Looking for a Restaurant in Downtown Chicago?
The Loop, as it is known, has played host to many notable skyscrapers and iconic architectural firsts, such as the Home Insurance Building, by William LeBaron Jenney, considered the first skyscraper; the Sears Tower, by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the tallest in the United States; and the most comprehensive collection of Mies van der Rohe buildings, found near the South Side. More recent initiatives under Mayor Richard
M. Daley, including Millennium Park and the green roof on City Hall, squarely place Chicago at the forefront of today’s green movement.
Long known for its pizza and hotdogs, downtown Chicago is rapidly establishing itself as the destination for green gourmet cuisine. With their focus on high-quality fresh local ingredients, the featured restaurants will help you discover passionate chefs who are creating a host of delectable treats in equally pleasurable and design-savvy interiors.
1. Aigre Doux
230 W Kinzie St
Aigre Doux is fresh on the Chicago dining scene this year.
Husband-and-wife team Mohammad Islam and Malika Ameen put the food above everything else. They have created a dining experience that promotes the elegance of quality ingredients in an atmosphere designed to be casual yet sophisticated at any time of day or night in the restaurant, while they emphasize quick service but never a rushed feeling in the adjoining bakery.
Designers Olsen | Vranas transformed the chefs’ ideals into a dining room that is peaceful and yet full of verve. The clean look reflects the richness, honesty, and purity of the food as well as the deeper implications of good living.
2. Bin 36
339 Dearborn St
Bin 36 is crazy about wine. Their cellar for 5,000 bottles offers 50 varieties of wine by the glass. The food, regional and seasonal, is just as varied. Executive chef John Caputo offers organic tasting menus based on the concept that farm-fresh ingredients are perfect on their own. Look for biodynamic wines, selected by wine director Brian Duncan, paired with an artisanal treat from the restaurant’s cheese bar.
Like the food it serves, this fun and accessible restaurant is designed around the basics, letting the building’s original materials show through. Located in the Marina Tower, a Modern Chicago icon by Bertrand Goldberg, Bin 36’s minimal materials palette maintains a sense of balance and elegance.
3. North Pond
2610 N Cannon Dr
When the owners of North Pond got through the red tape of leasing a historic 1912 building in Lincoln Park, there was only one way for the restaurant to go: earthy and organic. Designer Nancy Warren interprets the calming release of the park and the landscape in a scheme that leans toward the Prairie style. All natural materials include wood and stone—there are no plastic laminates.
With the arrival of chef Bruce Sherman in 1999, the fate of the restaurant as respite from hectic city living was assured. His seasonal American menu with French influences starts and ends with flavors that can only come from the freshest ingredients. What’s more, Sherman is personally committed to ensuring that Chicago’s tables will be bountiful inside and out of North Pond. He is a board member of the Chicago Green City Market, also located in Lincoln Park and touted by chefs citywide as a force of positive change for Chicago’s eating habits; he’s also a board member of Slow Food Chicago, committed to the ideal of sustainability through pleasure.
4. Frontera Grill & Topolobampo
445 N Clark St
Rick Bayless serves regional Mexican cuisine, cooked with the finest Chicagoland ingredients, at the casual Frontera Grill and elegant Topolobambo restaurants, which share a front door and bar in River North. Believing that great cuisine comes from great local ingredients, Bayless goes so far as to serve microgreens grown in his own garden. In 2003 the chef created the Frontera Farmer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that gives capital-development grants to small sustainable farms.
Nancy Warren’s concept and design are “infused with the spirit and energy of Rick Bayless himself,” she says. The restaurant achieves a true contemporary feel without forcing any stereotypes. The stones and colors may be Mexican, but there’s always a fresh twist.
5. one sixtyblue
1400 W Randolph St
Executive chef Martial Noguier regularly offers tastings of regional cheeses paired with wines, and even special menus based on the crops of specific farms. The heartland’s bounty keeps him on his culinary toes developing new dishes in a city that is becoming known for its top-notch chefs.
Restaurant designer and eminent hospitality specialist Adam D. Tihany, an early adherent of the Slow Food movement, believes it’s normal to care where food comes from and how it’s produced. Tihany feels that his job is to be both a portrait artist and a custom tailor in expressing the passion of the chef in the look of the restaurant.
980 N Michigan Ave, 2nd Fl
Spiaggia sets the standard for fine Italian dining in Chicago, allowing the innate flavors of every ingredient to shine through with elegance. Executive chef Missy Robbins gets up to 75 percent of her produce from farmers at the Green City Market during the local growing season and has Italian varieties of herbs specially grown at Kinnikinnick Farm, less than 100 miles away.
7. Hannah’s Bretzel
233 N Michigan Ave
180 W Washington St
At Hannah’s Bretzel, sustainability starts with a fifteenth-century German classic, the bretzel, made with organic whole grains. Founder Florian Pfahler sees organics as the only way to go.
The first Hannah’s Bretzel opened in 2005; a second shop opened this year, taking the greening of the bretzel industry to a whole new level. UrbanLab, the designer of both locations, worked to reveal the process, visually exposing to the consumer what the food is, where it comes from, and how it is prepared. Walls are wheat board, carryout containers are made of 100 percent biodegradable corn, and the store is well on the way to being the first LEED-rated retailer in Illinois. Perhaps the most important sustenance of all is the satisfaction of eating the smoked turkey and Gruyère bretzel sandwich with tomato chutney.
8. Fox & Obel
401 E Illinois St
Fox & Obel is a gourmet market and café that benefits from a large selection of seasonal and local ingredients. Breads are baked on-site along with other house-made selections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This spring executive chef Suzanne Edwards partnered with City Farm at the Familyfarmed.org
Expo, a trade show that brings regional organic growers together with urban consumers. City Farm is as local as you can get: located within Chicago city limits, the organization collects scraps from restaurants and converts them into superior mulch. Local students and volunteers farm the garden, and the produceis sold back to the community, including at Fox & Obel.
… MORE DOWNTOWN EATS
676 Restaurant & Bar
(NEW AMERICAN BRASSERIE)
Omni Chicago Hotel
676 N Michigan Ave 4th Fl
Art Deco accoutrements and a view of bustling Michigan Avenue.
1723 N Halsted St
Creative culinary mastery from Chef Grant Achatz.
2300 N Lincoln Park West
A Chicago institution for over a quarter of a century; fine food is set in a stage of deep-toned woods and ultra suede banquettes.
615 W Randolph St
Suave Thomas Schlesser–designed space featuring communal tables.
695 N Milwaukee Ave
Avenue M features affordable, delicious cuisine; a patio dining area overlooks a magnolia tree and imported grapevines.
Army & Lou’s
422 E 75th St
At 62, this Southside institution is still one of the best soul food restaurants in the city.
108 E Superior St
Corporate high rollers and affluent out-of-towners are checking into this swank hotel spot.
(AMERICAN WITH A SOUTHERN FLAIR)
535 N Michigan Ave
A chain restaurant that doesn’t act like one—lighting is dark, and black vinyl booths with wood tables line the walls. Live jazz nightly.
Billy Goat Tavern
430 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago legend since 1934 famous for SNL’s “Cheez-burger! Cheezburger! No Fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!”
110 E Pearson St
A bustling atmosphere and a savory menu, with a Sunday brunch that’s très magnifique
619 W Randolph St
Stylish seasonal fare from Chef Paul Kahan.
Blue Water Grill
(NEW AMERICAN / SEAFOOD / SUSHI)
520 N Dearborn St
Designed by Yabu Pushelberg to echo the rich architectural texture of Chicago.
59 W Hubbard St
Check out the zinc bar imported from France or lounge outside at the café.
4518 N. Lincoln Ave
Seasonal menu from organics guru Michael Altenberg.
1729 N Halsted St
Ambitious menu and wine list from noted chef Giuseppe Scurato.
130 S Green St
Gourmet dishes in a space designed by local artisans.
(ITALIAN / SEAFOOD)
1043 N Rush St
Huge portions and an outdoor café make this spot great for lunch or dinner.
702 W Fulton Market
An extravaganza of color and flavors.
816 W Armitage Ave
The ultimate indulgence in fine food and wine.
Chicago Chop House
60 W Ontario St
Steaks, steaks, and more steaks in a restored Victorian brownstone.
580 East Illinois St
Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, designed by Paul Schuster.
Cru Café & Wine Bar
25 E Delaware Pl
Light meals and an extensive wine list at this newly opened lounge.
500 S Dearborn St
François Genève designed Custom House to feel like a 1950s gentlemen’s club.
David Burke’s Primehouse
(MODERN AMERICAN CUISINE)
616 N Rush St, at
The James Hotel
Steaks are dry-aged and sired by a bull named “Prime” in Kentucky.
Bar & Grill
216 N. Wabash
Newly opened Irish Pub with full menu.
321 North Clark St
Gorgeous views of Chicago at this delectable river-level newcomer.
Fogo de Chão
661 N La Salle Dr
At this churrascaria, chefs carve skewered, slow-roasted meat tableside on request.
Fulton’s on the River
(STEAKS & SEAFOOD)
315 N LaSalle St
Stunning riverside views and prime steaks in the historic Reid Murdoch building.
35 West Ontario St
Newest small plates restaurant for full tour of flavor downtown.
1460 W Chicago Ave
The organic and contemporary design matches the seasonal ingredients at this veggie-focused restaurant.
2436 S Oakley Ave
The newest tapas restaurant in Little Italy serves up Basque food with Spanish techno.
33 W Kinzie St
Named for the late Hall of Fame baseball announcer.
738 N Wells St
Manny’s Coffee Shop and Deli
1141 S Jefferson St
Hardly anything has changed at Manny’s since opening in 1942, except the free wireless Internet.
mk the restaurant
868 N Franklin St
Dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients served in a refurbished factory.
623 West Randolph St
Fish flown in from Japan guarantee the authenticity of the cuisine.
(AVANT-GARDE ASIAN / INTERNATIONAL)
945 W Fulton Market
Chef Homaro Cantu’s futuristic eatery.
500 N Clark St
World-renowned wine list.
800 N Michigan Ave
Stunning views from Park Hyatt’s 7th floor and an interior by Tony Chi.
72 E Adam St
Mouthwatering burgers rule the menu at this new restaurant reminiscent of the classic diner.
11 N Michigan Ave
The first restaurant in Millennium Park.
1350 W Randolph St
Sleek, contemporary restaurant inspired by interaction between Mediterranean and Asian cultures.
(CREATIVE MODERN AMERICAN)
Four Seasons Hotel
120 E Delaware Pl, 7th Fl
Not your typical hotel restaurant, chef Kevin Hickey finds the best ingredients at small ethnic markets.
504 N Wells St
Exciting menu in a theatrical space designed by David Rockwell.
464 N Halsted St
Hip bistro-chic cooking with seating in one of the city’s best gardens.
155 E Ontario
A modern day supper club in grand art deco style.