Best of 2022: Dining

Best of 2022 Dining

Sponsored by KOI, Best Chinese (Suburbs) Winner

Restaurants are back in business, and they’re eternally grateful to have you back inside their doors and on their patios. Here are your favorite spots for 2022.

By Julie Chernoff, Dining Editor

Best New Restaurant (City)
Bar Mar by José Andres

120 N. Wacker Dr.

This restaurant is pure eye candy, from the two-story floor-to-ceiling windows and giant octopus sculpture hanging over the bar to the massive fresh seafood display. Pristinely fresh seafood and exciting cocktails await.

Best New Restaurant & Best Barbecue (Suburbs)
Pit & Tap

1168 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette

“Big Earl,” the huge wood-burning smoker at this downtown Wilmette newbie, is working overtime to bring you succulent brisket, pulled pork, chicken, salmon, and St. Louis ribs, along with all the fixin’s.

Best BBQ (City)
Smoque BBQ

3800 N. Pulaski; Revival Food Hall, 125 S. Clark St.

Avondale’s repeat winner is a crowd pleaser, pumping out some of the best damn brisket and pulled pork in town. Next up: Smoque Steak, opening this fall.

Best Vietnamese
Le Colonial

57 E. Oak St., Chicago; 655 Forest Ave., Lake Forest

Palm fronds and rattan frame the gorgeous Vietnamese cuisine on offer. Don’t miss the Green Shrimp Curry or the Shaking Beef.

Best Korean (City)

3500 N. Elston Ave.

Award-winning chefs Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark serve up Korean cuisine with a seasonal sensibility.

Best Korean (Suburbs)
H Mart Food Court, Niles

801 Civic Center Dr., Niles

One-stop shopping at this cavernous store, where you can feast on Korean specialties in the food court, then grab the ingredients afterward to make your own at home!

Best Thai (City)
Opart Thai House

1546 W. Chicago Ave.

They’ve moved to West Town, but the Thai food you love is still the same.

Best Thai (Suburbs)
Cozy Noodle, Evanston

1018 Davis St., Evanston

The fun and eclectic décor — think vintage lunchboxes, PEZ dispensers and a giant Elvis — only add to the experience as you enjoy your Pad Thai and Chicken Satay.

Best Japanese (City)

820 W Lake St.

Chef Gene Kato and The Boka Group do modern Japanese cuisine better than anyone else, and the public agrees! Mind-bending robata yaki, seafood and seasonal vegetable preparations.

Best Sushi (City)

110 W. Illinois St.

The menu roams freely through Southeast Asia, hitting the high points of Indonesia, Thailand, and China, but it’s their sushi that really sends you.

Best Sushi (Suburbs)
Torino Ramen, Wilmette

1162 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette

Originally known for their authentic ramen offerings, they’ve emerged as a go-to spot for sushi on the North Shore.

Best Chinese (City)
Duck Duck Goat

857 W. Fulton Market

Top Chef darling Stephanie Izard’s “reasonably authentic Chinese Food” takes top honors once again. I dream of the Duck Fried Rice and the Shrimp Noodles “XO.”

Best Chinese (Suburbs)
KOI, Evanston

624 Davis St., Evanston

Koi’s Hot Pepper Chicken

Sandy Chen’s KOI specializes in regional Chinese dishes, but they also have a fabulous happy hour and some of the best sushi around.

Best Indian (City)

736 W. Randolph St.

This “progressive Indian cuisine” spot brings the big flavors you’d expect, but with little touches that make it stand out in a crowded field. Another plus: deft cocktails — and they’re very sensitive to those with food allergies.

Best Indian (Suburbs)
Mt. Everest, Evanston

636 Church St., Evanston

One of the few places around to offer Nepalese specialties in addition to Indian cuisine , this Evanston stalwart features local, ethically sourcede ingredients whenever possible.

Best French (City)
Mon Ami Gabi

2300 N. Lincoln Park West

Oo la la! Your favorite French spot is this long-time Lincoln Park bistro from Lettuce Entertain You. That steak frîtes! Those escargots! And the stellar onion soup? C’est tres bien.

Best French (Suburbs)
Pomeroy, Winnetka

844 Spruce St., Winnetka

The stuff that dreams are made of: Pomeroy’s Bouillabaisse, Tuna Tartare à la Marseillaise and Frisée aux Lardon, washed down with a perfect French 75. Can’t get enough.

Best Italian (City)
RPM Italian

52 W. Illinois St.

We never tire of this River North favorite, where scrumptious house-made pastas and antipasti menu offerings are the name of the game.

Best Italian (Suburbs)
Campagnola, Evanston

815 Chicago Ave.

Still going strong for over two decades, this Evanston ristorante never disappoints. Chef Vince DiBattista’s Pappardelle Bolognese and Roasted Duck with Polenta are legendary.

Best Mexican (City)
Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

445 N. Clark St.

After 35 years as one of the preeminent Mexican restaurants in the country, Rick Bayless and his team have set the bar high and never faltered. Seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients make every dish the best it can be.

Best Mexican (Suburbs)
Taco Diablo, Evanston

1026 Davis St., Evanston

Dan and Laura Kelch continue to provide us with the tastiest tacos, enchiladas and margaritas around!

Best Steakhouse (City)
Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse

1028 N. Rush St.

Once again, Gibson’s takes the crown for your favorite spot for all things steak — and the martinis are mighty fine, as well.

Best Steakhouse (Suburbs)
Sophia’s Steak, Wilmette

1146 Wilmette Ave, Wilmette

This neighborhood steakhouse from Glenn Keefer and the folks at Ballyhoo Hospitality is dry- and wet-aging steak on-site, and the attention to detail and quality really shows. 

Best Seafood (City)
Joe’s Seafood

60 E. Grand Ave.

This offshoot of Miami’s famed Joe’s Stone Crab hits all the high notes with their classic takes on Oysters Rockefeller, King Crab Louis, Shrimp de Jonghe, and Florida Stone Crab Claws with Joe’s Mustard Sauce. Not to be missed!

Best Seafood (Suburbs)
Pescadero Seafood & Oyster Bar, Wilmette

Various Locations

Does it get any better than a bottle of rosé to wash down the delicacies on Pescadero’s raw seafood tower, followed by Mussels Frîtes for the table? That’s a rhetorical question.

Best Fine Dining (City)

1723 N. Halsted St.

Three Michelin stars testify to the greatness of this extravagant Lincoln Park restaurant. Co-owners Nick Kokonas and Chef Grant Achatz help put Chicago on every global foodie’s bucket list.

Best Fine Dining (Suburbs)
George Trois, Winnetka

64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka

Chef Michael Lachowicz is putting out some of the most spectacular, creative and delicious food around, full stop. Worthy of all praise.

Best Al Fresco Restaurant (City)
Big Star

1531 N. Damen Ave., 3640 N. Clark St.

There’s no busier spot in Wicker Park than the outdoor patio at Big Star in the summer, and with good reason. The party never ends here, especially when its fueled by tacos, nachos, bourbon, tequila, and mezcal.

Best Al Fresco Restaurant (Suburbs)
Five & Dime, Evanston

1026 Davis St., Evanston

This huge outdoor roof deck is a casual respite from busy downtown Evanston, complete with tasty bar food, artisan cocktails, and giant Jenga. Relax and enjoy!

Best Vegan/Vegetarian (City)
The Chicago Diner

2333 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3411 N. Halsted St.

They’ve spent four decades feeding Chicago’s vegetarians and vegans, and they’re not slowing down. Locations in Lakeview and Logan Square.

Best Vegan/Vegetarian (Suburbs)
Spirit Elephant, Winnetka

924 Green Bay Road, Winnetka

This is vegan cuisine, make no mistake. Dishes like Watermelon Poke, Portobello Marsala, and “Crabless” Cakes attest to that. You won’t miss the meat.

Best Breakfast/Brunch (City)

Various Locations

Healthy and delicious can coexist; Beatrix is testimony to that fact. So shakshuka it up, or maybe a Mushroom & Quinoa Burger is more your style. Be sure to check out the indulgent bakery counter!

Best Breakfast/Brunch (Suburbs)
Walker Brothers The Original Pancake House, Wilmette

Various Locations

Want to start your morning with something sweet, hot and delicious? Just order the famous Hot Apple Cinnamon Pancake, some extra-crispy hash browns and a side of bacon — or anything else from this decadent menu — and be glad you did.

Best Burger (City)
Au Cheval

800 W. Randolph St.

People still wait in line for this juicy griddled smashburger topped with melty American cheese, Dijonnaise, and house-made pickles. Remember, single means double, and double means triple. Try to keep up.

Best Burger (Suburbs)
Edzo’s Burger Shop, Evanston

Various Locations

Eddie Lakin’s Evanston store may be temporarily closed, but you still crave these amazing burgers, so head to their spot in The Loop for your fix.

Best Pizza, (City)
Lou Malnati’s

Various Locations

With more than 60 locations in Illinois, including Evanston, Oak Park, Glenview, Park Ridge, and 11 in Chicago, you’re never far from Lou’s famous Chicago deep-dish-style pizza.

Best Sandwiches (City)
Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen

1141 S. Jefferson St.

There’s no question about it: Manny’s is Chicago’s king of corned beef and pastrami. Their Reuben — or the Veggie Reuben, if you swing that way — is the highest form of sandwich, no debate.

Best Sandwiches (Suburbs)
Stacked & Folded, Evanston and Winnetka

Various Locations

Either location of this yummy sandwich-focused eatery will get you what you need, especially if that is a Parmesan Chicken or Bulgogi Cheese Steak sandwich.

Best Bakery (City)
Sweet Mandy B’s

Various Locations

For 20 years, they’ve been plying us with cupcakes piled with tons of frosting, birthday cakes, and all sorts of delectable cookies and treats. Business was so sweet, they’ve opened a second location.

Best Bakery (Suburbs)
Bennison’s Bakery, Evanston

1000 Davis St., Evanston

Certified Master Baker Jory Downer bakes from scratch each and every day. Known for their donuts, pastries, and artisan breads, you can also grab a quick baguette sandwich for lunch and be on your way.

Best Sweet Shop (City)
Margie’s Candies

1813 W. Montrose Ave.

Truffles, marzipan, toffee, oh my! There’s so much to taste and enjoy at this classic Chicago sweet shop, including giant ice cream sundaes.

Best Sweet Shop (Suburbs)
Belgian Chocolatier Piron, Evanston

509-A Main St., Evanston

Brothers Bob and Fred Piron have gifted the North Shore with the finest Belgian chocolate for more than three decades. Callebaut chocolate is the starting point for all the magic, from hand-filled chocolates to hand-dipped toffees, fruits, and nuts. Truly spectacular.

Best Ice Cream/Gelato (City)
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Various Locations

All seven Chicago scoop shops — plus two more in Oakbrook and Naperville — are giving us life with their creative flavor combinations (Butterscotch Popcorn or Watermelon Taffy, anyone?) and general sunny demeanor.

Best Ice Cream/Gelato (Suburbs)
Homer’s, Wilmette

1237 Green Bay Road, Wilmette

Back in the top spot this year, this famous North Shore ice cream shop is still scooping up happiness with their Fresh Peach, Mint Chip, Moose Tracks, and Raspberry Chocolate Chip flavors, and many more. Milkshake or waffle cone? Can I have both?

Best Coffee Shop (City)
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Various Locations

Choosing is your hardest task at Stan’s, but truly, there are no wrong answers here. We’re partial to the Pistachio Glazed and the Boston Cream, but you do you. Then grab a Nitro Cold Brew, an Oat Milk Latte, or an Iced Mocha and get on with your delicious day.

Best Coffee Shop (Suburbs)
Hometown Coffee & Juice, Glencoe

Various Locations

There’s always a warm welcome in this sunny suburban spot. Celebrate another day with a smoothie bowl, a Green Thumb juice, some Apple-Almond Toast, or maybe a Breakfast Wrap. Wash it all down with a Cold Brew (on tap!) or a Matcha Latte and all is right with the world.

Best Food Truck
Soul & Smoke, Evanston

Various Locations

Look for the Soul & Smoke food truck at Bears Training Camp, Evanston’s Out of Space Festival, and the Ravinia Food Truck Festival, or call and book them for your next event! This is great BBQ.

Best Bar (City)
Village Tap / The Violet Hour (TIE)

Village Tap: 2055 W. Roscoe St.; Violet Hour: 1520 N. Damen Ave.

Village Tap is a repeat winner for good reason, but this year they’ve got competition from the James Beard Award-winning bar program at Wicker Park’s The Violet Hour.

Best Bar (Suburbs)
Meier’s Tavern, Glenview

235 E. Lake Ave., Glenview

Open since the end of Prohibition (that’s 1933 for those keeping count), Meier’s Tavern is a North Shore legend.

Best Brewery (City)
Revolution Brewing

3340 N. Kedzie Ave.

This is one of the largest breweries in Illinois, and you love their beer! New favorites include the Sun Crusher wheat beer and Shop Talk American IPA. 

Best Brewery (Suburbs)
Sketchbook Brewing

Various Locations

With two expanded locations, Sketchbook is aiming for complete domination in the suburbs. The brewery/taprooms in Evanston and Skokie are packed with beer lovers savoring their Orange Door IPAs and Pinky Sweater Pilsners.

Best Beer Garden (City)
Half Acre Beer Co.

2050 W. Balmoral Ave.

Summer in the Beer Garden and the living is easy at this Ravenswood brewery. Snack on Fried Cheese Curds and Buffalo Chicken Dip while imbibing your Daisy Cutter Pale Ale during patio season.

Best Beer Garden (Suburbs)
Ravinia Brewing Co., Highland Park

582 Roger Williams Ave., Highland Park

Double bonus: the original location of Ravinia Brewing Co. — there’s now a second one in Logan Square — is both a taproom AND a taco bar! 

Best Wine Store (City)
Binny’s Beverage Depot

Various Locations

Seven city locations — and an additional 38 around Illinois — stocked with over 30,000 products are emblematic of over 70 years of great service Chicagoland.

Best Wine Store (Suburbs)
Schaefer’s Wines, Foods & Spirits, Skokie

9965 Gross Point Road, Skokie

The North Shore’s one-stop party shop, where you’ll find everything from craft beers and fine wines and liquors to partyware, snacks, cheeses, and prepared foods.

Best Cooking Classes
The Chopping Block

4747 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

Designed for home cooks, these hands-on and demonstration classes build confidence and ease in the kitchen. This Lincoln Park storefront offers wine classes, kid and teen cooking camps, cooking boot camps, virtual classes, and a huge gourmet retail store as well.

Best Farmer’s Market (City)
Green City Market

Various Locations

Every Wednesday and Saturday morning from May through October you’ll find chefs, Chicagoans, and suburbanites alike in pursuit of the freshest locally sourced food around. 

Best Farmer’s Market (Suburbs)
Evanston Farmer’s Market, Evanston

Outdoor city parking lot at University Place and Oak St., Evanston

Your favorite suburban farmer’s market runs Saturday mornings from May through October and is chock-full of local farmers and purveyors, with a large selection of made-to-order food — crêpes, raclette, breakfast tacos, and more — on offer.

Best Grocery Store or Market
Trader Joe’s

Various locations in city and suburbs

Every visit is an adventure at the beloved Trader Joe’s. Come for the snacks and ice cream novelties and stay for the frozen prepared foods and excellent cheese selection. Party central!

Category Sponsor

Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge

What new developments or trends are you most excited about in your industry right now?

Sandy Chen, Owner: “Fascinating business is recovering from the Pandemic. Family Meals are new trends for restaurants —both takeout and dine-in.”

Sandy’s Top Dining Picks

NaKorn Urban Thai
1622 Orrington Ave, Evanston
Upscale Thai eatery serving sophisticated dishes & cocktails amid stylish, eclectic decor.

505 Main St, Evanston
Eco-friendly spot for fish & fowl plus acclaimed wines & a tasting menu in a sharp, modern space.

Le Sud Mediterranean Kitchen
2301 W Roscoe St, Chicago
Warm, neighborhood cafe-style eatery offering Mediterranean French cuisine with outdoor patio seatings.

Tapas Barcelona
1615 Chicago Ave, Evanston
Extensive array of Spanish-centric small plates & wine in an intimate setting; open late nights.

Bar Roma
5101 N Clark St, Chicago
Hearty, traditional Italian cooking pairs with craft cocktails & wines in a warm, stylish setting.

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