Cheese tea and Szechuan Sauce are all the rage right now but the classics never go out of style. Just like Julia Child, Chicago’s French restaurants are reliable stalwarts that deliver both traditional and modernized experiences. Diners don’t have to know the mother sauces or how to pronounce “bourguignon” to appreciate the following spots, which range from the longstanding Les Nomades to Michael Mina’s Margeaux Brasserie. And if guests aren’t already a Francophiles, well, chances they might be after trying some of these dishes. Listed from north to south.Read More
16 Fantastic French Restaurants in Chicago
Out in Winnetka, Michael Lachowicz has been quietly impressing North Shore residents for more than a decade. The chef and owner, who worked under Jean Banchet at the legendary Le Francais, prepares traditional French comforts with modern twists. Expect delights to include butter fried veal sweetbreads, sautéed wagyu beef, filet of loup de mer, and roasted venison with sauce grand veneur. Guests looking for an even more refined meal can dine at George Trois, a tasting menu-only experience hosted inside Restaurant Michael’s intimate private space.
While it’s not a literal “countryside bistro” like the name translates to, Bistro Campagne is a homey and reliable spot for some hearty French fare. Emphasizing fresh and organic ingredients, the menu boasts comforting onion soup, steak frites, fig bread pudding, and more. And in the summertime, the outdoor patio provides a relaxing escape from the urban environment.
Diners will feel right at home at this cozy Lincoln Park bistro. Chef Dominique Tougne’s rustic approach to regional specialties offers dishes like duck confit tart, braised rabbit, and the signature qualidu — quail, duck, and foie gras in bordelaise sauce. The restaurant also recently converted its private dining space into a speakeasy lounge, called Ooh La La, that serves classic French cocktails and bar bites.
Lincoln Park’s contemporary French restaurant opened its doors in 2015 to rave reviews. The elegant setting befits chef Ryan Burns’s beautiful dishes, which encompass everything from steak au poivre to a remarkable piece of roasted foie gras with banana, black walnut, and fruit condiment. It takes a lot of gumption to play with traditional flavors but as Burns shows, the results can be immensely satisfying.
Take it as a good sign that there’s usually a line at this small neighborhood bistro. It’s because guests know the wait is worth it. Beef bourguignon dumplings, Alsace onion tart, cheesy onion soup, and a whole roasted duck for two are just a few of the highlights. Weekly specials include half-price wine on Mondays and a $25 three-course prix fixe menu on Tuesdays.
With the look and feel of an authentic Parisian bistro, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the City of Light at Bistrot Zinc. Take a culinary trip overseas with classics like escargot, mussels steamed with white wine, salade Lyonnaise, steak frites, and roasted chicken. On the weekends, start the day off right by cozying up at the zinc-topped bar and ordering sweet or savory crepes for brunch.
Celebrity chef Michael Mina made his Chicago debut over the summer inside the Waldorf Astoria. His sultry brasserie combines 1920s glam with traditional fare for lavish dining experience. Nibble on duck wings à l'orange and escargots à la bordelaise or indulge in a pristine shellfish tower. Whatever you decide, just make sure to get a side of the macaroni gratineé — a comforting French take on mac and cheese.
Located just two blocks off the Mag Mile, this modern day bistro is the passion project of French vet Martial Noguier. The food shines with simplicity, utilizing ingredients sourced from Midwest farms. Guests have various cheese and charcuterie choices alongside items such as housemade ravioli, roasted lamb rack, and an outstanding Le French burger that took home the top honors at Chicago Gourmet’s Hamburger Hop in 2016.
Also featured in:
Fancy and intricate French dishes are always a pleasure but sometimes all you need is a cup of coffee, a croissant, and prime views. This all-day café inside the Peninsula offers a casual setting that’s ripe for people-watching in the heart of downtown. Though the menu includes items like tarte flambée, boeuf bourguignon, and duck cassoulet, the restaurant’s bakery is its biggest standout. No matter how full you may be, save room for the beautiful macaroons, cakes, and pastry selection.
The white tablecloth experience to end all white tablecloth experiences, Les Nomades is a venerable fine dining restaurant that’s been wowing diners since the 70s. Chef Roland Liccioni serves edible art on a plate inside an intimate Streeterville brownstone, making it the perfect spot for a special occasion. Gentlemen are required to wear jackets and it’s tasting menu-only, but those willing to take the plunge are treated to ever-changing luxuries such as chilled foie gras torchon, lobster and shrimp salad, veal sweetbreads, Grand Marnier soufflé, and much more.
Also featured in:
Jason Paskewitz made a mark as the opening chef at The Blanchard and, after a brief hiatus, is back to cooking what he does best. The all-day brasserie has replaced Pearl Tavern with Parisian Art Deco decadence and a menu touting fresh spins on French hits. Drop in for a pre-theater meal and sit along the Chicago River while enjoying a three-course prix fixe menu that features options like lobster bisque, frisée aux lardons, salmon with white bean ragout, flourless chocolate mousse cake, and more.
Maude's Liquor Bar
Brendan Sodikoff’s expansive restaurant empire has proven itself adept at tackling an array of different cuisines — French included. The seductive West Loop bar channels Paris with a gorgeous, dimly-lit interior and shareable plates that excite. Live your best life and sip on a French 75 while complementing it with grandiose seafood towers and bites like foie gras pate and rich cassoulet.
Cochon Volant Brasserie
The Loop isn’t quite rife with French cuisine so this casual steakhouse, attached to the Hyatt Centric and run by WellDone Hospitality Group, has been a welcome addition to the area since opening two years ago. Whether guests stop in during lunch for a beef dip sandwich or treat themselves to a nice hunk of dry-aged beef at dinner, there are plenty of delicious choices that’ll evoke visions of Paris.
If Chicago’s French dining scene were a metaphorical mountain, then Everest would sit at its peak. Perched on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Michelin-starred restaurant has been a longstanding beacon of excellence. Three decades of cooking have yielded favorites such as shirred egg with Ossestra caviar, roasted lobster in Alsace Gewurztraminer butter and ginger, and the classic sole meunière.
Chez Joel Bistro Francais
It’s not just all about Italian food on Taylor Street. Brothers Joël and Ahmed Kazouini proudly fly the French banner with Gallic specialties such as coq au vin, steak frites, and bouillabaisse. For a romantic night out, it doesn’t get much more charming than the dining room here. All that’s missing is a view of Tour Eiffel.
La Petite Folie
France comes to Hyde Park thanks to this upscale eatery located in a South Side strip mall. Chef and owner Mary Mastricola’s menu promotes seasonality and diners can look forward to rabbit pate, trout grenobloise, lavender-honey roasted chicken, and an all-French wine list. Early birds will also get the best bang for their buck as a three-course prix fixe special, priced at $38 per person, is offered daily between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.