Chicago's restaurants celebrate the city's diverse cultures--and continue to develop and define American cuisine. On this slide and the ones following are some of our favorites.
Sepia This former printing house in the West Loop serves rustic food with a contemporary twist--plus throwback cocktails such as the Sepia Mule, with ginger-infused vodka, fresh lime juice and ginger beer. Try the flatbread appetizer topped with applewood-smoked bacon, pears and blue cheese (left). (312) 441-1920
Table 52 Chef Art Smith of Oprah fame serves high-end, Southern-influenced sandwiches, pizzas and entrees in an elegant, small Gold Coast dining room. The splurge-worthy food starts with cheese biscuits. Reservations recommended a couple of weeks in advance. (312) 573-4000
Avec You'll make new friends over Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as salumi at long, communal tables in the West Loop. Try the roasted fish and medjool dates. No reservations. (312) 377-2002
Table 52 
Sure, you can spend over $100 per person for dinner in Chicago--but you don't have to. Try these choices for meals that are easy on the wallet.
Xoco Celeb-chef Rick Bayless brings his Mexican genius to the masses with an affordable counter-service restaurant. None of the intriguing sandwiches (suckling pig!) disappoint, and the hot chocolate is divine. Xoco pictured at left. (312) 661-1434
Filippo's Ristorante This comfy Mediterranean bistro in Lincoln Park serves tasty salads, pastas and fresh seafood. (773) 528-2211
Sweet Cakes Bakery Go for the red velvet cupcakes; the cream-cheese frosting is the consistency of butter. (773) 772-5771
Sweet Cakes Bakery 
You might not need another meal until dinner if you feast at one of these hearty Chicago restaurants in the morning.
Eleven City Diner Old-school jazz washes over patrons at this South Loop destination with great breakfasts. The Eleven City French toast (left), made with challah, bananas, strawberries and toasted coconut, is worth the wait for a table. (312) 212-1112
Pannenkoeken Cafe Dutch pancakes rule at this 22-seat spot in Lincoln Square. These round treats with lacy edges are thicker than crepes and come flavored with a choice of sliced banana, chocolate, apple, bacon or Havarti cheese. (773) 769-8800
Bongo Room This funky Wicker Park cafe is known for great breakfasts; it dishes fist-thick breakfast burritos and seasonal flapjacks. (773) 489-0690
Heaven on Seven Patrons love the tasty gumbo and Cajun favorites in this lively, seventh-floor Loop setting. Brunch choices include poached eggs and Andouille sausage on Parmesan-Reggiano cheese grits. (312) 263-6443
Eleven City Diner 
Pannenkoeken Cafe 
Heaven on Seven 
These eateries are classic Chicago, with cuisine from deep-dish pizza to trendy Pan-Asian.
Pizzeria Uno You can get this deep-dish gooeyness nationwide now, but eating it in the little spot where it all started makes the pie (left) taste even better. (312) 321-1000
Frontera Grill Chef Rick Bayless owns this 2007 James Beard award-winning, casual restaurant with seasonal Mexican flavors in River North. (312) 661-1434
North Pond The farm-to-table spot in Lincoln Park overlooks the Chicago skyline. (773) 477-5845
Topolobampo Organic and heirloom produce star at a sleek Mexican restaurant by Chef Rick Bayless, connected to Frontera Grill in River North. (312) 661-1434
Pizzeria Uno 
Frontera Grill 
North Pond 
For special-occasion dinners, either of these restaurants will have just what you're looking for.
Sixteen The food competes for attention with sweeping views (left) at this 16th-floor spot in the new Trump International Hotel and Tower along the Chicago River. The pricey, contemporary American cuisine includes gnocchi with Parmesan cream and truffle sauce. (312) 588-8030
Graham Elliot Mix pop art and fine dining, and you get River North's Graham Elliot, named for the James Beard-nominated chef. The Caesar salad comes with Twinkie-like Parmesan croutons; a cheddar risotto is infused with chopped apples and topped with Cheez-Its. The menu changes seasonally. (312) 624-9975
Graham Elliot