Fine Dining in Chicago

When people think of fine dining in the United States they typically think of New York and LA and sometimes Las Vegas but if you split the difference and head to Chicago you’ll probably get one of the best meals of your life. Chicago is actually a Mecca for fine dining and top chefs, so much so that the 2008 season of Bravo’s Top Chef was filmed in the Windy City.

Charlie Trotters
Charlie Trotters probably put Chicago on the map when it comes to fine dining in fact it’s been claimed that Charlie Trotters is one of the best restaurants in the entire country. Luckily the restaurant hasn’t let this acclaim go to its head and it continuously updates and amends its menu to thrill newcomers as well as regulars. With more than 20 years under its belt, Charlie Trotters has earned its reputation as one of the best in the business and will not doubt continue its reign as one of Chicago’s best fine dining establishments.


Donald Trump has been known to brag a bit but it may actually be true that his restaurant, Sixteen, is one of the best in the city. Sixteen is located on the 16th floor of Trump’s relatively new International Hotel & Tower and has some of the best views of the city. The food is described as novel and eclectic and has won accolades since its opening day. The addition of Australian Chef Frank Brunacci took the already buzz-worthy food up a notch and turned into world class fare with international flair.


Avenues is another well respected restaurant tucked inside a hotel. The Peninsula Chicago features more than wonderful views and incredible suites, it also features Avenues a restaurant that had jumped into the local ingredient craze with both feet. The cuisine is contemporary and the open kitchen creates a buzzing atmosphere that is lively and infused with energy. In 2008 one of the city’s most noted chefs, Chef de Cuisine Curtis Duffy, moved from the acclaimed Alinea to Avenues, prompting Avenues meteoric rise in popularity.

And speaking of Alinea, even after losing Chef Curtis Duffy, this restaurant keeps making Chicagoans happy and bring its share of raves to the reviews. Part of this is head chef and owner, Grant Achatz who is a true master of ingredients and an artist of presentation. Part of Alinea’s success is that it’s still considered one of the hip and trendy happening hot spots in Chicago. One of the reasons Alinea has earned such a great reputation is its 24-course tasting menu. If you have about five or six hours to spare then settle in and get a taste of just about everything this American fine dining restaurant has to offer, but be prepared to spend a considerable chunk of money on this journey through the Alinea menu.


Set on the Miracle Mile, high in the sky, NoMI is class times ten and visitors better be dressed to the nines. The posh dining room is very contemporary and dotted with fine artwork including Chihuly chandeliers. You’ll be greeted by a small sushi bar at the entrance but only the lucky few will get one of these seats. Further inside the restaurant are contemporary dishes that take the best culinary ideas from around the world to create mind numbing and mouth pleasing concoctions.


Sleek, minimalistic and sort of space agey, Blackbird doesn’t focus on décor or atmosphere but turns its attention fully to the food at hand. Another restaurant with its attention turned to the seasonal produce from regional growers, Blackbird succeeds because it’s been deemed hip and trendy. Meaning that this tiny restaurant is small, seats few, packs up quickly and leaves guests happy that they made the stop.


Spiaggia knows how to hit the high notes with its views by taking full advantage of the soaring 40 foot windows facing beautiful Lake Michigan. With most restaurants taking full advantage of the local food craze you can be rest assured that the ingredients are fresh at almost every new and trendy restaurant in Chicago, but what you can’t always be sure of is the medley of these flavors and the attention to detail. But at Spiaggia you know you’ve got it all wrapped up in one package. Spiaggia and Chef Tony Mantuano bring some of the best Italian cuisine to Chicago so if this is what you’re craving then look no further.

Room 21/Via Ventuno

It’s got to be cool if the name is a number or has a number in it, right? Well Room 21 is Chicago’s played the number game quite well but then decided to get out of the racket and the restaurant was reconditioned and became Via Ventuno, although many locals will still refer to it as Room 21. This is a must-stop for tourists because of the famed location. This region of Chicago was developed during the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and alcohol, prostitution and crime soon took hold of this part of the city, some of the most famous criminals in American history strolled these streets and Via Ventura was once one of Al Capone’s famous and illegal breweries, raided by Elliot Ness in 1930. The highlight of your visit is the secret Al Capone escape tunnel which is open for visitors to tour. The cuisine at Via Ventuno is Italian and completely enjoyable, but it’s the history and legend that makes this a must-see stop for tourists.


Topolobampo sets Mexican food on a higher plain that it’s used to, this fine dining establishment shares a building with Frontera and both are headed by Chef Rick Bayless, host of MEXICO – One Plate at a Time on PBS. It’s Bayless’s winning personality and incredible skill with food that has turned both restaurants into local favorites. Topolobampo is a more posh environment and turns fine dining into a spicy affair. But the real genius that Topolobampo brings to the table is its ability to take regional ingredients from the Midwest and transform them into Mexican delights.
Creative Commons License Photo credit: xmatt