- Best Splurge: The standard-bearer for Chicago's reinvention as a culinary leader is Alinea, where chef Grant Achatz astounds and delights professional critics and amateur foodies with his ability to transform familiar food into unexpected shapes, textures, and presentations.
- Best View: Forty stories above Chicago, Everest, in the heart of the Loop, astounds with a spectacular view — and food to match. The panoramas are equally awe-inspiring at the Signature Room at the 95th, which is perched on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center, the city's second-tallest building. Closer to earth, diners on the patio at Greektown's Athena get a panoramic view of the city skyline.
- Best Spot for a Romantic Dinner: Secluded North Pond is an Arts and Crafts-style retreat with a postcard-perfect setting in Lincoln Park. Not only does it boast a dramatic vista of the Gold Coast skyline, but the restaurant's out-of-the-way locale also requires diners to begin and end their meals with an idyllic stroll through the park.
- Best Cheap Eats: It's hard to find a dining bargain downtown, but foodlife, inside the Water Tower Place shopping center, offers affordable lunch and dinner options in the heart of North Michigan Avenue's shopping district. Yes, it's a food court, but there are no chain fast-food stalls here: Instead you'll find a variety of made-to-order choices, from stir fry and burgers to fresh salads and pastas. In Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, cash-strapped 20-somethings and families head to Penny's Noodle Shop for delicious, low-priced Asian noodle dishes and soups.
- Best for Kids: Going out for deep-dish pizza is pretty much a requirement for any family visiting Chicago. Gino's East and the original Pizzeria Uno have been around for decades, and they're still serving up authentic versions of the city's gooey, gut-busting specialty. For something different from the usual fast food, try Wishbone in the West Loop, a family-owned spot specializing in Southern food with a casual vibe and plenty of mix-and-match menu options for fussy eaters.
- Best American Cuisine: It's no longer the see-and-be-seen spot it was when it first opened, but mk is actually better now that the crowds have moved on, serving up accessible twists on classic American dishes in a space that is both comfortable and sophisticated.
- Best French Cuisine: An updated take on the bistro experience, Bistronomic offers classic French dishes in a fresh, modern setting, just a few blocks from the Magnificent Mile. Convivial Mon Ami Gabi re-creates the look and feel of a Parisian cafe, steps from Lincoln Park Zoo and the lakefront.
- Best Italian Cuisine: Even without the glamorous view of the Magnificent Mile, ultra-elegant Spiaggia would draw diners with its gourmet versions of classic Italian cuisine. For a more casual atmosphere, it's hard to beat Mia Francesca in Lincoln Park, or its sister restaurant, Francesca's on Chestnut, just off the Magnificent Mile. Both are bustling, Americanized twists on classic trattoria dining, where the fresh, seasonal pastas are the main draw.
- Best Steakhouse: Legendary Chicago restaurateur Arnie Morton no longer prowls the dining room, but Morton's remains the king of the city's old-guard steakhouses, serving up gargantuan wet-aged steaks and baked potatoes. Gene & Georgetti is another blast from the past, a long-time hangout for the city's movers and shakers that's barely changed since it opened in 1941 — and that's exactly why the regulars like it. And we'd be remiss not to mention Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse which is the kind of place to live large (literally). The portions are enormous, so you're encouraged to share, which only adds to the party atmosphere.
- Best Pretheater Dinner: A longtime local favorite in the Loop, the Italian Village — three restaurants run by one family under one roof — knows how to get its clientele seated and fed in time for a show. For Chicago Symphony Orchestra audiences, Rhapsody is conveniently located in the Symphony Center building. If you're seeing a play in Lincoln Park, stop first for tasty tapas and pitchers of sangria at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.