The 15 Best Downtown Chicago Restaurants
The top restaurants in and around Chicago's Loop, where world class international cuisine meets the indomitable deep dish!
Ask a Chicagoan what the true boundaries of downtown are, and you'll get a bunch of answers. The Loop, undoubtedly, is the heart of downtown Chicago, named after the trains looping through the busy, congested neighborhood. From this central hub, downtown extends outwards haphazardly, mostly to the north.
The whole area, with its busy streets and super-tall buildings, can be as bewildering as Manhattan. A dense mix of offices, entertainment, and shopping, it's easy to miss to the best restaurants, to be lured in by the comforting tentacles of Hard Rock Cafe.
So we've made finding the right restaurant easy.
1. Pierogi Heaven
Speaking of easy to miss, Pierogi Heaven takes cake—or pierogi, in this case. It's a little tiny restaurant, nearly obscured from the other side of the street by the Chicago L.
Pierogis are Polish dumplings, and Pierogi Heaven's take on the Polish favorite is unpretentious. Make sure to order a kraut pierogi to get a true taste of the Old World. The stuffed cabbage with mushroom sauce is good, too.
LOCATION: 169 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60606
2. Pizano's Pizza
So Chicago deep dish pizza isn't, like, super hip or trendy at the moment. But you know what it actually is? Comforting. Timeless. Iconic. And, oftentimes, delectable. It's a saucy, unfathomably calorific indulgence that encapsulates everything just and good about the Midwest. We swear.
Pizano's Pizza can trace a direct lineage back to Rudy Malnati, an originator of the thick, deep dish style craved all over the nation. And Pizano's lives up to that lofty name. They've always got "the game" on, and the checkerboard tablecloths hark back to traditional Italian eateries. The crust has deliciously crispy notes, and how can you go wrong with that much cheese?
Get yourself a cheese and sausage pizza and bask in the greatness that is the Chicago deep dish.
One or two slices should having you tapped out.
LOCATION: 61 East Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60603
Now let's do a complete 180 with our recommendations by suggesting Everest. It's fine French dining, with foie gras and "imported" caviar, and has an exclusive air to it. Forty floors above the Chicago streets in the FOUR40, home of the Chicago Stock Exchange, you'll be wowed by the views of the towering city.
Chef Joho prepares some tremendous, seasonal tasting menus. It's not cheap, but the great things in life rarely are. You haven't lived until you've had Joho's cooked, melt in your mouth Maine lobster, paired with an excellent wine. It doesn't get much better than that.
LOCATION: 440 S La Salle St, Chicago, IL 60605
4. The Gage
The Gage does modern American cuisine in a relaxed, historic setting. The venison burger, topped with a hefty slice of smoked gouda, mushrooms, pickled onions, mustard aoili, and fried jalapenos, is decadent and dangerously flavorful. Throw in other dishes like roasted elk and bison tartare, and it's like you're at a hunting cabin with the gourmet hunter friends you never knew you needed your entire life, but obviously did.
Not that everything on the menu is that—well—wild. Gage also features dishes like English-style fish and chips and Amish roast chicken.
LOCATION: 24 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
5. Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee
Does a donut shop count as restaurant? Probably not, but regardless, Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee is a wonderful, sugar rush of a way to start the day. Eye-popping donuts are topped with such lovely delicacies as Sicilian pistachios and candied maple bacon.
Of course, you can never go wrong with a classic glazed donut, either, and Do-Rite delivers on the basics. The donut emporium serves local Dark Matter coffee, a quality brew heads above what you'd get at your more typical donut joint.
LOCATION: 50 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
In the West Loop, just across the Chicago River's South Branch, you'll find Sepia. It's half a trip into Chicago history, and half a state of the art gourmet experience. Housed inside an old print shop, Sepia's plating alone is practically worth the high prices.
At lunch, you can get a great burger topped with Camembert cheese, onion jam, and peppercorn aioli, and served with potato slices cooked in duck fat. The dinner menu kicks it up a notch—to quote Chef Emeril Lagasse—with duck breast and "foie gras royale" offered alongside the surprisingly mild maritime delicacy, skate wing.
LOCATION: 123 N Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60661
7. Ramen Takeya
Ramen Takeya is another West Loop gem, a cozy spot in the Fulton Market District. Takeya has chicken, pork, and vegan broths, and specializes in pork belly and chicken char siu (translated as "fork roast"). Throw in some egg noodles, scallions, bamboo shoots, boiled egg, and other fixings like spinach or kikurage mushrooms, and you've got a rockin' bowl of ramen on your hands.
Vegan diners can opt for buckwheat noodles and seitan ragu. The shrimp, pork, and chicken buns are all good, too, almost like a sandwich.
LOCATION: 819 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
8. Milk Room
OK, so we said that Everest felt exclusive. Well, Milk Room actually is exclusive. Expect to have to reserve your seat days or weeks ahead of time, at milkroomchicago.com. And Milk Room sells out, frequently.
The space, on the 2nd floor of the Chicago Athletic Club, screams old money. And you're going to spending plenty of new money, but the cocktails—that's what Milk Room specializes in—are one-of-a-kind. Shared plates of food are prepared by esteemed chef Peter Coenen, though after a few bites you'll be wishing for heaping platefuls.
It's a refined night out, perfect for a romantic date. Though more of a speakeasy than restaurant, you'll leave plenty satisfied.
LOCATION: 12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL
North of the Chicago River on Grand Avenue, Tanta is a very contemporary-looking Peruvian restaurant.
When you get there, definitely order a pisco sour first thing, a frothy mix of pisco (a brandy), lime, egg whites, bitters, and syrup.
Peru, being a coastal nation, is big on seafood. Tanta dishes out a wide variety of raw and cooked fish, including Nikkei cuisine, a unique, storied fusion of Peruvian and Japanese culinary traditions. The restaurant also features street foods, including scrumptious chicken skewers.
LOCATION: 118 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654
10. Native Foods Cafe
The Chicago Native Foods Cafes are the fast casual franchise's only locations east of Colorado. It's like a taste of the Left Coast on the Third Coast. It's completely, 100% vegan. Now vegans can enjoy faux versions of chili cheese fries, or a chicken, bacon, and avocado club sandwich.
LOCATION: 218 S Clark St, Chicago, IL 60604
11. Michael Jordan’s Steak House
Sometimes you just want a thick slab of steak. And, sometimes, you need that steak to carry a stamp of approval from the world's greatest ever basketball player. That's when the immaculate Michael Jordan’s Steak House comes in handy.
Michael Jordan’s Steak House is a refined establishment, befitting of Jordan's name. Dinner prices run from $49 for a filet mignon with béarnaise butter, to $99 for a 34 oz dry-aged porterhouse.
And, of course, you have to finish with the 23-layer chocolate cake, a borderline preposterous dessert that's perfect for sharing.
LOCATION: 505 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
12. Prime & Provisions
Prime & Provisions is classic, the sort of place you'd imagine a pinstripe-wearing businessman with an overbearing fondness for cigars would deeply, truly enjoy. Here, mashed potatoes are "properly" whipped.
Prime & Provisions eschews most gimmicks, relying on the quality of the meat. The steakhouse also offers very credible seafood options, including oysters from the East or West Coast.
LOCATION: 222 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL
Billed as "urban street food", BenjYehuda provides quality Middle Eastern eats with a refreshing twist. The coolest of these is probably the "the box." You get rice or romaine lettuce in a box, with your choice of chicken, steak, or felafel, and toppings like tahini, corn salad, and Mediterranean pickles. It's fun and refreshing.
The fries are definitely quality, too.
LOCATION: 212 W Van Buren St, Chicago, IL 60607
14. Trattoria No. 10
Trattoria No. 10 is, simply put, what Italian food is supposed to be. A little upscale, a little traditional, and yet not afraid to take a few chances. Some walnut butter here, some Pecorino Toscano cheese there, and suddenly, you have a truly special plate of pasta.
But this white tablecloth establishment features more than just pasta, of course. Try the veal scallopini, a dish with ingredients that have changed with the seasonal menus—caper berries one season, Chianti poached pears another. You can't beat it.
LOCATION: 10 N Dearborn St #1, Chicago, IL 60602
15. Max’s Take Out
Order the hot dog, otherwise known as the Chicago dog. We don't know what it is about neon green relish and spicy sports peppers that's so darn satisfying, but we know we want more.
The Chicago dog is a legend.
LOCATION: 20 E Adams St, Chicago, IL 60603
Chicago, historically, is a blue collar kind of town, a magical city where the pizzas are as deep as the skyscrapers are tall. Today, that spirit proudly lives on, but Chicago's status as a global city means that there's plenty of inventive and international restaurants to explore as well.
If you're the foodie type, Chicago won't disappoint. It's firmly cemented itself as an American culinary destination. Downtown is only the tip of the iceberg.
This article was written by: