The wonderful city of Chicago has been my sweet home for over 10 years now, and I’ve gotten to know this place pretty well.
People always ask me what my favorite spots are from restaurants to shopping to spa treatments and everything in between.
No matter how cold it gets outside (today it’s below 0 and maybe the coldest day ever!), there’s always something fabulous to do in Chicago.
Visiting Chicago? Looking for the best the city has to offer? I’ve got you covered with the hottest spots in town.
In this post, I’ve listed for you the top restaurants, hotels, shopping destinations, beauty and wellness spots, plus great excursions for the family! Keep reading for the complete “best of” lists…
Chicago’s TOP 20 Best Restaurants
Lunch, Dinner, Tapas, Patio, and Sushi in Chicago
Space 519- This is the coolest place! I was just introduced to this and it is the coolest location for shopping + dining. That’s right, they have both! It’s a concept store with fashion, accessories, home decor, and in house restaurant! Everything is so stylish and delicious. They have these great meat pies that they are known for, and you can take them to-go!
Shore Club Chicago – When it comes to summer and warmer weather, this is my favorite spot! It’s a chic restaurant by the water at North Avenue, with great cocktails and fun music. I swear it always reminds me of vacation!! And since I’m updating this during quarantine in 2020, it’s really nice to have a place that feels like vacation while staying in the city 🙂
Etta – The first place I went after lockdown and OMG, it couldn’t be more perfect. From the music, to the decor, to the overall vibes and atmosphere, it was simply the best!! And I felt super safe and clean with the staff. You HAVE to try the wood-fired lobster and the cocktails!
Pizzeria Portofino – If you want to feel like you are on vacation without leaving the city, Pizzeria Portofino is the place! Owned by the RPM family, it is crazy popular and crazy good. Plus the views of the riverwalk and the vibe is just spectacular!! The pizza crust in thin and crispy, and Leonix definitely approved 🙂
Maple & Ash my new favorite place the atmosphere, food, and service are next level. My favorite dishes are by far the oysters, steak and bone marrow.
Gibsons Italia – One of my absolute favorite restaurants right now. This space has the BEST views of the city and the food is incredible. Ema – People always ask what my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant is in the city, Ema is definitely the top of my list. The restaurant itself is stunning, and the food is even better.
Somerset, Boka group never disappoints and Somerset is no exception. The space is very new, super chic and everything I’ve ever had from their menu is to die for!
Purple Pig – This is one of my favs and reigns the most popular in Chicago. The biggest flavors come out of this tiny kitchen. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait. Trust me, the bone marrow, beet salad, and pannacotta are worth it! Try to arrive between 3-5pm so that you can be seated quickly. NOW open for breakfast!
320RiverBar – The perfect patio Bar with breathtaking Chicago views, and the most refreshing summer cocktails. Make sure to try their sangria sorbet dessert and mini delicious burgers and fried shrimp! Siena Tavern – Cannot miss this place! They make their own pasta (a must while in Chicago) and their breakfast is always amazing.
STK Chicago – This hot spot is a great place for steak and drinks with its sexy atmosphere.
Juno – By far the best sushi in town! I especially love their signature nigiri and uni.
Momotaro – Amazing sushi, gorgeous decor, super trendy.
Lena Brava – You don’t want to miss this dining experience by the brilliant chef Rick Bayless. Lots of favorites on the menu. If you are a uni lover like me, make sure to order the Uni Tlayidita.
Nico – This spot is known for their homemade pasta, excellent service, and beautiful atmosphere, especially with their gorgeous outdoor seating during the summer months. Must try dishes include the Bronzino fish and the homemade ragu.
GT Fish and Oyster – This trendy spot is your oyster destination in Chicago.
Nomi – I love sitting on the rooftop in the summer for lunch, and their burgers and sushi are delish!
Big Star – This fun Mexican spot is all you need for trendy tacos, whiskey, and honky tonk.
Cindy’s Rooftop Bar – Reserve a spot at Cindy’s to get the full-on Chicago experience, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this popular dinner spot.
Parachute – This contemporary Korean American spot offers a truly exceptional dining experience, and they even have their extensive wine menu online for you to check out ahead of time. They are family owned business that was impossible to get reservation before the pandemic. The restaurant is tiny, so opening during pandemic is not an option….luckily they are open for takeout! I encourage you to try the best Korean influenced food and support this local family owned business.
The Publican – Farm and fisherman fresh cuisine, the Publican is a great spot for homey, comfort food with a gourmet touch.
GT Prime -The sister restaurant of GT Fish And Oyster (mentioned above) is a great spot for meat lovers looking to support local and seasonal cuisine. The brussel sprouts and steaks are to die for!
Girl and the Goat – The restaurant of Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard, is your go-to place for locally brewed beer on tap, funky cocktails, and unique, comfort food inspired dishes.
Beatnik – Bohemian cocktail bar and restaurant is filled with the most epic decor. My favorite drink on their cocktail menu is the Melange of Modern Culture, and the lobster dish is insane.
Bellemore – a brand new restaurant in Chicago, the decor inside is absolutely insane. I really enjoyed their winter salad and Atlantic Cod…and their Hawaiian rolls are so good they should be illegal! Sawada Matcha – If you like coffee and matcha you have to check this place out! It’s delicious and perfect place to meet with friends, or for a meeting. Joe & The Juice – This quickly became my new office space. The decor is as incredible as the beverages. My favorite drink is the Herb Tonic.
3 ARTS CLUB CAFE – Conveniently located at Restoration Hardware, this is literally the most inspiring space I can think of. Perfect for a brunch and shopping date with the girls!
Rosebud – Always family friendly, not too crowded, great food.
Boho – I love their original menu which is inspired by Czech, German, and Austrian cuisine. The service is always exceptional, and I just love the bohemian decor. Their open fish salad sandwich with quail egg is my personal brunch favorite.
Pierrot Gourmet Cafe at The Peninsula – This is the place for a classic European dining experience in Chi-town. I especially love both the rotisserie chicken and chicken salad. The outdoor seating area is not to be missed when it’s nice out. And Katya approves! (She always orders a steamed milk which we like to call a cappuccino!)
Afternoon Tea Time
My Favorite Hotels in Chicago
*Swissotel Chicago – we recently had the pleasure to staycation at Swissotel and were blown away. The location is in the heart of the city and prior to our arrival they set up the most incredible activities and toys for the kids. I’ve never stayed at a hotel so kid friendly! Not to mention our room was absolutely stunning with the most breathtaking views of the city. The food was amazing, too. We can’t wait to go back. If you travel to Chicago, especially with kids, this hotel should be a no brainer.
*St. Jane – I had the opportunity to stay at this new hotel with some girlfriends and it instantly became one of my new favorite hotels in the city. The rooms are beautiful and comfortable, I am obsessed with the decor. It’s the perfect hotel for a staycation or if you’re visiting the city for the first time. The restaurant at the hotel, Free Rein, is insane and considered one of the best in the city.
* Langham – My family created so many unforgettable memories here, and I really can’t recommend this experience enough. If you need a last-minute gift for Dad, trust me, forget the ties and the golf accessories and get him an experience!
Chicago top 8 Must-see family activities
By the way, even if you’re without the kids, don’t miss out on these must-see attractions!
Navy Pier now has their awesome newly renovated Ferris Wheel which we’ve enjoyed with every out of town guest, and it never gets old! How could you get bored with these extraordinary views? Don’t forget your camera!
New Riverwalk is a great place to take a walk through the breathtaking sites of the city and enjoy a glass of wine at the Winery City.
Architectural Boat Tour is a summer must. The kids will love the most stunning city views! I recommend going in time to enjoy the sunset and make sure to bring your camera.
Lincoln Park Zoo is beautiful and free! The kids will love the enchanting zoo lights, especially in the wintertime when outdoor activities are limited.
The Bean at Millennium Park is an iconic, picture-perfect spot, and you can grab brunch or lunch at Cindy’s (mentioned above) because it’s nearby.
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of our favorites. One day just isn’t enough!
Maggie Daley Park is a year-round favorite; it’s perfect for ice skating in the winter and hands down the most fun park for playdates and afternoon outings with kids in the summer.
Chicago Winterland with kids during the holiday season is a must! Katya and I go at least twice every winter.
Chicago’s Best Shopping destinations
Water Tower Mall at Michigan Avenue
Neiman Marcus – Classic retailer with the best of the best. Not much to add here! [Click the link for local store hours and address]
Nordstrom – grab a bite at Purple Pig (mentioned above) after you shop. [Click the link for local store hours and address]
Ikram – a Chicago institution, come get inspired and even enjoy lunch at their cafe upstairs. This is the place where all the celebrities shop.
Intermix – my favorite place to shop with independent, emerging contemporary designers.
Felt – my favorite shopping destination! Superior service, totally kid-friendly.
Christina Karin – Chicago based designer for bold, contemporary fashions.
Dana Rebecca Designs – Chicago based jewelry designer available at Nordstrom.
Rachel Lynn – I am obsessed with Rachel’s customized collection of charm bracelets. It makes a perfect holiday gift! Use promo code TALI to get 15% off!
Akira – great spot to find trendy, versatile pieces that won’t break the bank. I especially love their store at 1814 W. North Ave.
Chicago’s top 9 beauty spots [Best Spa, Salon, and Wellness]
Ambra Salon – My stylist is Mira, she creates magic with hair!! I just keep coming back. Paolo does really cool cuts for boys 🙂
Arsova Salon – Gorgeous salon in Gold Coast. I’ve been going to my girl Lindsey Horn for cut and color and I’m in love with my hair.
Zazu Salon – Alexa at Zazu has been doing my hair for years, ever since they used to be across the street from me. Their new gorgeous location in River North is worth the short 3 block commute.
Alex Brown Salon – Alex worked in LA with celebrities for years and is now officially moved to Chicago to open her own boutique salon. I am obsessed with her and her gorgeous salon.
It’s All About Maggie Eyebrows – Maggie is a magician when it comes to brows, and she always has candy on hand for Katya and champagne for mama, making each visit fun.
Soho House – Also known as Cowshed, this spa with locations in Miami, NYC, and Europe, always makes for a truly zen experience, and their signature line of facial and beauty products are both luxurious and natural.
Salon 1800 – Located at Lincoln Park, Salon 1800 offers a full array of services, but their facials are the best. Ask for Dita.
Leah Chavie – Leah, of Chicago’s own Leah Chavie Spa, is a queen of her craft and always make time for me when I need to squeeze in a quick facial!
Chuan Spa at The Langham – Chuan is the ultimate spa destination in town, and I’ve yet to have a more relaxing, pampering experience elsewhere.
My Massage – No fuss but clean and the massage therapists are amazing. Very well priced and always wonderful massages.
Go Glow is the best of the best glow you can get! I am addicted to Go Glow body lotion, too. Mention my name and get 15% off!
Barry’s Bootcamp I’ve been totally hooked! It feels more like a party than a workout, it’s incredible. The workouts are intense but perfect for someone who’s high energy like me.
Enjoyed my Chicago’s Best recommendations?
Have a hot spot you love that isn’t mentioned here?
I love hearing about your experiences and learning about new must-see destinations in Chicago. Comment below or contact me to add to the list!