Last Updated on August 5, 2023
Chicago is a unique city, and it has increasingly become a world-class gastronomic destination loved and adored by tourists. Whether through street food with numerous delicious options or through the finest dining experiences at restaurants, Chicago has a lot to offer in terms of gastronomic pleasures for every budget.
For those looking for a truly luxurious and exclusive dining experience, there are several esteemed restaurants commanding riveting attention for their opulence and culinary excellence.
Alternatively, for the more budget-conscious food lovers, food tours provide an opportunity to explore Chicago’s gastronomy without breaking the bank.
In this guide, we not only present nine of the most expensive and exquisite fine dining establishments in Chicago but also highlight the advantages of food tours as a more cost-effective option to indulge in the city’s rich culinary offerings.
The gastronomical titan and internationally acclaimed three-Michelin-star beacon that is Alinea stands as a testament to the limitless potential of culinary art. Led by the visionary chef Grant Achatz, every facet of the dining experience is painstakingly designed to transport you on a sensorial journey.
Alinea deconstructs and redefines traditional fine dining through the lens of modernist cuisine. Diners are enticed, intrigued, and sometimes even confounded, navigating their way through a series of innovative dishes. Each course strives to inspire emotion, pushing boundaries through experimental techniques and thought-provoking presentation. It isn’t just a dinner at Alinea; it’s a rewarding exploration of the relationship between food and the senses.
Oriole, a Michelin two-star wonder, rests in the city’s heart, offering a cornucopia of culinary delights woven into a multi-course tasting menu. Steered by the culinary maestro, Noah Sandoval, Oriole is the embodiment of casual luxury. A harmonious fusion of modern technique and soulful flavors mark every dish on the docket.
From the moment you enter this plush industrial loft situated inconspicuously in a West Loop alley, Oriole pledges an intimate dining experience that expertly threads the delicate needle of being over-the-top yet refined, exuberant yet tranquil, and adventurous yet comforting.
Bringing to life the “farm-to-table” ethos in an elevated form is Smyth, the Michelin two-star establishment where the Midwestern landscape’s essence graces every plate. Customers can expect a dynamic 12 to 15-course tasting menu that changes with the winds of the seasons, continually offering fresh gustatory encounters.
Its collaboration with key regional farmers and local producers fosters a unique dialogue between the kitchen and the earth, seamlessly blending the dining table with the farming field. Each visit is unique at Smyth, placing you in a revolving epicurean narrative that marries rustic charm with urban sophistication.
Spiaggia, a gem of Chicago’s fine dining scene, brings authentic Italian luxury to the heart of the city. As the city’s most prestigious Italian restaurant, Spiaggia is a canvas where traditional Italian cuisine meets modern reinvention to create an artistic masterpiece. With a mesmerizing view of Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile, the atmosphere is imbued with an unmatched sophistication.
Its dedication to quality and authenticity is unrivaled, reflected in the artisanal pastas, carefully sourced ingredients, and innovative pairings. Every dish is a testament to the core essence of Italian cuisine, blending old-world charm with cutting-edge creativity.
Scaling the gastronomical peaks, you’ll find Everest on the Chicago Stock Exchange’s 40th floor. This Michelin-starred restaurant figuratively and literally ‘elevates’ dining, promising French culinary mastery synonymous with opulence. Chef Jean Joho continues his decades-long tradition of setting the refined dining bar higher, with an Alsatian-inspired menu that mirrors the changing seasons.
The theatricality of dining at Everest is an experience unto itself. Here, culinary virtuosity marries awe-inspiring vistas, offering panoramic views of Chicago’s cityscape. As you indulge in the ethereal tasting menu, the city sprawls out beneath you, lending a mesmerizing backdrop to a dining spectacle worthy of its hefty price tag.
6. RPM Steak
RPM Steak brings a touch of glamour to the traditional American steakhouse. Spearheaded by celebrity couple Giuliana and Bill Rancic, this fashionable restaurant sits regally in the River North neighborhood. Boasting an impressive selection of high-quality steaks, the skilled kitchen team sees to it that every cut is cooked to perfection. An elegant atmosphere, vibrant bar, and attentive staff make for an unforgettable dining experience that reimagines the classic steakhouse setting.
7. Leña Brava
A product of the legendary chef Rick Bayless, Leña Brava masterfully fuses bold flavors with stunning presentation. Situated in the bustling West Loop, this temple of Mexican haute cuisine specializes in Baja California-style dishes. The open kitchen takes center stage with wood-fired grills that infuse exceptional flavors into seafood and meat. Pair your meal with Leña Brava’s locally sourced agave-based spirits or an artisanal cocktail and let the aromas of fire-roasted fare transport you south of the border.
8. Les Nomades
Tucked away in an elegant townhouse in the upscale Streeterville neighborhood, Les Nomades epitomizes French fine dining in Chicago. With a lengthy reputation for culinary excellence, this refined establishment impresses with its classic French cuisine, extensive wine selection, and impeccable service. The romantic ambience offers a serene escape from the bustling streets, with each exquisite dish delivering a piece of French culinary heritage to your table.
9. Gibson’s Italia
Poised above the Chicago River, Gibson’s Italia is a contemporary Italian-American steakhouse that redefines waterfront dining. With an unmatched view of the city’s skyline, Gibson’s Italia serves the finest USDA-certified steaks, artisanal pasta, and fresh seafood. Dive into their expertly curated wine list, which consists of over 500 vintages, including a selection of wine that is produced and imported exclusively for the restaurant. The multi-tier experience, punctuated by the enthralling views, guarantees an exceptional dining odyssey.
Fine Dining in Chicago: A Wealth of Culinary Treasures
Chicago is home to some of the world’s most renowned and refined restaurants, where culinary artistry is revered, and sensorial satisfaction is exalted. Each establishment on this list offers its own unique interpretation of gourmet cuisine, punctuated by exemplary service, enchanting ambience, and the finest ingredients. These nine venues provide the crème de la crème of Chicago’s dining experiences, leaving an indelible impression as they cater to the discerning palates of their patrons.
A Budget-Friendly Feasting Extravaganza: Chicago’s Food Tours
For those who prefer a more wallet-friendly yet delicious foray into the Windy City’s culinary milieu, food tours have become a popular choice among locals and visitors alike. These guided explorations offer a chance to discover various neighborhoods, sample a delightful range of specialties, and learn about the city’s vibrant food culture, all without the hefty price tag associated with fine dining establishments.
Not only are food tours an economical alternative to experience the city’s gastronomy, but they also provide a more interactive and diverse journey. Participants often find themselves discovering new flavors and learning the stories and history of the eateries they visit. Food tours usually last several hours and may be focused on a particular theme, such as ethnic cuisine, a specific neighborhood, or a culinary technique.
Navigating Chicago’s eclectic food scene through food tours promises an engaging, informative, and most importantly, delicious adventure for those wanting to enjoy multiple local dishes without expending large sums of money. This accessible and exciting option allows you to revel in the city’s gastronomical wonders without the fine dining sticker shock.
Whether dressed to the nines for an indulgent evening at a posh venue or venturing through the city’s dynamic neighborhoods on a food tour, Chicago offers the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable culinary escapade!