Chicago is a city of big shoulders and bigger appetites, which contributed to the results of Zagat’s new Chicago Restaurants Survey! More than 1,000 restaurants around the region were voted on by 6,521 diners, and we compiled their scores and comments into our signature 30-point ratings and quotation-filled reviews. Everything new is now live on Zagat.com, as well as across Google Maps and Search.
So who are the big winners?
Patience is indeed a virtue: Since its opening in 2003, popular Mediterranean-inspired Avec — with its casual atmosphere, inspired wine list and bold cuisine — has been a hit with diners, but this is the first year it nabbed the top spot for Food. The rest of the top 10 is an assortment of key players in the Chicago culinary scene, including Grant Achatz and NickKokonas’ Alinea (2), Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill (3), last year’s No. 1 Katsu (5), Logan Square’s crown jewel Longman & Eagle (8) and newcomer Grace (9). Check out all the Top 50 Food winners, complete with recommendations for must-try dishes, right here.
Waterside North Pond was honored with the highest spot on the Top Decor list followed by everyone’s favorite bar in a refurbished bank vault, The Bedford (2), and then by Alpana Signh’s wine bar The Boarding House (5), thanks perhaps to its stunning chandelier made out of 20,000 wine glasses. Fine-dining restaurants shined in the Best Service category with Alinea (1), Grace (2), Next (3), Everest (5), Les Nomades (6) and Goosefoot (7) all landing in the top 10. For dining $25 and under, Publican Quality Meats is ranked No. 1 in the Best Value category, followed by Smoque (2) and Kuma’s Corner (3).
Join the crowds at Wildfire, which nabbed Most Popular in our survey. Deep-dish pizza remain a standby in this category, with Lou Malnati’s (2), Gino’s East (4), and Giordano’s (5) all making the cut.
American fare is especially popular with diners, and, when it comes to Traditional American, Au Cheval took the top spot. As for Restaurants for Burgers, Kuma’s Corner remains king.
Chicago certainly has a trustworthy sweet tooth, ranking Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream the Best Bakery or Sweet Shop. Meanwhile, Publican Quality Meats was dubbed Best Sandwich Shop.
A fresh face in the city’s smoked meat scene landed on the Top BBQ list. Green Street Smoked Meats just missed the top spot, with Smoque BBQ holding on to No. 1. The Top Mediterranean list also welcomed Travelle (4), located inside of The Langham Hotel, as well as relative newcomer Ada Street (5).
After a swanky remodel, Spiaggia takes the top spot as Best Italian, while Nico Osteria makes its debut on that list at No. 4. Finally, we don’t need to tell you Chicagoans take pizza seriously, and local favorite Pequod’s was dubbed prime pie purveyor this time out.
Chicagoans loved to eat out this year, taking an average of 4.7 meals out per week for lunch and dinner combined. They are not skimping on tips either — they are amongst the highest tippers, tied with Boston at 19.6%, just behind Austin and Philadelphia.
So we’ve establish that Chicagoans are indeed eating out, but where are they eating? 19% claim their favorite food is Italian, followed by American (16%), French (12%) and seafood (10%). These restaurants better take credit cards, because 49% said that they would be less inclined to eat at a cash-only restaurant. Also, offal better not be on the menu, since 45% claimed they are over the nose-to-tail trend. Farm-to-table dining, on the other hand, is still alive-and-well with 64% saying they love it.
Not everything is fine-and-dandy in the dining scene: 24% get annoyed by an inattentive staff, and when it comes to noise 26% say they are most annoyed by unruly babies and children in restaurants.
Congrats, Chicago is tied with Houston for being the most kleptomanic city surveyed, with 24% admitting they have stolen something from a restaurant; 4% also claim they’ve walked out without paying (but that doesn’t beat Miami’s astounding 8% — whew!). Chicago is also a phone-friendly city city, with 75% using their cells to take photos during a meal and more than 50% using them for use social media.