perks for your palate.




Blue Door Kitchen

Because food is the best gift of all—12 great restaurant gift certificates in Chicago

By Nicole Schnitzler

There’s no better time than now to start thinking about finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list, and what better gift is there for your food-loving friends than a visit to one of Chicago’s best restaurants? Easy to purchase, easier to enjoy, and versatile as all get-out, the gift certificate was made for the dining experience—so long as you choose wisely. To ensure you do just that, we’ve put together a delicious dozen options to check out from among the Second City’s essential eateries.

Break the bank for modern-day Italian at Spiaggia
Impress your friends big time with a visit to Spiaggia, Tony Manutano’s iconic destination for fine dining Italian. Fun fact? It’s a favorite of the Obamas.
Neighborhood: Mag Mile MAP

A prix fixe kind of present at Smyth
The West Loop has another media darling as of this fall, brought to you by a husband-and-wife team who know a thing or two about high-end dining (he spent time at Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s; she at Trotter’s and Tru). Expect a tasting menu of exceptional bites served in a comfortable, home-away-from-home atmosphere.
Neighborhood: West Loop MAP

The Dearborn

Crowd-pleasing New American plates at The Dearborn
This Loop-situated spot is bound to please everyone in your party, thanks to a local approach to familiar dishes, such as the Midwest fried chicken with maple-mustard glaze and hot sauce, and local burrata with beets and heirloom tomatoes.
Neighborhood: The Loop MAP

Go veggie-forward at Bad Hunter
This West Loop newcomer takes its vegetables seriously, but that doesn’t mean meat lovers are left hanging. House-cured bacon and sirloin skewers are still on offer, as are several meat-inspired plates, such as beet tartare and a not-to-be-missed veggie burger on brioche.
Neighborhood: West Loop MAP

Cocktails with a twist at Presidio
If you were expecting a ho-hum selection of fries and deviled eggs, forget it—there’s a full list of menu items to choose from at this Bucktown bar, from pork belly pappardelle to pork Milanese. Make sure you cushion in enough change for your guests to enjoy at least two rounds of cocktails, which are this hangout’s true forte.
Neighborhood: Bucktown MAP

Mercat a la Planxa

Take a trip to Spain at Mercat a la Planxa
Just footsteps from Grant Park, this South Loop restaurant is the perfect place to take in the cityscape, while gin and tonics, bacon wrapped dates, and paella help jet-set you straight to Spain.
Neighborhood: South Loop MAP

Unwind with upmarket Japanese at Arami
Sushi and ramen lovers alike flock to this West Town staple, where chefs Ajay Popli and Nelson Vinansaca serve up favorites like Arami ramen, with pork belly, grilled enoki, and house tsukemono, or the hamachi carpaccio, a decadent display of torched yellowtail, ponzu, and sesame oil.
Neighborhood: West Town MAP


Explore Peruvian and Argentinean-style street fare at Boleo
If it’s not the likes of flavorful ceviches, hand-folded empanadas, and seafood-focused tiraditos drawing crowds to this recently opened Loop restaurant, it’s the rooftop, which is open year round. Once you’ve found the perfect view, head bartender Jess Lambert has you covered with an array of South American–inspired cocktails.
Neighborhood: The Loop MAP

Enjoy seasonal fare and cozy environs at Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
Chef Art Smith does it again with this Gold Coast restaurant, where a hyper-seasonal and sustainable menu is as delicious as the décor is charming. While the food impresses year round, a summer visit to the garden and courtyard is a must.
Neighborhood: Gold Coast MAP

Splurge on whimsy at Elizabeth
If it’s wow factor you’re going for, look no further than this Lincoln Square hole in the wall, where chef Iliana Regan focuses on all things fruit and vegetable for her seasonal tasting menus. Each installment is nothing short of incredible fun—the focus for the menu this fall: Downton Abbey.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Square MAP


Travel the world with Sepia’s globally-inspired menu
Chef Andrew Zimmerman helms the kitchen at this West Loop restaurant, where his internationally-inspired American fare has helped the restaurant to earn a Michelin star on the yearly since 2011. Go for the roasted rabbit with house bacon and tea soaked prune, or the coconut braised beets with curry leaf and cocoa nibs.
Neighborhood: West Loop MAP

Discover a melting pot of flavors at Vermilion
The adventurous eater on your list is bound to enjoy an evening at Vermilion, where the upscale menu features a melding of Indian and Latin flavors, as evidenced by tandoori skirt steak and blackened tamarind ribs with tomatillo “pachadi.”
Neighborhood: River North MAP

Email   Print   Tweet  


An incredible restaurant in a hotel? Here are 9 in Chicago

Hotels are popping up in cities across the country featuring incredible in-house restaurants as main attractions—and Chicago is no exception. MORE


10 Chicago diners slinging seriously good grub

In contrast to the trusty railcar mainstays, there are places revitalizing the Chicago diner scene by taking good old-fashioned American cooking up a notch in noticeably new "old-school" digs. Here are ten that are guaranteed to serve up some pretty darn good food MORE


8 must-have Chicago breakfast sandwiches under $7

When it comes down to it, a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is something we could eat at pretty much any time of day—here are eight in Chicago that we’re already craving for tomorrow morning. MORE


Feed Love: Chicago

Soul-nourishing food isn't hard to come by in a city abounding with dining options, but eateries that are also fueling life-changing initiatives to better serve their local communities are still rare, shining beacons of hope. The chefs at these Chicago restaurants and cafés are making more than just delicious food—they're dishing up a side of social action with every meal. MORE


The crème de la crème—Chicago’s 8 best bakeries

If there’s one thing we should be thankful for in the Chicago food landscape, it’s the neighborhood bakeries, and the fleets they all employ. Here are eight of our very favorite bakeries in Chicago. MORE


8 farmers markets in Chicago you’ll want to browse this fall

Local farmers and producers market their goods in various pockets of Chicago throughout the year, but there's no better time than the crisp days of fall to reap this fresh harvest and all of its delicious stock. Here are eight of the best farmers markets in the city this season. MORE


The 10 best burgers in Chicago for $12 or less

Any restaurant can put a cheeseburger on their menu, but few rise to the level of true greatness. For bold variations you won’t soon forget—from a traditional beef patty to one made with fresh salmon—these 10 spots deliver our favorite Chicago burgers under $12. MORE


7 authentic ice cream treats that trot the globe

Now more than ever Chicago is home to an abundance of frozen treats from around the globe, from bastani and halo-halo, to mochi and Italian ice. MORE


Chicago’s best outdoor dining that won't break the bank

Yes, it is possible to dine outdoors on unbelievably delicious plates without sacrificing your entire paycheck. Here are eight acclaimed Chicago restaurants that'll have you pinching yourself when the bill comes—in a good way. MORE


Our favorite late-night eats in Chicago

Summer in Chicago comes and goes as quickly as an amuse bouche at Alinea, so it’s important to savor every last second of it, even if that means savoring well into the evening. Thankfully, a handful of restaurants and bars are on the case, outfitting their menus with late night eats. MORE


Eat This Now: 7 must-try dishes in Chicago right now

Each new restaurant in Chicago seems to be offering incredible meals—but then there are those special few dishes, the kind you think about long after your meal has ended, the ones you devour slowly because you don't want the flavor to end. MORE


6 super fancy restaurants that won’t break the bank

Who says you need a birthday or anniversary to treat yourself? But then the big question becomes whether you can find a restaurant to deliver on your idea of fancy without a bill to match. MORE


7 superior sustainable destinations in Chicago

Here are seven restaurants in Chicago that focus on healthy, sustainable, and seasonal dishes, so it won't feel like cheating—on your budget or your conscience—the next time you decide to dine out. MORE


6 Chicago spots where the food is as good as the show

When you’re heading out for a night of entertainment, wouldn’t it be nice if the venue was a bona fide one stop shop—a place where the talent in the kitchen was just as inspired as the talent on stage? MORE


Chicago’s best Vietnamese for $20 or less

If you're craving pho and bánh mì, we’ve pulled together some top choices for high-quality Vietnamese eats all over the city, from the traditional to the rethought—and all for $20 or less. MORE


7 Chicago hot spots for less than $25 per person

Though it might seem like all the best restaurants are just out of reach, there are plenty of places where you can dine well without breaking the bank. We found seven of the most buzzworthy Chicago spots that offer both incredibly delicious food and an affordable experience. MORE


5 incredible omakase menus on a sane budget

Master sushi chefs can put together a dining experience that will blow your mind—and your paycheck. But it doesn’t have to be like that. MORE


9 unexpected local Chicago treats to bring to a dinner party

There’s nothing we love more than a good dinner party, and nothing our hosts love more than our fine company—except, perhaps, when we knock their socks off with rad gifts. And thanks to a handful of to-go products from the city’s top talent, we now have little reason for falling back on the old reliable bottle of wine. MORE


Chicago’s best plates that travel well—and those that don’t

We live in a golden age of delivery—with everything from crudo to crab cakes just a few swipes and taps away—but the truth is some dishes just don’t travel well. Read on to find out what’s worth the delivery charge, and what doesn’t make the cut. MORE


$25-and-under date ideas

While some occasions call for throwing budget to the wind, more often than not, a great date night means quality time together over eats and drinks that are just as quality—and a check that you won’t be paying off on installments. MORE


Chicago's best dim sum for under $20

Chinatown is an easy target when looking for some of Chicago's best dim sum options, but there are other hidden gems sprinkled throughout the city, too. These dim sum dishes we've found at seven Chicago spots that will leave you asking for sum more. MORE


Eat This Now: 8 must-try dishes in Chicago right now

It may be freezing out, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant scene has cooled down one bit. Here are the eight plates you have to try right now. MORE


A taste of Korea in Chicago for under $20

From authentic DIY barbecue to spicy fried chicken, tangy, funky kimchi, and street food spins on classics, Chicago has no shortage of great Korean fare. Here are seven spots in the city to sample some colorful, meat-centric cuisine that are also eminently affordable. MORE


7 rooms with a view—and a good meal, too—in Chicago

We've rounded up our favorite restaurants in Chicago where the food makes the meal and won’t break the bank—with views that make the whole experience worthwhile. MORE


6 Indian feasts for under $25

If you’re looking for a curry festival, a tandoori party, or a garam masala bash, here are six places you can go that won’t break the bank. MORE


6 Greek feasts for under $25

Let’s face it: In this town, you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to get a meal that makes you want to say “Opa!” Here are our favorite spots to get an epic Greek feast that won’t break the bank. MORE


A food-forward guide to our favorite wallet-friendly brunch spots

You can stumble upon a bottomless mimosa and breakfast skillet in almost any Chicago neighborhood, but what’s more difficult is finding those hidden gems—place that serve some of the best eggs, pancakes, and pastries around, yet are still affordable. MORE


8 stellar pierogi joints, from classic to iconoclastic

These little crescent-shaped dumplings are having a moment in Chicago right now. Beyond traditional fillings, the city’s more adventurous doughmakers are cramming them with all sorts of savory and sweet goods. MORE


French restaurants in Chicago—the crème de la crème

It’s no surprise that French bistros, cafes, and brasseries are pretty easy to come by in Chicago. Locating one that lives up to the legend, however, is a different story. MORE


6 kid-friendly restaurants with actually good food

You shouldn’t have to settle for mediocre food just because you have kids. Luckily, Chicago has a ton of high-quality restaurants that just happen to be kid friendly. MORE


7 places where family-style means good food

If watching someone order a dish you wish you’d chosen can leave you distracted and unable to enjoy your own meal, we've got the cure. Try a little bit of everything and leave your meal feeling both full and satisfied at one of these family-style-friendly Chicago restaurants. MORE


From KC to the Carolinas, the best of authentic BBQ in Chicago

Though it can’t lay claim to signature moves like Kansas City’s tomato- and molasses-slicked BBQ, Memphis pit-cooked dry ribs, or the thin vinegar BBQ sauce of North Carolina, Chicago has made a strong case for its barbecue offerings in recent years. MORE


Grab your basket: 6 of Chicago’s best picnic possibilities

It’s prime season for al fresco dining, so whether you’re headed for Ravinia, Millennium Park, the beach, or just your own backyard, we have a line on the best sources for all your provisions. MORE


6 incredible desserts you have probably never tried, but should

A simple, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie can be an unbeatable finale to a hearty meal, but sometimes we’re looking for that sweet treat that we’ve never encountered before. Here are six of the best, most unique desserts in Chicago. MORE


$25-and-under steak dishes that are a cut above

Whether it’s our meatpacking roots or those notoriously long, cruel winters, carnivorous Chicagoans love a good steak. But a terrific slab of perfectly cooked beef doesn’t have to come with a $100 price tag. MORE


6 culinary classes we're taking right now

Sometimes the best way to enjoy a dish is to create it yourself. Don’t know a strainer from a spatula? Not to worry: With the help of a professional, and maybe a few cocktails, you’ll be a master chef in no time. MORE


Will drive for food—6 places worth hitting the road for

While Chicago is packed with an almost unending multitude of awesome food and culture, the surrounding environs,—say, within 100 miles—are filled with incredible places to eat. MORE


5 savvy steals for fun group feasting

Group dining is incredibly fun—but you can’t bring a big group to just any restaurant, even if it happens to have that elusive big table sitting in the back. Here are five of our favorite spots where everything is perfect for a big group of friends. MORE


8 unexpected BYOBs that rock in the culinary dept.

Sometimes you want to spruce it up a bit, yet not pay restaurant wine list prices. Luckily, Chicago has a broad selection of BYO’s for the picking, from steakhouse and French cuisine, to sustainable, local American—including these eight delicious gems. MORE


5 restaurants where you want to eat at the bar

Whether you forgot to reserve that coveted table in time or simply feel like digging into bar snacks with a friend, a meal at a great restaurant bar can be just as memorable as one in the dining room—albeit without all the fuss. MORE


5 restaurants that should have a Michelin star

It’s no surprise that Chicago has garnered a fair share of Michelin stars over the past few years, but this town has plenty of other star-worthy gems just waiting to be recognized. MORE


Nine courses of “flora" and “fauna" at Grace & more...

It’s a wonderful time to be a vegetarian. New restaurants have interesting, creative vegetarian dishes that aren’t just a compromised version of their “regular” choices. Even so, it can be hard to find great deals on prix fixe menus that cater to veggies. Here are five vegetarian tastings that you won’t make you feel like you’re taking a gamble. MORE