111 Essential Chicago Restaurants According to a Very Peculiar and Biased Palate
The Hunger cosplays as a listicle-generating traditional food publication
Does Oriole or Alinea belong on all those best Chicago restaurant lists you see floating around town? I don’t know. I’ve been to both, but I haven’t been to either of them in over four years, so while it’s likely they still rule, I couldn’t in good confidence put them on a list without a current visit.
I’m willing to bet, given current media budgets, and how long those places have been open 75% of the people who’ve written those kinds of best of lists don’t know either. The writers likely never went and they just took Michelin’s word or the restaurant’s reputation as evidence to include them.
Still those spots probably belong given past performance, but what about 89 Chicago burgers to try before you die or the 42 best Mexican escargots in Pilsen lists you see?
Most of the writers of those lists also didn’t go to every one of their selections either. Likely they compiled the combined intelligence of multiple writers or again just confirmed the collective ratings of the internet. In some cases these selections are served up by PR or friends.
This isn’t always true. Nick Kindelsperger, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, truly did his homework, and often presented it on Instagram, when he was on a taco or chicken ceasar wrap crawl, and it’s why I respect him so much.
Titus Ruscitti aka Chibbqking is one of the most intrepid eaters this city has.
Steve Dolinsky truly ate a million pizzas before he wrote his Pizza City USA book
Nick and Steve and Titus are exceptions though. Most folks don’t have the passion or the resources to send out a single writer with a single point of view or multiple writers to all the same spots to achieve more objective criticism.
Most lists are horrifically flawed. The only reason they exist is because consumer clicks are advertising currency and lists are pure clickbait. Also, people don’t have time to read qualitatively anymore.
This is also why I try to stay away from writing listicles. As hard as I try, I know even mine will still be horrifically flawed. I have relationships with people. I haven’t eaten everywhere. I haven’t eaten at some objectively great spots in over five years.
But, what the heck, why not make the ultimate listicle anyway.
Before we get going, some ground rules..
1) I restricted the list to places I’ve visited in the last three years or less, henceforth like I said Oriole and Alinea, and for that matter, Goosefoot, don’t make the list even though they’re likely still amazing.
2) If you didn’t make the list. It’s means nothing. You’re probably still amazing because…
3) This is a dumb objective list. I probably just forgot you because if there’s 104 restaurants here, there’s probably at least 14 others I forgot that’ll I remember tomorrow.
4) And yes, you’re right, I am an idiot because I left X or Y, your favorite spot off the list.
5) That being said if you’re on this list it’s because I really do think what you’re doing is essential and whether a tourist or a hardcore foodie wanted a rec, this is the list I’d give.
6) This list is going to evolve and I’ll update it over time and put it somewhere centrally on The Hunger, so if like I mentioned earlier you don’t have time to read good, but you need a pocket primer, well, here you go.
7) Finally, the list is in alphabetical order, because restaurants are not a sport. A Rubi’s mole rojo taco is as righteous as a Jenner Tomaska Cheeto from Esme.