Top 40 Chicago Restaurants Ever

As a toast to this magazine’s 40th anniversary, we name the 40 best Chicago restaurants of all time.

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40 Best Chicago restaurants ever

 

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20. Gibsons Steakhouse
1989-present // Gold Coast
(steaks) At the epicenter of Rush Street action, this always-packed prime meat scene follows the ultimate Chicago steak-house paradigm to a T.

19. Yoshi’s Café
1982-present // Lake View
(Contemporary) This treasure has delighted for three decades simply because Yoshi Katsumura’s gentle fusion continues to sparkle and his wife, Nobuko, continues to charm.

18. The Pump Room
1938-present // Gold Coast
(Contemporary American) Its star has faded, but memories of damned good food and Booth One—where Bogie and Bacall celebrated their wedding—still make our hearts race.

17. Arun’s
1985-present // Albany Park
(Thai) Before Arun Sampanthavivat opened this jewel box, we had never tasted elegant Thai food. It took our breath away then, and it still does.

16. Everest
1986-present // South Loop
(French) This bastion of haute owes its success—four stars for 19 straight years—to Jean Joho, the anti-trend chef who shows no signs of letting up.

15. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!
1985-present // Lincoln Park
(Spanish) “I think tapas-style dining is going to be the next big food experience in the country.” –Richard Melman, president of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, January 1986

14. Blackbird
1997-present // West Loop
(Contemporary American) Paul Kahan put American food through a modern lens and unleashed a sleeping giant. Read: where pork became the hippest food on the planet.

13. The Bakery
1962-1989 // Lincoln Park
(Continental) Cognoscenti flocked to Louis Szathmáry’s quirky storefront—no menu and mismatched every­thing— for beef Wellington and an inexplicable BYO policy.

12. Carlos’
1981-present // Highland Park
(Contemporary French) From day one, Carlos Nieto’s patented silver bow tie has said it all: Check your ideas about formal French dining at the door.

11. Avec
2003-present // West Loop
(Mediterranean) The trendoids embraced the small plates and communal seating and never looked back. The rest of us have finally caught up.

10. Pizzeria Uno
1943-present // River North
(pizza) In the beginning, there was Chicago-style thin-crust pizza, and it was good. Then Uno introduced deep-dish, and it was revolutionary.

9. Gordon
1976-1999 // River North
(Contemporary American) The bon vivant Gordon A. Sinclair brought sophistication to a seedy stretch of North Clark Street, and River North was born.

8. Morton’s The Steakhouse
1978-present // Gold Coast
(steaks) The rolling-cart show of massive cuts of plastic-wrapped prime beef raised the bar on excessive steak consumption from maybe to mandatory.

7. Ambria
1980-2007 // Lincoln Park
(French) Just when elegance seemed out of favor, this testament to sumptuous dining swept into our lives. We still miss the cloches and the gorgeous dessert cart.

6. Trio
1993-2006 // Evanston
(Contemporary American) Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand (Tru), Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra), and—drumroll please—Grant Achatz (Alinea) all passed through Trio.

5. Spiaggia
1984-present // Gold Coast
(Italian) In a city with a proud red-sauce tradition, Tony Mantuano singlehandedly awakened us to the exquisite joys of Northern Italian cuisine.

4. Frontera Grill
1987-present
Topolobampo
1989-present // River North
(Mexican) Did Rick Bayless think we had never eaten tacos or enchiladas before? Not like Frontera’s, we hadn’t. Then, at Topo, he made creative Mexican fare a white-tablecloth experience.

3. Charlie Trotter’s
1987-present // Lincoln Park
(Contemporary) In 1987, a young whippersnapper named Charlie Trotter turned an old brownstone into a temple of modern dining. For 23 years running, all hail the chef.

2. Le Français
1973-2007 // Wheeling
(French) In its heyday, the best French restaurant in America. So said Bon Appétit, Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Craig Claiborne, and Mimi Sheraton. Merci, Jean Banchet.

1. Alinea
2005-present // Lincoln Park
(Progressive American) Still wet behind the ears, Alinea, the culinary juggernaut of the brilliant and visionary Grant Achatz, turned Chicago into an international foodie destination and a launching pad for the next generation of groundbreaking chefs.

 

Photography: (Manny’s) Chicago Tribune photo by Charles Osgood, (Achatz) Lara Kastner/Courtesy of Alinea, (Berghoff) Chicago Tribune photo by José M. Osorio

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