Chicago is a world-class culinary city. What often gets overlooked, though, are the terrific options available in the surrounding areas. Destination dining exists in the suburbs and those who live near the following spots can likely attest to their excellence. Some have been in business for decades — a testament to their quality. Greek standout Avli, wings specialist Buffalo Joe’s, and master of smoked meats, Chicago Culinary Kitchen, are among the latest additions to the list.Read More
The 20 Essential Chicago Suburban Restaurants
The best bites outside city limits
1. Bob Chinn's Crab House
Living in the Midwest means fresh, quality seafood is a rare catch. Fortunately for suburbanites, Bob Chinn’s receives products daily from local purveyors and offers an extensive selection of crab legs, lobsters, fish, shrimp, and a killer Mai Tai. The crab house’s success has made it one of the highest-grossing independent restaurants in the country.
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2. Chicago Culinary Kitchen
Owners Kristina and Greg Gaardbo have earned high marks and a devoted following for their Texas-style barbecue. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the couple sold limited quantities of brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and other smoked meats on the weekends. Currently, the Chicago Culinary Kitchen food truck can be found every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 2391 N. Hicks Road in Palatine. The business also offers cooking classes and will eventually move to a new location to accommodate more customers.
While Avli now has two locations in Chicago, the contemporary Greek eatery originated in Winnetka. Customers who just want the most popular hits — gyros, spanakopita, saganaki — will find inspired versions here. But diving deeper into the menu also reveals highlights like kataifi prawns and lobster pasta with ouzo-tomato sauce.
4. George Trois
Chef-owner Michael Lachowicz overhauled his celebrated French restaurant in 2019 in order to provide three different dining experiences. Jean Banchet Award-winning George Trois, an intimate five-table room that offers an elevated tasting menu, was the lone holdover. It was joined by French-American brasserie Aboyer and Silencieux, a quiet mid-level restaurant that’s suited for conversation-friendly meals. Currently, Lachowicz is grilling steaks, chops, seafood, sausages, and burgers to go.
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5. Chef Ping
The mecca of Chinese cuisine in the suburbs, and arguably all of Chicagoland, is this Rolling Meadows spot. Familiar go-tos, such as General Tso’s chicken and broccoli beef, don’t disappoint but Chef Ping’s home-style dishes are the true standouts. The spicy Gan Pong recipes are deeply satisfying, as are old-time favorites like twice-cooked pork and shredded pork with yellow leeks.
6. Buffalo Joe's
For North Shore residents, wings are synonymous with this Evanston institution. The chicken is fried until it’s extra crispy and then tossed in founder Joe Prudden’s tangy, buttery sauce. Spiciness ranges from mild to “suicide,” and the quintessential game day food is best paired with a side of Buff Joe’s waffle fries.
7. Edzo's Burger Shop
Great burgers are not only everywhere in Chicago, but the ‘burbs too. Edzo’s offers thin griddled patties, beefy char burgers, and even a turkey option. Don’t forget the loaded fries or a hand-dipped milkshake, either.
8. Chodang Tofu Village
Stay nourished with sizzling-hot tofu soups courtesy of this Korean stalwart in Mount Prospect. Chodang dedicates much of its menu to comforting sundubu-jjigae served in stone pots. There are several variations, including seafood, beef, and pork, and diners choose their spice level. Each order arrives with a host of banchan and a raw egg to poach in the broth.
9. Boston Fish Market
Fresh seafood in Chicagoland doesn’t get much better than what’s available at this fish market that also doubles as a restaurant. Expect an abundance of salmon and whitefish — Boston Fish Market is the Midwest’s largest processor of both — alongside delicacies like Chilean sea bass, king crab legs, and Maine lobsters. A second outpost is located in Wheeling.
10. New York Bagel & Bialy
The best bagels in Chicagoland are boiled and baked in a Lincolnwood strip mall just off I-94. This 24-hour shop slings New York-style bagels that are soft, chewy, and doughy. Grab a dozen to go or enjoy them in sandwich form, filled with lox, corned beef, or pastrami.
11. Gene & Jude's
The iconic River Grove hot dog stand needs little introduction. Its famous Depression Dog is topped with just mustard, onions, relish, sport peppers, and a handful of fries. Ketchup lovers will have to look elsewhere for the tomato condiment.
12. Johnnie's Beef
Elmwood Park, IL 60707
Italian beef aficionados know that the finest version of the sandwich is out in Elmwood Park (there's a second Johnnie’s in Arlington Heights, too). The well-seasoned beef is finely chopped and loaded onto Gonnella bread, and diners can (and should) have it dipped in jus and balanced with giardiniera or sweet peppers. On a hot day, the housemade Italian ices are also required eating.
13. Bien Trucha
It doesn’t get as much recognition as some Chicago taquerias but Geneva residents know Bien Trucha stacks up to the best. The town’s busiest restaurant, whose name roughly translates to “on top of one’s game,” sets the standard for Mexican dining in the suburbs with an outstanding array of tacos. The signature Bien Trucha taco — carne asada, chorizo, roasted tomatillo salsa, and a layer of melted Chihuahua cheese — is a must-try.
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14. Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits
In 2011, four Spiaggia vets landed in Berwyn and opened a cozy neighborhood bistro. The result: Destination-worthy Mediterranean fare consisting of seasonal shared plates, pastas, and flatbreads. The eclectic drink list is equally impressive, showcasing a selection of old world wines and small-batch spirits. Autre Monde is currently offering weekend dinner packages for two on Tock.
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15. Katy's Dumplings
An essential spot for Chinese food, Katy’s is renowned for its hand-pulled noodles and fresh dumplings. Menu favorites include pan-fried potstickers, beef noodle soup, and scallion pancakes stuffed with meats and veggies.
Paul Virant's lauded restaurant has received critical acclaim and was previously a recipient of a Michelin star. The focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients and Virant also specializes in pickling and preserving. As a result of the pandemic, Vie is currently featuring burgers, sandwiches, and a few classic dishes.
17. Chuck's Southern Comforts Cafe
Head to Chuck’s Southern Comforts Cafe for some divine smoked meats. The menu boasts Cajun staples, like seafood gumbo and po’ boys, but the star of the show is the barbecue. Feast on ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, and more. Can’t decide on just one? Order the three-meat sampler platter. A second Chuck’s is located in Darien.
18. Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket
A secret fried chicken recipe passed down over generations has helped Dell Rhea’s become a historic and necessary pitstop along Route 66. The restaurant has been feeding hungry travelers the same juicy chicken with a side of nostalgia since 1946.
19. Al Bawadi Grill
There are several Middle Eastern restaurants in densely Arab-populated Bridgeview, but Al Bawadi stands above the others. Once guests step inside, they’re treated to Arabian décor, servers dressed in traditional outfits, and wood-fired meats and seafood. An added bonus: Every meal starts with complimentary eggplant dip. A second location is in Niles.
20. Maple Tree Inn
Beloved Cajun-Creole restaurant Maple Tree Inn reopened earlier this year in Homewood after a fire destroyed its original location. Though the coronavirus has temporarily closed the new dining space, folks can still take home Southern classics like gumbo, crawfish etouffée, fried catfish, and beignets.