It shouldn’t be a big surprise that the biggest city in the region scored the most restaurants in the inaugural Eater Midwest 38, released today via Eater National. Ten restaurants represented Chicago — as did Palatine’s Ramen House Shinchan. Eater restaurant critic Bill Addison’s selections include three-Michelin-starred Alinea in Lincoln Park, Beard Award-winning chef Sarah Grueneberg’s West Loop pasta mecca Monteverde, and South Side rib tip staple Honey 1 BBQ in Bronzeville.
Chicagoans like to point to a laundry list of accolades and how their city is home to the Beard Awards as evidence of Chicago’s culinary sophistication — one that stretches beyond comfort foods like deep-dish pizza and hot dogs. But not everything has gone upscale, Addison said. The list captures the most-essential restaurants in the Midwest, and the state breakdown went like this: Illinois (11), Indiana (three), Michigan (six), Minnesota (four), Ohio (eight), and Wisconsin (five).
“The ‘meat and potatoes diet’ persists as a default stereotype of the Midwest, but, if you’re looking for it, in any of the region’s cities there’s a wealth of cuisines and cultures,” Addison said. “Chicago has that multiplicity encapsulated and magnified: The immigrant communities who’ve translated their specialties into restaurant environments and that in turn become culinary touchstones for the community; a surplus of creative chefs who learned from pioneers like Charlie Trotter and create their own singular cuisines.”
Jonathan Brooks’ Milktooth led the way in Indiana. University of Michigan favorite Zingerman’s Deli is a highlight from The Mitten. Meritage in the Twin Cities and Camp Washington Chili in Cincinnati also earned spots. So did Ardent, Milwaukee’s acclaimed tasting-menu restaurant. While Chicago’s culinary excellence didn’t surprise Addison, he did uncover a few unexpected finds.
“Like all the greatest American food cities, there’s a kinetic sense to the dining scene; I show up and I’m never sure what new regional Mexican cuisine will have emerged, or which chef will be spinning together ingredients and ideas in startling, wonderful ways.,” he said. “I’m always most surprised — maybe delighted is a better word, by how so much greatness comes out of Chicago’s neighborhood restaurants: I’m thinking particularly of Parachute and Fat Rice and Mi Tocaya, but there are so many others.”
Restaurants from Illinois are listed below. Check out the full Midwest 38 on Eater National.
Eater Midwest 38 Illinois Restaurants
- Alinea (Lincoln Park)
- Big Jones (Andersonville)
- Boeufhaus (Ukrainian Village/Humboldt Park)
- Fat Rice (Logan Square)
- Honey 1 BBQ (Bronzeville)
- Mi Tocaya Antojeria (Logan Square)
- Monteverde (West Loop)
- Parachute (Avondale)
- The Publican (Fulton Market)
- Ramen House Shinchan (Palatine)
- Schwa (Wicker Park)