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Next’s Vegetable Mille Feuille.
Allen Hemberger

12 Chicago Restaurants Overlooked for Michelin Stars

These stellar eateries deserve extra credit

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Next’s Vegetable Mille Feuille.
| Allen Hemberger

Chicago is one of four American cities with a Michelin presence, which is simply a testament to the strength of the local culinary scene. The Windy City currently counts 25 restaurants with Michelin stars, in addition to a number of Bib Gourmands (Michelin’s accreditation system which typically highlights less formal eateries). For those who have felt that Michelin may have missed a few, here’s a list of excellent Chicago restaurants that do not have Michelin stars (yes, some already have Bib Gourmands), but should.

Note, this includes a mix of high and low—don’t forget that two years ago Michelin began to grant stars to street vendors and food stalls: look no further than Jay Fai in Bangkok and Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle in Singapore.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Spacca Napoli Pizzeria

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1769 W Sunnyside Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 878-2420
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In a city celebrated for its deep-dish pies, Spacca Napoli’s Neapolitan pizzas are a welcome relief. The straightforward trattoria plates a number of Italian classics, but its Jon Goldsmith’s long-celebrated pizzas that really shine. Toppings veer on the simple side, with almost 20 variations comprised of tomato, meat, and cheese.

Spacca Napoli Pizzeria’s Bufalina pie.
Instagram/pizzappointment

2. Fat Rice

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2957 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-9170
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Fat Rice presents a playful take on an under-represented genre of Asian cuisine, that of the Macanese, an Eastern Asian group from Macau with mixed Chinese and Portuguese roots. Which explains why here one will find boldly-flavored pork and ginger dumplings alongside sardine escabeche, and some serious Portuguese egg tarts—flaky sweets that have become somewhat of a calling card.

Fat Rice’s Minchi
Fat Rice

3. Giant

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3209 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 252-0997
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Playful, inspired New American cookery is what one will find at buzzy Logan Square bistro Giant, where uni shooters live alongside a spicy Nashville-inspired soft shall crab sandwich, and ricotta ravioli filled with almonds, peas, and bacon. Here, chefs Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader build bites, and for a view into the open kitchen, snag one of the counter seats in the back.

Giant’s Crab Pasta.
Anjali Pinto

4. Nico Osteria

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1015 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 994-7100
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Nico Osteria is One Off Hospitality’s elegant Gold Cost Italian gem, a beacon of seasonal eating heavy on seafood. Within the Thompson hotel, chef Bill Montagne assembles refined, coastal-inspired fare with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients and Asian flourishes. While radio carpaccio is laced with toasted nori butter, the lobster spaghetti involves the usual Italian suspects, in addition to miso.

Nico Osteria’s Grilled Swordfish Picata
Alexa Bendek StarChefs

5. Café Marie-Jeanne

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1001 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 904-7660
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Unpretentious industry favorite and neighborhood hang Café Marie-Jeanne serves a cheffy blend of rustic New American and French plates—smart, quality-driven compositions of English pea and ramp galette, duck frites with foir gras, and smoked chicken salad. Note there’s limited reservations, and frequent waits.

Café Marie-Jeanne’s smoked and pickled fish.
Café Marie-Jeanne

6. Next

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953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Next, the chameleon of a restaurant which reinvents itself every four months, has served meticulous tasting menus inspired by both times and places—like Ancient Rome and South America. A member of The Alinea Group, executive chef Jenner Tomaska heads up the ambitious fine dining haunt’s creative vision, currently offering a retrospective menu dedicated to sister restaurant, Alinea. Click here to read the past Michelin director’s explanation why Next is still starless.

Next’s French lobster preparation.
Allen Hemberger

7. Au Cheval

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800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 929-4580
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The lines never end at West Loop staple Au Cheval, restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff’s wildly popular bistro that’s lauded for its cheeseburger—a pretty classic, and well-executed, number with a single or double patty, Kraft American cheese, Dijonnaise, and pickles. A fried egg and thick-cut peppered bacon are extra. But other than the star of the show, Au Cheval’s concise menus is littered with hits, look no farther than the foie gras scrambled eggs, or bone marrow and toast.

Au Cheval

8. avec Restaurant

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615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 377-2002
Visit Website

Consistency is key, and One Off Hospitality’s neighborhood favorite avec has been nailing it for the last 15 years. Dressed in floor-to-ceiling wood paneling within a minimalist, counter-centered, shoebox-sized space, guests embark on large and small share plate rooted in flavors of the Mediterranean.

Avec’s Mezze Plate.
Avec

9. Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

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1020 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 888-3041
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Chef Sarah Grueneberg has been impressing guests with handmade pastas since day one. Her homey West Loop Italian number has—in three quick years—become a requisite stop for top-grade Italian cuisine, celebrated for Grueneberg’s creative and sometimes global take on classics. Expect to find dishes like prosciutto butter toast and strawberry-shiso-sesame-flavored tuna crudo, alongside fresh pastas with tomato, basil, and za’atar. Michelin’s director said last year that “there are not that many Italian starred restaurants in the U.S.,” but perhaps this should be one of them.

Monteverde’s Cacio Whey Pepe
Galdones Photography

10. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

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2002 S Wentworth Ave #103
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 799-1118
Visit Website

Not xiao long bao, gyoza, wontons, or potstickers, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings—QXY Dumplings for short—specializes in an unsung style of Chinese soup dumpling with a crescent shape, bearing fingerprints along its crimped mohawk of a top. Within a Chinatown strip mall, QXY is quietly steaming and frying the city’s greatest dumplings, freshly stuffed while the guests waits. The menu is lengthy, yet very affordable. Pro tip: don’t miss the cumin lamb.

QXY Dumplings
Facebook/QXY Dumpling

11. The Duck Inn

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2701 S Eleanor St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 724-8811
Visit Website

With a name like The Duck Inn, people have gotta try the duck. The rotisserie animal is cooked medium-rare, dismembered, and served on a wooden board—it’s the restaurant’s central attraction and you shouldn’t miss it. Chef Kevin Hickey is behind this modern Bridgeport Tavern that’s anything but shy when it comes to meat. Dishes are both hearty yet elegant, and entirely satisfying. And beyond that duck, Hickey has amassed a following for his duck fat hot dog, and has committed to a pop-up at Revival Food Hall through September 28 offering riffs off the dog.

The Duck Inn’s Peanut Butter Foie Gras “Legos” with Celery Granite and Raisin Mostarda 
The Duck Inn

12. Birrieria Zaragoza

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4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632
(773) 523-3700
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When people talk about the city’s top Mexican haunts, Birrieria Zaragoza enters the conversation. The family-run, no frills regional Mexican eatery in Archer Heights hinges on succulent goat meat stuffed into tacos and quesadillas, or simply served on its own in portions large and small. Chef and owner Juan Zaragoza serves his interpretation of goat from Jalisco in which the anima is steamed, roasted, and cloaked in a tomato-based sauce—the process of which takes a full day.

Birrieria Zaragoza’s lamb
Instagram/Will Blunt

1. Spacca Napoli Pizzeria

1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Spacca Napoli Pizzeria’s Bufalina pie.
Instagram/pizzappointment

In a city celebrated for its deep-dish pies, Spacca Napoli’s Neapolitan pizzas are a welcome relief. The straightforward trattoria plates a number of Italian classics, but its Jon Goldsmith’s long-celebrated pizzas that really shine. Toppings veer on the simple side, with almost 20 variations comprised of tomato, meat, and cheese.

1769 W Sunnyside Ave
Chicago, IL 60640

2. Fat Rice

2957 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Fat Rice’s Minchi
Fat Rice

Fat Rice presents a playful take on an under-represented genre of Asian cuisine, that of the Macanese, an Eastern Asian group from Macau with mixed Chinese and Portuguese roots. Which explains why here one will find boldly-flavored pork and ginger dumplings alongside sardine escabeche, and some serious Portuguese egg tarts—flaky sweets that have become somewhat of a calling card.

2957 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

3. Giant

3209 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Giant’s Crab Pasta.
Anjali Pinto

Playful, inspired New American cookery is what one will find at buzzy Logan Square bistro Giant, where uni shooters live alongside a spicy Nashville-inspired soft shall crab sandwich, and ricotta ravioli filled with almonds, peas, and bacon. Here, chefs Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader build bites, and for a view into the open kitchen, snag one of the counter seats in the back.

3209 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

4. Nico Osteria

1015 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611
Nico Osteria’s Grilled Swordfish Picata
Alexa Bendek StarChefs

Nico Osteria is One Off Hospitality’s elegant Gold Cost Italian gem, a beacon of seasonal eating heavy on seafood. Within the Thompson hotel, chef Bill Montagne assembles refined, coastal-inspired fare with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients and Asian flourishes. While radio carpaccio is laced with toasted nori butter, the lobster spaghetti involves the usual Italian suspects, in addition to miso.

1015 N Rush St
Chicago, IL 60611

5. Café Marie-Jeanne

1001 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Café Marie-Jeanne’s smoked and pickled fish.
Café Marie-Jeanne

Unpretentious industry favorite and neighborhood hang Café Marie-Jeanne serves a cheffy blend of rustic New American and French plates—smart, quality-driven compositions of English pea and ramp galette, duck frites with foir gras, and smoked chicken salad. Note there’s limited reservations, and frequent waits.

1001 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

6. Next

953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
Next’s French lobster preparation.
Allen Hemberger

Next, the chameleon of a restaurant which reinvents itself every four months, has served meticulous tasting menus inspired by both times and places—like Ancient Rome and South America. A member of The Alinea Group, executive chef Jenner Tomaska heads up the ambitious fine dining haunt’s creative vision, currently offering a retrospective menu dedicated to sister restaurant, Alinea. Click here to read the past Michelin director’s explanation why Next is still starless.

953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

7. Au Cheval

800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
Au Cheval

The lines never end at West Loop staple Au Cheval, restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff’s wildly popular bistro that’s lauded for its cheeseburger—a pretty classic, and well-executed, number with a single or double patty, Kraft American cheese, Dijonnaise, and pickles. A fried egg and thick-cut peppered bacon are extra. But other than the star of the show, Au Cheval’s concise menus is littered with hits, look no farther than the foie gras scrambled eggs, or bone marrow and toast.

800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607

8. avec Restaurant

615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661
Avec’s Mezze Plate.
Avec

Consistency is key, and One Off Hospitality’s neighborhood favorite avec has been nailing it for the last 15 years. Dressed in floor-to-ceiling wood paneling within a minimalist, counter-centered, shoebox-sized space, guests embark on large and small share plate rooted in flavors of the Mediterranean.

615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

9. Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio

1020 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60607
Monteverde’s Cacio Whey Pepe
Galdones Photography

Chef Sarah Grueneberg has been impressing guests with handmade pastas since day one. Her homey West Loop Italian number has—in three quick years—become a requisite stop for top-grade Italian cuisine, celebrated for Grueneberg’s creative and sometimes global take on classics. Expect to find dishes like prosciutto butter toast and strawberry-shiso-sesame-flavored tuna crudo, alongside fresh pastas with tomato, basil, and za’atar. Michelin’s director said last year that “there are not that many Italian starred restaurants in the U.S.,” but perhaps this should be one of them.

1020 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60607

10. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

2002 S Wentworth Ave #103, Chicago, IL 60616
QXY Dumplings
Facebook/QXY Dumpling

Not xiao long bao, gyoza, wontons, or potstickers, Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings—QXY Dumplings for short—specializes in an unsung style of Chinese soup dumpling with a crescent shape, bearing fingerprints along its crimped mohawk of a top. Within a Chinatown strip mall, QXY is quietly steaming and frying the city’s greatest dumplings, freshly stuffed while the guests waits. The menu is lengthy, yet very affordable. Pro tip: don’t miss the cumin lamb.

2002 S Wentworth Ave #103
Chicago, IL 60616

11. The Duck Inn

2701 S Eleanor St, Chicago, IL 60608
The Duck Inn’s Peanut Butter Foie Gras “Legos” with Celery Granite and Raisin Mostarda 
The Duck Inn

With a name like The Duck Inn, people have gotta try the duck. The rotisserie animal is cooked medium-rare, dismembered, and served on a wooden board—it’s the restaurant’s central attraction and you shouldn’t miss it. Chef Kevin Hickey is behind this modern Bridgeport Tavern that’s anything but shy when it comes to meat. Dishes are both hearty yet elegant, and entirely satisfying. And beyond that duck, Hickey has amassed a following for his duck fat hot dog, and has committed to a pop-up at Revival Food Hall through September 28 offering riffs off the dog.

2701 S Eleanor St
Chicago, IL 60608

12. Birrieria Zaragoza

4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632
Birrieria Zaragoza’s lamb
Instagram/Will Blunt

When people talk about the city’s top Mexican haunts, Birrieria Zaragoza enters the conversation. The family-run, no frills regional Mexican eatery in Archer Heights hinges on succulent goat meat stuffed into tacos and quesadillas, or simply served on its own in portions large and small. Chef and owner Juan Zaragoza serves his interpretation of goat from Jalisco in which the anima is steamed, roasted, and cloaked in a tomato-based sauce—the process of which takes a full day.

4852 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60632

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