36 Best Restaurants in Chicago – A Guide for Newcomers

What are the best restaurants in Chicago, you might ask if you’re moving to Chicago soon. This metropolis’ dining scene is one of the most famous in the nation and the world. Everyone has heard about their deep-dish pizza, but the list is far from over. The Windy City’s eateries are so diverse and numerous that search for the perfect one can last for months. To make it easier for you, we made this guide. One of these spots will surely become your next favorite.

Prepare to immerse yourself in this culinary journey with us. We’re about to show you our top picks of eateries according to the various criteria, such as the kind of food they serve, the part of the city they’re located in, or the type of guest they cater to. You will find venues featuring cuisines from different parts of the world, as well as the most entertaining, affordable, cool, and kind-friendly diners Chi-town has to offer. These are not regular touristy spots that don’t have a good ratio of price and quality, but some of the local’s preferred choices.

Chi-Town Is a Foodie Destination

Chicago’s culinary scene has everything you can imagine – from cheap but delicious bites to 26 Michelin-starred eateries, and 54 Bib Gourmand recommendations (for good little diners). It is home to 40 recipients of the prestigious James Beard Award. Which city hosts this ceremony, you might ask. None other but Chi-Town itself. The award recognizes chefs from all around the US and their culinary skills each year, and it’s also known as the Oscar of the food world.

When you have more than 7,300 eateries in one place, you must know what the best neighborhoods in Chicago are if you’re a real foodie. According to our research, that is West Loop, which is also one of the best Chicago neighborhoods for young professionals. As for the suburbs of Chicago, we highly recommend Clarendon Hills. Eating in nearby joints is a great way to meet new neighbors and fit in quickly.

However vast the food scene here might be, all of these excellent spots have been affected by the Coronavirus situation. Some of the top ones are unfortunately permanently closed, such as Blackbird, Income Tax, and Toast that had been around for 24 years. Even though that saddens us all, there are still many more places left that still operate and offer take out/delivery service. We’ll try to include this info for every place we picked. For these which work, please respect the required measures – wear a mask and maintain social distance.

If You Wish to Eat in the Best Ethnic Chicago Restaurants, You Might Need to Go Outside the Loop

You shouldn’t miss on the traditional deep-dish pizza, hot-dogs, and Italian beef sandwiches, but there is so much more to try. There’s food from all over the world, so no matter where you come from or what cuisine is your favorite, chances are you’ll find it here. Greek, Mediterranean, Ethiopian, Arabian, and many more diverse cuisines have their joints here. This could be the first time for you to try something that you haven’t had the chance to, especially if your old place didn’t have that many options, or you’re moving from a small town to a big city.

Since You’re New Here, Start With the Well-Known Ones – These Are the Oldest Best Restaurants in Chicago

Even if you’re not from here or you’ve never been, there are a few restaurants in Chicago that are widely-known for their specialties and long-lasting reputation. They’re still open to guests even during the pandemics, for indoor and outdoor meals.

Some of the oldest dining places in Windy City

This is a famous German place located at the very heart of this metropolis. A true rarity, it’s operated and run as a family business. The amazing eatery and bar have been serving Chicagoans since 1898, while its roots go back to 1893. Come and try Berghoff’s Bavarian Pretzel with Mini Brat and Knockwurst.

Known for being the oldest one in town (since 1941) and for their delicious steaks and Italian classics, this steakhouse is a local favorite and a must-visit. Gene & Georgetti Steakhouse is open daily for every meal from 8 AM to 11 PM, and you must try their signature half-pound steak burger with delicious toppings.

This old-school red-sauce joint is the oldest one of its kind still running here. Its Italian-American classics such as Meatball Sandwich Parmigiana or Chicken Marsala have been an everyday treat since 1927. It’s a family operated business in Downtown that has three different joints in the same location, with each one offering a beautiful atmosphere in a rustic way.

Once frequently visited by Frank Sinatra, this tavern was a speakeasy back in the day. That being said, the reputation of Twin Anchors was cemented by their delicious baby-back ribs, which can be basted with homemade BBQ sauce of your choosing – the Zesty Sauce is the most popular one.

This metropolis is renowned as a hot-dog city, and the top one, not only in Illinois but the whole of the US, is made and served right here at Gene & Jude’s. This fantastic place was opened in 1946 and was relocated to River Grove back in 1950, just four years after its opening. They are the true embodiment of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which ultimately led to its crowning as the most famous in the nation.

This is the true inception of Chicago’s eatery business. This soul-food diner located in the South Side has been satisfying its citizens’ bellies since 1892. Their repertoire includes all the American classics, and breakfast is served all day long. You can also spice things up with red pepper vinegar, which can be found on every table. Unfortunately, you can’t stop by and have a meal there. Also, Daley’s is the only place on this list that currently offers delivery only.

Make sure you don't skip the traditional ones

Once You’ve Tasted the Tradition, Go Check Out the Newest Restaurants in Chicago

We know it’s always easier to play safe and eat only the verified specialties at well-known places, but where’s the beauty in that? Trying new stuff, discovering, and broadening your horizons is an important part of life. That’s why we selected some of the finest new options you will find here:

  • Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar – This is a very fun new cocktail spot with a team of experts that will make your experience one of a kind. The kitchen is also amazing – our special combo is Potstickers (thicker dough stuffed with ground pork and cabbage, served with a tamari dipping), sweet & sour (choose between crispy tofu, chicken, or shrimp that are tossed in homemade sweet n’ sour sauce with onion and bell pepper), and some warm almond cookies for dessert.
  • Gaijin – One of the most amazing Japanese places in town. They are in the West Loop and offer one of the top okonomiyaki you will ever try. You can dine-in, order take out, or eat on their patio seven days a week.
  • Porto – If you’re craving for some Spanish and Portuguese dishes, you should come to this place in West Town. Get a tasting menu and try many different courses and do a wine pairing with them. You’ll surely enjoy their fresh seafood and cozy atmosphere. A downside could be that the portions aren’t large, so you won’t be able to share. That may be good if you’re moving to a city alone and you want to enjoy a solo meal.
There are always some brand-new spots opening

Have You Started Sightseeing? Go to the Best Restaurants in Downtown Chicago

People usually start exploring their new home town from the center, so we suppose you want to know what restaurants in Downtown Chicago you shouldn’t miss. There are many, so checking out one by one can last really long. After you’re finished with visiting museums, art galleries, and a walk through Millennium Park, you’ll surely get hungry.

Once in Downtown, don't miss out on the following spots:

Again with the dish pizza, we know, but this is one of the legendary places you should go to and try the pizza of all pizzas. Lou Malnati’s is open for delivery and take-out, and it offers much more than just its most famous product. On top of that, you can even ship their pizzas to another coast – they will freeze it and ship it on dry ice. This is most definitely a spot that you shouldn’t miss.

This is THE place for steaks and seafood. All the ingredients they use are fresh and high-quality. There’s plenty of room inside and outside for eating, while customers can also order delivery. Whether you prefer eating crabs or lamb, Catch 35 delivers. It offers good value for the price and many people leave this spot satisfied. It’s very close to the river, right in W. Wacker Drive.

Order delivery or take-out from Saigon Sisters, a family-owned and independent spot with healthy options for every taste. You’ll find Vietnamese and Thai dishes that will leave you speechless. There are fantastic sandwiches for lunch, great Pho’s, chicken, and beef. It’s not expensive, and portions are large enough for sharing with a friend.

It’s actually a cafe, but with amazing breakfasts, brunches, and lunches. With its bright colors, friendly service, and reasonable prices, Yolk is the perfect place to check out and make it your new favorite. Order eggs in any style: scrambled, Benedict, skitter, omelet, or choose French, velvet, or avocado toasts. If you’re up for something light, there are oatmeals and yogurt with fruit. Lunch options such as sandwiches, soups, and salads are also available, and so is the kid’s menu. Come to River North and grab a delicious meal here.

If you get hungry after a walk in some Downtown park, we got you covered

Frontier Is One of the Top Unique Restaurants in Chicago

Before we continue, we need to say that this place is not for everyone. The reason behind that is that they serve whole animals, and the list is not short. The whole animal experience includes a selection of various fauna, such as farm-raised pigs, wild boars, lamb, goat, antelope, shrimp, salmon, and even Louisiana alligators. Wondering how they make the ‘gators? They stuff them with whole chickens, then smoke it, roast, and serve with jambalaya, as well as many other sides to fulfill your needs. You can also get add-ons if you’re in an adventurous mood for a roasted pig head. It’s edible, don’t worry.

Frontier also hosts many different group dining events, which can be held in an all-weather beer garden. This place begs for a friends’ get-together. The one-of-a-kind experience is almost certainly guaranteed.

Smyth and Loyalist Surely Belong to the Must-Try Restaurants in Chicago List

Chi-Town is the third-largest city in the nation with almost three million residents, so when someone says that a certain eatery is a must-try, then it’s a big deal. Smyth and Loyalist are in North Ada Street, and they now accept dine-in reservations. The ground level – Smyth is full of surprises. The name comes from Smyth County in Virginia, where owners John and Karen Shields worked and got experience. The offer here is constantly changing and upgrading, so you’ll never have the same dish twice. The atmosphere is informal even though the interior looks pricey, and there’s an open kitchen. The dishes are imaginative and yet humble.

They Are Also Known for Their Phenomenal Bar on Garden Level

The Loyalist is a neighborhood bar with a seasonal patio on Ada Street. There’s food on this level (burgers especially), but they are more known for their drinks. The signature cocktail is Old Fashion, and it’s delicious. The selection of wines is amazing, so make sure to try 2017 Olema, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Loyalist has a French vibe because of the rich wine selection

Virtue is One of the Really Nice Restaurants in Chicago

Virtue offers a warm, honest, and thoughtful space to all the guests who come here. It’s in Hyde Park, and they are now accepting reservations both indoors and out, and takeout, but patio seating is only available via reservation, so keep that in mind if you’re moving in the summer. Chef Eric Williams makes this place a special one, and the menu comes in small, large, and extra rations. It’s very simple – there are gumbo, rice and gravy, crushed potatoes, creamed spinach, and beef short ribs. Their choice of meals looks and feels like home-cooked American Southern specialties, and the vibe of the place is a culture of hospitality and kindness.

Get a seat in this Hyde Park place and feel like home

Going for a Night Out? It’s Time for Some Fun Restaurants in Chicago

Chicago nightlife should not be overlooked. There are plenty of spots that have phenomenal dishes, and they also offer some good times. If you’re looking for a place where you can go for dinner and have fun, these are the essential eateries you should go to. Some of these places might even be one of your potential reasons to move.

Here are the most entertaining places in this metropolis:

As its website intro states, Alinea is not just a classic diner. At least not in the conventional sense. Their strong suit is not only seriously delicious tasting dishes (which includes 18 to 22 courses) but also maintaining an incredibly fun and unique atmosphere. This three Michelin star place was not only named the top one in the nation multiple times but has also won the James Beard Award for the Best Service in the US. There are numerous reasons why: daring dishes that challenge your very taste buds, amazing service, and an unforgettable experience. The most fun part? You can pop and eat an edible helium balloon, which is made of green apple taffy.

On top of the fact that it serves the Whole Bomb (5 lbs of spicy beef and pork sausage stuffed with bacon and cooked for hours) which you can share with your whole squad, this place is unique in a sense that it transforms its patio beer garden during winters into a curling rink. This is not something that you’d expect, at least from a dining place like Kaiser Tiger. Also, if you’re a fan of bocce ball, they got you covered during summers as well, as the garden is then made into a bocce ball area. Sports and eating – the perfect duo.

A truly refreshing and easygoing joint, Three Dots and a Dash is more of a cocktail bar place. That being said, it does guarantee a higher level of tiki cocktail sensationalism, which will leave you breathless and keep coming for more. They use prime ingredients to brew their cocktails and make their own syrups by hand to maintain quality. Prepare yourself for a not-everyday Polynesian atmosphere that will make you want to come back. Do not be afraid of going too far with drinks, as this place offers a top-notch barbecue. That includes 18-hour smoked briskets and amazing burgers and snacks to fulfill your gastronomic desires.

Fun is guaranteed with Chicago's nightlife

Bistro Campagne Is on the Top of the Romantic Restaurants in Chicago

And reservations for the patio are open again! Going for dinner at a nice place is always one of the romantic things to do in Chicago, and Bistro Campagne has something that other eateries don’t. This French Bistro is a hidden gem in Lincoln Square with a lovely green patio, sustainably produced ingredients, and a wide variety of beers, wines, and cocktails. Their idea is to bring the vibe of small neighborhood bistros in Chi-Town. Make a reservation and bring your loved one for a romantic date with a fantastic meal and drinks. We recommend ordering the Chef’s selection of cheese, with red wine that they can pick for you. If you’re hungry for some sweets, their pastry chef makes beautiful lemon tart with blueberry tarragon compote. After finding out about a place this lovely, packing your things and moving here sounds like an even better idea.

Cheese and wine always go together perfectly

Pretty Cool Ice Cream is Possibly the Best Restaurants for Kids in Chicago

If you’re moving while pregnant or you already have children, you’re probably wondering where you can go for a bite after doing all the fun things to do in Chicago with kids. We still haven’t met a kid that doesn’t like ice cream, so Pretty Cool Ice Cream is a place to check out. It’s in Logan Square, and you can order online and pick it up at their walk-up window. This is not just an ice cream shop. They handcraft everything at their production facility, and you can watch everything in the making. Their menu is adapted to all kinds of diets and tastes, so you can have anything from chocolate-dipped ice cream bars to dairy or gluten-free pops.

Why Is This Ice Cream Spot So Good for Kids?

Another thing that makes it unique is their special smaller proportioned line of Pony Pops and kid-friendly space. This space includes handwashing stations and a drinking fountain, changing stations in all bathrooms, as well as bleacher-style seating for their little guests to climb.

You can order their products for a party because Pretty Cool Ice Cream does catering

You’re Interested in the Best Affordable Restaurants in Chicago? Try With Portillo’s

If you plan to move out of state on a budget and you’re looking for the cheapest way to move out of state, then some of these spots might be too expensive for you. The cost of living in Chicago isn’t really low, so you might want to have a bite somewhere without spending a fortune. Portillo’s is perfect for a cheap, quick, and tasty hot-dog for only $3. This fast food place is in River North, and they currently only do delivery.

Some other affordable spots you can go to are:

  • Taqueria Mazamitla in West Belmont Ave
  • A Place by Damao in South Halsted Street
  • Lito’s Empanadas in Lincoln Park
There are amazing cheap joints in here

Fat Cat Restaurant and Bar Is Undoubtedly One of the Coolest Restaurants in Chicago

Make a reservation and dine on the patio of this amazing joint that has a true Chicagoan spirit. Having dinner or brunch outside at Fat Cat is available any day except Tuesday, and their menu is pretty affordable. You’ll find plenty of options to share, and the priciest food item, Hot Mess Burger, costs $16. They make delicious cocktails and have wine to go for one of those days when you can’t cope with reality. We know what also goes well with that – Salted Caramel Brownie with vanilla ice cream, bacon whipped cream, candied bacon, and cherry.

Fat Cat's salads are delicious

Looking for Animal-Free Product Spots? Try These Best Vegan Restaurants in Chicago

When is the best time to move? If you ask us, we’d say that it should be the moment when you see that you’ll have amazing places to eat and feel like you’re home there. If you’re planning on living in Chicago and you have a special diet, you can be sure that you’ll be able to continue your lifestyle as you planned it. This metropolis has options for everyone. In case you don’t eat any kind of animal products or you eat only raw, you sure need to know how to pack kitchen items for moving if you’re planning on cooking for yourself. Then again, you also need to know where the top places to eat out are. Here are some of the best places with the healthiest dishes:

  • Chicago Raw – As its name suggests, this place specializes in raw, vegan dishes, that will make you question your non-raw diet choices. Be sure to try their signature ”Ride the Wave” dish, which is pad thai made from kelp noodles, almond butter sauce, and fresh veg. Visit them at River North or the French Market – you won’t regret it.
  • Urban Vegan – A popular hotspot, this diner is located in Ravenswood and is both a failsafe and fantastic option for everybody who craves both fast and healthy options. They serve many tasty curries, meat-substitute options, and stir-fries. The list is vast and diverse. It’s a sit-down place, but they mostly do takeout and delivery.
  • Beatrix – This amazing place with three locations and four extra market spots offers an array of delicious dishes for your entire day. From breakfast to dinner, Beatrix has courses for every part of the day, and each menu is to die for – from fresh local fruits, avocado toasts, and Kennebec fries, to creamy soups and wild mushroom risottos, each bite is its own flavorsome tale.
Vegans will love living in Chi-Town

Your New Favorite Meat-Free Option Is Here – Visit the Chicago Diner, One of the Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Chicago

The Chicago Diner on Logan Square is meat-free since ’83, and they are highly rated by customers who have been here. They have award-winning milkshakes, vegan and gluten-free options, so you can come for lunch or build your brunch. There are vegan cold and hot drinks, kids menu, and desserts – all you need in one place. Don’t miss on their gyros with tomatoes & lettuce, sliced seitan, vegan tzatziki sauce, and chopped onions.

You can pick your burger and sandwich sides, and they're all vegan or vegetarian

Chef Sarah Grueneberg Makes Sure Monteverde Stays One of the Best Italian Restaurants in Chicago

Global wines and the finest pasta is what makes Monteverde one of the top restaurants in Chicago. Come any day Wednesday through Sunday for outdoor and limited indoor seats, and enjoy a perfect pair of wine and fair. With simple and fresh ingredients and hand-made pasta, they make delicious meals that will keep you coming back. It’s in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, where Chef Sarah Grueneberg shows her knowledge from trips around the world, as well as her family heritage.

Come to Monteverde for dinner, or just for a dessert and a drink

What Are the Best Mexican Restaurants in Chicago? We Picked Out the Top Two Owned by Rick Bayless

If you haven’t heard of him, Rick Bayless is a famous American chef specializing in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations. Two of his eateries are just the ones you should go to if you’re hungry for some Mexican dishes. The first one is Topolobampo – fancy, Michelin star place, and the other is Frontera Grill, a well-known, and high-end diner with authentic combinations of ingredients in their dishes. They might not be for everyone’s pocket, but they are definitely the top ones. Reservations at Topolobampo 2.0 are available, and the price per person is $125. Curbside pickups are available at Frontera Grill.

If you're up for some creative Mexican, go to Topolobampo and Frontera Grill

Don’t Forget to Give Some of the Best Indian Restaurants in Chicago a Chance

Fresh vegetables, meat, and Indian spices wrapped all together in a tasty meal are what you must try once you’re here. There are many amazing Indian eateries here, but since they’re not open for dining in, you won’t have to worry about finding parking, if you plan on getting auto transport. These are some of our personal favorites you should order from for a delicious lunch or dinner:

  • Vajra – Upscale Indian/Nepalese eatery in West Avenue that offers classics with a twist
  • Chicago Curry House – An Indian spot near South Loop that also offers Nepalese dishes. Has all the classic Indian finger-licking tikka masala
  • Gaylord Indian Restaurant – The longest-running Indian fine-dining eatery that holds lunch buffets and is famous for its tandoori-style of cooking. Visit them at Near North Side
  • Hakka Bakka – An affordable street food place in Fulton Market which is famous for its signature Kati Rolls and has delicious homemade chutneys that accompany your every meal.

Here’s a table of their exact addresses and working hours:

NameAddressWorking Hours
Vajra1329 W Chicago Ave.Every day 5-9 PM
Chicago Curry House899 S Plymouth Ct.10.15 AM - 9.30 PM
Gaylord Indian Restaurant100 E Walton St.4.30-9.30 PM on working days and 11.30 AM - 2 PM, 4.30-9.30 PM on weekends
Hakka Bakka1002 W Lake St.11AM–6PM
Indian cuisine is known for its flavors

Looking for the Best Asian Restaurants in Chicago? Don’t Miss Roka Akor

Taking Japanese cuisine experience on a whole different level, this place in River North gives you a chance to interact with amazing chefs that go up and above and beyond to provide you with a homely atmosphere and breathtaking dishes. Roka Akor serves people in California and Arizona as well, and a great reason why they’re so well known across the country is most likely the fact that they use a traditional 12-foot robata grill to prepare their delicious dishes. It reaches up to 1,900 degrees and is filled with mesquite charcoal heats. Rest assured, visiting this homey diner will leave you with nothing short of a fun, yet relaxing and unique experience.

Are You Hungry Yet?

This is just a small insight into Chi-Town’s culinary scene. Talking about every great eatery in this place would take forever, so we singled one or a few of each kind. Cuisines from all around the world have found their home here, which makes Chi-Town one of the most diverse foodie destinations. No matter what kind of diet you have or what type of meals you like the most, there’s a place waiting for you here.

Written By: Christina Henry