Illinois Flavors is an official web site of the Illinois Office of Tourism
Bites of Illinois
Whether you like cuisine that’s Chicago-style, world-class or served up with a little Americana, you’ll find it in Illinois. Discover everything from Michelin-starred restaurants and local delicacies to farmers’ markets and culinary events around Illinois.
There are good restaurants. There are great restaurants. And then there are these restaurants—considered among the very best in Chicago, Illinois and the country. Bon appétit.
Known as the “Oscars of Food,” the James Beard Foundation recognizes excellence in all aspects of the food and beverage industry—from chefs to the journalists who cover them. Some of these celebrated award winners hail from an eclectic mix of Chicago restaurants.
Nestled in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and overlooking the stunning downtown skyline, North Pond’s view is as awe-inspiring as its food. Chef Bruce Sherman, voted Best Chef Great Lakes, draws inspiration from local ingredients and his worldwide travels to produce his contemporary French-American, innovative and seasonal cuisine.
Next’s exploration of world cuisine combined with modern service and a unique reservation system makes them an industry leader. With themed rotating menus such as Sicily, Kyoto and Ferran Adria’s molecular gastronomy of El Bulli, they keep foodies craving more. Crowned the Best New Restaurant in America, this certainly will be the first of many awards.
Outstanding Pastry Chef was awarded to Chef and Owner Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate. Her newly renovated restaurant in the bustling Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago is a staple, where she is known for her amazing sweets, as well as her simple and hearty food menu. Just make sure you save room for dessert!
Every year, chefs around the world hold their breath as Michelin announces which restaurants will receive their coveted stars. In Chicago, you’ll find 21 Michelin-starred restaurants, including one deemed to be “worth a special journey.” Praise, indeed.
Dining on a budget? The Bib Gourmand ratings recognize restaurants that are a great value.
Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
Alinea has always been about innovation and pushing the culinary envelope, and is the only restaurant in Chicago to boast three Michelin stars. Chef Grant Achatz ’s culinary spirit and commitment to outstanding service make Alinea shine as one of the finest restaurants in the world. When dining at Alinea, patrons are on a multi-course adventure, showcasing Achatz’s roots in molecular gastronomy and creative genius.
Very good cuisine in its category
Longman & Eagle
Here is just a taste of the more than 50 Bib Gourmand restaurants in Chicago, recognized for their good cuisine at a reasonable price.
GT Fish & Oyster
Lao Sze Chuan
Sol de Mexico
Taste of Peru
Named one of the Hot Eco-Friendly Restaurants in America by
in 2008, Firefly Grill refers to itself as a modern roadhouse situated in the nation’s heartland.
Chef Josh Adams uses organic products to prepare modern American cuisine, which is one of the reasons June was named one of the Best New Restaurants in America by
Travel + Leisure
when it opened in 2009.
17th Street Bar
17th Street Bar & Grill has been captured on the small screen by the Food Network and the Travel Channel, mainly because Pitmaster Mike Mills is a barbecue legend, owner of four barbecue joints in Illinois.
of Lake Forest
Located in a charming historic community in Chicago’s north suburbs, Lovell’s is where you will experience fine dining in an environment of casual elegance. Owned by astronaut James A. Lovell and his family, diners will revel in an American-style menu while taking in Apollo 13 memorabilia.
You know Illinois favorites like Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza. But what about the horseshoe sandwich, the Cozy Dog and Mary Todd Lincoln’s special recipe for white cake?
Visit Pinterest for this recipe and more.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – something Mary Todd Lincoln took to heart as she baked her famous white cake for 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, during their courtship.
In 1943, Ike Sewell in Chicago dished up a unique variation of traditional Italian and American pizzas with a coarse, crunchy crust, sauce on top of cheese and other fillings, which was then baked in a deep dish or pan. At his restaurant Pizzeria Uno, these pizzas were so popular that he soon had to open a second restaurant, appropriately called Pizzeria Due. At both places you will always find a long line outside of those waiting to try this deep-dish wonder.
What makes a Chicago Dog? You start with a steamed or water-simmered all-beef hot dog (with casings for added snap) on a steamed poppy seed bun. Then “drag it through the garden” by adding chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. Top with yellow mustard (never ketchup) and enjoy!
There are many alleged originators of the Chicago Italian Beef. Invented in the 1930s, an Italian Beef (or simply “Beef”) is a sandwich stuffed with thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll. The bread itself is often dipped into the juices the meat is cooked in (or “wet”), and is topped with hot Chicago-style giardiniera or sautéed sweet green peppers.
Cozy Dog is home to the tasty hot dog on a stick. Not to be confused with a corn dog, this iconic snack is dipped in a special batter and deep-fried until it is perfectly crispy. The restaurant is located right on Route 66 and full of nostalgic memorabilia, so get your kicks while enjoying their drive-in menu.
All across America, travelers can enjoy sandwiches known state by state for their local ingredients and flair. In Springfield, Illinois, that sandwich is the Horseshoe. It most commonly consists of two pieces of white toast covered by a beef patty and a mountain of crispy French fries, then generously covered in a velvety cheese sauce.
Illinois’ state snack food is popcorn, and who doesn’t love popcorn? The proof is the long line outside Garrett Popcorn, founded in Chicago in 1949. Go for the Chicago Mix – a cheesy and sweet combo of caramel and cheddar. The popular Skinny Pop popcorn was also created in Illinois, offering a great-tasting treat that is all-natural and low in calories.
A chef at Chicago's famed Palmer House Hilton invented the brownie in 1893 for one of the owners, Bertha Palmer, for the Women's Pavilion at the World’s Columbian Exposition. The recipe has been handed down from chef to chef and is still served at the hotel today.
The most colorful of candies – Lemonheads, Red Hots and Boston Baked Beans – were invented in Illinois. Salvatore Ferrara came to America from Italy in 1900 and founded the Ferrara Pan Candy Company in 1908, where today they produce about 470,000 pounds of candy per day.
The Goldrush apple is the state fruit of Illinois. With a tangy sweet-tart taste, they are perfect in pies and crisps. The name refers to the golden color and the rush of rich, spicy flavor.
More than 80 percent of the world's canned pumpkin is produced in Morton. Celebrate this most American squash at the annual Morton Pumpkin Festival where you can taste everything pumpkin from ice cream to baked beans. While in Morton you can stop by Ackerman Farms, where they have over 160 varieties each season.
STATE OF ILLINOIS
Pat Quinn, Governor
Adam Pollet, Director
Jennifer Hoelzle, Deputy Director
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
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