Monday, June 25th, 2018
Based on the quality and diversity of its restaurants, one might guess Chicago’s city flag is adorned with Michelin stars. Except, the flag is a four-star affair, and Michelin rates only as high as three — which translate as “exceptional cuisine — worth a special detour.”
Among the 25 Chicago restaurants to earn at least one Michelin star in 2018, two landed the coveted three-star distinction. But dining in Chicago is more than merely eating your haute meal.
There are classic steakhouses, traditional spots cooking for every ethnicity, dazzling spaces serving daring cuisine from culinary stars. To truly taste Chicago would take years, but here’s a list of some of Chicago’s greatest restaurants in its greatest neighborhoods.
Alinea: This Lincoln Park space, since opening in 2005, has been named the best restaurant in the world by at least three different organizations in three different years. It closed for a redesign for four months in 2016 and still has an eight-year streak of three-star Michelin ratings. The food? Adventurous. “Cutting edge,” “multi-sensory” and “innovative” are hints given by the website, but this stuff is as much art as food.
Girl & the Goat: A star in the West Loop’s Randolph Street dining corridor, because chef/owner Stephanie Izard opened the place in 2010 fresh off becoming the first female winner of TV’s Top Chef. Touting a “family style menu of tasty, bold flavored foods with a global influence,” a recent Girl menu offered dishes such as wood oven roasted pig face, escargot ravioli and green garlic pierogis.
Spiaggia: Where Streeterville meets the Gold Coast, fine-dining Spiaggia shares Mag Mile space with the no-less-excellent Café Spiaggia. Executive Chef Joe Flamm won Season 15 of Bravo’s Top Chef in 2018, following in the footsteps of founding chef-partner Tony Mantuano, who not only won a Top Chef, but in 2005 was named Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Spiaggia has offered upscale Italian cuisine for more than 30 years — and dishes such as gnocchi with truffle, ricotta and parmigiano reggiano, or cinghiale (a wild boar chop in an Italian dessert wine with morel and pistachio) keep customers returning — as does a wine list some 700 bottles long.
Rosebud Prime: One among eight restaurants in the Rosebud group that started with a Little Italy pasta house in 1977, Prime is the Loop’s go-to spot for classic steak in a town that knows a classic steak. But, if you don’t feel like the 22-ounce, bone-in ribeye, or the 16-ounce bone-in filet with wild mushrooms, try the Rosebud Brick Chicken, or the Steakhouse Burger tabbed by ChicagoBurgerBible.com as the No. 1 burger in the city.
Topolobampo: There are dozens of places in River North worth a look — from the Michelin-rated Naha (American fare with Mediterranean influences) and Sixteen (in the Trump Tower) to the Chicago outlet of L.A.-based sushi purveyor Katana. But venerable Topolobampo, serving upscale Mexican since 1991 under the watchful eye of celebrity chef Rick Bayless, is still at the top of its game, winning the nation’s Outstanding Restaurant title at the 2017 James Beard awards. Frontera Grill, next door to Topolobampo and another Bayless venture, won the award in 2007.