In a city that plays host to 22 Michelin-star restaurants (as of 2019) – from the experimental and positively artistic through to lower-key, brewpub styles – Chicago earns its stripes as a top foodie destination for good reason.
Found throughout downtown and in the surrounding neighborhoods, the following fine-dining spots not only boast some of the best bites in the city but also come served with lashings of experiential elements to ensure an all-out feast for the senses. Here is Culture Trip’s list of the top restaurants in Chicago.
Inspired by coastal Maine, Acadia is a destination-worthy experience located in the South Loop. Chef Ryan McCaskey’s vaunted two-Michelin-star spot offers two distinct experiences. First, Acadia’s bar has an inventive menu with unexpected takes on time-honored tastes such as the lobster roll and steak frites. Second, the more elevated 10-course tasting menu and wine pairings offer masterful flavor combinations that are simply out of this world. Making a reservation for the tasting menu is highly recommended.
Chicago’s busy West Loop is home to many a top dining spot, but few come finer than Oriole. With two Michelin stars, chef Noah Sandoval presents an elevated multi-course tasting menu, infused with Japanese influences and unexpected ingredients. Teaming up with renowned mixologist Julia Momose to present specialty cocktails and sommelier Aaron McManus for an elegant roster of complementary old-world wines, Oriole is an exceptional option that deserves to be at the top of your list when visiting the city.
With the refined Smyth restaurant and the downstairs burger and cocktail joint The Loyalist, John Shields and Karen Urie Shields are taking culinary experiences to the next level. At Smyth, their two-Michelin-star spot, expect upscale, rural-inspired, farm-to-table tasting menus that change daily depending on the couple’s farm-forays. With robust yet delicate dishes packing plenty of Midwestern charm, this is down-to-earth dining at its finest.
Chicago loves its brewpubs, so it stands to reason that it should spawn a Michelin-star one. Tucked away in the unassuming Ravenswood neighborhood, Band of Bohemia offers yummy discoveries aplenty, including craft brew concoctions. As the brewpub offers both à la carte and tasting menu options at reasonable prices, dining here is well worth the Uber fare.
For a taste of Midwestern cooking at its most imaginative, a visit to Blackbird is a must. A mainstay of the West Loop now for over two decades, this Michelin-star restaurant is a local favorite and a top destination for any discerning foodie. Dinner here is an elevated à la carte affair with a hearty approach to flavors, paired with a strong wine list, while lighter options come in the form of the more-than-reasonable $28 prix-fixe lunch menu.
At Chicago’s reigning three-Michelin-star champion, world-famous Alinea, chef Grant Achatz offers unsurpassable gastronomic adventures. Here, you’ll find experiential and theatrical dining at its finest. Prepare to be blown away by the sheer creativity and craft at work. Three multi-sensory services make up the Alinea experience: the intimate and immersive Kitchen Table; The Gallery Menu with 16 to 18 courses; or The Salon Menu with 10 to 12 courses. Switching up the menus seasonally, Alinea plays loyal to its fan-favorites, including its signature edible balloons. As it’s one of the most in-demand restaurants in the country, it’s worth planning a trip to Chicago around any reservations – expect a waitlist.
Boka has garnered multiple awards since it opened | Courtesy of Boka
A much-loved Chicago institution thanks to chef Lee Wolen’s inimitable culinary talents, Boka prides itself on experiential dining and has a Michelin star to prove it. Seasonal, modern American dishes are its specialty, complete with a mix of small plates and more robust entrées. However, if it’s a more involved dining experience you’re after, the eight-course tasting menu is one of the city’s best, and a worthy investment for a first Boka experience.
Elske is the Danish word for “love,” and that’s exactly what the husband-wife team behind the restaurant pours into every dish. Chefs David and Anna Posey invite you to feel like you’re eating in your stylish Scandinavian friend’s weekend home, with an intimate and friendly atmosphere teamed with hygge-inspired decor and an open kitchen. Choose between a stellar tasting menu or à la carte – all options offer a unique freshness of flavors in utterly palate-pleasing combinations.
Making waves on the Chicago food scene and beyond for several years now, the Michelin-star Parachute by Beverly Kim and John Clark takes a wholly unique approach to modern Korean-American cuisine. Serving up pure culinary innovation and ingenuity, Parachute creates dishes brimming with eclectic flavors. To get the most out of your visit, let the friendly servers advise and even pick for you – then sit back and prepare to be wowed. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Recently relocating to its new River North home, Entente offers an approachable and chilled take on the whole Michelin-star experience. Pushing the envelope when it comes to modern American dishes with a pan-Asian twist, it creates a solid, seasonal menu of rotating appetizers and entrées, enhanced by stellar wine and cocktail pairings. It’s definitely a must-visit when in Chicago.