We’ve been traveling to Chicago for the past five years of our relationship so we’ve discovered some wonderful spots in Chicago. We also have two wonderful aunts and uncles that help us navigate Chicago to the best of their ability (one being a food writer for the Tribune, the other a graphic designer, designing for Chicago celeb chef Rick Bayless). Needless to say, we are able to find amazing spots through them, but also a lot of our own personal network here in Raleigh.
Everyone who knows us, knows that we have a supreme love for Chicago and so we are always asked for tips and recommendations, so I wanted to compile them in one place for you all! Most of the restaurants we have personally visited, or they’re on our list to visit but have needlessly heard amazing things so I added them in case you have the opportunity to go!
Dillie&Dallie’s List of Best Restaurants in Chicago- yes, we’re going there!:
High End Dining (perfect for a very special occasion!)
Grace: recommended to us through Chef Duffy’s former coworker, this recently rated 3 Michelin star restaurant attracts celebrities and locals alike. Though the small restaurant makes nabbing a table quiet the task. Be prepared to spend a bit on this meal but it’ll be worth it. One of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to!
Alinea: We have never had the privileged to eat at this world renowned restaurant but word from friends and food critics alike, this restaurant is one of the best in the world. Known for its innovative molecular gastronomy, it’s more than a meal, it’s a performance.
Spiaggia: A favorite of President Obama, this restaurant overlooks Michigan Avenue, The Drake Hotel and Lake Michigan and serves wonderful upscale Italian inspired dishes. We ate here after getting engaged in 2011! <3
Nomi: Located inside the Park Hyatt with excellent views of the famous water tower and Michigan Avenue, this restaurant serves inventive New American food and has a wonderful pastry chef! Had the privileged of eating here in 2010 for my birthday.
Next: Another super hot ticket from the chefs who brought you Alinea, this table is a tough score. Although we have not eaten here, the reviews seem like it will not disappoint. They constantly challenge what you see and what you taste by being overly imaginative and always pushing the envelope. We will taste test anytime!
Best Restaurants (that won’t blow the bank – perfect for birthdays and a special treat!)
Frontera Grill: Chef Rick Bayless’ long running hot ticket restaurant with authentic Mexican dishes that pay homage to his time spent in Mexico. Fantastic Mexican food, wonderful cocktails and an environment reminiscent of visiting for yourself. If you can’t nab a table here, definitely grab a bite around the corner at his other restaurant Xoco. I’m also very partial to all of his graphic design work thanks to Carrmichael Design, (shameless plug for family of course!)
Nico Osteria: One of the newer hot spots in Chicago, we were lucky enough to try out this past summer. An Italian-inspired seafood restaurant with authentic pastas, fresh fish and other samplings offering breakfast, lunch and dinner! Super hip vibe and not too stuffy to meet friends after work or for a romantic date.
Longman and Eagle: We unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to personally visit but it comes HIGHLY recommend by Chicagoians. A very “farm to table” approach with the best local ingredients to highlight their American fare with an excellent whiskey selection and a beer list for all hipsters. No reservations and usually a wait. They also have brunch!
Avec: Another one on our list to visit but renowned just the same. Part of the One Off Hospitality Group (known for some of THE BEST restaurants in all of Chicago, you’ll see me mention more, like the above Nico!) Avec serves Mediterranean and Midwestern influenced shared plates in a super hip and clean atmosphere.
Girl & the Goat: We had reservations a month in advance… for 10pm.. This restaurant is no joke in trying to nab a table. Unfortunately we did not end up going to eat here but word on the street is that it’s damn good. Chef Stephanie Izzard won Bravo’s Top Chef in 2004 and hasn’t stopped since. The food is family style with a menu of global influence and rotating craft beer showcasing Chicago breweries, this is a homey spot to meet friends or family.
Other Best Restaurants (at an even better price point, waiting still probably required)
BigStar: It’s one of our favorites. It’s a simple taco joint that is always slammed packed with locals more than tourists as it’s located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood which is so hip and trendy you’ll just want to move right in! Another restaurant from the One Off Hospitality Group, this easy dining experience is perfect for a summer evening on their open patio. Amazing guac, tacos and margaritas it’s a casual place that has lines every day of the week. We LOVE it and go every time we’re in Chicago.
Publican: One word: swine. Or pig, or pork, or however you’d like to describe it and it’s OH SO GOOD. Although the eclectic menu is also known for their oysters and beer, anything you order is bound to be amazing. Even Anthony Bourdain recognizes this! Their brunch is amazing and I’m sure dinner is too. They also opened up a butcher shop next door and I wish I lived in Chicago to take advantage. Also a member of the One Off Hospitality Group (of course).
The Purple Pig: Cheese, Swine and Wine. I don’t know about you but we are very big lovers of all these things. Fresh sliced prosciutto, pork liver pate, pork jowl, pork chop… pecorino, cheddar, parmigiano, bufala… Adventurous and wonderful small plates allow you to sample many different options as everything sounds so delish it’s hard to decide. Good thing they’re open late so you can always go for dinner and stop by after many more drinks!
GT Fish & Oyster: Redefining the American seafood scene with shared plates that are always changing through seasonal catches. It’s been Michelin starred and raved about in Food & Wine it’s obvious you should probably visit if you have the chance! We haven’t been but it’s been on the list for quite a while!
Just Because You’re in Chicago:
Portillo’s, Gino’s East or Lou Malnati’s (be our guest to suggest your favorite deep dish!), Weiner Circle (because Hot Doug’s closed..), and before you head home grab some gourmet popcorn by Garrett’s Popcorn Shop.
Best Bars in Chicago:
Three Dots & a Dash: Feel like a cocktail in the middle of Chicago that transports you to the Polynesian islands? This is the place. The environment allows you to escape to a faraway land with fantastic cocktails and retro bites. It’s a great place to visit at least once and you’ll always remember your time here!
Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association: One of the newest bars in Chicago boosting amazing views unique to Chicago thus far. Beautiful views of Millennium Park, the Art Institute and Lake Michigan. But this bar also has amazing cocktails! Although the bar is a bit small it’s a great place to visit, day or night!
The Violet Hour: This hip spot serves artisanal cocktails to more Chicagoians that tourists as this spot is located in one of our favorite spots of Chicago, Wicker Park. This bar has even won a James Beard Award! We haven’t been but word is, it’s great.
Signature Lounge at the Signature Room: Although the atmosphere of this bar is a bit dated and cocktails aren’t out of this world, I recommend it purely for the amazing view it entails. Take in every inch of Chicago from the 96th floor of the Hancock building. If you were to visit the observatory you’d still be paying, so why not just pay for a drink and enjoy the view?
What do you think of our list? Anything you’d add or remove? I love a good food discussion so dig in!