Where to Eat in Chicago
With the James Beard Foundation (JBF) Awards coming to Chicago on 13 June, it's the perfect opportunity to explore the local dining scene. There are over a dozen local JBF nominees to pick and choose from, so what better time to taste first-hand what it takes to be shortlisted in these prestigious awards.
What's more, with Michelin Guide Chicago's recent announcement of four new Michelin stars, Chicago makes for an even more interesting dining destination this year.
If you're visiting Chicago and looking for a place to dine, check out our list of tried and tested go-to destinations that have stood the test of time, or try the exciting newcomers, including Michelin stars and JBF nominees.
Chef Grant Achatz's unique and forward-thinking Alinea continues to set the benchmark for the fine-dining circuit in the city, with an unblemished track record since first opening in 2005. Alinea has not only held three Michelin stars for 12 consecutive years, it's also the only three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the city.
As Achatz posted recently, in celebration of 17 incredible years of Alinea: "While the food, team members and guests have changed, a couple of core things have stayed the same. The drive for creativity and excellence, and all of the actions required to achieve them. To have a team that unites daily to realize that, and have guests eager to experience it for this long is really incredible."
Two-Michelin-starred, sleek and stylish Smyth - led by husband and wife JBF Best Chef 2022 nominees John Shields and Karen Urie Shields - is also one of Chicago's strongest dining contenders.
With over two decades of experience at the forefront of fine-dining, Alinea-trained John and Karen harness their own and locally-grown produce to create a seasonally changing menu, where dishes might include wild Maine mussels in a savoury liquorice cream; or venison with truffle liver ragout and sauce civet; and saffron ice cream drizzled with beeswax-thickened honey with roasted quince for dessert.
Chef Trevor Teich's newly-opened fine-dining restaurant, Claudia, named after his mother, started life as a pop-up before he took the leap to invest in bricks and mortar last year. His first Michelin star soon followed. The dining experience centres around tasting menus, both in the restaurant and at the chef's table, while a la carte is offered in the bar and lounge.
Try making Teich's beef tenderloin dish, currrently on the menu at Claudia.
Chef Jenner Tomaska and his co-owner and wife, Katrina Bravo, are also hitting Chicago's high notes, having been awarded their first star in Michelin Guide Chicago 2022. Expect a multi-course menu as part of a carefully curated gastronomic experience that blurs the boundaries between art and dining. A variety of dishes are offered on custom pieces made by local artists, in what is a fun and immersive dining experience.
Filipino dining hotspot and JBF Best New Restaurant 2022 nominee Kasama was also recently awarded a Michelin star. Wife-and-husband team Genie Kwon and Tim Flores are at the helm of this West Town destination. Kwon is on pastries, while Flores kicks out Filipino dishes like maitake mushroom adobo with mussel emulsion. Interestingly, they are also one of the few Filipino restaurants to offer a tasting menu in the US.
Noah Sandoval’s recently re-opened two-Michelin-starred Oriole stands out from the crowd with two JBF nominations including Outstanding Restaurant as well as Best Chef nominations for 2022. The contemporary-American restaurant located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood offers a tasting menu to remember in an elegantly luxurious dining room, where guests can enjoy the full-view theatre of the open kitchen.
For modern Middle Eastern cuisine by James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel, head to this new new culinary hot-spot, one of four newcomers to win a Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Chicago 2022. The four-course menu manages to cover all the favourites, like hummus, mezze and salatim, and there's plenty of cooking over charcoal with Engel's idiosyncratic spin.
Chef, owner and James Beard 'Best Chef' finalist Jason Hammel has kept a community coming back to his all-day-dining Lula Cafe for over two decades, since first opening in 1999. Start the day with his fresh-baked pastries and a breakfast burrito, and wind down in the evening with dishes like comforting roast chicken with potato, bitter greens, herb panzanella, and anchovy aioli; and chickpea and fennel tagine, washed down with a glass of red from their carefully curated wine list.