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As Seen on TV: 17 Chicago Restaurants From Food-Show Stars

By Sarah Freeman
July 29, 2013

In Chicago, the celebrity chef trumps the regular chef any day of the week. Because let’s be real - you are much more likely to have a Rick Bayless signing than an Oprah sighting, and you can barely pick up a fork without seeing Stephanie Izard nearby. As long as Chicagoans keep grabbing their 15 minutes of fame on some of the top cooking shows, we'll have more celebrity chef-driven restaurants. In honor of the just-debuted new season of Top Chef Masters, here are 17 such restaurants you can check out right now.

  • Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO

    Rick Bayless’s empire gets plenty of TV time. His first upscale Mexican restaurant Topolobampo opened in 1991 followed by a more casual sister spot Frontera Grill. The River North trifecta was completed with grab-and-go XOCO.

  • Girl & The Goat and Little Goat

    Stephanie Izard, Chicago’s sweetheart and the first female winner of Top Chef, runs one of the most notoriously hard-to-get-into-restaurant in town. Luckily, the recent opening of Little Goat, a bakery and diner, pulled some of the crowds away from Stephanie Izard’s first restaurant, Girl & the Goat.

  • Graham Elliot, Graham Elliot Bistro and Grahamwich

    The flagship restaurant of the MasterChef host dances the line between fine dining and mad science lab. His latest venture, a rock ‘n’ roll bistro, is more approachable and has a secret cobblestone back patio as well. For a quick grab-and-go, there's always his gourmet sandwich shop in River North.

  • Hearty

    Former Food Network stars, caterers, authors, cocktails experts and chefs Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh have pretty much mastered the culinary world. Their Chicago restaurant does not hype the duo’s success, but rather welcomes diners to enjoy their comfort food in an even more comfortable setting.

  • Moto

    With courses like a Zen garden made out of cheese, guacamole made from a chocolate avocado and a miniature picnic, nothing is as it seems in this Fulton Market molecular gastronomy lab. The creative mastermind behind it all is Top Chef contestant (and former 30 Under 30 honoree) Richie Farina, who works hand in hand with executive chef Homaro Cantu.

  • Sable Kitchen + Bar

    She had a reputation for being a tough cookie on Top Chef, but if that's what it takes for Heather Terhune to crank out soul-satisfying cuisine at Sable, so be it. Enjoy a cocktail at the bar with mixologist Mike Ryan before settling into the dining room for elevated American fare.

  • Sprout and Frog 'n' Snail

    Dale Levitski, the first Chicago competitor on Top Chef, has a pair of locally driven restaurants. Sprout, with its stone walls and ivy accents, is the perfect place for a date or nice dinner. Nearby Frog ‘n’ Snail is a Midwestern bistro serving unpretentious takes on European classics.

  • Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia

    A Top Chef Master combined with a Top Chef contestant cooking in an Italian restaurant with almost 30 years of history on the tip of the Magnificent Mile - sounds like a recipe for success. Tony Mantuano and Sarah Gruenberg deliver pristine plates of housemade pasta, wood-grilled seafood and seared steaks.

  • Takashi and Slurping Turtle

    Takashi, the intimate Bucktown gem from former Top Chef Masters contestant Takashi Yagihashi, serves upscale Asian food with the service and style of fresh cuisine. If the rumors are true about Aaron Cuschieri, the executive chef at Yagihashi's Slurping Turtle (and another 30 Under 30 honoree), then Chicago has another celebrity chef protégé on its hands.

  • Table 52

    The down-to-earth celebrity chef’s long-standing restaurant is known for bringing Southern hospitality to the Near North Side. Fried chicken, shrimp ’n’ grits and mac ’n’ cheese are just a few of the signature dishes from Oprah’s former personal chef Art Smith.

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