New York, Chicago and San Francisco are the only three cities in the United States that have their dining pedigree probed and rated by the Michelin Guide. This prestigious publication is an internationally recognized standard of culinary excellence and has the power to turn a nameless restaurant into a globally sought after destination. Chicago's dining scene is a 23 star constellation, made up of industry staples, trendy newcomers and one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants on the planet.
Alinea (1723 North Halsted Street): With an overarching air of modern luxury, Alinea is equal parts fine dining and culinary theatre. Since opening in 2005, it has garnered an international reputation for being one of the most innovative and inspiring restaurants in the world. Chef/Partner Grant Achatz is a visionary and his brainchild has completely changed the game for Chicago as a dining destination.
Graham Elliot (217 West Huron Street): Celebrity chef Graham Elliot has opened a handful of eponymous restaurants in Chicago with his flagship, Graham Elliot, becoming one of the hottest restaurants in the country.
L2O (2300 North Lincoln Park West): In 2011, L2O's Executive Chef, Laurent Gras, left Chicago for New York and, subsequently, the Lincoln Park mainstay lost a Michelin star. With seafood savant Matthew Kirkley now at the helm, L2O is experiencing one of the most exciting resurgences in Chicago dining.
Acadia (1639 South Wabash Avenue): A sensory gauntlet where the cocktails are prepared to the same exacting standards as the cuisine. Chef Ryan McCaskey opened Acadia in 2010. The South Loop restaurant has fast become a clouted fixture in contemporary American fine dining.
Blackbird (619 West Randolph Street): Randolph Street is to food as SoHo is to fashion, a geographical benchmark for industry excellence. Blackbird is the street's Godfather, which has been a staple in Chicago dining for almost two decades. As long as Executive Chef Paul Kahan is in the kitchen, this exhibition in perfectly seasoned meats will remain standing room only.
Boka (1729 North Halsted Street): Contemporary American cuisine for those of us who like our food flawlessly poached and seared. Executive Chef Giuseppe Tentori trained under Charlie Trotter, one of the country's most distinguished restaurateurs.
Everest (440 South La Salle Street #4000)
: A fine diner's fine dining restaurant, located on the 40th floor of the Stock Exchange. Everest is internationally recognized for its impeccable food and award-winning wine list, which was called "Best in the USA" by Decanter
Goosefoot (2656 West Lawrence Avenue): Like its menu, Goosefoot is effortlessly elegant and totally approachable. Lincoln Square's BYOB answer to elitist fine dining embodies taste and design in a refreshingly humble atmosphere.
Longman & Eagle (2657 North Kedzie Avenue): Lazy outlets frequently dub this place Chicago's quintessential "hipster restaurant," mostly because it is located in Logan Square and serves rare brands of whiskey. Don't let worn out generalizations fool you, this place is an intensely creative and unique dining environment.
Mexique (1529 West Chicago Avenue): This Bib Gourmand mainstay gracefully made the jump to a Michelin star in 2012. At times overlooked and often underrated, Chef Carlos Gaytan's innovative take on Mexican fare is finally getting the credit it deserves.
Moto (945 West Fulton Market): An authority in the molecular gastronomy revolution, Moto is what fine dining will look like in the future: elegantly minimalist, artistically deconstructed, and served in a smoking test tube. The Fulton Market district is Chicago's Randolph Street lite for "foodies," with Moto ambitiously serving as the area's hinge point.
NAHA (500 North Clark Street): You know the old phrase, "the food scene giveth and the food scene taketh away... but mostly giveth" or something like that. NAHA moved into a space once occupied by the famous Gordon restaurant and has more than filled its proverbial "big shoes." Executive Chef Carrie Nahabedian skillfully executes one of the best contemporary American menus in the city.
Schwa (1466 North Ashland)
: A patron's experience at Schwa is totally unique, unlike any other restaurant in the world. The courses are bold, the staff is lively, and the restaurant bumps old school rap songs in the dining room. If you have preconceived ideas about fine dining as a stuffy, vapid way to spend $250, then haven't had a meal prepared by Chef Michael Carlson.
Sepia (123 N. Jefferson Street): Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman (not to be confused with Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods host with the same name) recently won Food Network's Iron Chef, the third Chicago-based restaurateur to do so (Homaro Cantu, Moto and Shawn McClain, The Green Zebra).
Sixteen (401 North Wabash Avenue): Sixteen is appropriately positioned on the 16th floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. The restaurant's outdoor dining patio provides one of the most stunning views of Chicago, with a vantage that is eye level with the Wrigley Building's clock tower.
Spiaggia (980 North Michigan Avenue): Since 1986, the measure of Italian cuisine in Chicago has been measured against Spiaggia. Accolades for Chef/Partner, Tony Mantuano, stack up like a spiraling hill of artisanal spaghetti noodles over freshly minced shallots. Mantuano's been recognized as a James Beard Award winner in 2005 and received Food & Wine's nod for "Best New Chef" in 1986.
Takashi (1952 North Damen)
: When he's not competing on Top Chef Masters
, Takashi Yagihashi is curating a small empire of Asian inspired masterpieces. Yagihashi's caught recent buzz for his opening of Slurping Turtle
, while his Takash flagship restaurant is celebrating its third consecutive year with a Michelin star.
Topolobampo (445 North Clark Street): Rick Bayless' passionate refutation to those who think Mexican food is just tacos and quesadillas. Topolombampo features artfully plated and intensely flavored perfection from south of the border. Touted by Esquire as one of "America's Top New Restaurants" in '91, this place has long been a benchmark for Latin inspired cuisine.
Tru (676 North St. Clair Street): Partner/Chef Anthony Martin is a rising star in contemporary fine dining's trend towards dramatic dinner theatre. Each course at Tru is a culinary performance, including a caviar dish that floats in the air before landing elegantly on its serving pedestal.
The Michelin Guide also provides a selection of Bib Gourmand restaurants, dining options that provide exceptional cuisine at a reasonable price (two courses and a glass of wine for $40 or less). Chicago has 64 Bib Gourmand restaurants. For a complete list, click here