There are a lot of secrets in the dining world, but one of the most well-kept secrets are culinary school restaurants. Since Chicago is a big dining town, there are many. If you are looking to have a Chicago fine dining experience on a budget, these places would fit the bill.

These restaurants serve as test kitchens for future chefs. The dining experience matches any regular fine dining restaurant, if not better because the students are trying hard to prove themselves. With an especially strong desire for excellence, students are motivated by both receiving a good grade and a good job– these restaurants are likely to rival those run by seasoned professionals.

Most meals average between $15 to $30 and would typically be priced $50 and above in a regular restaurant. Please note that these restaurants do not hold the same business hours as regular restaurants due to the school schedules. Hours of service are shorter and irregular. Typically they are open a couple times a week. Another feature is that there is typically no fixed menu. The menus change on a weekly basis so it is best to check out the online menus before your visit–unless you like surprises which can be fun. Also, if you dine at these places, most of the proceeds typically go into scholarship funds for the students. It is a win-win for all involved.

Again, please check ahead and make reservations.

Backstage Bistro

180 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 777-7800

The Backstage Bistro is named-so because it is so close to the many theaters in the area. The restaurant is associated with the Illinois Institute of Art’s culinary department.
Lunch is served Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Dinner is offered Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Café 64

2000 5th Avenue, River Grove, IL 60171
(708) 456-0300, Ext. 3267

This restaurant is located at Triton College– hospitality students run the restaurant. The focus is on global and ethnic foods. Beer and wine are offered on Wednesday evening’s dinner.
Lunch is offered on Tuesday and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Dinner is only available on Wednesday evenings from 5:30p.m. to 7 p.m.

Dining Room At Kendall College

900 N. Branch Street, Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 752-2328

This restaurant is affiliated with Kendall College, which is thought to be the best culinary school in Chicago. Local food critics, as well as national critics, have given this culinary school restaurant very high praise. The menu is seasonal. The restaurant is located on Goose Island, along the Chicago River. It offers one of the most beautiful views of the Chicago skyline. On Monday nights they offer a special dining series that consists of a set five-course menu for $38 per person. Reservations are strongly recommended and there may be a waiting list to dine here.
Lunch is offered Monday thru Friday from 12 to 1:30 pm.
Dinner is served Tuesdays thru Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Eyrie Culinary Restaurant

128 N Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 763-8380

This restaurant is affiliated with the Robert Morris University culinary program.
Dinner is every Friday and Saturday night.
Brunch is served on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Patrons can bring their own alcoholic beverages.

The Parrot Cage

7059 S. South Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60649
(773) 602-5333

This restaurant is affiliated with the Washburne Culinary Institute, one of the country’s oldest established cooking schools. It is one of two restaurants that the school operates on the South side of Chicago. This restaurant is located in the South Shore Cultural Center, a historic landmark situated between Lake Michigan and the South Shore golf course. This swanky restaurant focuses on American French cuisine. This restaurant has received critics’ high praise for several years

Sikia Restaurant

740 W. 63rd Street, Chicago, IL 60621
(773) 602-5200

Sikia is the other restaurant affiliated with the Washburne Culinary Institute. It focuses on global ethnic food. This restaurant is located in the Englewood neighborhood.
Lunch is only on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.


361 West Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60610 ?
(877) 828-7772

Technique is associated with the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school based out of Paris, France. Classic French cuisine is featured here.
Lunch is served Monday thru Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Dinner is served Monday thru Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


425 Fawell Blvd, CHC Bldg, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
(630) 942-6881

Waterleaf is the more formal of the two restaurants affiliated with the College of DuPage. The restaurant has received critics’ mention for their globally focused cuisine. The restaurant is beautiful, with windows overlooking a pond.
Lunch is served Wednesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saturday, it is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Brunch is served on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner is served Wednesday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sunday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Wheat Café

425 Fawell Blvd, CHC Bldg., Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
(630) 942-2284

Wheat Café is the casual dining restaurant connected to the College of DuPage. American cuisine is the focus at this restaurant.
Reservations are required.

They are open this Fall Semester for dinner on Wednesdays.
Lunch is served on Thursdays and Fridays.
Lunch reservations may be made for 11:15, 11:30, or 11:45 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.
Dinner reservations may be made for 6:45, 7:00, or 7:15pm on Wednesdays.


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