Sean Cooley/Thrillist
Kailley Lindman/Thrillist
Courtesy of RPM Steak
flickr/Mike Fabio
Kailley Lindman/Thrillist
Kailley Lindman/Thrillist
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1. Tanta 118 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60612 (River North)

Tanta celebrates Peru’s diverse culture by injecting Japanese and Spanish flare into an otherwise Peruvian street-food-centric menu. In addition to traditional street anticuchos (skewers), there's a selection of ceviche, nigiri, and causitas, or whipped potatoes fused with seafood. The restaurant's lively atmosphere -- and creative menu -- tempts you to indulge in fruity, colorful cocktails made with pisco brandy made in the wine regions of Peru.

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2. XOCO 449 N Clark, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Conveniently next door to Top Chef master Rick Bayless' upscale Mexican joints Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, XOCO (derived from Mexican slang for "little sister") is a quick-service cafe with communal tables and a central wood burning oven. The aromas of Bayless' take on classic made-to-order south of the border street fare is sure to draw crowds from all over.

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3. Sunda 110 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Toeing the line between swanky hotspot and sophisticated dining destination, this Asian fusion concept from Rockit Ranch Productions is a worthy choice for an undeniably hip meal out in River North. The menu offers some seriously interesting eats (duck breast kimchi, oxtail pot stickers) and includes sushi, sashimi, and plenty of wok dishes. The beer list is heavy on the Asian pours, and there are sake and speciality cocktails as well. Sunda's decor feels just as sleek as the menu with polished black bamboo and high wooden tables.

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4. Doughnut Vault 401 N Franklin St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

This wildly popular fried-dough purveyor in River North (it has a second location in West Loop and a "Vault Van" that changes location every day) breaks hearts with its limited amount of fresh-baked donuts. DV only bakes a certain amount of donuts every day, and once they run out, they're gone 'til the next morning. The dense, old fashioned-style donuts come in flavors like buttermilk glazed, toasted almond, and lemon-poppy seed. Stop by on the early side (it opens at 8am on weekdays, 9:30am on weekends) for the best selection and the shortest lines.

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5. River Roast 315 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

On the north bank of the Chicago River is River Roast, an upscale tavern that combines traditional British roasts with new American ingredients. The menu revolves around roasted proteins -- fish, beef, chicken, pork -- that are carved table-side for two. There are also a variety of small plates and vegetables to share. The large space includes two bars and an expansive riverside patio.

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6. RPM Steak 66 W Kinzie St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Located in River North, this sophisticated steakhouse collaboration between the Melmans, Rancics, and Chef Doug Psaltis effortlessly bridges the gap between old and new school. The black truffle burger topped with rich foie gras butter is one of the most luxurious power lunch options in town, while the expertly crafted cocktails, vegetable sides, steaks, and table-side baked Alaska share the spotlight at dinner.

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7. Lou Malnati's Pizzeria 439 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610

With more than 40 locations across the greater Chicago area, Lou Malnati's is synonymous with deep-dish pizza, not least because of its signature buttery and pie-like crust, exclusive sausage blend, and mozzarella that's been sourced from the same Wisconsin dairy farm for more than 40 years. According to pizza lore, Lou's dad probably invented deep-dish pizza and even if he didn't, the chain's reliable pan pies are pretty close to what the original deep-dish tasted like.

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8. Slurping Turtle 116 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

The celebrated chef of Bucktown's Takashi is recreating childhood memories of noisy noodle bowls and other Japanese comfort food in ST's open kitchen, which overlooks a 30-seat communal wooden table hovered over by a mezzanine. We think that Slurping Turtle is one of the best restaurants in Chicago.

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9. Bohemian House 11 W Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

This River North spot is an ode to Bohemian culture in all its manifestations, with rustic-meets-glam décor and eclectic fare that’s rooted in Central Europe. The menu, created and executed by Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, features small plates like salt and vinegar chips and knackwurst in a blanket, large plates like spatzel and skirt steak, and unforgettable sweets like caramelized plum kolacky and an inventive take on coffee and donuts with hazelnut brittle.

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10. Bottlefork 441 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654 (Near North Side)

It's hard out there for a small plates restaurant that straddles the line between bar and full-service dinner restaurant, yet Bottlefork in River North manages to stand above the pack. The food menu spans a variety of cuisines and dietary restrictions, featuring dishes like tuna crudo, crispy Brussels sprouts with chorizo, buttermilk fried chicken, and a critically-acclaimed ground bacon burger. The cocktail menu, complete with illustrations, is divided into categories based on flavor and style: fruity, smoky, dark, and "Gentlemen's Cut."

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11. Mr. Beef Chicago 666 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654 (Near North Side)

Nationally famous for its Italian beef sandwich, the menu features a wide array of Italian/American comfort food.

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12. Sixteen 401 N Wabash Ave Fl 16, Chicago, IL 60611 (River North)

Named for the floor on which it sits in a River North skyrise hotel, Sixteen is a two Michelin-starred fine-dining destination for French-inspired cuisine. Chef Thomas Lents masters the art of presentation in his intricate, progressive dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat. A smoked oyster topped with horseradish rests over a layer of potato gel in its shell, which is stacked atop a tangled seaweed salad; a thin slice of carrot is folded softly over a cylinder of king crab, dotted with sea buckthorn, and finished with dill. Even the tableside bread service is like a work of art. A meal at Sixteen is a luxurious, flavor-forward experience, and not for those short on change.

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13. Portillo's Hot Dogs 100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

Local favorite Portillo's specializes in classic Chicago-style hot dogs and an otherworldly chocolate cake that keeps fans coming back for more. They know what they're doing when it comes to hot dogs: the first Portillo's hot dog stand opened in 1963. They also know what they're doing when it comes to chocolate cake: they put it in milkshakes. That's right -- their chocolate cake shake comes blended with generous chunks of the lauded dessert. It's truly a masterpiece.

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