On the Road: Chicago Restaurants
Chicago's mix of local and global cuisines will satisfy any eater's cravings. Sample Windy City favorites, like deep-dish pizza, Italian meats and loaded hot dogs.
Photo By: Derek Richmond
Photo By: Jason Little ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Photo By: Jason Little ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Photo By: Jason Little
Photo By: Anjali M. PInto ©Lettuce Entertain You Inc
Photo By: Picasa
Photo By: Lindsey Cavanaugh
Photo By: Grant Kessler
Photo By: Craig Goldwyn
On Top 5 Restaurants the hosts head to swanky RPM Steak for the 10-ounce rib eye “The Duke,” named for partners Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s son Duke. The meat is brushed with beef butter and spices and thrown into a charcoal grill. On Iron Chef Eats, Chicago chef and Iron Chef competitor Sarah Grueneberg heads to this steakhouse for their Dry-Aged Steakburger topped with cheddar and horseradish on an onion roll.
Go to: RPM Steak
For Iron Chef Beau MacMillan, The Publican in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood is the place to be for nose-to-tail cooking. His favorite? The pork rinds, which he calls “powerful flavor bombs.” Pork brings many people in the door, but don’t bypass the vegetables, which are equally flavor-filled.
Go to: The Publican
Wine bar Avec's entrees and small plates echo the wine-growing region of southern France. The chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates with smoked bacon have become an iconic cult dish (Chris Cosentino ordered multiples on The Best Thing I Ever Ate), and the focaccia with Taleggio isn't far behind.
Go to: Avec
This legendary Chicago steakhouse is one of the busiest in the city. It has wowed many Food Network stars, including Bobby Flay, who says it has some of the “juiciest steaks around.” Indulge in a rib eye or the dry-aged 32-ounce Tomahawk chop. Save room – if you can – for their colossal desserts like the towering macadamia turtle pie, which is full of ice cream, caramel, macadamia nuts and chocolate.
Go to: Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
Art Smith is smitten with the holiday duck ragout prepared by former chef Giuseppe Tentori (now of GT Fish & Oyster and GT Prime), but the food at this Lincoln Park spot remains equally delicious with Chef Lee Wolen at the helm. The menu changes seasonally, showcasing beautiful vegetables, handmade pastas and decadent proteins.
Go to: Boka Restaurant
Guy Fieri can’t get enough of this spot where Korean food meets American classics. He raves about the weekend special – the Philly Bulkogi Eggroll, which tastes like a Philly cheesteak in egg roll form, about which he says, “There is nothing about that I don’t like.” In another episode he swoons over the Duxelle Burger (formerly called the Umami Burger) with truffled mushroom duxelle, sun-dried tomato confit and togarashi mayo.
Go to: bopNgrill
This Logan Square spot has been serving up seasonal fare for over a decade and is truly a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement. Jeff Mauro loves its brunch, especially “The Royale” part of the brunch sandwich series, which rotates weekly.
Go to: Lula Cafe
Iron Chef winner Edward Lee knows just what to order at Wicker Park’s honky-tonk taco joint, Big Star, where the patio is the place to be — with one hand holding a margarita and the other dipping into fresh guacamole — when the weather gets warm. On Iron Chef Eats, Lee makes a beeline for the house favorites: the queso fundido and the al pastor taco.
Go to: Big Star
The Bongo Room
Carla Hall finds her Guilty Pleasure at one of Chicago’s favorite breakfast spots. The restaurant is known for its decadent breakfast combinations like Hall’s favorite, the Chocolate Tower French Toast, and seasonal offerings like gooey caramelized apple pancakes with mascarpone mousse.
Go to: The Bongo Room
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
In the Crave episode “Chocolate: The Dark Side of Delicious,” Troy Johnson visits James Beard Award-winning Mindy Segal’s restaurant in Bucktown and indulges in a chocolate “souffled tart.” The savory side of the menu is equally decadent, with a wonderfully creamy mac and cheese and one of the best hamburgers in town.
Go to: Mindy's Hot Chocolate
Prepare to wait in line for one of the city’s best burgers. The juicy burger is topped with Sir Kensington’s Dijonaise, melted cheddar cheese plus an egg or maple-glazed bacon, if you choose. It’s no surprise that Sunny Anderson and Geoffrey Zakarian chose this for one of their top burgers on Top 5 Restaurants.
Go to: Au Cheval
When Iron Chef Gauntlet competitor Jonathan Sawyer wants a bold and hearty breakfast in Chicago, he heads to Dove’s Luncheonette (as seen on Iron Chef Eats). There he indulges in seasonal, Southern-inspired Mexican food like the spicy pozole rojo — slow-braised pork shoulder in a guajillo chile broth. The diner always has great tunes in the background and a stellar tequila-and-mezcal list to complement the food.
Go to: Dove's Luncheonette
Michael Chiarello swoons over Rick Bayless’ peanut mole on the “Sauced” episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. This elegant Mexican restaurant features beautiful and seasonal preparations of the food that has made Bayless an internationally renowned chef and the restaurant a James Beard Award winner.
Go to: Topolobampo
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
Marc Murphy had never heard of a pizza pot pie. But after one bite of the pizza pot pie at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., he instantly knew it was deserving of the title The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The pie layers cheese and a special sauce inside a fluffy Sicilian crust. Flip the behemoth over and then devour.
Photo courtesy of Jason Little Photography
Dusek’s Board and Beer
Jeff Mauro loves the Dutch Baby here on Best. Breakfast. Ever., calling it the “perfect pancake.” This light and airy pancake cradles a piece of seasonal fruit for a delicious and sweet surprise of flavor and texture. The Pilsen spot is also known for its take on the Juicy Lucy with local Slagel Farms beef and American cheese, topped with bacon marmalade.
Go to: Dusek's Board and Beer
There is a reason why Guy Fieri loves the sandwiches at this family-owned spot. The unique cemitas are authentic Poblano sandwiches, composed of homemade sesame rolls that are spread with avocado and homemade chipotle sauce, then layered with Oaxacan cheese and your choice of meat ranging from chicken to spit-roasted pork.
Go to: Cemitas Puebla
Girl & The Goat
Acclaimed chef, Top Chef and Iron Chef winner Stephanie Izard whips up some of Chicago’s best plates at her flagship restaurant in the West Loop. Marcela Valladolid can’t get enough of the layered gelato on The Best Thing I ate. Izard brings together cranberry, miso Marcona almond, and maple fatback gelati – making the ultimate sweet and salty dessert pairing pork and ice cream.
Go to: Girl & the Goat
This is the place where punk rock meets a mean burger meets craft beer. On Guilty Pleasures, Chicago chef Graham Elliot loves the Mastodon burger: a burger packed with bacon, cheddar and frizzled onions and slathered with BBQ sauce. “It totally lives up to its name,” he says.
Go to: Kuma's Corner
Manny’s Cafeteria and Deli
Sandwich King Jeff Mauro loves the corned beef at this Chicago institution. The cafeteria-style dining room serves up Jewish deli classics like matzo ball soup alongside more modern dishes like the Michigan Avenue Salad with dried cherries, toasted walnuts and crisp apples. Add one of the golden latkes to any sandwich (or any dish, for that matter) — they are a customer favorite.
Go to: Manny's
Longman & Eagle
For the best fried chicken, the hosts of Top 5 Restaurants head to this restaurant, bar and six-room inn. In its version of chicken and waffles, the chicken is paired first with a sweet brine and then with a spicy dredge, and then fried in beef fat. It’s served atop maple waffles and accompanied by sweet potato hash with cubes of Berkshire pork belly, making this the ultimate chicken-and-waffles dish.
Go to: Longman & Eagle
As seen on Top 5 Restaurants: Doughnuts, this former bank vault turned doughnut haven draws a crowd for its small-batch doughnuts that range from the classic Buttermilk and Old Fashioned to specials like Pumpkin Cake with Chestnut Glaze or Mocha and Coconut Crunch. The shop communicates via social media to keep people up to date on the sold-out status because the doughnuts go like hotcakes!
Go to: Doughnut Vault
The Original Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria
When it comes to pizza, Jeff Mauro claims Chicago thin crust — not indulgent deep-dish (which he only indulges in twice a year) — is the best there is. Up against a New York City slice, his money is on a square of sausage-and-giardiniera pie from Vito and Nick's.
These artisanal donuts were a hit during Sunny Anderson’s country cookout at Food Network in Concert. There are two locations, both serving small-batch breakfast favorites, including vegan and gluten-free options
Go to: Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee
When the Swedish owners of a restaurant in Chicago decided to retire, Ann quit her job of 22 years, pooled her life savings and bought herself a diner. Her devotion to made-from-scratch food, especially the cinnamon rolls Jeff Mauro calls "insane," is legendary in the Lakeview neighborhood.
Go to: Ann Sather
Geoffrey Zakarian, Marc Murphy and Alex Guarnaschelli all list Rick Bayless’ Mexican restaurant as a Chicago must-try for lunch or dinner. Expect classic dishes, like enchiladas and mole, with ever-changing seasonal twists.
Go to: Frontera Grill
The Purple Pig
While exploring The Magnificent Mile in Downtown Chicago, stop by this Mediterranean restaurant for good cheese, small plates and wine. Chopped judge Marc Murphy likes the selection of cured meats and smears for lunch.
Go to: The Purple Pig
Deep-dish pizza is an obvious must for first-timers to the Windy City. Even New Yorker Alex Guarnaschelli admits: “I'm not a deep dish girl, but whenever I'm in Chicago I always stop by Lou Malnati's!”
Go to: Lou Malnati's
It’s all about pies for Paula Haney and the rest of her crew. On Sugar High, Duff Goldman features The Fat Elvis pie, of which he exclaims, “I think the King would approve.” The decadent pie is made with a chocolate pastry cream, rich peanut butter filling and bananas, all piled high in a graham cracker, peanut and pretzel crust and garnished with a few pretzels.
Go to: Hoosier Mama Pie Company
Blue Door Kitchen (Formerly Table Fifty-Two)
This restaurant may look fancy inside, but on Sunday night Ted Allen knows that fried chicken will be served. The chicken is brined before it is fried with an amalgam of secret spices, which makes it extra juicy and flavorful.
Hopleaf Bar doesn't know the meaning of pub food. They're nixing regular fries and burgers and adding in none other than head cheese (that's pig's head) charcuterie. Or, try a duck and Gruyère crepe. Add a side of frites to that and order from the lengthy menu of beers, and you'll never barhop again.
Photo courtesy of Grant Kessler
Go to: Hopleaf Bar
The Signature Room on 95th
Giada De Laurentiis’ weekend getaway includes dinner with a view as she goes up to the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center for delicious food and a breathtaking glimpse of the city from high above it. The roasted Amish chicken is a favorite of hers, served atop creamy grits. The raw bar is a favorite as well. Post-meal, many head up one more floor to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor for a few libations.
Sun Wah BBQ
People flock to this Chinese restaurant for a course that is actually off the menu – the Beijing Duck Feast. Rahm Fama pays a visit on BBQ Madness to check out the duck and the suckling pig, which he says is “mouthwateringly delicious.”
Go to: Sun Wah BBQ
Although it may have needed some of Bobby Flay’s help for its suburban location on Three Days to Open, this iconic drive-in has been slinging pure beef hot dogs since 1948. Customers love the nostalgia of the drive-in, where Chicago-style hot dogs and fries are served up in a portable cardboard box.
Go to: Superdawg Drive-In
A Chicago institution since 1949, Garrett Popcorn Shop is known for gourmet popcorn made fresh daily in a variety of flavors, from Plain to Buttery to Caramel Crisp to the Chicago Mix.
Go to: Garrett Popcorn
On Cupcake Wars, Molly's head pastry chef impressed with a simple but elegant display of lemon-kiwi confections. Swing by the Lincoln Park spot and sample the award-winning red velvet cupcake, or create a treat of your own by mixing and matching cake and frosting flavors.
Go to: Molly's Cupcakes
Mario's Italian Lemonade
For a refreshing treat on a hot day, stop by Mario's Italian Lemonade in Chicago's Little Italy. Open from May to September, the stand makes Italian ices that are like slushies but way better. The classic lemonade has lemon zest in it for a bitter and sweet combo.
Go to: Mario's Italian Lemonade
At Alinea, Ted Allen downs his favorite appetizer: Hot Potato, Cold Potato. Ted says it's a bit like a circus on your plate, but it's more like a high-wire act. Alinea takes chilled potato soup and suspends a hot melon-balled potato with black truffle above it. It's hyper-modern and hyper-good.
Go to: Alinea
Guy Fieri can’t get enough of this BBQ spot, which appeared in two episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. You can’t go wrong getting just about anything on this menu, like the 14-hour smoked brisket or the St. Louis-style ribs prepared with a Memphis dry rub. Smoque’s second location, in Revival Food Hall, enhances the lunch break for busy workers, while its original location gives the true taste of this top BBQ joint.
Go to: Smoque BBQ
For a delightful brunch, this Andersonville restaurant is the place to go. On Top 5 Restaurants: Best Brunch, the hosts detail the scrumptious cinnamon roll French toast, which is made with griddled housemade brioche cinnamon rolls and stuffed with a vanilla Neufchâtel and mascarpone filling. The dish is completed with warm seasonal fruit and a sprinkling of housemade granola.
Go to: m. henry
Chicago French Market
From BBQ to traditional Vietnamese fare, “Chicago French Market has everything you could possibly crave in one convenient location,” says Jeff Mauro. If you like pastrami, the Fumare Meats' Montreal-Style sandwich is an absolute must.
A mother-son duo brings the flavors of Costa Rica to Chicago at the family-friendly Irazu. On Triple D, Guy sampled two traditional dishes: classic fried Chicarron with pico de gallo; and Pepito sandwiches made with steak, onions and black beans, before telling Chef Henry Cerdas, "You rocked it."
Go to: Irazu
When Anne Burrell visits Chicago, she likes to start her day at this West Loop diner. "They have the best breakfast, and the owner, George, has even better jokes!" Also known to drop in for egg sandwiches: the Chicago Blackhawks.
Go to: Palace Grill
90 Miles Cuban Café
For a true taste of Cuban food, Guy Fieri heads to this cafe for the recipes that owner Albert Gonzalez grew up eating as a kid. Guy loves the Cuban roasted pork that’s cooked for five hours and served with rice, plantains and black beans; he calls it a “really nice dish.”
Go to: 90 Miles Cuban Cafe
Big and Little’s
Two best friends from third grade paired up to open a fast-casual spot with unexpected dishes. Think poke tacos, kimchi fries and a variety of gourmet burgers. Guy Fieri loves the pork belly po’ boy (and foie gras and fries) with fried pork cubes, maple syrup and special sauce, a dish he calls “chicharrones meets pulled pork.”
Go to: Big & Little's
The Wiener’s Circle
On The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Ted Allen visits the infamous Lincoln Park hot dog stand for a Chicago Style Char Dog that he says “gives him a true taste of real Chicago.” The spot is often one visited late night. In addition to the food, it’s known for its shtick — sometimes-harsh verbal banter and service.
Go to: The Wiener's Circle
From roasted chicken to oxtails to empanadas, Guy Fieri's a fan of the traditional Belizean dishes served at Garifuna Flava on the south side of Chicago. Chef Yolanda Castillo treated him to homemade hudut baruru, or mashed plantains, with tikini, a peppery cabbage and fish stew, on Triple D.
Go to: Garifuna Flava
This family owned-restaurant has always had a mission of using organic ingredients and local ones whenever possible. The menu is full of American cuisine with Latin American, Mexican and Spanish influences. Guy Fieri loves many of their dishes, including the Latin-style eggs Benedict, “a rock star dish” served with housemade chorizo, a poblano cream sauce and cheese pupusas.
Go to: Nana