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With 22 Michelin-starred restaurants and multiple James Beard awards, Chicago’s fine dining restaurants draw in locals and visitors from all over. And while their food has received national acclaim, many of these spots remain approachable even for the newest fine diners. Here’s just a taste of some of the shining stars of the city’s scorching hot culinary scene.
With two Michelin stars, Acadia has proven there’s a place for serene chic in the South Loop. Chef Ryan McCaskey expresses his love of junk food via riffs on ramen and “Fritos” on your plate. His “pot roast” is not exactly what your mother would have made, either. With five- and ten-course tasting menus inspired by the natural landscape, atmosphere, and tastes of the Northeastern United States and Maine in particular, Acadia is comfort food reinvented. 1639 S. Wabash Ave.
It’s hard to think of an honor that Alinea hasn’t won. With three Michelin stars and six James Beard nods for its chef, Alinea in Lincoln Park is one of the most recognized restaurants in the world. It’s also one of the best, earning an annual spot on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Alinea’s avant-garde dishes showcase the most cutting-edge molecular gastronomy techniques, while never failing to taste amazing. The multi-course tasting menu is considered the experience of a lifetime for many fine dining foodies. 1723 N. Halsted St.
Chef Carrie Nahabedian’s love and respect for French food shines through in every bite at her “passion project” Brindille in River North. Try her signature dishes, like foie gras, squab, and lamb saddle, all crafted with impeccable technique. The wine list contains one of the best ranges of French wines in Chicago. And the restaurant’s James-Beard Award-winning interior is a “gem jewel box” complete with fine china, French linens, and a refined ambiance. Tasting menus are available on request, if you want to try a bit of everything. 534 N. Clark St.
Dine on fresh, hyper-local tasting menus at Elizabeth, where Chef Iliana Regan highlights her Midwestern roots through food. A self-taught chef, she calls her unique style of cooking “new gatherer”, as it’s inspired by the natural world and crafted using ingredients foraged by the chef herself. The veggie-focused menu at this Michelin-starred spot might include morel mushrooms she found in the woods, dandelions from a nearby field, or something grown in Regan’s own garden. No matter where it’s from, your meal is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
From their humble beginnings in a mall food court, the team at Jeong is now running one of the city’s hottest fine dining spots. Dave Park and Jennifer Tran caught the attention of critics and locals with Hanbun, their Korean fast-food stall in a suburban food court. The food was so good, it earned Park his first James Beard nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Now, the duo serves inventive Korean cuisine at their sleek and modern new space — Jeong in the ultra-hip West Town neighborhood. As with Hanbun, the spot has been flooded with Chicagoans, visitors, and restaurant critics alike. Jeong offers a Korean-inspired tasting menu of seven perfectly executed dishes, along with a la carte options like sashimi, duck confit, and more. No matter which you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Maple & Ash
It was big news in Chicago fine dining when Maple & Ash opened as a swanky, badass 21st-century version of the venerable Chicago steakhouse. In the Gold Coast neighborhood off Mag Mile, it makes sense that Maple & Ash trades in superlatives. Think pink sequined cowboy hats for ladies who order the bone-in ribeye steak, caviar bumps, and champagne super soakers. Plus 650 wines…by the glass. Downstairs, there’s a clubby feel for lunch and libations, while upstairs has a dark and sultry vibe that’s perfect for a date night or a night on the town. 8 W. Maple St.
The Dining Room at Moody Tongue
It’s not often that you find a fine-dining tasting menu inside of a brewery. But everything about Moody Tongue will subvert your expectations. The kitchen at their intimate South Loop space is helmed by nine-time Michelin star chef Jared Wentworth, who has crafted a menu designed to thoughtfully elevate the intersection of food and beer. Expect refined, hyper-seasonal dishes alongside specialty beer pairings (of course).
Dinner at North Pond always feels like going home — if home happens to be a cozy former boat house with a Michelin star on the wall in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, that is. The short stroll through the park to North Pond gives a hungry diner time to anticipate Sherman’s generous cuisine, where America meets France in the least pretentious way. Warm up by the fireplace in the winter, enjoy the birdsong in summer, and appreciate the glowing oak of the Prairie-style decor all year round with a thoughtful menu that changes with the seasons. 2610 N. Cannon Drive
Granted, it’s not that easy to spot the entrance to Oriole on the alley-side ground floor of a defunct glue factory in the West Loop. But once you realize your GPS is correct, and you see the discreet sign on the black-painted brick, you’re in for a treat. There’s the cinematic entrance to the den-like restaurant via a former freight elevator door. With only 28 seats and an open kitchen, the feeling is intimate. And every detail, from the soft lighting that shines perfectly on each table to the creamy paper lanterns floating from the ceiling, is a zen-like poem of understatement. Because here, the focus is on Chef Noah Sandoval’s multi-course tasting menu; an exquisite experience that unfolds in perfect harmony as an ode to American cuisine in all its culturally diverse facets, textures, and tastes. 661 W. Walnut St.
In a late 19th-century former print shop, Sepia has the, well, sepia-toned feel of a classic. The upscale spot still shines after more than a decade in business. Filled with hand-crafted millwork, burnished brass and vintage stemware make an ideal setting for an intimate meal between friends or business colleagues. Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s inventive seasonal menu is designed to showcase the flavors of the mostly organic ingredients. 123 N. Jefferson St.