Chef Rick Bayless, Chicago, IL, Illinois, Top Chef Masters, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, Xoco, Cookbook Author, Chicago Recommendations, Where to eat in Chicago, Where Chefs Eat in Chicago, Chefs Recs, Chefs Feed, Where Chefs Eat, Insider Recommendations, GoWhereTheProsGo, Go Where The Pros Go, Shops, Restaurants, Bars, Where to Eat, Where to Drink, Where to shop, Best Restaurants in Chicago




An Insider’s Eating, Drinking & Shopping Guide

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Photograph courtesy of Topolobampo

Chef Rick Bayless






General Information

Chef Rick Bayless


Cookbook Author

Buy his cookbooks on: | Powell’s Books

Frontera Grill

445 N Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60654

T: 312.661.1434



445 N Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60654

T: 312.661.1434

Website | Book a Table


449 N Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60654

T: 312.334.3688



Chef Rick Bayless wears many hats as a restaurateur, cookbook author, and television host. He currently has three restaurants in Chicago, IL: Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Xoco. He was honored by the Government of Mexico with the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, which is the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people. He is also a James Beard award winner for: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, Best International Cookbook of the Year, and Humanitarian of the Year.

He talks about how Chicago restaurants have evolved to being more chef-driven since he opened Frontera Grill in 1987 and shares his favorite places to eat, drink and shop around the city.


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Chicago & Chefs

Today I think about the Chicago classics being the places that chefs of my generation started, which are basically chef-driven restaurants. When we opened Frontera Grill twenty-seven years ago, there was only one or two other chef-owned restaurants in Chicago. Soon after we opened, Charlie Trotter opened. Then a few years later, others opened, and now chef-owned / chief-driven restaurants are the rule-of-thumb.

Spiaggia is owned by the Levy Corporation, but has always had a really prominent and good chef partner in it. Tony Montuano was the original chef. He left, then he came back, and now he’s been at the helm for quite some time. Spaggia is great for a super high-end luxurious, fine dining Italian meal overlooking Oak Street Beach.

We’re really lucky and privileged to have Paul Kahan as one of our most dynamic chefs. He started with Blackbird, which is still going strong. Then opened up a small place next door called Avec, which is very casual and has really delicious, easy to eat food. Then opened Publican, followed by Big Star and now they’ve opened Nico.

Then there is Stephanie Izard. A lot of people know her because she won Top Chef. She has a place called Girl and the Goat and across the street from it is Little Goat, which just recently opened up.

Chef Grant Achatz has Alinea and Next, which was so ground breaking. It’s the kind of restaurant that you have to plan to go to very far in advance. At Next, they are changing their menu every four months to something completely new. They just started their new Chicago steakhouse menu and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays off in fine dining.

Chef’s Chicago Guide

Chef Rick Bayless recommended a whole array of eating, drinking and shopping recommendations which are available in the the F.E.D. iPhone app. Here are some highlights of the newer and more unique places he visits in his hometown.

S’Mores Pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop

Photo Credit: Kidltamae [flickr]

Bang Bang Pie Shop

First of all for its name, and then for its really good pies, both sweet and savory. I am such a pie guy and I have enjoyed many of their pies. I do like the chicken pot pie, so delicious. I always recommend people do not overlook the savory stuff that they have here.

2051 N California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647

T: 773.276.8888 |

Floriole Cafe & Bakery

Photograph Courtesy of Floriole Cafe & BAkery

Floriole Cafe & Bakery

This is a really wonderful bakery and they also have great pizzas. On Friday nights, they offer savory pizzas and you can come here after hours for dinner with wine, beer, antipasti and desserts.

1220 W Webster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

T: 773.883.1313 |

Fat Rice

Photograph courtesy of Fat Rice

Fat Rice

Fat Rice is sort of Malaysian style food. It is super tiny with a very visionary owner and chef. They started off on a shoestring and are only about two years old now, but I have to say all the chefs love eating here.

2957 W. Diversey Avenue, Chicago, Il 60647

T: 773.661.9170 |

Steak Tartare at Maude’s Liquor Bar

Photograph courtesy of Maude’s Liquor Bar

Maude’s Liquor Bar

This is a very small and intimate kind of restaurant and it is my favorite French restaurant in Chicago. Chef and owner Brendan Sodikoff started off with a place called Gilt Bar and has opened this very classic French bistro done in a gutsy style, not prissy. I think he's very talented. I like all of the classic things on his menu, like duck confit, steak tartare and Lyonnaise salad. They do them really well, as well as the pâtés.

840 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607

T: 312.243.9712 |

Nico Osteria

Photograph courtesy of Nico Osteria

Nico Osteria

I highly recommend Nico. This is chef Paul Kahan's new place. We’re really lucky and privileged to have him as one of our most dynamic chefs. It’s in the Thompson Hotel, which is not a place where you would expect a chef-driven restaurant. The chef here is a young man named Erling Wu-Bower and he is super talented and very passionate about Italian seafood, which is what this restaurant is all about.

1015 N Rush Street, Thompson Hotel, Chicago, IL 60611

T: 312.994.7100 (Book a Table) |

Koval Distillery

Photograph courtesy of Koval Distillery

Koval Distillery

They do the most amazing variety of white whiskeys, which is such a beautiful sipping thing. They have just come out with a three year old, basically it's like a bourbon, and made with a bunch of different organic grains. They do everything in small batches and do a variety of liqueurs. The couple are of Austrian descent and the fellow’s grandfather was a distiller in Austria. They brought a still from Austria and set up this wonderful little jewel of a distillery in Ravenswood and you can come here and visit the place.

5121 N Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640

T: 312.878.7988 |

More Chicago Recs

Download the F.E.D. iPhone app and get more of chef Rick Bayless’ Chicago recommendations as well as many more recommendations from other chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, and food artisans.


Photograph courtesy of Frontera Grill