The Best American Restaurants in Chicago

Chicago is awash with excellent eateries
Chicago is awash with excellent eateries | © J.Castro / Getty Images
Photo of Culture Trip
9 July 2020

Whether you’re craving a big juicy steak or a loaded deep-dish pizza, there’s arguably no better place to dig in to classic American cuisine than the Windy City. Check the best spots off your list by following our guide to Chicago’s best American restaurants.

Budget Hotel, Inn, Bed and Breakfast
Map View
Every room at the Longman & Eagle has its own distinct character
Courtesy of Longman and Eagle / Expedia.com

Longman and Eagle received a Michelin recognition of excellence in 2016 and held a Michelin star from 2011 to 2014. This Logan Square establishment knows what it’s doing when it comes to food, cocktails and hospitality. They have a small B&B upstairs to stay in if you book in advance. Their menu emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients, playing on the complexity of what would seem like simple dishes. Their brunch menu includes three different tomato-based cocktails. Though each is prepared with house-made Bloody mix and garnished with a lemon, a lime, mini pickles, and a chunk of cheddar cheese, the flavors vary greatly. The Bloody Mary is made with vodka, the Bloody Larry with whiskey, and the Bloody Maria with tequila. You can find Bloody Marys everywhere, and Bloody Marias many places, but the Bloody Larry? Now, that’s something you’ve gotta try.

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
When in Andersonville, Hamburger Mary’s is a must-visit for perfectly cooked burgers, a variety of patties, and numerous toppings. The franchise began in San Francisco, and this Chicago location offers up drag shows on some nights and open-mic stand-up sets on others. With a motto like “Eat, drink and be… Mary!” this spot is the perfect place for brunch. The Mary’s twist on Bloodies includes pepper and lime-infused vodka in a homemade tomato mix, a go-to for anyone who loves spicy cocktails. There’s also a Gazpacho Bloody Mary, made with cucumber-infused vodka, muddled cucumbers, and cilantro, for those itching for something cooler on the tongue. Finally, the Michelada, a Bloody Mary mixed with Andersonville Brewing’s own Gangster Ale beer.

Meal service:

Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Atmosphere:

Casual, Quirky, Family Friendly, Relaxed

Restaurant, Steakhouse, $$$
Map View

If you’re a sports fan looking for a classy night out, look no further than Ditka’s. This steakhouse has a fantastic menu and a lively atmosphere centered on celebrating all things Chicago sports. Mike Ditka, who is perhaps most famous for coaching the Chicago Bears through their 1985 Super Bowl victory, owns the restaurant.

Restaurant, Steakhouse, $$$
Map View
event-dinner-shelby-moore3
Maple and Ash is a steakhouse with an innovative spin | Courtesy of Maple and Ash

Your meal at this upscale steakhouse is in the expert hands of chef Danny Grant, who has two Michelin stars. In 2016, Maple and Ash was also recognized as one of America’s Best Wine Restaurants. Not only is the restaurant known for its outstanding customer service but also for its dedication to ensuring that its customers have a good time. If you’re looking for a fun and festive night out, Maple and Ash is the place for you.

Bar, Diner, Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
When seeking out the perfect burger, most of Chicago will respond with ‘Have you been to Au Cheval?’ This place is well known for good reason. As a late-night diner from Chicago’s restaurateur of the moment, Gilt Bar owner, Brendan Sodikoff has perfected the burger. It uses mornay sauce, garlic aioli, fried farmer eggs… are you drooling yet? Although, Au Cheval does not accept reservations, the accolades and long wait is well deserved. Besides the burger, it’s also recommended to order the bone marrow with beef cheek marmalade. If that doesn’t win you over, then the chopped chicken liver with salted butter and toast will.

Diner, Restaurant, Beer, American, $$$
Map View
This farm-to-table restaurant has been the hottest restaurant on Randolph Street since it opened in the summer of 2010. Girl & The Goat is a culinary blast, and ensures an experience with each innovative small plate. While reservations are highly recommended, there’s also counter seating for those living life on the edge and attempting to snag a table last minute. While the crispy pig face is one of the most highly regarded items on the menu, their rotating list of craft beers from local Chicago breweries is a bonus. If Girl & The Goat is packed, then The Little Goat Diner is another Stephanie Izard wonder.

Gastropub, American, $$$
Map View

This elegant spot is known more as a steakhouse, but its fantastic menu and understated beauty make it a great spot for a late brunch or transition into dinner. Housed in an old firehouse, the original restaurant was heavily damaged in a 2014 fire. While the remodeled place retains much of the stately marble-and-mahogany charm of the original, the update brings a sleeker, airier feel that’s perfect for dining in the daylight. The menu is similarly elegant, with brunch options ranging from high-end cuisine (short-rib benedict) to classic comfort (fried chicken).

Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View

Huck Finn Restaurant serves up hearty home cooking all day long in three Chicagoland locations. While best known—or perhaps most appreciated—for its donuts, the diner has excellent breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, too. In fact, it used to be known simply as “Huck Finn Donuts.” Today, everything from blintzes to burgers, BLTs to broiled steak is available here, and it’s all expertly made. The busiest time of day at Huck Finn is the brunching hour, between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Tom Sawyer Feast: two large fish filets over golden toast, slathered in tartar sauce. Just remember to save room for a donut or some hand-packed ice cream.

Restaurant, American, Seafood, $$$
Map View

This 24-hour spot has mastered the art of fried—and fresh—seafood. Founder Lawrence Schweig opened up a shrimp shop in 1950 right on the bridge crossing over Canal Street. After getting the hang of working with fishermen and exploring new recipes, Lawrence expanded both his shop and his menu. His family still owns and operates several locations of Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp today. At exceptional prices, diners can chow down on coconut fried shrimp, whole catfish, frog legs, scallops, and ocean perch. Salads and chicken are also available if someone in your party isn’t partial to sea-dwelling critters. The sides are also perfectly proportioned and seasoned to accompany the main courses; try the okra, corn fritters, or coleslaw, which is always a great partner to seafood.

Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
Map View
unnamed
Boka has garnered multiple awards since it opened | Courtesy of Boka
Chandeliers and an art-laden moss wall make Boka an ambient dinner spot. The restaurant has garnered a slew of Michelin stars and a James Beard Award in 2019 with its pared-back, expertly executed American dishes, such as the dry-aged beef tartare, ricotta dumplings and the olive-oil-poached halibut served with roasted mushroom broth, bloomsdale spinach and artichoke. Imbibing with your meal is encouraged at Boka, and the drinks menu is extensive. Try local beers, recommended wines and unique cocktails such as the One Hour Photo – Evan Williams white label bourbon, brown butter, madeira and salted demerara.

Cafe, American
Map View
ATN_BreakfastSandwich_CarolinaMarianaRodríguez
© Carolina Mariana Rodríguez

This all-day café highlights a bit of Midwestern pleasure. Heavy, diner-style plates come loaded with the likes of creamed eggs over toast flush with pork fat collards, roast beef sandwiches swiped with spring onion cream cheese, and build-your-own meat and cheese boards. Most of the ingredients arrive from a handful of Upper Midwest farms, and the smoked and cured meats are shipped in from Underground Meats, a Wisconsin-based provider.

Restaurant, American
Map View
Virtue_Brunch_Above_Main (1)
© Gary Adcock

It’s all about southern comfort food at this Hyde Park establishment, thanks to southern-born chef Erick Williams. Here, diners often start with an order of coffee cake, billowing with brown sugar streusel, before moving onto savory fare: chicken and waffles, fried green tomatoes and shrimp, and biscuits and smoked salmon. Cocktails are your run-of-the-mill sippers, but the alcohol-free drinks prove far more interesting; the Duke of Earl, for instance, is a base of Earl Gray tea stirred with nutmeg, lemon and egg white.

Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
Sixteen, Chicago
Sixteen, Chicago | © Sixteen
This Michelin-starred, Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant is housed on the sixteenth floor of the Trump International Hotel & TowerChicago. Executive Chef Thomas Lents has created a menu that encompasses ingredients from all over the world to trigger dormant taste buds, where each dish is served with a separate wine. The 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows that fill the venue offer breathtaking views across Lake Michigan, but diners can also see the Chicago River and the Wrigley Building from their tables.

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View

In the midst of this melting pot neighborhood, the Fat Cat bar represents the best of classic American food. You can’t go wrong with Trivia Tuesdays or Mussel Pot Wednesdays which, yes, means there will be a lot of mussels. With awesome burgers like the Hot Mess, and TVs that always have the game on, the Fat Cat is the ideal location to watch football on those slow Sunday mornings.

Diner, Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan
Map View
You can’t beat the feel and taste of classic diner-style pancakes. That’s what you’ll get and more at Golden House Restaurant in Uptown, Chicago. Like the great pancake houses that have come before it, Golden House isn’t shy of big servings. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
Blackbird restaurant
Blackbird shines a spotlight on Midwestern cuisine | © Blackbird

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.

Restaurant, American, $$$
Map View
Entente restaurant
Entente relocated to a larger space in early 2019 | © DLMPD

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.

These recommendations were updated on July 9, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.