12 Must-Try Dishes From Chicago Survey Winners

By Sarah Freeman  |  September 17, 2013
Credit: Nick Murway

Our just-released 2014 Chicago Restaurants survey results revealed a plethora of stellar places to eat around the city. From gastropubs to sushi bars, Chitown is not lacking in edible options. But how does one choose what to eat once they're at the city’s best restaurants? We did the legwork for you by hunting down a dozen can't-miss signature dishes at some of this year’s category winners. Warning: don't view on an empty stomach.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Top Food and Top Japanese

    The big kahuna of this year’s Top Food category was not, as expected, Grant Achatz's Alinea, but last year's runner-up, Katsu. The omakase - a chef's selection of rolls and nigiri such as white toro and premium yellowtail - is the best way to experience this year's top winner.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Top Mediterranean and Top Small Plates

    Another double win went to Paul Kahan's small yet powerful West Looper. Without a doubt, its most famous and most popular dish is the chorizo-stuffed Medjool dates, which come wrapped in bacon and served in piquillo pepper-tomato sauce.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Top Seafood

    In the South Loop, chef Ryan McCaskey’s refined fare showcases the best of land and sea in your choice of bar, prix fixe or tasting menus. While the bar serves tasty burgers and lobster rolls, the star of the dining room is the Spanish octopus with elements of gazpacho.

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Shanghai Terrace

    Top Chinese

    Elegant Chinese fare is not the only thing that makes this Peninsula Hotel restaurant a winner: the stunning decor also earned top honors. Whether eating in the dining room or on the terrace, we recommend ordering dim sum or the Peking duck with happy red rice and dong po pork belly.

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Green Zebra

    Top Vegetarian

    Proving fine dining is not limited to meat eaters, this Noble Square destination offers tasty, carnivore-approved vegetarian dishes. Don't miss the toasted sesame noodles with housemade kimchi, braised lotus root and Chinese mustard.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Top Mexican

    It's no surprise that three of the five restaurants on the Top Mexican list came from Rick Bayless. Topolobampo, the finest of his bunch, took top honors, no doubt with the help of the mariscos en verde (wild Patagonian prawns, Baja bay scallops in lobster roe butter, herby tomatillo-xoconostle sauce, romanesco broccoli, sweet corn and “confit” lima beans).

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Riccardo Trattoria

    Top Italian

    This family-owned Italian joint serves up the best of Milan, by a chef who got his start there. Aside from rich pastas dripping with sauce, the star of the menu is the cotoletta alla Milanese, a breaded veal chop served with arugula and grape tomatoes.

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Spacca Napoli

    Top Pizza

    Offering a taste of Naples on the north side of Chicago, you'll have a difficult time choosing between the dozen red and white pies. We suggest the Bufalina with tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, basil and olive oil or the Fiori with fior di latte, garlic, grated zucchini, grape tomatoes and squash blossoms.

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Hot Doug's

    Top Hot Dog

    The next time you get a craving for an exotic hot dog, head to this meat mecca in Avondale. The green curry pork sausage comes with spicy peanut sauce, toasted coconut and fried rice sticks, while the pepperoni, spinach and mozzarella pork sausage is slathered in pesto aïoli, slow-roasted tomatoes and burrata.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Top BBQ

    Slow-smoked and saucy is the only way this BBQ joint knows how to serve its flavorful meats. Favorites include St. Louis-style ribs served by the slab and sliced brisket with macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and fresh-cut fries.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Top Greek

    Not only is the food a mouthful at this Greek gem, but the names are too. Start with the xoriatiki salata (heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, red onions and peppers with feta in red wine vinaigrette), then continue on to prassopita - leeks and goat feta in phyllo dough - and htapodaki sti schara, a substantial serving of wood-grilled octopus.

  • Credit: Nick Murway

    Longman & Eagle

    Top Gastropub

    Whether diners are spending the night at this restaurant-hotel combo or just grabbing a bite to eat with a whiskey cocktail, the lamb tartare is the perfect start to any evening. It's served with a 15-minute quail egg, pickled sea beans, white asparagus, celeriac remoulade, micro celery, boquerone olive oil and mustard foam.