The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (2023)

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO)

I love restaurants like I love books – I want to try as many as possible as quickly as possible. According to my asinine spreadsheet, I’ve tried and rated 80+ restaurants in my 3 years in Chicago. So it’s about time I came up with a list of my all-time favorites!

If you’ve been around a while, you’re familiar with my rating scale.

  • ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ = Truly life changing, in the best way
  • ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ = Great, would recommend to others
  • ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ = Good, wouldn’t actively recommend to others
  • ⭐️ ⭐️ = Bad, would actively recommend against
  • ⭐️ = I was personally offended by it

To be clear, these are all five stars for me. 10 restaurants that were so fabulous they changed my life forever. Enjoy!

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (1)

Au Cheval

Neighborhood: West Loop

Fare: American, Upscale Diner Food

Wallet: $$

Occasion: All-day West Loop adventure OR guests in town

Why I Love It: This is hands-down, scientifically-speaking the best burger in Chicago (maybe the world). AND all their other food is incredible which speaks to the culinary genius of all Hogsalt Hospitality restaurants. Yes, if you go on a weekend, you’re signing up to wait for 3 hours. Yes, it’s 100% worth it, and luckily you’re in the heart of one of the trendiest, hoppin’-est areas of Chicago! I’ve been here with colleagues once, friends a few times, and Matt for his birthday in 2019. It’s a great place to take out-of-towners any time of the year, especially if you’re running out of things to do!

Recommendations:

  • The burger, obviously. I personally skip the egg and bacon, but you do you.
  • General Jane’s Honey Fried Chicken is sweet, spicy, and perfect. Get some chicken for the table.
  • The fries are the same at every Hogsalt restaurant, but you really get the fries for the garlic aioli. Get at least two for the table. *chef’s kiss*
  • Website says they only seat parties of up to 4, but you can get seated with 6. You’ll just have to wait!
  • Get there ~3pm, put your name in, and plan to eat around 5:30-6pm. Spend your time bar hopping to Lone Wolf (right next door) or Fox Bar (in Soho House). Or, hop over to Trivoli Tavern (another Hogsalt restaurant), sit at the bar, and enjoy $5 happy hour featuring the same delicious fries you’ll order again at dinner.

Don’t come here with… a vegan. With so many wonderful vegan-friendly restaurants in West Loop, that’s just rude.

Pro Tip(s): The single is a double patty and the double is a triple patty 🤷🏼‍♀️ & the gluten-free burger prep includes a giant hashbrown instead of a bun…

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (2)

Bistro Campagne

Neighborhood: Lincoln Square

Fare: French

Wallet: $$$

Occasion: Year-round date night

Why I Love It: Want to feel like you’ve been transported to the French countryside in the heart of Chicago? This is your answer. The food is fabulous, as all French food is, of course. In a world of avante garde, experimental, “fusion” cooking, Bistro Campagne takes you right back to the brilliant basics – lots of butter, salt, and garlic. But even if the food wasn’t incredible, I’d come here just for the vibe. In the summer, sit outside on their quaint garden patio under the glow of market lights. In the winter, snuggle up inside what feels like an old, cozy French cottage – the kind with lots of tiny rooms and fireplaces and low ceilings.

Recommendations:

  • For cocktails, get the “ppp” (french margarita, pretty lavender color) and the “french manhattan” if that’s your thing.
  • For apps, get the crab tart (trust me), escargot (not too garlicky, traditional prep!), and mussels (ask for extra bread or prepare to drink the broth).
  • For dinner, we adored the chicken with onion frites and gravy. I’m sure anything else is good too but if you ordered everything we recommended, you can share an entree lol.
  • Creme brulee, duh. It’s chilled which is the way custard should be.

Don’t come here if… you’re looking for a <$100 dinner. It won’t be the most $$$$ meal you’ve enjoyed, but if you’re ordering as much food as you should + drinks, you’re looking at a $150+ bill.

Pro Tip: To all my central Chicago lazies – cut the BS and get on the Brown Line to Lincoln Square. It’s perfect. You’re welcome.

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (3)

Coda di Volpe

Neighborhood: Lakeview (Southport)

Fare: Italian

Wallet: $$$

Occasion: Friend group get-together, GNO, In-laws in Chicago

Why I Love It: They have big circular booths that are designed for sharing plates… and you’ll want to share everything because it’s all delicious. Plus, who doesn’t love a fancy-ish Italian restaurant that plops down a gorgeous, uncut, wood-fired pizza with scissors? Cut yourself a big piece because there won’t be seconds, I swear. This restaurant is amazing year-round, but especially when it’s wet, cold, and horrible in March. Also, great for families. Bless you, Coda di Volpe.

Recommendations:

  • Arugula salad… roasted grapes? RUFKM? Best salad of my life.
  • Every pasta. I’m sorry, I know that’s not helpful, but trust me, it is.
  • Prosciutto is easily my favorite pizza meat and also the most tricky to execute well. Not here. Get a Bufala e Prosciutto pizza. You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t come here if… you don’t like sharing. Ordering separate entrees is blasphemy in this establishment.

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (4)

Figo Wine Bar

Neighborhood: Lakeview East

Fare: Italian, Wine Bar

Wallet: $$

Occasion: Casual date night, long dinner with close friends, cool business meeting

Why I Love It: Figo makes everything easier. They have a short, succinct menu, incredible cocktails, only Italian wine, and if you don’t know what to get, they’ll give you the perfect recommendations. They’ll even bring over wine samples to help you choose, and there’s a basket of bread and olive oil to munch on while you discuss your adult beverage options. You can get just a cheese board, a few small plates to share, or twelve, and all of those scenarios are the right answer. The rustic vibes take the weight off, and it’s Lakeview, so it’s never pretentious.

Recommendations:

  • Cheese and / or charcuterie board. You get to choose your cheeses and meats, but I recommend getting all the cheeses and extra prosciutto. Added bonuses include the preserved peaches, candied walnuts, and giardiniera that come with it.
  • If you’re a white wine person that doesn’t like oaky, buttery chardonnay and sometimes get stuck in a trap of IDK-what-to-order-so-I’ll-get-a-Sauv, stop that. You’re a grown up. Get a bottle of the Pecorino (wine, not cheese). You’ll love it, I swear.
  • Other favorites: Pesto gnocchi, dates, and the pear salad.

Don’t come here with… people who want their own big-a$$ steak. JK! They have that too! I guess this is the place for all kinds.

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (5)

Gaslight

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Fare: Sports Bar

Wallet: $

Occasion: College football saturdays, weeknight out, weekend lunch

Why I Love It: This is my favorite sports bar in Chicago. Why? Because the food is actually delicious. And because there’s an actual tree coming out of the floor on the covered patio. Good neighborhood vibes all around. The fact that it’s an Ohio State bar has nothing to do with anything, except being a cherry on top 🙂 Go Bucks!

Recommendations:

  • The prosciutto and arugula pizza doesn’t make ANY sense in a sports bar, but we’re not complaining. They also have a delish cauliflower crust option for all pizzas!
  • Their smashburger rivals Shake Shack’s, but don’t tell anyone I said that!
  • Get the fries with house seasoning. They remind me of the “crack fries” from HopCat, if that means anything to you.
  • Matt says the buffalo wings (bone-in, of course) are to die for. So, if you’d die for them too, lmk!

Pro Tip: Download the 4c Restaurant Group App before you go to get points on all associated restaurants. You’ll reap substantial rewards (e.g., I got $40 off our meal last time I went)!

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (6)

Gilt Bar

Neighborhood: River North

Fare: American

Wallet: $$$

Occasion: Anniversary (or otherwise celebratory) dinner

Why I Love It: It’s dark and vibe-y. Complete with leather and candlelight and jazz music softly filling the space between conversations. Think: Turtlenecks, nice whiskey, and steak tartare. If you bring someone from out-of-town here, it’ll be the only restaurant they want to visit when they return. Unsurprising given it’s a Hogsalt Hospitality restaurant, the service is top-notch, the food is incredible, and it’s actually possible to get a table here unlike its next-door neighbor and older brother, Bavette’s (also delicious!). It’s the perfect place for an old soul.

Recommendations:

  • For apps, get the skillet cornbread and steak tartare. If the table is interested in sharing, consider ordering the mussels from the mains menu as a starter.
  • The American Cheeseburger is the Au Cheval burger. A little two-birds-one-scone situation.
  • Maude’s Roasted Chicken is the chicken mains of all chicken mains. Don’t order if you’re trying to get lucky after dinner – so much garlic!
  • Beef Cheek Pot Pie… speaks for itself.
  • The chocolate chip cookie skillet didn’t need to be gluten-free and dairy-free (except the ice cream, lol), but it is!!! You’d never know, except now you do.

Don’t come here if… you don’t want to use your phone flashlight to read the menu. Instead, make your way to Trivoli Tavern for similar food, pricepoint, and a brighter ambience!

Pro Tip: If you’re visiting on the weekend, ask to sit in the Library. The rest is a secret, but just trust me.

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (7)

The Loyalist

Neighborhood: West Town

Fare: American

Wallet: $$

Occasion: Night out with friends, especially in the colder months

Why I Love It: Not sure what it is with me and dimly lit restaurants, but it’s my element. The Loyalist is your friendly neighborhood European bar but make it fancy. Upstairs sits its upscale, tasting menu-only brother, the Smyth, and the food downstairs is the same quality. Plus, the ambience is relaxing, laid back, and inviting. Sit in the corner booth with friends or pop by on an impromptu date night.

Recommendations:

  • The Loyalist burger is one of the best in Chicago, hands down. Sometimes they have their other classic burger on the menu. If so, get both.
  • Mussels mussels mussels.
  • Who doesn’t love an eggwhite foam moment? Get the Mon Ami Midori cocktail for sure.
The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (8)

Mott Street

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Fare: Asian Fusion

Wallet: $$

Occasion: Night out with friends, especially in the summer months!

Why I Love It: Mott Street took Asian Fusion and made it casual. Plus, they open every single window inside and keep their patio first come first serve all summer long. If you need a fun, funky, crowd-pleasing reservation, make one at Mott Street and don’t look back. But make sure you go before 7pm because that’s when they stop serving their burger (which is my favorite, non-classic burger in the entire world).

Recommendations:

  • Go before 7pm. And get the burger.
  • The oyster mushrooms are rich in the best way, but get the garlic fried rice to soak up the rest of the broth!
  • The Everything Wings are delicious even for non-wing people like me.
The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (9)

Southport Grocery & Cafe

Neighborhood: Lakeview (Southport)

Fare: Breakfast, Brunch

Wallet: $$

Occasion: Brunch or a surprise date night!

Why I Love It: If you care about things like seasonal ingredients, locally-sourced products, and sustainability (which, we all should), this is the place for you! Located on the Southport main drag, this grocery (yes, grocery!) and cafe has the BEST brunch in Chicago. No, not all-you-can-drink, here-for-the-booze brunch. Real, hearty, home-cooked brunch food to the tune of “Grown Up Pop Tart” and “Brisket and Gravy.”

Recommendations:

  • The Breakfast Sandwich is amazing. I got it with a gluten-free roll (more like a biscuit!) and a side salad (so fresh!).
  • I’m not a sweet breakfast person, but the grilled coffee cake is the perfect shareable. Make sure you get the slice with the most cream cheese frosting.
  • The bloody mary comes with pickled asparagus (yum!!!) and the mimosa is fresh squeeze orange juice + rosé. YUM!
  • Bring your gluten-free friends, they have tons of legit gluten-free options that aren’t eggs! This includes a gluten-free cupcake batter pancake.

Pro Tip: They have a Secret Supper Club that’s supposed to be legit… check it out here!

The 10 Very Best Restaurants in Chicago (IMO) | annie weidner (10)

Steingold’s Deli

Neighborhood: Lakeview (Southport)

Fare: Bagels

Wallet: $

Occasion: You don’t need one, they’re bagels.

Why I Love It: If you live in Chicago, you know about our bagel affliction. As in, New York stole all the good ones and we’re left with what honestly taste like savory donuts. Bleh. EXCEPT at Steingold’s. They’re New York bagels hiding out in Lakeview, and damn are they delicious.

Recommendations:

  • Everyone has their own bagel order, so you do you…
  • But if you’re a lox person, get the Steingold’s Classic Lox.

CARE FOR MORE?

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Want to see more? Let me know that too! Best date nights in Chicago? Best place to go with out-of-towners? Favorite spots on a budget? Coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks? I eat out too much not to have answers.

disclaimer: i’m not formally affiliated with any of the aforementioned restaurants or brands in any way, shape, or form. i wish that were the case, but for now i just think this stuff is cool and want you to know about it 🙂 this perspective is my own and not official or professional at all, and i highly encourage you to form your own thoughts about the topics discussed above!

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