Holiday Sweepstakes: You Could Win* a KitchenAid 7-Qt. Pro Line Stand Mixer and More! Enter the Giveaway

Follow us:

Discover the unexpected in the Chicago Area. Explore All of Chicago
Restaurants & Bars 96


Mike G | Dec 31, 200209:15 PM

This FAQ is designed to help the visitor or new arrival to Chicago start finding great Chicago chow experiences. It does this in two ways:

1) For each food category, a SINGLE recommendation is listed which scores reasonably highly in terms of:
- consensus opinion on this board
- quintessential Chicagoness
- proximity to commonly touristed parts of the city, especially downtown
- not already being mentioned in EVERY damn guidebook out there

Though these represent ONLY the choices of the author of this FAQ, they are the sorts of places that are frequently recommended, and the visitor who just wants a quick suggestion for deep dish pizza during a two-day stop can take ‘em and run with ‘em in confidence.

2) Next, each category features a number of links to interesting threads, allowing the casual or first-time visitor to jump right into the thick of this board’s varied discussions. To access these posts, the easiest way is to open another browser window, paste this URL into the address window and insert the post number where the 0000 is:


EXPLORE THE THREADS! In most cases the cited post is merely one of many posts in that thread worth reading, or the first and not necessarily most interesting one, and you are heartily encouraged to explore each entire thread. You are also heartily encouraged to pose more specific questions to this board; this FAQ of general answers is merely a beginning.

NEED MORE INFO? Finally, if you need the address or other info for a restaurant, or want to compare against non-Chowhound reviews, the easiest way is to go to (which includes Chicago Tribune reviews) or the restaurant section of (which offers fairly high quality reader reviews—though not as high as here!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


LOU MALNATI’S (439 N. Wells St., 312-828-9800, and other locations) makes the classic thick-as-a-phone-book Chicago pizza, with less tourist attention than the admirable Pizzeria Uno (where the late Lou once worked) or the less impressive Gino’s.

Discussions of best: 14738, 12789, 11186, 8005; North side: 10870; South side: 18927
Dissatisfaction with New Haven-style at Piece: 10972
Italian-style at Pizza DOC: 3798
Foldability of crust as important criterion: 4918, 4963


AL’S ITALIAN BEEF (original in Little Italy at 1079 W. Taylor St., 312-733-8896; also in River North touristville at 169 W. Ontario St., 312-943-3222), is perhaps the best-known place for this Chicago sandwich, though as Vital Info noted (14736), “Al's meat is much different than most Italian beefs, a bit thicker, shorter pieces and more coarse. Likewise, their giardinara is different. Its kick comes from red pepper flakes not chopped sport peppers.” He also recommends the grilled sausage at the original Al’s location.

Compare-and-contrast of Chi Italian Beefs by LA visitor: 15216
General discussion of many beefs (and why NOT to go to Jay Leno’s fave, Mr. Beef): 14732
How to survive the ordering Nazi at Johnnie’s: 13459


SUPERDAWG (6363 N. Milwaukee Ave./Devon, 773-736-0660)-- There really isn’t a great Chicago dog near the main tourist areas (the Portillo’s in River North touristville maybe comes closest), but if you have a car, head up Milwaukee Ave. for a journey through the real Chicago and through neighborhoods of many nationalities; your reward at the far northwest edge of town will be unchanged 50s architecture, real carhop service, fat garlicky dogs and thick shakes.

Sarcastic service at Wiener’s Circle: 9424
Rattlesnake dogs and duck fat fries at Hot Doug’s: 10393
Perfect boiled dogs in “prison-like” atmosphere at Gene & Jude’s: 4478, 5592


GENE & GEORGETTI’S (500 N. Franklin St., 312-527-3718) is a Rat Pack-era steak joint still frequented by politicians and hoods (but I repeat myself); take a good look at the first floor as you enter, because you WILL be seated in Siberia upstairs. (14371 has a memorable take on the G&G experience for non-bigshots.)

General overview: 17084
Gibson’s: 11335
Morton’s: 16410
Keefer’s: 15102
Fogo de Chao: 14817

Note: Chicago Chop House has received the most consistent negative reviews of places the out of towner is likely to find himself at.


CYRANO’S BISTROT & WINE BAR (546 N. Wells St., 312-467-0546) ranks highly for value and romantic atmosphere given its busy, high-rent location a few blocks from Michigan Avenue and the Merchandise Mart. The kind of modest, underpublicized place that you can name-drop when you get back as a “find.” Some direct links to reviews of other fine dining establishments:

Ambria: 17150
Bistrot Margot: 9072
Bistrot Margot, Kiki’s Bistro, bistros in general: 15872
Blackbird: 14844
Le Bouchon: 19030
Café des Architectes: 18738
Café Matou: 9038
Charlie Trotter’s: 9906, 16694
Chilpancingo: 13350
Crofton-On-Wells: 11174
Cyrano’s Bistrot: 11737
Fortunato’s: 11485, 17679 (pro), 16847 (middling)
Four-stars in general (Trotter, Tru, Everest etc.): 14809; also entire thread beg. at 14797
Le Francais: 12498
Heat: 14549, 17702, 3841
Kevin: 10040
Kevin, Vivo, Printer’s Row, Crofton On Wells: 17145
Les Nomades: 13965 (semi-negative)
Merlo: 12481
MK: 12730
Spiaggia: 14257
Spring, 15097
Sugar: 15524 (semi-negative, but great read)
Thyme: 10371
Tomboy: 11736
Tournesol: 15897
Trio: 9811, 12926 (pro), 12476 (middling)
Tru: 8878
Zealous: 12805


LA SCAROLA (721 W. Grand Ave., 312-243-1740; reviews at 10316, 8778) is the classic tiny, packed, patrons out of a Scorsese movie kind of place, located in an Italian neighborhood just beyond downtown. Beats the heck out of pack-em-in-for-big-portions-of-ordinary-food rackets like Rosebud or Maggiano’s.

Spiaggia (four-star Italian): 14257
Bruna’s Ristorante and Heart of Italy neighborhood: 14819
Italian-style Italian: Follia, 17775
Harlem Ave. delis/stores: 15833


CHILPANCINGO (358 W. Ontario St., 312-266-9525, review at 13350) is an upscale River North Mexican restaurant by a Frontera Grill alum, Geno Bahena, that seems to be earning more raves than the place that originally put upscale Mexican on the map.

Frontera vs. Ixcapuzalco/Chilpancingo: 13322
Mexican food stands in the famous Maxwell Street Market: 14822, see also 18069
Chicago, Best Mexican Food in the US?: 13513, 11823
How Do You Spot A Good Mexican Restaurant?: 13885
Oaxacan: 12650, 11716, 4109


LITTLE THREE HAPPINESS (209 W. Cermak, 312-842-1964; see suggested items to order at 17166) is one of several spots in the touristy Wentworth St. Chinatown area whose menu includes the familiar but goes into realms far beyond the ken of P.F. Chang’s (fish lung, sea slug, etc.)

Dim Sum: 5263, 5447, 10129, 11553
As religious experience: 14820 and 14478
Shanghaiese (Moon Palace): 8406
Taiwanese (Mei Shung): 10333


WISHBONE (1001 W. Washington Blvd., 312-850-2663; also 3300 N. Lincoln) offers a yuppified but hearty and satisfying take on southern breakfast west of the Loop (near Harpo Studios), and in the Roscoe Village area.

General discussion of breakfast faves: 10191
Near McCormack Place: 15219
Roscoe Village: 18410
Edna’s: 6118


A grab bag of references to posts on other cuisines:

JAPANESE: Sushi: 15664; at Katsu, 19124; at Heat, 14549, 17702

KOREAN: 18928, 17441 (and others in thread beg. at 17360)

THAI (a lot of discussion of how to get secret menus and more authentic/hotter dishes at Chicago’s outwardly interchangeable Thai restaurants): 19048, 18151, 16852, 14373, 14201,

VIETNAMESE: In Argyle Street “Chinatown”: 12979, 6522
Not on Argyle Street: 17586

INDIAN: Downtown: 14668; on Devon, 5417, 2767; 24-hour cabbie joints, 10044

MIDDLE-EASTERN: 13673, 8549; Turkish: 12230, 7959

GREEK: 8350


GERMAN: 10797

CARIBBEAN: 18837 (within Chickie’s Beef thread), 18939, 12382

BBQ: 11555, 9882, 7049

SOUL FOOD: 9934, 9933, 5217

DELI: 17637, 15988, 15900, 11009

LUNCH IN THE LOOP: 15775, 12165, 6344

COMPREHENSIVE (EATING TOUR) THREADS: 14073, 12517, 10011, 8184 (24-hour Chowathon), 7179 (best Chowblock in town)


Want to stay up to date with this post? Sign Up Now ›

Recommended from Chowhound

Catch up on the latest activity across all community discussions.
View latest discussions