River North’s sleek dana hotel and spa has had quite the year. Fresh off a culinary revamp courtesy of the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, the hotel debuted three new venues: the posh Apogee rooftop lounge, sea monster-inspired Leviathan bar, and Portsmith, a seafood joint from executive chef Nate Henssler. At the newly-minted, ground-floor kitchen, stylish nautical design (think: lots of navy blue, brass pendant lighting, and pearly floor tiles) meets an elevated menu. Taking a "less is more approach" to dishes, the restaurant pays special attention to raw and lightly cooked plates like tuna tartare (with umami shrub, cilantro, and market chilies) and fancy oysters (with foie gras torchon, yuzu flake daikon, and green apple).
Find it: 660 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654
Acadia has been gathering accolades since it opened in the South Loop neighborhood in 2011. After just 11 months on Chicago’s scene, the airy, New American restaurant picked up its first Michelin star, and by 2015, it had nailed down two. Chef Ryan McCaskey credit’s the restaurant's inspiration to his childhoods spent in Maine, and certainly, subtle coastal touches can be found throughout his menu. Between the five- and nine-course tasting menus, diners will find plates like Yukon risotto with green apple, truffle and herbs and Stonington lobster with massaman curry and Vietnamese herbs.
Find it: 1639 S. Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard’s West Loop kitchen has been kicking since 2010, but diners still come out in droves for shareable plates of wood-fired oysters and goat empanadas (with miso-blue cheese aioli and squash-apple slaw). If you can’t score a res here, the Chicago native has also taken her talents to Little Goat Diner (just across the street) which serves elevated comfort foods, and Duck Duck Goat, a buzzy Chinese spot in Fulton Market.
Find it: 809 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607
The team behind Michelin-starred Sepia is back again with their long-awaited (AKA a decade-awaited) second restaurant: Proxi. Though the West Loop dining room also comes from James Beard-nominated chef Andrew Zimmerman, it’s decidedly less buttoned up with cozy decor (think: oversized leather booths, plank floors, and lots of brass) and an internationally inspired menu. Drop by now for coal roasted oysters with ssamjang butter, Indonesian pork jerky, BBQ lamb ribs with mango pickles and cashews, and more.
Find it: 565 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661
Executive chef Noah Sandoval and pastry chef Genie Kwon weren’t playing around when they opened Oriole in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood in 2016. After just a year in business, the pair’s sleek set up had gathered two Michelin stars while simultaneously steering clear of the stuffy atmosphere that often accompanies such a bestowal. With exposed brick walls, paper pendant lighting, and an open kitchen, the 28-seater is arguably apartment-like, but the menu is far from what you’d find at your friend’s dinner party. An old world-inspired wine list rubs shoulders with dishes like Spanish mackerel with asian pear, seaweed, and sea grapes, and Japanese Wagyu with white alba truffle, matsutake, and onion ash.
Find it: 661 W. Walnut Street, Chicago, IL 60661
If your budget has room for one splurge-worthy meal, make a res at Smyth, which was elevated to two Michelin stars after debuting with one just last year. The bi-level New American kitchen takes queues from rural Smyth County, Virginia, where executive chefs John and Karen Shields worked with local growers. For a more casual meal, you can opt to be seated downstairs (in The Loyalist dining room—technically a second venue), or if you’re about the tasting menus (5-, 8-, and 12-course), you’ll head upstairs. Come hungry in order to clean up plates of aged ribeye with spring onion marmite and buttermilk and Dungeness crab and foie gras with scrambled kani miso.
Find it: 177 N. Ada Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Topolobampo— a contemporary Mexican restaurant from husband-and-wife restaurateurs Rick and Deann Bayless—has more than stood the test of time, having opened nearly 30 years ago. The art-filled River North dining room has gathered much acclaim, thanks in part to three chef-curated tasting menus, including our pick of choice: The Perfect Seven. Showcase pre-Colombian plates range from sashimi-grade Baja hiramasa yellowtail with pineapple two ways, to creamy avocado sorbet with pineapple, coconut, and ground cherry-tomatillo salsa.
Find it: 445 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60610
Diners at Alinea— Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’ three-Michelin-starred New American restaurant — need to set aside roughly 3 hours and $175 to $385 dollars. But if you can spare both the time and the expense, the experimental Lincoln Park spot is worth it. An ever-evolving stalwart on Chicago’s fine dining scene, Alinea offers three distinct dining experiences: The Kitchen Table (the most intimate and immersive), The Gallery Menu (16- to 18-courses), and The Salon Menu (a more approachable 10- to 12-course menu). FYI—dining of this caliber requires a little forethought; secure reservations well in advance as they’re typically booked two months ahead.
Find it: 1723 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60714
Quickly glance the “about” section on Giant’s site and you’ll find it reads as a tongue-in-cheek declaration of the restaurant’s pared-back atmosphere. “We promise to make simple, delicious (slightly cheffy) food for people to eat,” is what chef Jason Vincent guarantees, and his menu delivers with fresh takes on classic comfort foods like pecan smoked baby back ribs with baked beans and marinated zucchini with pumpkin seed and cilantro. Pairing fun plates with a funky dining room done up with puzzle-like banquette seating, geometric wooden walls, and local artwork, and the Logan Square spot is perfect for a friends night out.
Find it: 3209 W. Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Chef Paul Fehribach’s Big Jones has long—well, since it opened in 2008— held the title of Chicago’s favorite Southern joint. The Andersonville kitchen specializes in downhome, heirloom-style cooking and features early 20th-century recipes as well as cult menu favorites like award-winning fried chicken—perfectly crisped in leaf lard, ham drippings, and clarified butter, and served with voodoo greens and butterbeans.
Find it: 5347 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640