In a city as vibrant as Chicago, making everyday decisions — where to order dinner, get a haircut, push your kids on the swings — can feel downright dizzying. Enter our (eighth annual!) Best Of awards: You shared your favorite spaces and places, we tallied the votes, and together we’ll celebrate all that makes our beloved communities shine.
Here are the Best of 2018: Dining winners:
Best Alfresco Dining (City)
464 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-421-0077
In the city, Piccolo Sogno’s magical back terrace, under a bower of trees and twinkling lights, won your vote.
Best Alfresco Dining (Suburbs) (Tie)
1515 Sheridan Road, Wilmette, 847-251-3654
1241 Harms Road, Glenview, 847-724-5577; 1514 E. Lake Ave., Glenview, 847-724-7171; 123rd and LaGrange Road, Palos Park, 708-448-8300
There’s nothing like the great outdoors, especially when you’re eating Convito’s famed Nicoise Salad or biting into a juicy Hackney’s burger.
Best Bakery (City) (Tie)
1220 W. Webster Ave., Chicago, 773-883-1313
1208 W. Webster Ave., Chicago, 773-244-1174
These Lincoln Park neighbors have a friendly rivalry. Head to Floriole for gorgeous breads and French-inspired pastries and to Sweet Mandy B’s for classic birthday cakes and cupcakes.
Best Bakery (Suburbs)
810 Dempster St., Evanston, 847-869-4396
Owner/baker Ellen King spins heritage grains into glorious, crusty loaves.
Best Bar (City)
19 E. Ohio St., Chicago, 312-940-3699
This Miami import with a hipster vibe turns out impressive craft cocktails.
Best Bar (Suburbs)
2132 Waukegan Road, Glenview, 847-724-7440; 1141 Central Ave., Wilmette, 847-920-5675
This popular suburban watering hole has two great locations.
Best Barbecue (City)
3800 N. Pulaski, Chicago; 125 S. Clark St., Chicago, 773-545-7427
With outlets in Avondale and at Revival Food Hall in the Loop, Smoque brings the barbecue to all.
Best Barbecue (Suburbs)
1902 Green Bay Road, Evanston, 847-492-1182
It’s still all about the sauce, especially on Hecky’s tender rib tips and pulled pork.
Best Breakfast/Brunch (City)
3552 N. Southport, Chicago, 773-665-0100
There’s always a line on weekends, but it’s well worth the wait. Breakfast and lunch are served all day, so you don’t have to choose.
Best Breakfast/Brunch (Suburbs)
You just can’t get enough of Dutch Babies and Apple Cinnamon Pancakes, so it’s a good thing there are multiple locations.
Best Brewery (City)
4257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago; 2050 W. Balmoral Ave., Chicago, 773-754-8488
This cult-fave microbrewery now has two tap rooms — one in Andersonville and one in Lincoln Square.
Best Brewery (Suburbs) (Tie)
821 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-584-2337
2000 W. Dempster St., Evanston, 847-864-1000
Evanston’s two premier craft breweries are homegrown and wildly popular.
Best Burger (City)
800 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-929-4580
This perennial “best burger” choice has expanded with three locations of Small Cheval — the menu is limited, but it’s that same great burger. Smaller lines? Dream on.
Best Burger (Suburbs)
1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston, 847-864-3396
Hand-cut fries, hand-dipped shakes, and the best burgers on the North Shore. Chef Eddie Lakin isn’t playing.
Best Central/South American (City)
118 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-222-9700
Grab a pisco sour and groove with the Peruvian vibe here. Known for their Cebiche Tasting and Pollo a la Brasa.
Best Central/South American (Suburbs)
315 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847-926-7495
Their beefy Argentine steak with herby chimichurri and a lovely glass of malbec are all you need to transport yourself from Highwood to Buenos Aires.
Best Chinese (City)
857 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, 312-902-3825
“Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard has got our goat with this West Loop resto, her personal take on Chinese favorites.
Best Chinese (Suburbs) | Best Sushi (Suburbs)
624 Davis St., Evanston, 847-866-6969
This Evanston stalwart is still packing them in with Chinese cuisine from eight different regions and a terrific dim sum Brunch.
Best Cocktails (City)
3143 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, 773-661-2485
Logan Square denizens swear by the exceptional beverage program here.
Best Cocktails (Suburbs)
629 Howard St., Evanston, 847-420-7353
This outstanding craft cocktail bar with a speakeasy feel draws from far beyond Evanston.
Best Coffee Shop (City)
We love the deep, dark roast, and the nitro on tap is the perfect summer quaff.
Best Coffee Shop (Suburbs)
1837 Glenview Road, Glenview, 847-729-0111
This fiercely independent coffee shop beat out the big boys for the suburban title! They’ve also just opened a drive-thru in downtown Glenview.
Best Farm-to-Table (City)
1924 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 773-332-2354
Dine among the growing herbs and vegetables on the rooftop terrace. You can’t get much fresher than that.
Best Farm-to-Table (Suburbs)
703 Church St., Evanston, 847-492-9700
Whether for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, this restaurant stays true to its name, bringing in much of the fruit and honey from its own Brown Dog Farm in Wisconsin.
Best Farmers Market (City) (Tie)
Outdoor (May-October): Logan Boulevard between Milwaukee and Whipple, Chicago; Indoor (November-March): Emporium Arcade Bar Logan Square, 2363 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, 773-489-3222
Connect with Midwest farmers and local craft food purveyors at these two wonderful markets. Watch for the GCM Chef BBQ in Lincoln Park this July!
Best Farmers Market (Suburbs)
University Place and Oak Avenue, Evanston
We love the Evanston market for the free parking, the great selection of fresh, local produce, and all the yummy ready-to-eat treats (looking at you, crêpes and tamales).
Best Fine Dining (City)
661 W. Walnut St., Chicago, 312-877-5339
With two shiny Michelin stars right out of the gate, Chef Noah Sandoval and his team have much to crow about.
Best Fine Dining (Suburbs)
64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847-441-3100
Fine dining is not dead; look no further than the enduring Restaurant Michael and the ambitious George Trois within for proof.
Best Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream/Gelato (City)
You’ll find this Ohio-based ice cream in local supermarkets, but the scoop shops have all the flavors, and with five Chicago locations, there must be one nearby!
Best Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream/Gelato (Suburbs)
1301 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8767
Evanston is the proud home of this artisanal Argentine gelato store, where people line up year-round for flavors like Malbec & Berries and Dulce de Leche.
Best Grocery Store (City)
Everyone loves Mariano’s, with its fresh juice bar, amazing wine and cheese selection, and jaw-dropping bakery department.
Best Grocery Store (Suburbs)
341 Hazel Ave., Glencoe, 847-835-2842; 606 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847-446-6707
This locally owned mini chain is truly your favorite North Shore market.
Best High Tea (City)
140 E. Walton Place, Chicago, 312-787-2200
You picked a classic! The Drake has been doing high tea right for decades.
Best High Tea (Suburbs)
255 E. Illinois Road, Lake Forest, 847-234-2280
Refined service and delectable tea sandwiches and mini pastries are hallmarks of this hotel.
Best Indian (City)
10 W. Hubbard, Chicago, 312-527-4060
Owner/chef/tastemaker Rohini Dey keeps the spice coming at this River North spot; cocktails are also on point.
Best Indian (Suburbs)
630 Church St., Evanston, 847-491-1069
Of course there’s an extensive lunch buffet at this Evanston stalwart, but the a la carte menu of Nepalese and Indian specialties is what sets it apart.
Best Italian (City)
2119 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-549-0038
Although it may be located in the heart of Lincoln Park, the cuisine at this Italian ristorante reminds us most of Florence.
Best Italian (Suburbs) | Best New Restaurant (Opened Since September 2017) (Suburbs)
985 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847-386-6053
This newcomer is already making waves with its modern take on Italian cucina.
Best Japanese (City)
4229 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Chef Iliana Regan is really about honoring the techniques and flavor profiles of Japanese cuisine, rather than turning out a carbon copy, and the results are often spectacular.
Best Japanese (Suburbs)
1162 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-920-5075
Chicago’s best ramen may well be in … Wilmette?!? The broths here are simply luscious, and they’re making the tender ramen noodles in house.
Best Mexican (City)
2829 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-661-6452
Frontera Grill vets Brian and Jennifer Enyart are reinventing Mexican dishes at their colorful Logan Square restaurant, and we are here for it.
Best Mexican (Suburbs)
1139 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-251-3111
They’ve brought the crown back to Wilmette with their enormous margaritas, deep bench of tequilas, and a menu filled with crowd-pleasers.
Best New Restaurant (Opened Since September 2017) (City)
1450 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-455-8900
This West Town newbie is named for part of Spain’s Atlantic coastline and features Spanish seafood preparations and Basque-influenced dishes.
Best Pizza (City) (Tie)
3707 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, 773-477-2625; 1321 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-226-2625
1927 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773-772-4422
Thin-crust pie is the best pie! Especially when it’s the blistered, charcoal oven-fired pizza at Coalfire in West Town or Wrigleyville, or the New Haven-style apizz (not a typo!) at Piece in Wicker Park.
Best Pizza (Suburbs)
This is your favorite deep-dish pizza, so you probably already know you can ship one directly to your family and friends who’ve moved away!
Best Place to Bring a Group (City)
1748 W. Lake St., Chicago, 312-366-2294
Your group will be spoiled for choice at this West Loop farm-to-table restaurant with its emphasis on fresh and flavorful.
Best Place to Bring a Group (Suburbs) | Best Service (Suburbs)
1168 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847-251-3262
They’ve just celebrated their fifth anniversary in Wilmette with an updated menu, so now there are even more yummy options for you and your guests.
Best Romantic Dining (City)
12 S. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor, Chicago, 312-792-3515
Dark and clubby, with gorgeous woodwork and killer cocktails, this stunning spot in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has got it all going on.
Best Romantic Dining (Suburbs)
1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston, 847-570-8400
You know what’s romantic? Hearing your loved one speak without shouting over the music and the general din. Hearth is a welcome respite from sensory overload.
Best Sandwiches (City)
1840 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, 773-661-2469
It’s all about fast-casual service at this North Center Jewish deli (and its new outpost in Ravenswood manor) with a fine selection of smoked meats and fish.
Best Sandwiches (Suburbs)
551 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, 847-386-9100
Fresh, locally sourced ingredients help elevate the sandwiches at this Winnetka storefront.
Best Seafood (City)
660 N. State St., Chicago, 312-202-6050
Best Seafood (Suburbs)
505 Main St., Evanston, 847-864-3435
Chef Mark Grosz continues to produce pristine preparations of fresh fish and seafood inspired by French classics.
Best Service (City)
1639 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-360-9500
The professional, attentive service one would expect at a restaurant with two Michelin stars and a mind-blowing tasting menu.
Best Steakhouse (City)
58 E. Oak St., Chicago, 312-888-2499
This is what meat lovers dream about when they close their eyes. We’re talking beef nirvana.
Best Steakhouse (Suburbs)
933 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847-498-6889; 100 W. Higgins Road, Suite U-1, South Barrington, 847-551-3730
You love that sizzling steak!
Best Sushi (City)
2300 N. Lincoln Park W, Suite N, Chicago, 773-868-0002
This is where Chicago’s Japanese Consulate brings hungry visitors from Japan, and that tells you all you need to know!
Best Takeout Dining (City)
1360 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, 773-687-8697; 1000 W. 35th St., Chicago, 773-823-9410; 125 S. Clark St., Chicago, 773-770-6195
There are now three locations — Wicker Park, Bridgeport, and The Loop — to fulfill your emergent taco needs. Don’t miss the Pork Carnitas or the Crispy Fish tacos.
Best Takeout Dining (Suburbs)
1515 Sheridan Road, Wilmette, 847-251-3654
For nearly 40 years, they’ve been bringing the delicious so that you can look good. Whether it’s a Ravinia picnic basket for 10 or a dinner for 100, the quality is consistently high.
Best Thai (City)
1906 S. State St., Chicago, 312-567-9898; 1371 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-988-0986
Both the South Loop and West Town locations are serving up a huge menu of tasty Thai standards.
Best Thai (Suburbs)
1622 Orrington Ave., Evanston, 847-733-8424
Nakorn means “cosmopolitan” in Thai, and that’s an apt description of the exceptionally prepared and presented food here in Evanston. Think ginger, lemongrass, coconut, and tamarind with lots of fresh seafood, meat, and veggies. Not your average Thai by a longshot.
Best Vegan/Vegetarian (City)
802 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 312-265-1745
A wonderful addition to the West Loop Restaurant Row, this produce-centric menu makes veggies sexy.
Best Vegan/Vegetarian (Suburbs)
525 Dempster St., Evanston, 847-328-6875
Part of the Evanston landscape for nearly 40 years, they’ve been serving up vegetarian and vegan cuisine since before it was cool.
Best Wine Store (City)
This wine and liquor superstore now has 38 locations in Illinois.
Best Wine Store (Suburbs)
9965 Gross Point Road, Skokie, 847-677-9463
Skokie is home to one of the finest family-run wine stores around, known for personal service.