Chicago is a city of big dreams, broad shoulders — and hearty appetites.
Thinking about Chicago's place in the food world, this city stands tall with a culinary legacy that continues to evolve. Neighborhoods are just as much a dining destination as downtown. Farm fresh means literally from the bounty of the Midwest. Ethnic eats are driven by family traditions, and also 4-star chef driven. And steak is not something to be taken lightly.
So how to go about finding top Chicago restaurants to add to your bucket list? Especially with over 4,980 restaurants in Chicago to choose from? Find some picks below to whet your appetite — and inspire your Instagram. We've lined up some classics to go along with all the top new restaurants everyone is buzzing about for every meal in the day.
Loop: 100 W. Monroe Street
A "Proper French Breakfast" category covers several eggs benedict options, but who can resist the stacks of pancakes or a waffle named Monsieur Foster?
River North: 519 N. Clark Street & Streeterville: 671 N. St. Clair
Take your breakfast essentials, use healthy wholesome ingredients, and give them a global spin — there you have the ingredients for a perfect morning start. Indulge in the Honey Butter Cinnamon Rolls or Angel Food Cake Muffins in the bakery display case to make it even better.
Wicker Park/Bucktown: 1545 N. Damen Avenue
This slick diner has retro appeal, and combines a soulful 60s soundtrack with Southern-inspired Mexican fare i.e. Breakfast Taco Norteño with Chayote Kimchi or Burnt Ends Hash with Queso Fresco.
West Town: 1001 N. Winchester Avenue
Sunny digs and laid back vibes set the scene here, while clean and simple dishes dot the menu — think Avocado Toast, Quiche Lorraine and Cold Smoked Salmon.
South Loop: 1017 S. Delano Court
Johnny Cakes, Philly Cheesesteak Benedicts AND Crab Cake Benedicts? Be sure to come hungry.
Loop: 50 W. Randolph Street & Streeterville: 233 E. Erie Street
This eat-on-the-go option features creative concoctions (Irish Stout Cake Donut with Whiskey Glaze was a St. Pat's smash hit) and celebrity collaborations alongside old favorites like Chocolate Glazed.
Little Italy/University Village: 1339 W. Taylor Street
Made-to-order old fashioned favorites are crowd pleasers, and crowds there are aplenty. Tough choices await once you get a table: Hot Cheddar Grits or Plain Ol' Grits, Cornmeal or Sweet Milk Biscuit, Bacon or Bone-in Ham.
Logan Square: 2537 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Their list of purveyors reads like a who's who in local farming, and the list of awards this neighborhood mainstay has won is even longer.
West Town: 2011 W. Division Street
Three words: breakfast all day. You can't beat the prices, or find friendlier service, than at this family-owned spot slingin' basics like Steak and Eggs and the Denver omelet.
River North: 315 N. LaSalle Street
Waterfront views, spacious dining rooms and a James Beard-award winning chef. This is tavern fare gone contemporary. Go with the roasts cut tableside: a wood-smoked whole chicken pairs perfectly with a side selection of market fresh "roots shoots and veggies".
Cherry Circle Room
Loop: 12 S. Michigan Avenue
Walking through the historic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is an experiment in time travel. The Drawing Room, Milk Room and Game Room are enticing stops, but this handsome hideaway is worth seeking out. Particularly for the prettiest Tuna Niçoise Salad you ever did see. P.S. We suggest the alley entrance to conjure up plans for a secret rendezvous.
Hyde Park: 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West
"Hearth to table" means just that — the aroma of wood burning in the open fire oven gives a rustic touch to the meats, vegetables and breads. The multi-purpose space also boasts a bar and music hall.
Home Run Inn
The classic pizza pies have been a favorite for generations of South Siders, and with a new location that set up base in Lakeview, this Chicago chain now touts proximity to both city baseball stadiums.
West Loop: 1001 W. Washington Street
Breakfast is always a winner here, but lunch is no slouch. Blackened Catfish and Jambalaya Cajun Stew are some of the top offerings, while a slew of vegan options also aim to please.
River North: 300 W. Hubbard Street
It is only fitting that this Tuscan-inspired eatery exudes warmth and hospitality.
Bridgeport: 3267 N. Halsted Street
Local, sustainable and organic don't even begin to explain the deliciousness that is Avocado Fries served with Cilantro Chipotle Lime Aioli.
Chicken & Biscuits
West Town: 1700 W. Division Street
Flying under the banner of "Southern fried funk", this late night eatery dishes out heaping servings of its namesake specialties, plus punch bowls big enough to socialize over.
Lincoln Park: 1962 N. Halsted Street
Icy platters of fresh seafood take center stage here: oysters (there are several varieties coming in daily) are shucked to order while other staples like Fish and Chips and Lobster Rolls round out the offerings.
Swift & Sons
West Loop: 1000 W. Fulton Market
This premier new steakhouse also honors Chicago history with nods to the past in the decor, in its location and even in its name.
Lincoln Park: 2300 N. Lincoln Park West
A hand-selected rotation of chefs from around the country take up residence here, offering new and creative menus in the spirit of collaboration.
The Duck Inn
Bridgeport: 2701 S. Eleanor Street
Mid century mod and one of the city's most esteemed — and Chicago proud — chefs. This neighborhood gem touts both style and substance.
Gene & Georgetti's
River North: 500 N. Franklin Street
This is tradition at its best, and when it comes to massive cuts of red meat broiled to simple perfection, they deliver.
The Magnificent Mile: 980 N. Michigan Avenue
The only 4-star Italian restaurant in Chicago, Chef Tony Mantuano's Spiaggia is a venerable institution that not only expresses a deep devotion and understanding of its cuisine, but has also become synonymous with style and sophistication.
Cafe Ba Ba Reeba
Lincoln Park: 2024 N. Halsted Street
Chicago's first-ever tapas restaurant is still growing strong after 30 years. Fill up on tapas (the famous small dishes of Spain), pintxos (one-bite appetizers from Northern Spain) and paella (a traditional Valencian rice dish). The sangria is reason alone to drop in.
Chinatown: 2131 S. Archer Avenue
The bustling of carts, the steam rising from the bamboo baskets, the chatter of fellow diners... this is dum sum time and Phoenix is one of the early pioneers.
Lincoln Park: 1729 N. Halsted Street
With four consecutive Michelin Stars, a Food & Wine Best New Chef and Pastry Chef already under its belt, Boka continues to evolve.
River North: 626 N. State Street
The energy at this Italian restaurant and wine bar is infectious and the food is downright heart-warming. Helmed by the perennially-cheerful Chef John Coletta, the kitchen bustles out rustic small plates, including artisanal spreads of formaggi, salumi and spuntini.