Best Fine Dining in Chicago
Alinea is the recipient of numerous awards and is often named the best restaurants in Chicago. Opened by Chef Grant Achataz who brings great culinary expertise and flawless service to each and every meal. In January of 2016, Alinea closed for renovations, reopening in May with a complete overhaul of the menu, tossing out the original one, which changed frequently, that had garnered the restaurant many accolades.
42 Grams a tiny Uptown restaurant has made a huge impact in the Chicago fine dining scene since opening up their doors in 2014. This local hotspot is a BYOB, and there are only 18 seats, so it has the feel of a dinner party. 42 Grams uses a ticketing system and each ticket totaling $204. Making this hotspot a pricey one.
Curtis Duffy is no stranger to fine dining, and this lush eatery (which Duffy owns with sommelier Michael Muser) traffics in a lot of upscale tropes: textured fabrics, a hushed room and long, multicourse tasting menus. Yet Grace makes a few subtle tweaks to the fine dining formula. However fussy the food may be, it is plated to appear as if it came from nature. And though much of it leans sweet, it’s ultimately balanced and clean. Still, perhaps the biggest achievement is that even with three dessert courses, you don’t feel stuffed when you walk out of here. You simply feel satisfied.
Sixteen has transformed itself under chef Thomas Lents. With creative, themed tasting menus like Chicago History, more approachable service and two Michelin stars, the restaurant is solidly in the top tier of fine dining restaurants in Chicago. While the tasting menu is firmly in “splurge” category (dinner for two with wine pairings is around $1,000), the patio offers an even better view of the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, as well as less expensive food.
To dine at Grant Achatz’s follow-up to Alinea is a rare—and rarefied—opportunity to submit oneself to a very specific vision of what great dining might look like. That vision changes every three months, from French food to Italian food to modern plates that don’t even looklike food. Usually the experience is more lighthearted and lively than Alinea. But it is in no way less delicious.
Forager and self-trained chef Iliana Regan serves “new gatherer” cuisine at her tiny Lincoln Square storefront. Dishes may include thin slices of bear, placed atop a rice crisp and served on a rock; foie gras shaped like owls; or a fried hunk of mushroom with garlic aioli. You won’t find food like this at any other fine dining restaurant.
Fewer than 30 diners can fit in this tiny restaurant, and all of them must have made reservations weeks in advance. But as a 2006 Food & Wine best new chef, chef-owner Michael Carlson has a right to call the shots. Let him. You’ll be treated to intriguing creations like pine-flavored peekytoe crabs with marinated royal king mushrooms or sumptuous venison with a white chocolate foam. The menu changes often, but whatever Carlson has up his sleeve, you’re certain to have a meal like nowhere else in town.
Chef-owner Ryan McCaskey’s South Loop fine dining respite is a study in rich whites, a rare exercise in the restaurant as a space of tranquility and elegance. Flashes of inspiration light up the menu—shrimp paired with cuttlefish noodles and cauliflower, a charcuterie plate starring gently smoky “duck ham”—but the overall focus is on food that is rich and satisfying rather than revolutionary.
Topolobampo is the most sophisticated and upscale of Rick Bayless’s restaurants, and the one most frequented by President Obama and his family. As with all of Bayless’s restaurants, the products used here are local and seasonal. So whether you’re eating fresh oysters or ceviche or one of the beautiful moles, you know you’re eating the best the season has to offer. An ever-changing menu means it’s hard to predict exactly what will be on offer day to day—but because Bayless is involved, it never really feels like a gamble.
Chicago has a few small, far from downtown places where chefs have carved out personal enclaves for high-level fine dining. But perhaps none were born with the maturity and finesse of this 34-seat, off-the-beaten-Lincoln-Square-path BYOB from husband-and-wife Chris and Nina Nugent. Chris, a veteran of Les Nomades, brings precision to every dish on the nine-course, $135 tasting menu. The food is technically flawless, while Nina’s front-of-the-house charm brings the personality.