The abiding cliché regarding dining in Chicagothat it is the quintessential meat-and-potatoes townshould have been laid to rest more than a decade ago. While there are still plenty of sirloins to go around, an especially innovative generation of chefs has earned Chicago a reputation for risk-taking, high-flying food. In 1988, Charlie Trotter got things rolling with his New American cuisine. He's since been followed by chefs such as Homaro Cantu and Grant Achatz, who consistently turn out taste budstimulating, chemistry-lab creationswith ambitious prices to match. You'll find most of these designer kitchens clustered around the Gold Coast, River North, and the Loop. The other noteworthy trend in Chicago restaurants involves luxe renditions of global cuisine, especially at theatrical Michigan Avenue and River North dining rooms. Rick Bayless's sister kitchens, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, have turned Chicagoans on to upscale Latin dishes, while Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula finds a coherent seam in pan-Asian food.
Of course, there's also a wealth of cheap eats and soulful ethnic restaurants. Head to Bucktown or Wicker Park for intimate cafés, Andersonville for heartland Scandinavian food, or Devon Street for a surplus of authentic Indian restaurants. And don't leave the city without chowing down on a supremely meaty hot dog from the Wiener's Circle.