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4 Chicago Culinary Stand-Outs

Written by  Adam Marks
Girl & The Goat, Photo by Jeff Kauck Girl & The Goat, Photo by Jeff Kauck

From shouting chefs to world-famous cuisine, Chicago is home to some of the most renowned eateries in America. With price points beginning in the bargain basement, there is truly something for everyone. I bet you will recognize something about these restaurants, so why not try the food for yourself?

Billy Goat Tavern

A Chicago Institution
If you (or your parents) were watching Saturday Night Live in 1978, you already know the Billy Goat Tavern. Immortalized by Dan Akroyd, Jim Belushi, and Bill Murray, these Greek chefs are still known to shout “Cheezborger cheezborger!” while at work. But beyond the fame, you are sure to get a tasty sandwich, and your wallet won’t be much lighter. The most expensive item on their menu is the Italian Beef, clocking in at $5.95.


Rick Bayless of Food TV fame
Do you watch Food TV? If you are reading this article at all, the answer is probably yes. In that case, Rick Bayless needs no introduction. This celebrity chef is famous for his Mexican authenticity despite not actually being Mexican. You would never know by his food, however! The Bayless complex at Clark and Illinois Streets includes three restaurants at different price points, but my favorite is the least expensive.  Xoco has a simple menu of sandwiches and soups, but you’ll leave stuffed and happy. No reservations are accepted, but you will have to wait a while. It’s entirely worth it, however, for the decadent flavors of Bayless’ work. If it happens to be a chilly day, his spicy soups will warm you right up.

Girl and the Goat

Top Chef Stephanie Izard – Season 4
In 2008, small wonder Stephanie Izard wooed the nation on Top Chef, and she has used her success quite wisely. When Girl and the Goat opened a few years back, it was impossible to get into, fantastically maintained, and reasonably priced. Today, not much has changed. It remains a popular choice with travelers and locals alike, and the quality of food and service hasn’t suffered a bit. Try the green beans with a fish sauce vinaigrette, or the crispy pig cheek with a sunny egg. Keep your eye out for Izard. She tends to bounce around the kitchen like a trapped hummingbird, working all the time.


Regularly mentioned as one of (if not the) top restaurants in America, Alinea has star quality across the globe. It has the coveted three-star rating from Michelin, an Grant Achatz remains one of the most inventive chefs in practice. His molecular gastronomy means that you’ll consume familiar items in unfamiliar ways (squab inspired by Miró). Truly an event, this dinner will be your evening’s entertainment. It doesn’t come cheap, but you’ll have stories and memories to last you a lifetime.

Regardless of your price point, Chicago has memorable experiences to offer you that allow you to dance around the edges of fame. Even though these restaurants were made famous by television or fancy reviews, each one offers a unique take on cuisine, and is conducive to phenomenal social outings. Do consider one of these four famous spots when picking where to eat next in the Windy City.

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Eden Bernal prefers 4 Chicago Culinary Stand-Outs
August 5, 2012 at 13:50 PM

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Fred Eberle 2012-10-19 10:59
It's tough to get a reservation at the Girl and the Goat, but they do take walk ins. Go early for the best chance of being won't be disappointed.

BobbyGonzalez 2012-04-26 16:34
XOCO is a must do for lunch while you are in Chicago!!! They have a great location in River North, walking distance from the shops on Michigan Avenue, you won't be disappointed - I promise! If you like spicy, ask for the homemade habanero salsa they have hidden behind the counter! Splash a little on your torta and AWAY YOU GO!