Chicago, also known as the City of Big Shoulders, has a long and storied history of culinary diversity. From its early days as a melting pot of European immigrants to its more recent emergence as a cultural hub, the Windy City has always been a place where different culinary traditions collide and coexist. Today, Chicago boasts an impressive array of top-notch restaurants that exemplify this culinary diversity.

One of the key players in this scene is the legendary Alinea, which was named the best restaurant in the United States by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2019. Helmed by chef Grant Achatz, this three-Michelin-starred restaurant is widely credited with pioneering the molecular gastronomy movement. Diners can expect to enjoy dishes that are as inventive as they are visually stunning, ranging from a tabletop helium balloon filled with green apple aromatics to a dessert that transforms from a frozen ball into a pear-shaped mousse.

Another standout restaurant in Chicago is Next, which is also owned by Achatz. Unlike Alinea, Next takes on a new theme every season, ranging from the cuisine of ancient Rome to the flavors of modern-day Thailand. Chef Jenner Tomaska goes to great lengths to ensure that everything on the menu is faithful to the chosen theme, sourcing ingredients from around the world and creating dishes that are both delicious and educational.

For those who prefer a more traditional take on fine dining, there’s Grace. Another three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Grace features contemporary American cuisine that is both inventive and expertly executed. Helmed by chef Curtis Duffy, the restaurant’s tasting menu is priced at $235 per person and features dishes like duck breast with smoked maple syrup and figs, and scallops with caviar and pommes fondant.

Of course, not every great restaurant in Chicago is focused on the fine-dining experience. For those looking for something more casual, there’s Publican Quality Meats. This neighborhood butcher shop and cafe serves up some of the best sandwiches in the city, as well as a fantastic selection of charcuterie and artisanal cheeses. Chef Paul Kahan and his team also offer cooking classes, meat-cutting demonstrations, and wine tastings, making it a one-stop-shop for all things delicious.

Another must-visit restaurant for casual dining is Frontera Grill, which serves up some of the best Mexican food in the city. Helmed by chef Rick Bayless, this family-friendly spot has been a Chicago institution for over 30 years. The menu features everything from classic dishes like tamales and tacos to more inventive offerings like the Oaxacan black mole with duck breast.

Finally, for those looking to explore the many culinary traditions of Chicago’s immigrant communities, there’s Fat Rice. This Michelin-starred restaurant specializes in the food of the Portuguese-influenced island of Macao, but also incorporates elements of Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian cuisine. Dishes like the African chicken with coconut and ginger and the pork belly with kimchi and mustard greens are a testament to the restaurant’s eclectic approach.

In conclusion, Chicago is a city with an incredible diversity of culinary traditions, and its top restaurants reflect this in every way. From cutting-edge molecular gastronomy to classic American fine dining to global street food, there’s something for everyone in the Windy City’s restaurant scene. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, be sure to explore all that Chicago has to offer the next time you’re hungry.