Diner Most-Loved

The 40 Most Popular Restaurants in Chicago

Chi-Town shows off its great taste.

13 min read
4/27/2022
Cav blog - Chicago Diner

We Chicagoans are a loyal bunch. Once we’ve had a brisket sandwich from Smoque, an order of Tiger Cry beef from Opart or a basket of chicken strips and mini corn muffins from Honey Butter Fried Chicken, we’re in our happy place. We’re not people who hanker for a cheeseburger or a deli sandwich and go for the most convenient. No way. We want Small Cheval or Tempesta Market. These places are more than restaurants; they’re old friends. 

To come up with our list of the best restaurants in Chicago, we simply took a look at your favorite places. Behold: The 40 restaurants you’re getting delivered most often this year.

1. Small Cheval (Milwaukee Ave.)

Small Cheval is a spin-off of iconic Chicago restaurant Au Cheval, which is home to one of America’s favorite cheeseburgers. Small Cheval offers a stripped-down menu of the essentials: cheeseburgers, hamburgers, and golden fries. Au Cheval’s cheeseburger has ranked highly among the best burgers in Chicago — and the entire country — and Small Cheval’s iteration comes very close to the original. 

2. Left Coast Food + Juice (N. Lincoln Ave.)

Left Coast Food + Juice will take you from Navy Pier to the Santa Monica Pier with its breezy California vibes and vibrant, veg-forward menu. Founder Michael Madden and his wife offer an all-day breakfast menu, and for lunch and dinner you’ll find salads, grain bowls, and wraps with many vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

3. Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Elston Ave.)

This Avondale hotspot came to be after some honey butter accidentally melted onto a piece of fried chicken, and the team decided to sample their mistake. Dipped in buttermilk, then dredged in cayenne-seasoned flour, the chicken is finished with smoky paprika. Slather on their homemade honey butter for a salty-sweet one-two punch, best enjoyed alongside their corn muffins.

4. Lonesome Rose (N. California Ave.)

Lonesome Rose, housed in a renovated former punk rock club, serves some of the best Mexican food in Logan Square. The menu offers great renditions of favorites like queso, tacos, and nachos, complemented by a selection of seasonal dishes and many vegan variations. The cocktail list features the classics: palomas, margaritas, and more, premeasured to serve two.

5. Urbanbelly (Chicago)

Culinary extraordinaire and award-winning chef Bill Kim keeps Chicago’s urban bellies happy with his playful takes on flavors from all over Asia. On the menu, you’ll find his take on dumplings, noodles, and rice bowls. Some of the most popular dishes include the creamy coconut curry pho, Thai fried chicken with crushed garlic peanuts, togarashi fries, and ramen.

6. Antique Taco (N. Milwaukee Ave.)

Antique Taco's flair for reinventing classics has earned them a reputation for being one of Chicago’s hippest and most creative taquerias. Rick and Ashley Ortiz founded Antique Taco in 2012, combining Rick’s Mexican heritage and culinary prowess with Ashley’s creativity and love of design through tacos made with local ingredients and housemade corn tortillas. 

7. The Chicago Diner (Milwaukee Ave.)

If you’re looking for old-school vegetarian food, go to the Chicago Diner. Mickey Hornick and Jo Kaucher opened the original Northalsted location in 1983 with the idea that vegetarianism would seem less extreme if they could reproduce the comfort foods of an all-American diner. Try the Radical Reuben with corned beef-style seitan or quinoa chili with jalapeño corn fritters. 

8. Parson's Chicken & Fish (W. Armitage)

The team at Parson’s Chicken & Fish has a knack for expressive yet accessible comfort food. Fried chicken is the centerpiece. The hot chicken sandwich with American cheese, shredded lettuce, NorthStar pickles, aioli, and Parson’s Red Hot Sauce, is heaven on a brioche bun. Add an order of their famed hush puppies, and you’re good to go.

9. Chef's Special Cocktail Bar

This Bucktown staple is where you want to order from if you’re looking for those nostalgic Chinese-American classics. We’re talking egg rolls, spicy Mongolian beef, and veggie fried rice. This food is meant for sharing, so order a bunch; we never forget the sweet and sour chicken or the vegan-friendly chili crisp cauliflower. 

10. Duck Duck Goat (Chicago)

The menu here is a Venn diagram of Chinese-American comfort food classics, Sichuan cuisine, and Stephanie Izard’s smart perspective on Chinese cooking derived from travel and research. Don’t miss her duck fried rice, served with a tea-soaked soft duck egg and Peking duck meat, or the dan dan slap noodles, wok-fried with peanuts and pork. 

11. Piece Brewery and Pizzeria

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria has been serving up expertly executed New Haven–style pizzas — featuring a chewy-yet-crispy thin crust — and award-winning microbrews in Wicker Park since 2001. With the exception of a few specialty pies, the pizzas at Piece are all build-your-own. To wash it down, Piece offers a variety of their craft beers to go.

12. The Spice Room

Got a hankering for chicken tikka masala, samosas, or saag paneer? Look no further than The Spice Room in Logan Square. You’re in good hands here: The staff hail from some of the best Indian restaurants in the city, combining their experience and passion for cooking to make some seriously good food. Save room for the gulab jamun — golden brown donuts soaked in simple syrup.

13. Pizza Lobo

Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner, the dynamic duo behind Lone Wolf and Pub Royale, have done it again with Pizza Lobo. Together with executive chef Dan Snowden, they’ve quickly built a fan base, slinging classic New York–style pizza while supporting community-based philanthropic initiatives and making people really happy with great takeout.

14. The Goddess and Grocer (Damen Ave.)

Part deli, part bakery, part specialty market, The Goddess and Grocer is more than just your average neighborhood spot. Owner Debbie Sharpe opened the first Goddess and Grocer in Bucktown in 2005, and now there are multiple locations serving picnic-friendly lunch fare, prepared foods, housemade desserts, and local artisan food and drinks.

15. Smoque BBQ (N. Pulaski Rd.)

Chef-partner Barry Sorkin and the pitmasters at Smoque BBQ know a thing or two about good ‘cue. Since opening in Irving Park in 2006, Smoque BBQ has consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best barbecue spots. They are known for their beautifully marbled, bark-topped brisket, but don’t miss the ribs. And make sure to try all of their housemade sauces.

16. Crosby's Kitchen (Southport Ave.)

Open since 2012 in Lakeview’s Southport Corridor, Crosby’s specializes in dishes the whole family can agree on. It’s hard to say no to the signature rotisserie chicken, but the menu will meet you wherever your appetite is, from a crock of spinach-artichoke dip to a turkey burger with Asian slaw or, for the kids, a grilled cheese or chicken leg.

17. Nonna's Sandwiches and Sundries (Randolph St.)

Nothing hits the spot quite like chicken Parm on a toasted baguette. For one of the best, check out Nonna’s, the West Loop spot that serves streamlined Italian-American comfort food, including fresh grab-and-go sandwiches, pizzas, soups, salads, lasagna, and hearty soups

18. Nancy's Pizzeria (West Loop Chicago)

A true Chicago classic, Nancy’s has been around since 1971. It’s the ultimate indulgence in pizza. Their stuffed pies are over two inches high, with layers of crust filled with cheese and toppings. The nine-inch small original stuffed pizza is a perfect showcase of what they're known for. Don’t forget a side of garlic bread — it’s topped with that savory pecorino. 

19. The Boiler Room (California Ave.)

When you find yourself in need of pizza by the slice (including a daily vegan option), a thin-crust pie, or a pan pizza with a caramelized crust, the Boiler Room has got you covered. With generous slices, to-go craft cocktails, beer, and hard seltzer, it’s no surprise that pizza lovers across Chicago keep the orders coming. 

20. Coda di Volpe (N. Southport Ave.)

Coda di Volpe brings the soul of Southern Italy to the heart of Chicago’s Southport Corridor. Their food is light and refreshing, with a menu that shines a spotlight on lesser-explored regions of Southern Italy. It features handmade pasta dishes and traditional VPN-certified Neapolitan pizzas made with all-natural, non-processed ingredients.

21. Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria

Part of the Rick Bayless family of restaurants, this taqueria/brewery is now helmed by Bayless’ longtime business partner Manny Valdes. Cruz Blanca serves inventive, high-quality tacos with wood-grilled meats. The best way to order these tacos is “smoke alley” style; your protein will arrive with grilled knob onions, two salsas, guacamole, marinated cucumbers, and a stack of fresh corn tortillas.

22. Sushi-San (River North)

Have a craving for Japanese? Sushi-San delivers favorites like spicy tuna rolls, hamachi sashimi, and an ultra-savory miso soup. Listed as one of the best sushi restaurants in the city, their vegetable dishes don’t disappoint either. Get a side of broccolini goma-ae or sesame seed–flecked seaweed salad. 

23. Tempesta Market (Chicago)

It all began with the ’nduja. Agostino Fiasche and his son, Tony, began by making this spicy, spreadable salami that’s a specialty of Calabria in Southern Italy. Soon they were producing a variety of cured meats; before long, they needed a place to showcase all this salume, whether on boards or in the sandwiches that soon became their calling cards.

24. Opart Thai House (Chicago)

Owners Opart and Mookda launched Opart Thai House in 1983, and they’ve been a neighborhood favorite ever since. The menu features multiple fried rice dishes, curries, and an entire “hot and spicy” section for those who seek maximum heat. Grab a Thai iced tea to temper the fire.

25. Cumin

Nepalese momos belong in the dumpling hall of fame. At Cumin, momos come three ways — steamed with tomato sauce, sautéed with veggies in a chile-garlic paste, or served with tomato soup. These are a few of the specialties on the Nepalese side of the menu, and there are a variety of can’t-miss Indian dishes, too, including samosa chaat and chicken pakora.

26. Little Goat Diner (Randolph St.)

Chef Stephanie Izard’s breakfast joint/modern diner/eclectic American restaurant, Little Goat, has been keeping the West Loop in bottomless cups of coffee for nearly a decade. The breakfast menu features everything from okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake, to chocolate chip pancakes with chocolate malt butter to a breakfast burrito wrapped in an Indian paratha flatbread. What else? So much else.

27. XOCO

Rick and Deann Bayless opened Xoco in 2010, next to their blockbusters — Topolobampo and Frontera Grill — in River North. At Xoco, guests can sample the Baylesses’ Mexican cooking in a more casual format. The backbone of the menu is the selection of tortas, traditional Mexican sandwiches, featuring meats cooked in a wood-burning oven. Cap off your meal with an order of churros.

28. Le Colonial (Chicago)

The grande dame of Chicago’s Vietnamese restaurants, Le Colonial serves classic dishes that lean into tradition. Chef Luong adventurously preserves the heirloom recipes of his homeland, enhanced by premium ingredients such as cage-free chicken and wild-caught fish. Among the can’t-misses is the goi ga, a tart-sweet salad of poached chicken, cabbage, and grapefruit with peanuts and crispy shallots. 

29. Aba (Chicago)

Aba, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant by award-winning chef CJ Jacobson, showcases a rustic-refined style of cooking with a menu that also pays homage to chef Jacobson’s California roots, such as hummus with warm house bread, falafel with avocado tzatziki, and a variety of kebabs.

30. Big Star (Wicker Park)

It’s hard to imagine the heart of Wicker Park without Big Star. In just about any weather short of an active blizzard, the vast patio overflows with diners gathered around pitchers of margaritas, baskets of chips, and tacos — Big Star tacos, which are both gourmet and homestyle at the same time, served on handmade corn tortillas.

31. La Josie

José Luis Barajas has always been around Mexican restaurants, from his childhood in Mexico City to La Josie, his own spot, which has been serving one of the city’s most ambitious Mexican menus since 1997. The tacos come in threes, so gather a group to try as many as possible, from barbacoa to Baja fish to grilled chicken.

32. Green Street Smoked Meats

This Staff Pick is what we order when we need that true Texas barbecue. Smoky brisket by the half pound, corn bread, and creamy potato salad. You might know some of the other Hogsalt restaurants, like Au Cheval, no question the best burger in town, or 4 Charles Prime Rib. There’s no doubt they are good with meat.  

33. Mini Mott (Logan Blvd.)

In 2018, chef Edward Kim opened Mini Mott, a casual destination where the Mott Burger, a double-patty burger topped with miso butter, American cheese, pickled jalapeños, hoisin aioli, and frizzled sweet potatoes, takes center stage. And boy does it deserve it. (You can also get a vegetarian version made with jackfruit.)

34. Tuco and Blondie

Tuco and Blondie, the brightly painted Tex-Mex spot in Lakeview’s Southport Corridor, seems to exist for the pleasure of all the young families who live in the area. The food is fresh, the prices low, and the kids’ menu is a thing of beauty. On a busy night in a busy life, it counts as a win-win-win.

35. The Smoke Daddy (1804 W. Division St.)

This iconic barbecue spot — the flagship of the 4 Star Restaurant Group — has been around since 1994. Perhaps the secret to its longevity has to do with the live music on stage several times a week, the house Bloody Mary and many beers on tap, or the variety of consistently craveable ribs.

36. Kal'ish (Chicago)

When Gina and Andy Kalish opened Kal’ish, they had one guiding principle: to run a completely plant-based restaurant. The 100% plant-based meat alternatives are made in-house, and top-sellers include the Bad Adz Baykin Clucker sandwich, vegetarian chicken and bacon topped with veggies and fried onions.

37. Summer House  (Chicago)

It's always summer at this California-inspired restaurant. It’s that New American good stuff: Wilshire Blvd Cobb salads, plates of roasted salmon, and Parmesan-flecked caramelized Brussels sprouts. The huge menu really has something for everyone, from burgers to pizza to avocado toast.

38. Happy Camper Pizza (Old Town)

Happy Camper Pizza keeps diners happy with a wide variety of meat-heavy and veggie-friendly pies. The bubbly, golden-edged crust is crunchy on the outside, soft and airy on the inside. While you can build your own 10-, 14-, or 18-inch pizza, Happy Camper has nearly 30 specialty suggestions.

39. Chicago Taco Authority (Irving Park Rd.)

Inspired by his daily commute on the Blue Line, Jose Bustos opened a transit-themed taco restaurant in Old Irving Park in 2017. It’s a favorite stop for diners in search of both traditional staples and tacos with a twist. Cozy up with an indoor picnic of all ten assorted tacos to share with friends.

40. En Hakkore 2.0 (Milwaukee Ave.)

Husband-and-wife team Faith and Peter Park have fed hungry diners in the Windy City with their menu of delicious mashups since 2013, from paratha tacos to kimchi-topped fries to Korean BBQ beef burritos. Regulars rave about the salmon and tuna tacos, so why not order one of each?

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Caviar Staff

Caviar Staff

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