Giant

Saffron Tagliatelle with King Crab and Chili Butter (Photo by Galdones Photography.)

Chef Jason Vincent is a culinary omnivore with many influences, so he decided to cook all of his favorites — as long as they are delicious. The buzz around the Jonah Crab Salad with Waffle Fries, Super Uni Shooter, and the “Sortallini?” Well deserved. 3209 W. Armitage Ave., 773-252-0997

D

HONEY BUTTER FRIED CHICKEN American Comfort Food

best restaurants in Chicago: Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken Nachos (Photo by Tim Musho.)

This is the fried chicken of your wildest dreams: crispy and spicy without, moist and juicy within. Swipe with soft honey butter on the way to your mouth, and live large. Also love the kale slaw, pimento mac & cheese, and the little corn muffins. 336 N. Elston Ave., 773-478-4000

LD, Br

OSTERIA LANGHE Italian

Possibly the best Italian restaurant in the city, this sister restaurant to Animale (above) is run by Scottish chef Cameron Grant and Belgian-Italian front man Aldo Zaninotto. Definitely in the top five Italian restaurants in the city. 2824 W. Armitage Ave., 773-661-1582

D

PARACHUTE Korean

“Top Chef” finalist Beverly Kim and her husband, Johnny Clark, were in the forefront of the couples-opening-restaurants phenomenon in Chicago with this fabulous Korean fusion spot in Avondale. The Baked Potato Bing Bread is a must-order, along with the Oysters with Soju Granita and the Bi Bim Bop, here made with yellowfin tuna and preserved lemon. 3500 N. Elston Ave., 773-654-1460

D

TABLE, DONKEY AND STICK Alpine Gastropub

This Tyrolean charmer captures the spirit of an Alpine mountain inn. Toast yourself by the fire, or hang out on their lovely patio in warmer weather. Either way, don’t miss the house-made charcuterie, bread, and cultured butter. They have a way with game here, and of course the pretzel with beer cheese and the potato latkes are highly satisfying. 2728 W. Armitage Ave., 773-486-8525

D

Pilsen/Bridgeport 

THE DUCK INN American

Bridgeport’s other favorite son, Kevin Hickey, came home and brought a restaurant with him. The Rotisserie Duck is the star of the show, but the supporting players are equally as talented. 2701 S. Eleanor, 312-724-8811 

D

DUSEK’S Tavern

Dusek’s is the beating heart of Thalia Hall, a modern tavern with a thirst for international craft and draft beers and a parade of elevated bar food dishes that will knock your socks off. Visit The Punch House downstairs. 1227 W. 18th St., 312-526-3851 

D, Br

HAISOUS Vietnamese

best restaurants in Chicago: HaiSous

Cream Puff (Photo by Mistey Nguyen.)

On everyone’s best new restaurant list, this Pilsen spot rated a Bib Gourmand rating from the venerable Michelin Guide. Owners Thai and Danielle Dang are committed to sharing their love of Vietnamese food with us. And trust us — from the soulful Beef Pho to the earthy Roasted Duck stuffed with kaffir lime leaves, you will feel the love. 1800 S. Carpenter St., 312-702-1303 

D, Br

S.K.Y. Global Fusion

L.A. transplant Stephen Gillanders unites the cuisines of East Asia and the Mediterranean at this chic new spot. Dishes like Cornbread Madeleines, Foie Gras Bibimbap, and Maine Lobster Dumplings with Jade Butter are bursting with flavor. 1239 W. 18th St., 312-846-1077

D

River North

BAVETTE’S BAR & BOEUF Steakhouse

There’s more than a whiff of speakeasy at this popular meatery. Bring a flashlight to read the menu, or just order a Smoked Salmon Caesar and a Bone-In Filet, with a side of the insane Truffle Mac & Cheese. Defibrillator optional. 218 W. Kinzie St., 312-624-8154

D

BEATRIX American Comfort Food

LEYE gets healthy (sort of)! This neighborhood favorite (joined by outposts in Streeterville and West Loop) brings the yummy with fresh-squeezed juice medleys, bounteous salads, burgers for every diet, and a killer turkey meatloaf. Skip the pastry bar at your own peril. 519 N. Clark St., 312-284-1377

BLD, Br

BRINDILLE French

best restaurants in Chicago: Brindille

Steak Tartare (Photo by Brindelle.)

Chef/owner Carrie Nahabedian’s seasonal interpretations of impeccable French cuisine are worth every penny. Luxe ingredients such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Steak Tartare, and Whole Dover Sole sound their siren call. Tasting menus available. 534 N. Clark St., 312-595-1616

D

EMA Mediterranean

CJ Jacobson, another L.A. transplant, brings an Ottolenghi-style sensibility to Mediterranean food full of bright color and flavor. Another winner for LEYE. 74 W. Illinois St., 312-527-5586 

LD, Br

FRONTERA GRILL Mexican

For more than 30 years, James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Bayless has been educating Chicago — and beond — about authentic regional Mexican cuisine. His fine dining restaurant, Topolobampo, shares an entrance with Frontera; fast casual Xoco is on the corner. All three more than live up to the hype. 445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434

LD, Br

GT FISH & OYSTER Seafood

Chef Giuseppe Tentori, in partnership with the Boka Group, has his way with seafood, and the results are memorable. Always a River North hot spot. 531 N. Wells St., 312-929-3501

LD, Br

GT PRIME Steakhouse

best restaurants in Chicago: GT Prime

Mortadella Arancini (Photo by Christine Domino.)

See above; substitute meat for seafood and you’ve got the idea. 707 N. Wells St., 312-600-6305

D

NAHA Mediterranean

Carrie Nahabedian’s original restaurant is clean and contemporary in décor, but the food is lush and deeply flavorful. A board member of Green City Market, Nahabedian’s menus reflect her reverence for fresh, seasonal produce and local products. 500 N. Clark St., 312-321-6242

LD

PORTSMITH Seafood

best restaurants in Chicago: Portsmith

Fried Oysters with Squid Ink Panko and Trout Roe (Photo courtesy of Portsmith.)

From the busy Fifty/50 Group comes this gorgeous seafood-forward resto in the Dana Hotel. The bread service is stellar, raw bar items top-notch, and Chef Nate Henssler’s Cacio e Pepe with uni butter and caviar a rich surprise. Beverage director Benjamin Schiller runs the boutique bar Leviathan overlooking the restaurant. And those desserts from Chris Teixeira! Holy moley, they are brilliant. 660 N. State St., 312-202-6050

BLD, Br

TANTA Peruvian

Peruvian super chef Gaston Acurio brings Lima to Chicago by way of his kitchen, turning out luscious empanadas, antichuchos (skewers), cebiche with leche de tigre (translated as “tiger’s milk,” but not really!), pollo a la brasa, and more. Pisco drinks are big here, and we don’t mind at all! 118 W. Grand Ave., 312-222-9700

LD, Br

Streeterville/Gold Coast

MAPLE & ASH Steakhouse

This super-luxe Gold Coast steakhouse has it all: craft cocktails, wood-fired hearth-cooked proteins, expansive raw bar offerings, a killer interior, and the culinary stylings of chef Danny Grant. Don’t skip Aya Fukai’s amazing desserts. 8 W. Maple St., 312-944-8888 

D, Br

MARGEAUX BRASSERIE French Bistro

best restaurants in Chicago: MARGEAUX BRASSERIE

Grande Shellfish Tower (Photo by Huge Galdones.)

California celeb chef Michael Mina’s first outpost in Chicago, Margeaux pulses with life — and sound, so be forewarned. Bistro favorites abound, but the Shellfish Plateau is truly above and beyond. Waldorf Astoria Chicago, 11 E. Walton St., 312-625-1324   

BLD, Br 

NICO OSTERIA Italian/Seafood

best restaurants in Chicago: Nico Osteria

A selection of extruded and rolled raw pastas at Nico Osteria (Photo by Derek Richmond.)

The Gold Coast’s chic Thompson Hotel really scored big when they opened this Italian Seafood-focused resto. House-made pastas and pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky’s calorie-worthy desserts are particular highlights. 1015 N. Rush St., 312-994-7100 

BLD, Br

THE PURPLE PIG Mediterranean/Small Plates

Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. is a fourth generation restaurateur — and a James Beard Award winner. Known for their awe-inspiring collection of cured meats, cheeses, “smears,” and house-made antipasti, they keep the plancha fired up with a great selection of meaty small plates, perfect for sharing after a hard day of shopping on Michigan Avenue. 500 N. Michigan Ave., 312-464-1744

LD

SHANGHAI TERRACE Chinese

Tucked away in the glamorous Peninsula Hotel is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city — and undoubtedly the priciest. The dim sum nibbles, the Peking Duck, the abalone (you read that right!) … all spectacular, and the service is impeccable. In summer, insist on the glorious rooftop terrace. 108 E. Superior St., 312-573-6744

LD

SOMERSET Seasonal American

Best Restaurants in Chicago: Somerset

Crispy Chicken Sandwich (Photo by Huge Galdones.)

Chef Lee Wolen and pastry goddess Meg Galus are at it again, shaking up the Gold Coast with this snazzy resto, designed to the nines and the perfect backdrop for their seasonal take on elevated comfort food. 1112 N. State St., 312-586-2150

BLD, Br

SPIAGGIA Italian

best restaurants in Chicago: Spiaggia

Grissini Carpaccio (Photo courtesy of Spiaggia.)

Barack and Michelle Obama flipped for James Beard Award-winner Tony Mantuano’s luxurious Italian cuisine, and it’s easy to understand why. The nearby Café Spiaggia is a more casual option, and also open for lunch. 980 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor, 312-280-2750

D

TORALI ITALIAN STEAK Italian Steakhouse

Inside the zillion-dollar renovation of the Ritz-Carlton you’ll find this modern approach to a steakhouse with an Italian twist. House-made pastas, prime and dry-aged meats, inspired cocktails, and a gorgeous interior. 160 E. Pearson at Water Tower Place, 312-573-5160

BLD

West Loop

AVEC Mediterranean Small Plates

Make new friends at Avec’s communal tables while sharing the signature Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates wrapped in bacon, served with a piquillo pepper-tomato sauce. The paella here is spot on. 615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002

LD, Br

BAD HUNTER Veggie-Centric

So much gorgeous light streams into this cozy resto at lunch and brunch! Veggies are the star, but carnivores get some love, too. And the Spicy Carrot Cooler works at any time of day. 802 W. Randolph St., 312-265-1745

LD, Br

BELLYQ Asian BBQ

Chef Bill Kim’s Pan-Asian menu is filled with craveable delights: Korean Fried Chicken, Scallion Pancakes with BBQ Pork, Tea-Smoked Duck Breast, and Coconut Grits are just a sampling. And that PB&J Soft Serve! Addictive stuff. 1400 W. Randolph St., 312-563-1010  

D

BLACKBIRD Contemporary American

This is where it all began for star chef Paul Kahan and his restaurant empire, and it’s still of the moment. Chef de cuisine Ryan Pfeiffer is putting out beautiful, modern food made with local, sustainable ingredients. 619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708

LD

GIRL & THE GOAT Global Cuisine

James Beard Award and “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard favors family-style, big-hearted dishes at her culinary global mash-up, like the Wood-Oven Roasted Pig Face (surprisingly scrumptious despite the name), Goat Empanadas, and even a whole goat leg available by reservation only. 809 W. Randolph St., 312-492-6262 

D 

LA SIRENA CLANDESTINA South American

Chef John Manion spent his childhood in Brazil, and cooked his way through Argentina, so it comes as no surprise that he is doing South American cuisine some serious justice here. His Feijoada (a meat, rice, and greens dish), Moqueca (a coconut-infused seafood stew with risotto), and Black Beans & Rice are all filled with deliciousness. Caipirihhas and Pisco Sours are house drinks, but the “Libations” menu is filled with choices. 954 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-5300

D, Br

LEÑA BRAVA Mexican/Seafood

Rick Bayless heads downtown with his newest venture, a Mexican seafood (from sustainable and environmentally responsible sources, of course) restaurant that draws inspiration from fire and ice. Everything here is cooked by fire, either in a wood-burning oven or over a hot grill. Bayless’ Cruz Blanca Brewery and Tacqueria is right next door. 900 W. Randolph St., 312-733-1975

D

ORIOLE Tasting Menu

best restaurants in Chicago: Oriole

Juniper Tonic (Photo by Sammy Faze Photography.)

Two Michelin stars for the Asian-influenced vision of chef Noah Sandoval combined with the divine desserts of pastry chef Genie Kwon. An inauspicious entrance belies the serene and awe-inducing culinary experience within. 661 W. Walnut St., 312-877-5339

D

THE PUBLICAN Gastropub

Oysters and craft beer and pork, oh my! If it’s über-loud here, that’s because everyone is fighting over the last piece of roasted farm chicken. Another hit from One-Off Hospitality Group. Don’t miss Publican Quality Meats (L only), the amazing deli across the street. 837 W. Fulton Market, 312-601-2970 

D, Br

SALERO Spanish

If you’re looking for an enormous Spanish-style “Gin Tonic,” you’ve come to the right place. Keep it company with chef Ashlee Aubin’s tapas (grilled octopus, confit potatoes, chorizo-stuffed quail) and a paella for the table. Don’t leave without trying the cheese flan or the churros! 621 W. Randolph St., 312-466-1000

D

SMYTH + THE LOYALIST Tasting Menu/Modern American

Powerhouse husband-and-wife team John and Karen Shields give you two options: Smyth’s exquisite multi-course offerings, or the casual neighborhood vibe of The Loyalist. Honestly, there’s no wrong choice here. 177 N. Ada St., 773-913-3773

D

SWIFT & SONS Steakhouse

Chef Chris Pandel and the Boka Group are aiming for nothing less than the evolution of the American steakhouse for modern sensibilities. The atmosphere is civilized, the meat is aged beautifully, dessert comes on a cart, and the gin is cold. What more could you ask for? 1000 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9420

D

South Loop

ACADIA Tasting Menu

Dinner is always a wow at this Michelin Guide two-star stunner. Chef Ryan McCaskey plays with the classics in inspiring, beautiful, and supremely flavorful ways. 1639 S. Wabash Ave., 312-360-9500

D

MERCAT A LA PLANXA Spanish

Located in the Blackstone Hotel, this Spanish spot is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Small plates, Catalan-style, a lively downstairs bar, and an airy two-story dining room are all selling points. 638 S. Michigan Ave., 312-765-0524

BLD, Br

 

More from Make It Better: 


Julie-Chernoff

Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz ScaggsRick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre. She and husband Josh are empty nesters since adult kids Adam and Leah have flown the coop. Rosie the Cockapoo relishes the extra attention.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>