Explore Chicago

Chicago for Foodies

Originally known as a steak-and-potatoes town, Chicago has emerged as one of the top foodie destinations of the world. Multiple award-winning chefs and restaurants keep raising the bar, resulting in more dining options that surpass expectations.

But it's more than the restaurants that have built Chicago into a food-lover's fantasy. It's the cooking schools that educate pros and amateurs alike; it's the farmers markets that fill the city from spring through fall (and a year-round market we love); and it's the gourmet food shops and marketplaces that offer chefs of all levels all the tools, gadgets and hard-to-find ingredients they need to cook up their own culinary works of art right at home. Sure, some of the best restaurants in town are still the traditional types that serve top-of-the-line, prime cuts of beef, complete with fancy trimmings, cushy booths and impressive wine lists, but the dining scene for foodies has spread itself far and wide. It's time to explore and enjoy.

Boka

Executive chef and partner Lee Wolen now mans the kitchen of this stylish contemporary American spot just up the block from Steppenwolf Theatre. Expect hearty, dynamic fare like roasted venison served next to olive oil poached halibut or dry-aged beef tartare. Great outdoor garden, too. D (daily).

Chicago's Green City Market

A Lincoln Park staple since 1999, this market focuses on locally grown sustainable produce and food products. Offerings include organic fruits and vegetables, breads, eggs, hormone-free beef and more. A winter market takes place indoors at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread Wine

Artisanal domestic and international cheeses, fresh breads, hot and cold sandwiches and select wines are the focus of this friendly boutique foods shop in East Lakeview, which offers a “cheese-of-the-month” club. Great for gifts, too, from housemade jams and jellies to gourmet chocolates and artisanal honey.

Gibsons Bar Steakhouse

The steaks and chops are prime, and so is the people-watching at this buzzing restaurant in the heart of the Gold Coast. On-the-prowl singles eye each other in the bar. Servers? They’re smart, smooth and unfazed by the hubbub. L, D (daily).

Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

Cookbook author and TV cooking show host Rick Bayless teams with wife Deann at one of the nation’s most lauded Mexican restaurants, featuring made-from-scratch regional fare in a colorful, buzzing space. Next to the more casual Frontera is Topolobampo, a slightly more refined, elegant space with an upscale menu to match.

The Chopping Block

Distinguished chef Shelley Young runs this hands-on cooking school and specialty retail store, which carries gourmet goodies and features everything from antique cookware to modern appliances. Call for information on classes.

Eataly

There's enough wine, produce, cheese, fish and meat to feed a small Italian village. Choose from 20-plus dining options (oven-fired pizza, housemade pasta, gelato and more), pick up wine, parma and specialty items.

Chicago Pizza Tours

Get to know Chicago one slice at a time on three bus-driven tours. You’ll visit local favorites while tasting a variety of pies. M, W, F-Su 11 am-2:30 pm. $60. The “Pizza & Cocktails” tour includes four stops with four slices of pizza and four wine/beer pairings. Only available Sa, $80

Chicago Candy Tours

Chicago Candy Tours leads groups throughout downtown to learn about the city's candy history and the process of making these yummy confections. Don't worry, there are plenty of samples along the way. Ages 11 and older. Original Candy Tour: Sa 11 am; Su noon.

Chicago French Market

Attached to the Ogilvie Transportation Center in the West Loop, this 15,000-square-foot destination takes its cue from European markets, but here the focus is on local and certified-organic produce, meats, pastries, cheeses, chocolates, wines and artisan-made goods.

Girl The Goat

In a handsome open space that manages to be both boisterous and intimate, “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard and her squadron of cooks turn out tasty small fish and meat plates along with vegan and vegetarian options. D (daily).

Latinicity

Located in State Street’s Block 37 indoor mall, this mega food hall is the Latin street food answer to Italian-focused Eataly. It includes eight different kitchens, a coffee café, bar, market and lounge. L (daily), D (M-Sa). 

The Purple Pig

“Cheese, Swine & Wine” is the motto at this buzzing Mag Mile hideaway which offers award-winning cuisine including a variety of antipasti, plus artisanal cheeses, seafood and cured meats. L, D (daily).

Urbanbelly

Chef Bill Kim (Le Lan) has a hit on his hands with this BYOB noodle spot, featuring four kinds of dumplings (crab Rangoon, anyone?), pork belly and pineapple rice, and snacks like kimchi and Chinese eggplant with cilantro. L, D (daily).