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The 38 Essential Chicago Restaurants, October 2014

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It's time to update the Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs. Every few months, we'll add pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months) or have stepped up their game. And keep in mind, this list is presented in no particular order.

For the fall 2014 update, Hot Doug's comes off the list after it (sadly) closed, while Balena and Pequod's are removed to make room for new blood. Neapolitan pizza institution Spacca Napoli, Sodikoff's sultry French-influenced steakhouse Bavette's Bar & Boeuf, and world-renowned Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio's Tanta come aboard.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite restaurant isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to nominate it for inclusion? State your cases for (or against) restaurants in the comments or in the tipline.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Bristol

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2152 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 862-5555
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The Bristol Chef Chris Pandel does things with animal parts and local produce that most others wouldn't dare and the experience is heightened because of it.

2. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo

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445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
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Rick Bayless' Mexican haven, including Xoco on the corner, is a Chicago institution spawning spinoffs around the globe of south of the border fare from street food to high end.

3. Lula Café

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2537 N Kedzie Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-9554
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Before Logan Square had Longman & Eagle, it had Lula Café. More than a decade on, it's easy to see why people flock for its locally sourced menu, Sunday brunch and Monday night farm dinners.

4. Avec

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615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 377-2002
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Even though chef Koren Grieveson left and Erling Wu-Bower moved to Nico Osteria, avec and chef Perry Hendrix remains one of the most consistent—and packed—spots in town.

5. Yusho

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2853 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 904-8558
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Charlie Trotter's vet Matthias Merges took a massive departure from fine dining and opened this yakitori-inspired Japanese street food spot. Whether you go for dinner (get the crispy chicken skin, quail eggs and sweetbreads) or for the $20 three-course Sunday noodles, you'll wonder why Merges didn't do this sooner.

6. Lao Sze Chuan

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2172 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-5040
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The crown jewel in Tony Hu's ever-growing empire, the focus here is on Szechwan dishes, ranging from the basic to the downright adventurous.

7. Smoque BBQ

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3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641
(773) 545-7427
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With two smokers to prep meaty St. Louis-style ribs, tender brisket, apple-and-oak-smoked pulled pork and more, this 'cue joint ain't no joke.

8. Piccolo Sogno

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464 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 421-0077
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Even if you can't sit on the city's best patio all year, chef Tony Priolo's pizzas, housemade pastas and grilled meats make a trip worth it even in the dead of winter.

9. Tank Noodle

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4953 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 878-2253
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Uptown's Argyle Street is also known as Little Saigon and Tank Noodle is the crown jewel for its authentic Vietnamese cuisine, especially the various steaming bowls of pho.

10. Fat Rice

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2957 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-9170
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Former underground chef Abraham Conlon has reached the big time with his creative take on Macau cuisine. Try the pickle assortments and namesake "fat rice."

11. Big Jones

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5347 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 275-5725
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This Southern-inspired spot has been around a while, but its new Boarding House lunch (with juicy fried chicken) hearty brunch platters and dishes culled from decades- and centuries-old recipes has given it new life.

12. Vera

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1023 W. Lake St.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 243-9770
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In a neighborhood filled with big splashy openings, it's nice to know there's a cute spot where you can go for a quick glass of Sherry or wine at the bar or have a romantic dinner over Spanish small plates.

13. Au Cheval

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800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 929-4580
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Some may decry this as a hipster diner, but the quality of food—crispy potato hash with duck heart gravy; foie gras, scrambled eggs and toast; and those damn tasty griddled burgers—with great cocktails and draft-beer list, puts this spot in a new category.

14. Calumet Fisheries

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3259 E 95th St, Chicago
IL, 60617
(773) 933-9855

When you need your fried seafood or smoked fish fix, hit this James Beard-recognized, Anthony Bourdain-endorsed classic Chicago fish house on the Far South Side. Want an adventure? Then get in the car for some good take out.

15. Nightwood Restaurant

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2119 S Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 526-3385
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Although chef Jason Vincent is is gone, Nightwood still is another reason to travel to Pilsen: impeccably prepared rustic seasonal fare and a cool, modern Kevin Heisner-designed room to eat in.

16. GT Fish and Oyster

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531 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 929-3501
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If it were just fish and chips and chowdah, we'd still be won over. But everything—the hamachi crudo, lobster roll, the ponzu mignonette for the oysters, plump mussels in a steaming red sauce, brandade croquettes—is so incredibly fresh, you'd think you're on one of the coasts.

17. Trenchermen

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2039 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-1540
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Past, present and future come together in exquisite culinary techniques and ingredients, cocktails, coffees, fascinating design and a bustling bar inside an old bathhouse on a blossoming stretch of North Avenue in Wicker Park.

18. Taxim

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1558 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-1558
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When you want more than spanikopita and gyros, David Schneider's authentic regional Greek fare (and amazing Greek wine list) beckon you to this beautiful dining room in Wicker Park.

19. Ruxbin Kitchen

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851 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 624-8509
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The BYO policy and a chef who cooked under Thomas Keller preparing a globally influenced menu was already great, but now that Ruxbin is finally taking reservations, it's that much more accessible.

20. Demera Ethiopian Restaurant

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4801 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-8787
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When we want to eat with our hands and sop up spicy Ethiopian sauces and tender doro wat and vegetables we head north to Uptown. Tip: they roast their own coffee, too.

21. Grace

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652 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 234-9494
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Curtis Duffy's inventive (and expensive) fine dining has been wowing diners, and media, from its inception. A glass-enclosed kitchen, spot-on wine pairings, and fascinating backstory only add to the draw.

22. The Publican

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837 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9555
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A few years in, Paul Kahan's temple to pork and shellfish remains strong, with chef Cosmo Goss taking over for Brian Huston in the kitchen.

23. Pleasant House Bakery

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964 W 31st St
Chicago, IL 60608
(773) 523-7437
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Where else can you get Brit-style flaky, buttery crust pies filled with beef, chicken or mushrooms and kale? BYO or better yet, order it to be delivered to Maria's next door and get a drink at the bar. Oh yeah, fish & chips Fridays start at 5:30.

24. Sepia

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123 N Jefferson St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 441-1920
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Throughout chef changes and evolving menus, Sepia continues to be one of the most consistent restaurants in Chicago. Andrew Zimmerman's menus paired with a cutting-edge beverage program makes it a complete experience.

25. Katsu

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2651 W Peterson Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 784-3383
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As Americanized Japanese restaurants continue to come and go, Katsu continues to churn out uncompromising high-end sushi in an unassuming building on the Far North Side for the last quarter-century and counting.

26. Coalfire Pizza

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1321 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 226-2625
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Coalfire changed the way we think about thin crust. If you like it super crispy with a little bit of char, this is your new haunt.

27. Cumin

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1414 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 342-1414
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Authentic Indian south of Devon can be tough to find. Throw in Nepalese, an array of curries, platters, and cocktails and you might not go back up north.

28. Sticky Rice

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4018 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 588-0133
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Chicago features an abundance of Thai food, and Sticky Rice may be the best of the lot. Go further then Pad Thai and get adventurous with Northern Thai specialties like gang hung lay and housemade sausage, with sticky rice on the side. There's also a second location in Bucktown.

29. La Sirena Clandestina

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954 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Chef/owner John Manion continues to crank out empanadas and other chef-driven Latin fare among the big boys on Fulton Market. A fresh remodeling and inventive cocktails, even without opening beverage director Just Anderson, completes the experience.

30. Mindy's Hot Chocolate

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1747 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-1747
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While the savory food and the drinks are very good, the sweets and the hot chocolates are predictably not to be missed from an owner with a James Beard award for best pastry chef.

31. Edzo's Burger Shop

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1571 Sherman Ave
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 864-3396
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While a second location is open in Lincoln Park, the first in Evanston remains a cult destination and the gold standard for griddled, no-frills burgers.

32. Acadia

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1639 S Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 360-9500
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Whether tackling one of the best burgers in town at the bar, embarking on a journey through a decadent eight-course menu, or satisfying a sweets craving with a creative dessert tasting menu, chef Ryan McCaskey and team is doing it all at Acadia.

33. Cemitas Puebla

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817 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL
(773) 772-8435
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No matter who you are and where you're from, broad swaths of food-loving humanity make the trip to Humboldt Park for Tony Anteliz's authentic cemitas sandwiches and spit-roasted meat. Check out the second location on Fulton Market too.

34. Dusek's

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1227 W 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 526-3851
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Leave to people who brought you Longman & Eagle to rehab a landmark Bohemian building in Pilsen into a creative beer-themed restaurant, a basement punch-focused bar and a concert hall. Don't miss the "Juicy Lucy and the General Tso's sweetbreads.

35. Girl & the Goat

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809 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 492-6262
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Four years in and Stephanie Izard's restaurant row flagship continues to be among the busiest - and best - restaurants in town.

36. Bavette's Bar and Boeuf

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218 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 624-8154
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Brendan Sodikoff's French-inspired steakhouse takes Chicago's meaty history and adds an array of bone marrow, foie gras, and craft cocktails inside perhaps the sexiest room in Chicago.

37. Spacca Napoli

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1769 W Sunnyside Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 878-2420
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The trendier Neapolitan pizza gets, the more you're reminded who does it best in Chicago. Come for Jonathan Goldsmith's perfectly charred pies from his custom-built oven.

38. Tanta Chicago

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118 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 222-9700
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Superstar Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio's first foray into the Chicago scene has produced top-notch results. Chinese and Japanese influences mingle with Spanish flavors seamlessly while the Pisco-heavy cocktail list is not to be missed.

1. The Bristol

2152 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

The Bristol Chef Chris Pandel does things with animal parts and local produce that most others wouldn't dare and the experience is heightened because of it.

2152 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

2. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo

445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Rick Bayless' Mexican haven, including Xoco on the corner, is a Chicago institution spawning spinoffs around the globe of south of the border fare from street food to high end.

445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

3. Lula Café

2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

Before Logan Square had Longman & Eagle, it had Lula Café. More than a decade on, it's easy to see why people flock for its locally sourced menu, Sunday brunch and Monday night farm dinners.

2537 N Kedzie Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647

4. Avec

615 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

Even though chef Koren Grieveson left and Erling Wu-Bower moved to Nico Osteria, avec and chef Perry Hendrix remains one of the most consistent—and packed—spots in town.

615 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661

5. Yusho

2853 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

Charlie Trotter's vet Matthias Merges took a massive departure from fine dining and opened this yakitori-inspired Japanese street food spot. Whether you go for dinner (get the crispy chicken skin, quail eggs and sweetbreads) or for the $20 three-course Sunday noodles, you'll wonder why Merges didn't do this sooner.

2853 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, IL 60618

6. Lao Sze Chuan

2172 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

The crown jewel in Tony Hu's ever-growing empire, the focus here is on Szechwan dishes, ranging from the basic to the downright adventurous.

2172 S Archer Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

7. Smoque BBQ

3800 N Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60641

With two smokers to prep meaty St. Louis-style ribs, tender brisket, apple-and-oak-smoked pulled pork and more, this 'cue joint ain't no joke.

3800 N Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL 60641

8. Piccolo Sogno

464 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60622

Even if you can't sit on the city's best patio all year, chef Tony Priolo's pizzas, housemade pastas and grilled meats make a trip worth it even in the dead of winter.

464 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60622

9. Tank Noodle

4953 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60640