20 Best Restaurants In Chicago, Ranked

If you came here with Michelin stars in your eyes looking for a rundown of the finest in Chicago's haute dining scene, you may want to consult the eponymous Guide instead. Certainly, those establishments offer diners an experience par excellence (and yes, there are at least three stars on this list), but what makes the restaurants detailed below the city's best take other factors into account like history, representation, accessibility, innovation, and uniqueness.

Each one of these restaurants tells a very specific story, not just of the chefs or cultural heritages behind their food, but of Chicago itself in all its multifaceted traditions and histories. You'll find the highest of high-end tasting menus right alongside the most delectable holes in the wall, just as you would in most of the neighborhoods featured herein.

The rankings are, at best, arbitrary, decided with gut instinct rather than some quasi-scientific rubric we made up. Who are we to say what's better between Alinea and Johnnie's Beef? They both crush their respective games, but neither play in the same arena. And there may be nothing more satisfying after an evening tripping through more than a dozen courses of minimalist, modernist cuisine than tucking into a gravy-soaked, giardiniera-laden Italian beef sandwich to cap the night off in true Chicago style.

20. Triple Crown Restaurant

Opened in Chinatown almost 30 years ago, Triple Crown quickly became Chicago's go-to for traditional Cantonese cuisine. With a focus on the fresh seafood preparations that Southern China and Hong Kong are famous for, this family-run restaurant strives to immerse its diners in the cultural history they draw from on their extensive menu. A real standout is their all-day dim sum service, steamers filled with all manner of delicate handmade dumplings, soups, vegetables, and sweet and savory buns available from breakfast through dinner.

In a city where many styles of Asian cuisine have exploded in nearly every neighborhood, from contemporary fusion restaurants to traditional holes in the wall, Triple Crown reminds us that the classics endure as long as they're made with the care this multi-generational operation puts in.

19. Johnnie's Beef

Of all the many Italian beef joints in Chicago — most of which are having a great year thanks to the popularity of FX's "The Bear" – Johnnie's Beef is the yardstick by which to measure all the others. Since 1961, this cash-only walk-up, with locations in Elmwood Park and Arlington Heights, has been serving what locals say is the best in town.

Chalk it up the guarded family recipe with its secret blend of seasonings and spices; the soft, crusty French bread and the way it soaks up the rich homemade gravy; or the backend bite you get from the fresh giardiniera. Whatever you do, be sure to order yours "juicy" (aka "dipped"), and be ready to do some laundry when you're done — the front of your shirt likely won't make it out unscathed.

18. Evette's

Chef Mitchell AbouJamra — "Jamra" to most — loves his Teta, the namesake of his Lebanese-Mexican fusion concept, Evette's. He learned to cook in his grandmother's kitchen, but more importantly, he learned from her that the loving intentionality with which he makes his food is just as important as his well-sourced ingredients.

Chef Jamra plays with his food, joyfully taking on the historic fusion of Mexican and Lebanese cuisines. Tacos al pastor are essentially Mexican shawarma, while tacos arabés eschew tortillas for pita, and lean heavily on cumin. His versions of these dishes transcend both heritages, as does his gooey and crisp grilled halloumi taco with jalapeño tabbouleh. Check out Evette's original location in Lincoln Park, or stop by their outpost in the Time Out Chicago food hall in Fulton Market.

17. Au Cheval

An upscale take on diner food, Au Cheval is home to Chicago's — nay, the country's — best burger. What's so special about Au Cheval's take on the American classic? There's nothing revolutionary going on: it's prime beef, Kraft singles, housemade pickles, and their signature "Dijonaise," all between a buttery bun toasted, crucially, on both sides in their salamander oven. They don't try to reinvent any wheels, instead mastering each beloved, familiar component.

Au Cheval isn't just burgers. They elevate diner classics like matzo ball soup, omelets, and other breakfast staples, and their crave-able version of chopped chicken livers. If you don't want to wait for a seat in the Fulton Market restaurant, try one of the pared-down Small Cheval outposts dotted around various Chicago neighborhoods.

16. The Original Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

Square-cut, cracker-crust pizza is trending hard in Chicago right now, but nothing beats the OGs at Vito & Nick's who are celebrating nearly 100 years of neighborhood pizza perfection. The Ashburn landmark wears its age as a badge of honor. There are no frills here, and you wouldn't want any.

Just like all the other great food on this list, what sets Vito & Nick's apart is their delicious ingredients and the absolute mastery of their game. The super thin crust is crispy without being brittle. The red sauce has just the right amount of tang to compliment the excellent Italian sausage. A pitcher of Old Style washes everything down just right. And the view in the dining room is a nostalgic look back in time to old Chicago, the way it was, and the way we're all glad it still is.

15. Taqueria Chingon

With increasing competition for the title, Taqueria Chingon still wins it for best tacos in Chicago. The menu by chefs Marco Ascencio and Oliver Poilevey, both sporting high-end pedigrees from Chicago's best kitchens, features an evolving list of weekly specials buttressed by Platonic versions of taco-cart classics. The handmade tortillas alone are worth the trip to Logan Square, but think of them as a chewy canvas on which this team of culinary chingones present their ever-rotating taco inventions.

Recent menu mainstays include al pastor two ways – traditional(-ish), and vegetarian, made with spicy celery root rotating on a neighboring trompo. There's also the much sought-after honey-glazed delicata squash with goat cheese crema. Don't be surprised if popular items on the menu sell out, especially if you arrive later in the service.

14. Ghin Kao Eat Rice

Michelin-listed Northern Thai restaurant Ghin Kao Eat Rice doesn't tone things down for Western palates. Sibling chef team Nova and Kami Sasi pull no punches when it comes to chili and fish sauce. There's nothing gentrified about their menu, keeping the flavor volume at eleven while simultaneously presenting meticulously balanced dishes that demonstrate how a strong spice profile can delight and satisfy rather than shock and awe.

Graffiti signage and classic hip-hop complete the casual aesthetic of this BYOB Pilsen neighborhood favorite. The menu is small enough for a group of six hungry friends to try most of the offerings, but be sure not to sleep on the sinus-clearing Krapow Gai, the refreshing Som Tum Thai, or the star of the show, the rich and comforting Grandma's Pork Belly.

13. Superkhana International

The best way to describe the fare at Superkhana International, the Logan Square popup-turned-landmark, is "Indian-ish" — whimsical subcontinental flavors squashed through the filter of creative American hangover food, with a good helping of fine dining technique thrown in for street cred. The results are mashups that obliterate cultural boundaries and scoff at the idea that "authenticity" means playing by anyone else's rules.

Represented are Indian takes on Tex-Mex (chili cheese naan, topped with pickled jalapeños and a queso-esque melange of mozzarella and Indian Amul cheese), Italian-American (their signature butter chicken calzone wrapped in homemade naan), and just plain American diner grub (Manchurian potatoes, a Chinese-American twist on cheese fries).

One gets the sense that chefs Yoshi Yamada and Zeeshan Shah have a lot of fun when coming up with their menus, but don't let the good times fool you. There's real artistry at work in these dishes.

12. Lula Cafe

Since opening its doors in the fall of 1999 — in Logan Square before it was cool — the eclectic Lula Cafe has always defied categorization. Don't let the one-love communal vibe fool you: they're serious about making great food with ethically sourced ingredients. The menu changes almost daily based on what's fresh, and it's that commitment to well-crafted improvisation that makes Lula just as vital today as it did a quarter-century ago.

Monday nights, come in for a prix fixe vegetable tasting menu and be sure to ask for pairing suggestions from their incredible wine list. Weekend brunch is perennially slammed, so expect a worthwhile wait for whatever stratospheric iteration of breakfast sandwich the kitchen's come up with. But seriously: Any time is a great time to eat at Lula. The place is a Chicago institution for good reason.

11. Le Bouchon

Celebrating 30 years as Bucktown's beloved bistro, Le Bouchon is proof that a mastery of the classics and a commitment to tradition can still win the day over trendy fusion fare and pervasive small plates. A favorite of the late Julia Child and a regular date night spot of the Obamas, Le Bouchon isn't just one of Chicago's top restaurants; it's widely considered among the country's best French bistros.

Attention to detail, technical expertise, and a real affection for the cuisine set apart familiar plates like steak frites, tarte l'oignon, and trout "en croûte." The latter is a true standout: delicate ocean trout baked inside puff pastry, served with a creamy English pea mousse and smoked trout roe.

Through the decades and countless accolades, Le Bouchon has never forgotten its role as a neighborhood eatery. Locals love to come on Mondays for half-price bottles from its outstanding wine list. On Tuesdays, they offer an affordably-priced three-course prix fixe menu.

10. Mi Tocaya Antojería

Chef Diana Dávila's contemporary Mexican eatery pays homage to the indigenous cuisine of pre-colonial Mexico and the women who passed down those traditions into contemporary Mexican food. Every item on the menu is accompanied with a brief history of the dish's inspiration, detailing the regions and ethnic heritage from which they originated.

Make no mistake: a meal at Mi Tocaya isn't a stuffy, boring history lesson. The vibrantly decorated dining room and energetic open kitchen bring a charge to the space. The knowledgeable wait staff is palpably excited about the food, and with good reason. There isn't an item on the menu that isn't outstanding and original. Even for well-versed lovers of Mexican cuisine, each dish at Mi Tocaya brings surprise and new dimensions to the traditions they honor.

9. Cellar Door Provisions

After closing for more than a year during the pandemic, James Beard Award-nominated chef Ethan Pikas took the break to distill his delicate takes on Northern Italian cuisine down to their essences. This new iteration of Cellar Door Provisions takes a minimalist approach with a concise, well-edited menu — now only available at dinner — and a curated selection of natural wine.

Pikas's menu is vegetable- and seafood-forward, featuring preparations that allow the quality of his ingredients to shine. This mature, almost egoless approach to cheffing positions Pikas behind his dishes as their steward rather than their master. Most dishes feature only three or four lightly touched components, letting the plates speak for themselves. For diners, this clarity of vision ignites an excitement for simplicity that's often lost in the tortured avant-garde cuisine we've come to expect in so many fancy restaurants these days.

8. Avec

If your favorite restaurant features Mediterranean-style small plates prepared in wood-fired ovens and served at long communal tables, you probably have the visionaries at Avec to thank. James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahan helped pioneer this ubiquitous style of American dining back in 2003, and his team continues to lead the pack 20 years later with inventive cuisine inspired by the wine regions of southern Europe.

Chef de Cuisine Dylan Patel maintains signature dishes like the chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and the luxurious salt cod brandade with grilled sourdough. But it's his seasonal fare that makes the menu at Avec shine. On a recent visit, the roasted sweet potatoes with za'atar buttermilk, pickled lemons, and crispy bulgar may have won the prize for the best single bite in Chicago this winter.

7. Virtue

Hyde Park's Virtue is a refined tribute to Southern cuisine helmed by chef Erick Williams, winner of the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Great Lakes. The honor is well-deserved for the stalwart Chicago industry veteran: he's paid his dues in triplicate over a nearly three-decade career in some of the city's most notable kitchens. Virtue is his first solo project, and it's one you can tell he's been plotting for a long, long time.

His menu feels like a homecoming even if you've never lived in the American South. There are country staples like the delectable chicken gizzards over dirty rice, skillet cornbread with honey butter, and perhaps the best shrimp and grits anywhere. This is a dining room where everyone feels welcome, and no one goes home hungry.

6. Rose Mary

Believe the hype. Rose Mary is "Top Chef"-winner Joe Flamm's first restaurant, and it's a total home run. His menu fuses Baltic and Italian cuisine into modern takes on thoughtful and comforting nonna food. The dining room, centered around an open hearth kitchen, is open, airy, and inviting. The serving staff are meticulous without being intrusive or overly proper, and their command of the menu is more than impressive.

Flamm takes his influences from the Adriatic Sea, the arm of the Mediterranean that separates the Italian peninsula from Baltic countries like Croatia and Serbia. Expect to be artfully reintroduced to food you thought you knew, like tortellini Djuvec, made with red peppers and preserved eggplant, or Cevapi — grilled Serbian sausages served with a Balkan flat bread (lepinja) and a Serbian cheese called kajmak.

5. Kasama

If you show up to Kasama on your average weekday, you'd be forgiven if its counter service ordering and its selection of excellent pastries, coffee, and Filipino breakfast staples tricked you into believing that this eatery was merely a casual –- if exceptional –- spot for a quick brunch bite. Look closer and you'll begin to appreciate the precision of the line cooks in the open kitchen, and the little elevated touches the floor staff brings to their service. It's as if your favorite diner is being run by CIA grads and industry lifers. Which it is.

In the evenings, Kasama transforms into one of Chicago's most exciting and inventive fine dining experiences. Chef-owners Genie Kwon and Tim Flores present a 13-course tasting menu unlike any you've had in the city, incorporating Filipino influences into their technically ambitious, cutting-edge dishes. Kwon and Flores also invite guest chefs to their kitchen like "Top Chef" winner Dale Talde, who recently headlined a pop-up.

4. Alinea

What can be said about Grant Achatz's temple of haute cuisine that hasn't been said already? As Chicago's only three Michelin-starred restaurant, Alinea is also considered among the very best dining experiences on the planet, earning top spots on food nerd bucket lists the world over. Alinea's extravagant tasting menu ingeniously blurs the line between dinner and high art, each plate a modernist sculpture that plays with all of the senses to create a viscerally immersive encounter that transcends their designation as merely "a meal."

Guests can choose salon seating on the second floor or the more dramatic gallery seating downstairs. Parties of six can reserve the private Kitchen Table for the most experimental and theatrical presentation, and all seatings offer an optional wine pairing with each course.

3. Parachute

It could be easy to overlook Parachute as one of Chicago's best, but the tiny restaurant tucked inside a creaky 100-year-old house in Avondale conceals a world-class contemporary Korean menu from husband-and-wife chefs Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark. When the pandemic hit, many devotees were worried about the fate of their beloved Parachute. It closed its doors in early 2021 after a valiant attempt at a take-out-focused concept and stayed shuttered until last summer, losing its coveted Michelin star in the process.

But time away has only strengthened Kim and Clark's commitment. Reborn with new confidence, a full-scale facelift, and a strong emphasis on the Korean side of their signature "Korean-American cuisine," Parachute has re-cemented itself as a neighborhood landmark worth traveling for.

2. Hermosa Restaurant

During the day at Hermosa, you can score chef Ethan Lim's buzzy Cambodian spin on the classic fried chicken sandwich — featuring pickled papaya and long beans to cool the spice-marinated dark meat — as well as a number of other contemporary takes on Thai and Cambodian cuisine.

By night, however, chef Lim, who cut his teeth at Alinea Group's modernist restaurant Next, transforms his neighborhood storefront into a coveted supper club, serving "Family Meal" for groups of up to 10 guests. Lim's tasting menu, a beautifully expressed culinary autobiography, is so popular it often books out months in advance. If you can't get in, however, his daytime take-out menu often features versions of the items diners will see if they're lucky enough to get a seat at the communal table.

1. Daisies

Chef Joe Frillman's ever-evolving, locally-inspired dishes at Daisies are odes to Midwestern staples like latkes with smoked white fish and handmade pierogies. He surprises his diners by making the familiar new again, forming his latkes out of farm-fresh rutabaga, and elevating his pierogies by adding plump, delicately cooked mussels in a buttery beer broth.

The star of Frillman's menu are his handmade pastas, comfort dishes that are at once elegant and technically perfect without ever straying into the realm of the precious. The stracci — literally "torn rags" in Italian — embraces its modest, rustic roots, incorporating morsels of pulled lamb among the perfectly al dente, irregularly shaped noodles. The pappardelle with mushrooms and pecorino integrates a balancing, funky acid note in the ragu, calling to mind its farmhouse origins.

The team at Daisies has recently announced that the last service at its current location will be on March 5, when they'll move a few blocks up the street into a newly renovated space for the next chapter of this outstanding restaurant.