24 S Michigan. Loop. 312-372-4243. Contemporary. L & D daily. Br Sat, Sun. $$$
Prime digs near Millennium Park and ritzy comfort food like vindaloo mussels, locally crafted sausage, and a prime burger keep this gastropub abuzz.
Gene & Georgetti
500 N Franklin. River North. 312-527-3718. Steaks, Italian. L & D Mon–Sat. $$$$
Chicken, seafood, and Italian options take a back seat to the wet-aged prime beef at this iconic steak house. Iceberg salad and ho-hum potatoes accompany most entrées. The place could not be any less hip, but that’s a small sacrifice for steaks this good.
The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan. River North. 312-464-1744. Mediterranean. L & D daily. $$
Crammed into the equivalent of a studio apartment, with cheek-by-jowl communal tables, the Purple Pig isn’t for those seeking solitude or romance. It is, however, for those seeking dazzling small plates. Try the crispy chicken kebabs with homemade tzatziki, spearmint peas with bacon, and fried Petit Basque cheese with quince paste. The diverse wine and beer list proves this is no tourist trap.
980 N Michigan. Gold Coast. 312-280-2750. Italian. D nightly. $$$$
The space soars, the view glitters, and the service is perfect at the First Couple’s favorite date-night spot. Chefs Tony Mantuano and Sarah Grueneberg take the finest delicacies—from Savini black truffles to Venetian clams—and fashion exquisite fare. Crescenza-filled ravioletto with porcini mushrooms and nepitella (an herb), finished with barilotto di bufala cheese, is stunning, as is wood-roasted black cod with abalone mushrooms, bottarga, and basil-fed snails. Dessertwise, the huckleberry brioche with passion fruit sorbetto scores.
151 W Erie. River North. 312-274-1111. Spanish. L Mon–Fri, D nightly. Br Sun. $$
Flavor-packed small plates, kegged cocktails, an ebullient staff, and a gorgeous, tipsy crowd cram into a sharp gold-toned space. The menu salutes Spain with Faroe Island salmon crudo, blistered pimientos de padrón, and housemade pappardelle.
449 N Clark. River North. 312-661-1434. Mexican. B, L & D Tue–Sat. $
The smallest and most casual of Rick Bayless’s three restaurants on this block is also the most fun, despite crowds, tight seating, and an awkward ordering procedure. The menu of street food is strong throughout, from terrific guacamole to a lively selection of caldos, tortas, and sweets.
1723 N Halsted. Lincoln Park. 312-867-0110. Progressive American. D Wed–Sun. $$$$
When it comes to inventiveness, Grant Achatz is flying higher than ever. Expect amazing platings, with revelatory bites served on boughs, pillows, driftwood, or—dishless—on the table itself. Multicourse tasting menu, $210 to $265; wine pairing menu offered.
Belden-Stratford, 2300 N Lincoln Park West. Lincoln Park. 773-868-0002. Contemporary seafood. D Thu–Mon. $$$$
As Wonderland’s Alice might have noted, presentations are miniature and miniaturer. Lovely takes on fish and mollusks are delicious, if a bit fussy. Befriend the bread server, of whose wee rosemary croissants you won’t tire. Prix fixe menus from $140 to $210.
2610 N Cannon. Lincoln Park. 773-477-5845. Contemporary American. D Wed–Sun. Br Sun. $$$$
Locally sourced products remain the hallmarks of this romantic Arts and Crafts hideaway in the park: Bruce Sherman is unafraid to take artful risks, drizzling bouillabaisse syrups over bone-in monkfish and soaking various cuts of rabbit in an elegant Sauternes jus. Fabulous wine list.
1800 N Lincoln. Lincoln Park. 312-981-7070. American. B Mon–Fri, D nightly. Br Sat, Sun. gcs $$$$
At this breezy-chic spot across from Lincoln Park, you’ll find hearty shared bites (smoked ham hock beignets); irresistible bar snacks (fried cheese curds); and seasonal offerings that showcase American farms, such as the crackling Caveny Farm Rouen duck schnitzel.
1639 S Wabash. South Loop. 312-360-9500. Contemporary. D Wed–Sun. $$$$
Menus showcase lobster, truffles, and other luxurious foodstuffs. But humbler tastes—mustard seeds here, pickled cherries there—also shine, with supertasty accessorizing morsels pushing the main events in interesting directions. Seven-course tasting menu ($115).
800 W Randolph. West Loop. 312-929-4580. American. L Mon–Fri, D nightly. Br Sat, Sun. $$
Abandon your diet and plunge fork-first into the unapologetically heavy grub at this chic diner-style charmer. Craft brews complement the droolworthy fried bologna sandwich or perhaps garlicky mashed potatoes to supplement the juiciest pork porterhouse imaginable. A cheeseburger? Go for broke and add a fried egg on top.
Girl & The Goat
809 W Randolph. West Loop. 312-492-6262. Contemporary American. D nightly. $$
Highlights on Stephanie Izard’s bold small plates menu include a creamy pork liver mousseline, perfectly cooked black olive mezzaluna stuffed with puréed summer squash, grilled baby octopus with Serrano and pistachio, and frozen corn nougat with plum and bacon. Bonus points for killer cocktails.
837 W Fulton Market. West Loop. 312-733-9555. Contemporary American. D nightly. Br Sat, Sun. $$
Great ingredients abound in the halibut crudo, the porcinis with pecorino fondue, and the outstanding cured hams and oysters. Boudin blanc with classic romesco is special, as is the Livornese fish stew. Nice craft beer list.
Don’t eat just any deep-dish pizza
Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta
61 E. Madison St., 312-236-1777, pizanoschicago.com
In a city where people could argue about baseball teams for days, there’s no debating that this is deep-dish territory. But which one is the best? A buttery-crusted slice from festive Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta is the hands-down favorite of Chicago’s dining editors.