11 Chicago Restaurants That Are So Good It Should Be Illegal

Chicago Restaurants That Are So Good It Should Be Illegal

Chicago is a city renowned for its diverse and vibrant food scene. From hole-in-the-wall gems to fine dining establishments, the Windy City offers an array of culinary experiences to delight the palate. This feature explores some of the hottest restaurants that capture the spirit of Chicago's exceptional cuisine.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Anika Wiley, Ruth Haglund, Leonard Costanzo, Edna Strope, Nalani Dunlap, Jacqueline Barrett and Briana Odom.

A Taste of Italy at Mart Anthony's Italian Restaurant

Mart Anthony’s Italian Restaurant · 1200 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60642
★★★★★ · Italian restaurant

Nestled in the heart of the city, this old-school restaurant offers a slice of Italy with its heartwarming food and decor.

The vintage wood paneling, charm and simple warmth of the indoor dining room transports you straight to a rustic Italian villa. The food is nothing short of amazing. I’ve enjoyed everything from their stuffed peppers to pasta with fresh sauce, and let's not forget the braciole. It's simple, comforting and real with no frills - just like the best Italian food should be.

The family-owned business vibe adds a personal touch to the experience. The staff is incredibly friendly and attentive, always checking in to ensure you're enjoying your meal. Mart Anthony’s is also surprisingly reasonable when it comes to pricing, giving you a great dining experience without burning a hole in your pocket.

Whether you’re in town for a visit or a long-time resident like me, Mart Anthony's Italian Restaurant is a must-visit for a taste of Italy right here in Chicago.

A Culinary Voyage at Thattu

Thattu · 2601 W Fletcher St, Chicago, IL 60618
★★★★★ · Indian restaurant

Stepping into the space, you're transported to a kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and the intoxicating aroma of Kerala's street food.

The menu is a culinary tapestry of regional flavors, every dish a testament to the finesse with which they balance their spices. The portions are perfect for someone like me who delights in the taste rather than the quantity.

The service is a beautiful blend of two worlds; the efficiency and speed of Chicago with the warmth and hospitality of India. The philosophy of the place is unique and commendable. They believe in paying a livable wage and creating a sustainable ecosystem. This principle itself is enough to respect Thattu.

The ambiance is a beautiful harmony of modern Chicago aesthetics with the vibrant colors of India. The soothing background music mellows the hustle and bustle of the city, making you lose track of time.

Every visit to Thattu leaves me looking forward to the next, eager to try every item on their ever-evolving menu. It embodies the spirit of Indian street food, and I can say with confidence that this eatery is a pioneer in bringing the authentic taste of Kerala to the US dining scene.

An Unforgettable Culinary Journey at S.K.Y.

S.K.Y. · 1239 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608
★★★★★ · American restaurant

When it comes to a fusion of creativity and culinary artistry, S.K.Y. Restaurant in Chicago stands paramount. On every visit, I'm continually enchanted by their ingenious New American cuisine with hints of global flair. As you step into this stylish space, you're enveloped by a lounge-like ambiance that sets the stage for a remarkable dining experience.

And then there's the food. Take their cornbread, for example—each bite is a delightful symphony of flavors, a gastronomical rendition of Beethoven's Fifth. Another must-try is the warm mushroom salad, an enthralling dish that lingers in your memory.

The team at S.K.Y. consistently offers spot-on recommendations, adding to the overall excellence. And the open kitchen, where you can witness the chef's team crafting dishes with finesse, is an experience in itself.

A Gastronomic Journey at Alinea

Alinea · 1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
★★★★★ · Fine dining restaurant

"Every masterpiece begins with a single bite." This phrase encapsulates the essence of Alinea, Chicago's sanctuary of culinary brilliance. At Alinea, every meal unfolds as a captivating gastronomic tale that remains etched in your heart.

From the moment you enter, the ambiance—characterized by mesmerizing floral displays, exquisite glassware, and ambient lighting—heralds an enchanting experience ahead. Alinea's innovation shines through its artful presentation. Each dish emerges as a canvas, portraying a vibrant medley of colors, textures, and ingredients. The candy balloon, both playful and delicious, exemplifies their creative genius.

Similarly, their interpretation of a banana split, shaped like a meteor rock, is a testament to their imaginative prowess. Yet, it's not just the dishes, but the stories they tell.

The dedicated staff weaves enchanting tales around each course, turning every bite into an immersive experience. Alinea isn't merely a restaurant—it's a destination for those seeking a transformative culinary journey.

An Unforgettable Experience at Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen

Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen · 1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60607
★★★★★ · Deli

Walking in, you're instantly greeted by the warm aroma of home-cooked meals and the hustle and bustle of patrons, which makes you feel right at home.

I remember the first time I had their meatball soup. It was steaming hot, with the meatball cooked to perfection. It was so tender, my spoon cut through it like butter. I also remember trying the corn beef and pastrami sandwich on Rye bread. It was stacked high with meat, a testament to Manny's generosity.

The staff at Manny's always manage to make you feel welcome. They're friendly and communicative, always ready to make your visit enjoyable. The quintessential visit to Manny's isn't complete without parking around back, a convenience that I appreciate in the busy city life.

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen is a gem you don't want to miss when you're in Chicago. Who knows, you might just find your next comfort food spot.

The Ultimate Pizza Experience at Pizano's

Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta · 864 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610
★★★★☆ · Pizza restaurant

Let me take you on a little food-driven adventure, right here in my home town. There is a magical place where pizza dreams come true - Pizano's Pizza & Pasta.

When I walk in, I'm greeted by a warm and friendly atmosphere. It's the perfect place to catch up with friends or family, or even just a cosy spot to enjoy a casual bite. But let's get to the real star of the show here - the pizza. My personal favorite is the deep dish cheese pizza. It's a cheese lover's dream; every bite is wrapped in a heavenly dough that's crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.

They cater to all pizza tastes; whether you're a fan of deep dish, thin crust, or anything in between, Pizano's has got you covered. I once dared to stray from my beloved deep dish and tried their thin crust mushroom and black olive pizza. While it was chewier than the tavern-style I'm used to, it was a welcome change, with their quality toppings making for a delectable feast.

But what makes Pizano's truly stand out in my eyes is how personal they make every pizza experience. They once made me a deep dish pizza just the way I like it, making me feel truly valued as a customer.

If you're a pizza lover like me and you find yourself in Chicago, Pizano's Pizza & Pasta is a gem you wouldn't want to miss.

An Evening at The Walnut Room

The Walnut Room · 111 N State St, Chicago, IL 60602
★★★★☆ · American restaurant

Picture a classic American dining experience, complete with wood paneling, chandeliers, and a menu boasting comfort dishes like pot pie - that's The Walnut Room for you.

My visit, I found the chicken pot pie paired with a Walnut Room salad a delight to the palate. Another favorite was the Walnut Room Club with garlic fries - the perfect combination of classic and comfort. Everything on the menu is reasonably priced, making it one of the most affordable high-class dining experiences in the city.

The service is one of the highlights of The Walnut Room. The staff is professional, friendly, and anticipatory - everything you could ask for and more. You feel like a valued guest rather than just another customer.

All in all, The Walnut Room is a must-visit in the city, especially for special occasions like Christmas. It's not just a restaurant; it's a piece of Chicago's history.

A Taste of Comfort at the Valois Restaurant

Valois Restaurant · 1518 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615
★★★★★ · American restaurant

Valois isn't just a restaurant for me; it is a portal to the nostalgia of my grandma's cooking, from the warm mac & cheese to the juicy steak sandwich that melts in your mouth.

The best part of Valois is the fact that it's a counter-service smorgasbord, a place where you can watch the cooks whip up your order in real-time. The hustle and bustle of the kitchen, the friendly banter between the staff and customers, all set against the backdrop of the restaurant's eye-catching muraled space – it's an experience that's as comforting as the food itself.

My usual go-to order is the egg white omelette with grits, but I recently tried their grilled whitefish and was pleasantly surprised. Paired with their creamy macaroni and cheese and freshly cooked broccoli, it was a meal to remember.

In all its simplicity and charm, Valois Restaurant is more than just an eatery. It’s a reminder of the comfort that good food and friendly people can bring, a casual spot that has won over not just my heart, but that of many others in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

A Taste of Poland at Podhalanka

Podhalanka · 1549 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642
★★★★★ · Polish restaurant

Podhalanka is a gem hidden in plain sight, an old-school neighborhood diner that I frequent whenever I am craving homestyle Polish fare.

While the place may seem unassuming, the delightful aroma of traditional Polish dishes greets you at the door. The ambiance is plain and straightforward, which I find comforting in its own way, like walking into my grandma's kitchen.

I remember the first time I ordered the potato and cheese dumplings, roast pork, and beef stew. The flavors were rich and tantalizing, reminding me of the home-cooked meals I grew up with. These are the dishes I keep coming back for, and I'm yet to be disappointed.

If you're like me, you'll find yourself coming back to try more of their menu, one delicious plate at a time. So, if you ever find yourself in this part of town and looking for a culinary adventure, open that door and get ready for a delightful dining experience.

A Taste of Filipino Cuisine at Uncle Mike's Place

Uncle Mike’s Place · 1700 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
★★★★★ · Filipino restaurant

What a delight it was to stumble upon a little piece of the Philippines in my neighborhood. Uncle Mike's Place had been on my radar for quite some time, and I finally decided to give it a try. What an experience it turned out to be!

The hearty portions of all-day-breakfast fare & lunch promised to be satisfying, and they did not disappoint. The champorado - a traditional Filipino chocolate rice porridge - was nothing short of amazing! I also tried their longganisa and pork chop, and it was like being transported to a Filipino feast. The authenticity of the flavors set my taste buds dancing.

But what set Uncle Mike's place apart was not just the food but the warmth and hospitality. The staff were friendly and accommodating, making the dining experience all the more enjoyable. I had a great time at Uncle Mike's Place. The delicious food combined with the warm service made it an experience worth repeating.

Indulging Every Whim at The Purple Pig

The Purple Pig Restaurant · 444 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
★★★★★ · Mediterranean restaurant

From the moment you step into The Purple Pig, you know you're in for a truly unique gastronomic experience. The interior is warm and welcoming, with communal tables that foster a lively ambience.

The menu celebrates all that is simple yet exquisite in rustic Mediterranean cuisine. I've tried a little bit of everything, from their cheese and charcuterie boards overflowing with delicious meats and cheeses, to their wood-fired pizzas brimming with fresh toppings.

Even their vegetable sides like the roasted beets and the broccolini are elevated, cooked to absolute perfection. And let's not forget the desserts - the salted caramel pudding is legendary, with just the right balance of sweet and salty.

The staff are always happy to offer pairing suggestions from their extensive wine list. On my last visit, I tried their suggested red blend with the meat and cheese board. It complemented the flavors beautifully.

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