Charlie Trotter's (816 W. Armitage Ave.; tel. 773/248-6228): Charlie Trotter is the city's original celebrity chef, and his intimate restaurant, tucked into a town house, is the first place I steer foodie visitors. The formula may be rigid (tasting menus only), but the food is anything but: fresh-as-can-be ingredients in dazzling combinations. The service lives up to Trotter's legendary perfectionism.
Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse (1028 N. Rush St.; tel. 312/266-8999): Chicago has no shortage of great steakhouses, but Gibsons has a great scene, too -- a mix of moneyed Gold Coast singles, expense-account-fueled business travelers, and the occasional celebrity. This is the kind of place to live large (literally): The portions are enormous, so you're encouraged to share, which adds to the party atmosphere.
foodlife (Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave.; tel. 312/335-3663): Leaps and bounds beyond the standard mall food court, foodlife offers a wide range of non-chain food stations: everything from Asian noodles and vegetarian fare to more standard options such as pizza and burgers. An affordable option for families with wildly divergent tastes.
Moto (945 W. Fulton Market St.; tel. 312/491-0058): At Moto, food isn't just cooked -- it's frothed, foamed, frozen, and otherwise transformed (even the menu itself is sometimes edible). Chef Homaro Cantu uses custom-made silverware and cooking devices to present dishes in entirely new ways -- ever tried soup in a syringe?
Best View: Forty stories above Chicago, Everest, 440 S. LaSalle St. (tel. 312/663-8920), astounds with a spectacular view -- and food to match. Closer to earth, diners on the rooftop terrace at Greektown's Pegasus, 130 S. Halsted St. (tel. 312/226-3377), get a panoramic view of the city skyline.
Best Spot for a Romantic Dinner: Secluded North Pond, 2610 N. Cannon Dr. (tel. 773/477-5845), is an Arts and Crafts-style retreat with a postcard-perfect setting in Lincoln Park. Not only does it boast a dramatic vista of the Gold Coast skyline, but the restaurant's out-of-the-way locale also requires diners to begin and end their meals with an idyllic stroll through the park. For charm at a much more affordable price, try Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar, 526 N. Wells St. (tel. 312/467-0546), a cozy spot that will make you feel like you've jetted off to the romantic City of Love.
Best Spot for a Business Lunch: A millennial take on the classic American steakhouse, stylish Nine, 440 W. Randolph St. (tel. 312/575-9900), offers superslick environs, prime steaks, fresh seafood, a champagne-and-caviar bar, and -- most importantly -- tiny TV sets above the men's-room urinals for those who can't bear to miss the latest from CNBC.
Best Spot for a Celebration: Not only does Nacional 27, 325 W. Huron St. (tel. 312/664-2727), offer a grand setting and a menu of creative Latin American dishes, it also turns into a party on Friday and Saturday nights, when a DJ spins salsa tunes and center tables are cleared for dancing.
Best Value: At longtime city favorite Carson's, 612 N. Wells St. (tel. 312/280-9200), $20 gets you a full slab of incredible baby back ribs accompanied by a bowl of Carson's almost-as-famous coleslaw and a choice of potatoes. Lincoln Park residents swarm to RoseAngelis, 1314 W. Wrightwood Ave. (tel. 773/296-0081), where you can get a glass of wine, a generous serving of pasta, and a slice of the city's best bread pudding for around $20.
Best for Kids: Visiting families often limit themselves to the many chain restaurants in the River North neighborhood (Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, and the like). But for something off the beaten path, try Wishbone, 1001 Washington St. (tel. 312/850-2663), a family-owned Southern spot with a casual vibe and plenty of mix-and-match menu options for fussy eaters.
Best American Cuisine: The beautiful people flock to chef Paul Kahan's Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph St. (tel. 312/715-0708), for the stylish setting and just as stylish food. Crofton on Wells, 535 N. Wells St. (tel. 312/755-1790), may be less trendy, but it's a true labor of love for chef Suzy Crofton -- and her devoted local fans keep coming back for more.
Best French Cuisine: You'll get the full fine-dining treatment -- and fabulous food -- at Ambria, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West (tel. 312/472-5959). For a more casual Parisian cafe experience, few places delight quite like Bucktown's charming Le Bouchon, 1958 N. Damen Ave. (tel. 773/862-6600), with its cozy atmosphere and delectable bistro fare.
Best Italian Cuisine: Even without the glamorous view of the Magnificent Mile, Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan Ave. (tel. 312/280-2750), would draw diners in droves with its gourmet takes on classic Italian cuisine. For a more casual, old-world experience, it's hard to beat Rosebud on Taylor, 1500 W. Taylor St. (tel. 312/942-1117), which has reigned supreme in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood for as long as anyone can remember.
Best Steakhouse: Legendary Chicago restaurateur Arnie Morton no longer prowls the dining room, but Morton's, 1050 N. State St. (tel. 312/266-4820), remains the king of the city's old-guard steakhouses, serving up gargantuan wet-aged steaks and baked potatoes.
Best Pizza: In the town where deep-dish pies were born, Chicagoans take their out-of-town relatives to either Gino's East, 633 N. Wells St. (tel. 312/943-1124), or Lou Malnati's, 439 N. Wells St. (tel. 312/828-9800), to taste the real thing: mouthwatering slabs of pizza loaded with fresh ingredients atop delectably sweet crusts.
Best Pretheater Dinner: A longtime local favorite, the Italian Village, 71 W. Monroe St. (tel. 312/332-7005) -- actually three restaurants run by one family under one roof -- knows how to get its clientele seated and (well) fed in time for a show. For Chicago Symphony Orchestra audiences, Rhapsody, 65 E. Adams St. (tel. 312/786-9911), is conveniently located in the Symphony Center building. If you're seeing a play in Lincoln Park, go for tasty tapas at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, 2024 N. Halsted St. (tel. 773/935-5000).
Best Wine List: Two spots take their food-drink pairings especially seriously: Try Zealous, 419 W. Superior St. (tel. 312/475-9112), if money is no object, and Bin 36, 339 N. Dearborn St. (tel. 312/755-9463), if you're looking for a more casual vibe.
Best Brunch: The luxury hotels along Michigan Avenue offer all-you-can-eat gourmet spreads, but the locals prefer the sinfully rich cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont Ave. (tel. 773/348-2378).
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed restaurants, visit our online dining index.
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