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Chicago's 100 Best Restaurants: #100-76

By Sarah Freeman
December 4, 2013

The end of the year is nigh, and that means it's time to look back on 365 days of eating and drinking. To commemorate, we're counting down the top 100 restaurants in Chicago, according to our 2014 Restaurant Survey. From gourmet hot dogs to Bill Kim's tribute to Asian street food, a wide array of cuisines and neighborhoods are represented in this blockbuster list. We'll reveal a new segment of the countdown over the next three weeks, but for now, let's start at the top.

  • No. 100: Chilam Balam

    Food: 25
    Decor: 16
    Service: 20
    Cost: $34

    "World-class", "super-seasonal" Mexican small plates wow guests at this "tiny" cash-only Lakeview "treasure" where the "basement atmosphere" is trumped by "penthouse food" and "BYO adds an extra draw" (though there's margarita mix and "luscious" virgin sangria); "insane waits" are downsides and the "reasonable" prices can "add up", but most agree it's "definitely worth it."

    3023 N. Broadway St.; 773-296-6901

  • No. 99: Turquoise

    Food: 25
    Decor: 18
    Service: 20
    Cost: $36

    A "Turkish delight" say fans of the "flavorful", "exquisitely prepared" plates at this "value" Roscoe Villager with casual, white-tablecloth environs and a "low noise level" fit for "big groups" and "first dates" alike; there's also "pleasant sidewalk seating", so though service can be "slow" when it's "packed", it remains a "favorite local spot."

    2147 W. Roscoe St.; 773-549-3523

  • Photo by: Taylor Glascock

    No. 98: San Soo Gab San

    Food: 25
    Decor: 10
    Service: 14
    Cost: $25

    A generous variety of "appetizing" small dishes pairs with an "excellent", "endless supply of cook-your-own meats" at this Lincoln Square Korean BBQ overseen by a "speedy" crew; "the whole restaurant swims in smoke" and "your hair will smell for days", but budget-friendly tabs still help ensure regulars rate it "well worth it."

    5247 N. Western Ave.; 773-334-1589

  • No. 97: Kiki’s Bistro

    Food: 25
    Decor: 22
    Service: 24
    Cost: $48

    An "old standby" that "refuses to bend to current trends", this "welcoming" Near North bistro appeals with "well-prepared" French fare and "high-quality wine" served by "friendly" staffers who "treat you as family"; the "cozy", "charming" space has a "happy buzz" and tabs are moderate, so Kiki-philes wanting an "escape from the city hustle bustle" return "again and again."

    900 N. Franklin St.; 312-335-5454

  • No. 96: Gilt Bar

    Food: 25
    Decor: 25
    Service: 22
    Cost: $44

    A "good variety" of "tasty" New American small plates pairs with "delicious" drinks from an "excellent" bar at this "hot" River North gastropub from Brendan Sodikoff (Au Cheval, Maude's Liquor Bar, Bavette's); the "dark", stylish space features ornate chandeliers and leather booths, and though prices aren't low, it's still a prime pick for "after work", for "date night" or when out "with friends."

    230 W. Kinzie St.; 312-464-9544

  • No. 95: Lou Malnati’s

    Food: 25
    Decor: 16
    Service: 20
    Cost: $22

    For "real Chicago pizza", fans hit up this "top-notch" chain "staple" that "sets the standard" with its "deep-dish butter crust" pies made "just right" with the "perfect" ratio of cheese to sauce – and its "crisp" thin-crust pies and "big", "not-to-be-missed" salads are a hit too; service is generally solid (if occasionally "slow"), and if the decor is considered just "fine", well you "don't go for the ambiance."

    Multiple locations

  • No. 94: Sun Wah BBQ

    Food: 25
    Decor: 11
    Service: 16
    Cost: $24

    "If you haven't had the duck dinner, you ain't living" ("don't forget to order ahead") insist regulars of this Uptown Chinese "favorite", where "it's hard to go wrong" when the other "authentic" dishes, especially the "Hong Kong–style BBQ" offerings, are so "chopstick licking good"; the atmosphere might be "nothing special" and when "it's packed, and that's often", service can be "hurried", but most agree "it's all worth it with cheap prices" – and of course "incredible food."

    5039 N. Broadway St.; 773-769-1254

  • No. 93: Maude’s Liquor Bar

    Food: 25
    Decor: 25
    Service: 23
    Cost: $48

    "Cozy, yet totally hip", this moderately priced West Loop resto-lounge from Brendan Sodikoff (Au Cheval, Gilt Bar) does "delicious, understated classic French food" (think "buttery snails" and cassoulet) boosted by "inventive" house cocktails; toss in "dark", "romantic" digs and it's an "excellent date spot."

    840 W. Randolph St.; 312-243-9712

  • No. 92: Butcher & The Burger

    Food: 25
    Decor: 17
    Service: 20
    Cost: $17

    Chef-owner Allen Sternweiler (ex Duchamp, Allen's) "wows" with "ah-mazing" "build-your-own burgers" featuring "awfully good customizing options", from the "unsurpassed rubs and variety of meat" to the "non-soggy" buns, plus "fries to die for" and a "nice selection of sodas" at this retro-looking counter-service BYO in Lincoln Park; thriftsters say it "could benefit from a bit of a lower price point", but converts only "wish it had more seating"; P.S. there are also breakfast burgers, beignets and butcher-shop take-out options.

    1021 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-697-3735

  • Photo by: Vincent DeWitt

    No. 91: Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.

    Food: 25
    Decor: 19
    Service: 22
    Cost: $24

    The "upside-down pizza in a bowl" pot pies turn guests "giddy" at this cash-only "Lincoln Park institution", a "wood lodge look-alike" that also excels with "Italian grinders" and "amazing salads"; it's "not for the faint of heart" given the "long waits" (no reservations), quirky "seating system" (the host "somehow remembers your face") and "cramped" tables, but it's an affordable "treat" for something "different", especially with "out-of-towners" in tow.

    2121 N. Clark St.; 773-248-2570

  • No. 90: Han 202

    Food: 25
    Decor: 22
    Service: 23
    Cost: $32

    "Unusual but delicious" say fans of this Bridgeport BYO, a "hidden gem" known for an "innovative", "well-presented" prix fixe menu of Asian dishes set down by "friendly" staffers in "serene", "conversation-friendly" digs; since tabs are "unbelievably inexpensive", many say it's one of the "best deals in town."

    605 W. 31st St.; 312-949-1314

  • No. 89: Franks ‘n’ Dawgs

    Food: 25
    Decor: 12
    Service: 19
    Cost: $14

    An "oustanding dawg shack", this Lincoln Park BYO offers a "mega selection" of gourmet hot dogs and sausages that come with "some of the most interesting and delicious toppings ever", and are accompanied by "sinfully rich" sides, like "don't-miss" truffle fries; inside is "not fancy", but the staff is "friendly", and there's a seasonal patio.

    1863 N. Clybourn Ave.; 312-281-5187

  • No. 88: Café Spiaggia

    Food: 25
    Decor: 23
    Service: 24
    Cost: $56

    A "more economical", "less formal" "alternative" to next-door sibling Spiaggia, this Gold Coast Italian "doesn't skimp on taste", sending out "luscious", often "creative" fare set down by "informed" staffers; windows in the "lovely" space afford "beautiful" city views, and while tables can sometimes feel a "bit tight", and bills aren't low, that doesn't stop many from "going back time and again."

    980 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-280-2750

  • No. 87: Belly Shack

    Food: 25
    Decor: 16
    Service: 19
    Cost: $17

    "So inventive and it all works" say foodies who "crave" the "always tasty, never boring" fare at chef-owner Bill Kim's Humboldt Park "hipster" haven, offering a "limited" yet "extraordinary" menu of "solidly executed" Asian dishes with Nuevo Latino accents, capped off with "must"-try soft-serve; "affordable" tabs match the "über-casual" digs, and "BYO never hurts either."

    1912 N. Western Ave.; 773-252-1414

  • Photo by: Flickr

    No. 86: Mirai Sushi

    Food: 25
    Decor: 20
    Service: 22
    Cost: $49

    Try it once and you will "return again and again" promise patrons of this "quality" Wicker Park Japanese delivering "excellent", "inventive" sushi plus other "flavorful preparations" to go along with the "snazzy sake, wine and cocktail options"; solid service and a "cool, trendy ambiance" make it a "good date spot", so if a few find tabs "steep", many don't notice, noting they could "eat here every day."

    2020 W. Division St.; 773-862-8500

  • No. 85: Quince

    Food: 25
    Decor: 22
    Service: 25
    Cost: $62

    "Serious contemporary cuisine" full of "gourmet surprises" and "impeccable" service make this upscale New American in the "historic" Homestead Hotel one of "Evanston's finest"; sure, you may need an "expense account" to pay, but the "charming, romantic" atmosphere helps compensate.

    1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston; 847-570-8400

  • No. 84: Sapori Trattoria

    Food: 25
    Decor: 19
    Service: 24
    Cost: $36

    "Down-home" cooking is "guaranteed to delight" at this Lincoln Park Italian, a "small trattoria" where the food is "high quality", the "service always friendly" and the prices "fair"; sure, "decor could be better", but it's still "charming" – and there's "always a crowd."

    2701 N. Halsted St.; 773-832-9999

  • No. 83: Macku Sushi

    Food: 25
    Decor: 21
    Service: 23
    Cost: $46

    So "fresh" are the "mind-blowing sashimi", "inventive sushi" and "amazing specials" at this "pricey but worth it" Lincoln Park Japanese that patrons wonder if there's "a fish market in the backyard"; "attentive" servers and a "trendy" yet "inviting" modern space also earn admiration from those who "cannot say enough" about it.

    2239 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-880-8012

  • No. 82: GT Fish & Oyster

    Food: 25
    Decor: 23
    Service: 23
    Cost: $55

    "Creative and tasty seafood small plates" are what you'll find at this River North hot spot, where chef Giuseppe Tentori "always excels" in his "inventive" interpretations of "classic dishes", and the bar "dreams up" some of the "best new drinks in town"; the nautical-themed space has a "modern feel", and the staff is "accommodating", so the only downfall is that it can be "hard to get a reservation."

    531 N. Wells St.; 312-929-3501

  • No. 81: Wholly Frijoles

    Food: 25
    Decor: 16
    Service: 20
    Cost: $22

    It may have the "worst name in greater Chicago", but this "bargain"-priced Lincolnwood BYO "deserves the crowds" for its magnifico "mouthwatering" Mexican fare "prepared and presented with a gourmet hand"; service gets high marks too, so the only complaint is that its "small, tight" space means "getting in isn't easy."

    3908 W. Touhy Ave., Lincolnwood; 847-329-9810

  • No. 80: Seasons 52

    Food: 25
    Decor: 25
    Service: 26
    Cost: $39

    At this "moderately priced", "über-healthy" chain the "creative" New American "concoctions" "change with the seasons" and weigh in at 475 calories or less, resulting in "incredible", "guilt-free dining"; "comfortable" upscale-casual environs and the "most attentive" servers further explain why it's "well patronized."

    Multiple locations

  • No. 79: Province

    Closed

  • No. 78: Piccolo Sogno

    Food: 25
    Decor: 24
    Service: 23
    Cost: $54

    Tony Priolo's "divine", "flavorful" fare is "impeccably prepared with fresh ingredients" and paired with a "very deep wine list" at this "authentic" Near West Italian; "elegant surroundings" include a "serene" garden featuring "twinkling lights and flowing vines", service is "lovely no matter how busy" and prices are "reasonable" given the "quality" – no wonder devotees dub it a "dream come true"; P.S. it has a River North sequel called Piccolo Sogno Due.

    464 N. Halsted St.; 312-421-0077

  • No. 77: La Scarola

    Food: 26
    Decor: 16
    Service: 21
    Cost: $39

    A "very small but high-powered place", this River West "hole-in-the-wall" "transports you back in time" to "grandma's Sunday afternoon Italian" meal with "plentiful" portions of "authentic and amazing" fare via "old-school" servers you can "laugh and have fun with"; tabs that "won't break the budget" are another reason it can get "crowded" and "loud", so "reservations are a must" – though "even with one, you could be waiting for a while."

    721 W. Grand Ave.; 312-243-1740

  • No. 76: West Town Tavern

    Closed

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