Chicago is a great city. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it. You will find one of the greatest culinary destinations that this country can offer. Writing this list was challenging. Picking the best restaurants in Chicago is like picking which professional soccer players I'd most like to sleep with tonight. There are just way too many to choose between. I tried to narrow this down to time tested restaurants with standout menus, that can offer a unique dining experience. This list is not exhaustive and will always be evolving, like fashion. Here are my top picks at the moment, if you find yourself in the Windy City:
Au Cheval - they serve what is arguably the best burger in Chicago. The meat is ground fresh and topped with super thick slabs of bacon. They probably have other things on the menu but who really cares? Be prepared to wait up to 3 hours for a seat. There are endless bar options in the area.
Avec - This is one of many phenomenal restaurants by Chicago based One Off Hospitality. They serve new American food in a chic and packed setting. The menu changes often and all the dishes are perfect for sharing.
BellyQ - You'll find this place at the end of the W Randolph strip. The space is huge and urban. They specialize in takes on Korean BBQ. They have imaginative plated dishes as well as table top grills.
BOKA - This is the flagship restaurant for Boka Hospitality. Their dining room is sleek and modern. The menu is full of inventive new American surprises. I can honestly say I had one of the best meals of my life here. The chef hails from Eleven Madison Park, a NY Times 4 star restaurant, so you know the man knows how to cook.
Fat Rice - They serve comfort food from around the world in a cozy space with an open kitchen. Here you will find food from Macau which mingles ingredients and influences from Portugal, China, India, and Southeast Asia.
Frontera Grill- I didn't know I needed upscale Mexican food until Dining at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill. They offer beautiful takes on typical Mexican street food. They also own Topolobompo & XOCO in the area
Furious Spoon - A small ramen shop in the Wicker Park neighborhood. They serve amazing bowls of ramen. Check out the namesake noodles in tonkotsu broth with pork belly, white pepper chicken, marinated mushrooms, scallions, fury sauce, garlic relish, sesame seeds and a poached egg.
Gilt Bar- If you're looking for a restaurant that is dimly lit and sexy, this is your spot. They serve small & large plates of contemporary American food. The cocktails here are killer and they have the best steak tartar in the city.
Girl & The Goat - This is top chef winner Stephanie Izard's first Chicago restaurant and it remains a serious hot spot. You'll find innovative small plates of every variety here. The huge open kitchen is a great backdrop to the hip setting. Years after opening, you can still hardly get a table.
Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab - There is nothing more American to me than a steakhouse, and Joe's is the shining example of this. The dining room is old school and regal. You can empty your bank account here on a huge wine list, shellfish platters, and perfectly cooked steaks
Little Goat Diner - One of two Stephanie Izard restaurants on W Randolph. This is her more casual venture. They serve a huge menu of creative gourmet takes on American comfort food. The burger and nachos are both fantastic.
Mott St - You'll find inventive tapas-style plates here that are great for sharing. The theme of the food is Asian-fusion and you'll get great cocktails too. The restaurant is small with a comfortable bar and funky salvaged furniture.
Next - Can't afford their sister restaurant Alinea? Me either. This place doesn't run cheap, but it won't break the bank as badly. They change the concept seasonally, hence the name. Everything is upscale and beautiful here. You'll need to buy tickets, yes tickets, if you want to dine.
Prachute - This restaurant opened last year to rave reviews and wide spread acclaim. They specialize in beautiful dishes of Korean-American fusion
RPM Italian - They aren't breaking the barriers of creativity here, but god damn it's delicious. The River North restaurant is uber chic inside. They do classic Italian food in a gorgeous setting. Their prosciutto, pastas, and meatballs are to die for. Ever time I go the staff has a MAJOR attitude problem. But I don't even care because the food is that good.
Ruxbin - Come for food from around the globe here in a small rustic setting. The menu changes frequently and is full of interesting combos. The chef previously worked under Thomas Keller so he clearly knows what he's doing.
Sepia - Chef Andrew Zimmerman's owns this West Loop restaurant. You’ll get refined new American dishes here with a great wine list. The décor is sophisticated and charming. The menu changes seasonally but I am always a fan of the fish selection.
Smoque BBQ - This is a little outside of the city but worth the drive. They have the best BBQ in Chicago, in my opinion. They smoke amazing rib, sausage, and brisket. Expect to wait in a line, but it's worth it for all the porky goodness
The Publican - This is another one of the One Off Hospitality restaurants. Everything they do is stellar and this place is no different. They serve tons of pork and shellfish here, and everything you order is great. The setting is hip with large communal tables.
The Purple Pig - Since opening it's doors years ago, PP has garned huge wait times and great accliam. They specialize in Mediterranean small plates and charcuterie. I can honestly say I've never eaten anything here I was indifferent about; it's all good. They do not take reservations so be prepared for a wait. It's worth it