There’s no denying that Chicago holds a certain charm and allure, making it a great place to visit for many. However, unless you’re a local or Chicago is your hometown, navigating Downtown Chicago and finding your way around could feel a little daunting. Especially if you’re on the hunt for good eats!
There’s nothing quite like finding that perfect place to feed your belly when you’re hangry and new to the area. Even if you live in Chicago, you might be ready for some new scenery for your next night on the town.
Regardless of why you’re there, keep reading for our recommendations on the best places to eat in Downtown Chicago.
Monteverde Restaurant and Pastificio
This Italian restaurant––run by the famous James Beard and award-winning chef Sarah Grueneberg––graces Madison St in West Loop, Chicago. Considered the best spot for high-quality Italian food in the whole of Chicago, their menu includes a variety of pasta creations and other dishes.
Try popular dishes like the Cacio e Pepe, Pork Shank, or stuffed cabbage, and enjoy excellent flavors without draining the wallet. Even better is the ambiance–– perfect for group evenings, dates, or a romantic date on the heated patio.
The Publican is a raw bar located in Fulton Market in Downtown Chicago. If you’re vegetarian, it’s probably not your jam — the staple ingredient on the menu is meat.
However, they do offer some seafood and vegetable dishes, so there’s a little something for everyone. Designed and decorated to resemble a beer hall, The Publican offers u-shaped communal tables that are excellent for socializing, lively chatting, and having way too much fun while enjoying tasty food.
Soju combines the flavors of BBQ and Korean food in the most delicious of ways. Their high-quality meat cuts are BBQ’d to perfection and served up as Bulgogi, brisket, short ribs, and more. The restaurant offers both pickup and delivery for the local area, making it ideal if you just want to laze around the house for the evening instead of going out.
Oriole––located in Fulton Market in Downtown Chicago––serves American and Japanese food, as well as a fusion of both cuisines. However, it’s certainly not for the more budget-minded as the high prices reflect their high-level skill and service.
Their menu offers a 13-course meal with food that is delicious, yet simply created and presented. This is a great place to keep in your back pocket for those special occasions when you don’t mind dropping a few hundred bucks on a dinner night out.
Smyth & The Loyalist
Smyth is a Michelin-Starred restaurant located in Downtown Chicago and is considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the area. The BBQ menu items are to die for, and you can order beforehand to decrease wait time or call in for takeout.
The fine dining restaurant also offers meal kits if you want to cook a great meal for yourself. Even cooler, it has a bar in the basement called The Loyalist. Their basement bar is also well known for delicious and mouth-watering burgers. You kind of can’t go wrong with this one!
Possibly the best pizza place in Downtown Chicago, this restaurant features their signature Taglio-style pizza by Gabriele Bonci. The pizza comes in 20 flavor options and is cut to order to cater to your needs.
The menu includes not just sandwiches, pies, salads, and of course pizza, but also a Bonci Pizzeria specialty, which is cheese and meat-stuffed rice and pasta balls.
Au Cheval serves up an American cuisine staple: juicy, tasty burgers! The restaurant is located in West Loop, Downtown Chicago, and has a line out the door almost always. However, the quality and taste of those burgers make it worth the wait.
El Che Steakhouse and Bar
El Che Steakhouse represents the spirit of the West Loop in the best way. This restaurant offers Argentinian cuisine, with a live-fire grill that ramps everything up a notch. Their menu features a variety of meat dishes, with sides to balance it all out. The lively atmosphere makes it ideal for group meals and friendly gatherings.
Formento’s is another Chicago dining hot spot that offers delectable Italian cuisine, located inside a spacious dining room that allows for plenty of seating. Their menu features all the Italian classics including pasta and chops, as well as a variety of appetizers including salads, fried calamari, meatballs, and more. The restaurant offers both indoor dining and outdoor dining for those who prefer to enjoy fresh air with their meal.
Leña Brava is a Mexican-inspired restaurant located in Downtown Chicago. The restaurant offers a new take on Mexican cuisine, focusing on the multi-cultural cuisine of Baja California Norte, which borrows from both Mexican and American (Californian) flavors. The restaurant is known especially for its wood-fired cooking that gives a unique flavor to any dish.
Bandit leans heavily on a 90’s theme, with its bar food and casual atmosphere. Some of the popular dishes at the restaurant are the Kung Pao cauliflowers that present a new spin on traditional Kung Pao, plus pull-apart sliders that practically melt in your mouth.
High Five Ramen
High Five Ramen, which is run by the same people who run Au Cheval, serves ramen and other similar dishes. The ramen bowls are enhanced by a Tonkotsu-style broth, Japanese chilies and numbing pepper, as well as miso, nori and sesame, bringing new levels of flavor into every dish. This restaurant offers both delivery and pickup services, making it convenient for those nights you want to watch Netflix and lounge in your pajamas.
Girl & the Goat
The reasons behind this restaurant’s popularity are many and varied. However, one of the biggest reasons is that all the menu items they offer taste exceptionally delicious, with their goat empanadas taking center stage.
ROOH – ROOH
ROOH – ROOH is a modern Indian restaurant and cocktail bar. The place features a menu filled with unique spins on Indian cuisine staples like pork belly cooked in Tandoori flavoring, Tandoor-smoked chicken wings cooked in Indian spices, and more.
Mako serves delectable sushi in 25 courses. It offers a large seating space and an extensive menu that includes small plates, Sashimi, Nigiri, and more. The most unique feature of the restaurant, however, is the length of the meal, which takes almost 3 hours to enjoy on average. Obviously, the prices reflect this phenomenon as the restaurant charges for both the food and the experience.
This restaurant serves Japanese cuisine––mainly sushi––omakase style, hence the name. The calm and peaceful ambiance of the restaurant makes for a great experience, especially for a special occasion or date night. The dishes are on the higher-budget side, but more than make up for it in flavor and quality.
Ramen Takeya & Omakase Takeya
Arguably one of the most crowded restaurants in Downtown Chicago, the signature ramen dishes at Ramen Takeya are made with chicken and an adjustable spice level. The dining room offers ample space, plus a bar for those waiting.
It also happens to house one of the most famous sushi bars in the area in the basement. Keep in mind that Omakase Takeya is an Omakase-only sushi bar. They offer an interesting and oft-changing menu, but they have a small seating area for a maximum of 7 people, so it’s best to reserve a seat if you intend to visit.
In the whole of Chicago, Avec is one Chicago restaurant that never fails to deliver. The menu is changed and upgraded frequently, but the most popular dishes remain the classic Avec dishes. These include Taleggio flatbread, or dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with Chorizo that makes for an interesting flavor and texture profile.
Proximities is run by renowned executive chef Andrew Zimmerman and serves global cuisine inspired by street food worldwide. He curates the best of street foods into one place to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. You can get anything from Paratha with sweet potato chat, to shrimp dumplings, Gochujang, butternut Conserva, and more.
Aba is one of the few restaurants that serve Mediterranean cuisine in Downtown Chicago. The place sees quite the crowd due to its high-quality and flavorful food. The beautiful setting doesn’t hurt either!
They offer a rooftop patio that takes your dining experience to even greater heights. This restaurant is probably best for group evenings, although date nights can be enjoyed here too. Either way, don’t forget to try the lamb Ragu, or the rib hummus––both are superb.
Eating is one of the best things to do in downtown Chicago, which is why good restaurants in Downtown Chicago are easy to find. The only obstacle is deciding which one to try first!
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