Chicago has long been known for its rich and diverse culinary scene, and in recent years, women-owned and led restaurants are on the rise. A growing number of female chefs and entrepreneurs are making their mark on Chicago’s food landscape from neighborhood eateries to high-end fine dining establishments. These women have created innovative menus, fostered inclusive workplaces, and contributed to the vibrant culture of Chicago’s dining scene. Below is a list of just a few of the amazing women-owned and women-led restaurants in Chicago. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out our list of the most unique women-owned businesses in Chicago also!
2200 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
Leading Women: Owner/Partner Katrina Bravo
In Lincoln Park, the Michelin-starred Esmé is operated and owned by husband-and-wife duo, Chef Jenner Tomaska and Katrina Bravo. As Creative Director and Proprietor of the Michelin-starred restaurant, Katrina works closely with her husband to bring their shared vision for the restaurant to life by reimagining the fine dining model with art and philanthropy fundamental to the restaurant experience.
In her role, Bravo draws upon her multidimensional background that spans the hospitality and marketing industries, as well as her deep passion for the creative arts. She is also responsible for helping Esmé donate over 200K to various charities and philanthropic organizations.
145 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60602
Leading Women: Owners Amy and Clodagh Lawless
Centrally located in the Loop, The Dearborn is owned by sisters Amy and Clodagh Lawless. The Dearborn is the first joint venture of Amy and Clodagh Lawless, uniting their passion for heart-felt service, a welcoming ambiance and classically rooted food that isn’t afraid to take culinary risks. Supporting women in hospitality is something that has remained apparent at The Dearborn since its inception.
Both Lawless sisters are proud to have such influential women be a part of their leadership team, with a notable beverage director, Sarah Clark, known for elevated cocktail creations and Head Pastry Chef, Julianna Westgor, the master of all things sweet treats creating timeless desserts for all diners, The Dearborn celebrates influential women in the industry and encourages others to do the same.
916 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
Leading Women: Owned/Operated by Heather Bublick
Despite opening a restaurant during a difficult time, Bublick’s innovative approach to management and high standard of service resulted in Soul & Smoke’s takeoff in the barbecue space, both locally and nationally. With co-owner and partner, Chef D’Andre Carter, Soul & Smoke has successfully opened three locations since the pandemic, and with their first full restaurant opening this spring. As Soul & Smoke evolves, Bublick’s hospitality and commitment to high-quality food is the constant driving force.
Bublick thrives on taking risks, never compromising her high standard for exceptional food and service, which enables her to serve her community. Bublick has made it her mission to give back to the Chicagoland community, as a member of World Central Kitchen’s Chef Corps, Bublick and the Soul & Smoke team have provided over 200,000 meals to struggling families throughout Chicago.
1402 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
Leading Women: Chef Shannah Primano, Head Baker Maria Alabau, Managing Director Meghan Vietti Perdue
Opened in the Fall of 2022, Bambola is a 175-seat restaurant from Bonhomme Hospitality and Managing Director Meghan Vietti Perdue. A women-led kitchen by Chef Shannah Primiano and Head Baker Maria Alabau, Bambola is inspired by the rich traditions, ancestral techniques, exciting products and flavorsome spices widely exchanged by Eastern and Western cultures since the 13th century and how that multicultural heritage influences us in the world and other places.
Chef Alisha creates thoughtful, inspired, flavorful dishes with European and Asian influences, pushing the boundaries of creativity and expectation. The energy of the restaurant stems and radiates from the kitchen team itself. Chef Alisha creates and lives the change that she wants to see in the industry – a respectful team with positive camaraderie creating delicious food. As such, Bambola is an exciting place to be. Not to mention, the restaurant’s design is one to be rivaled in the city.
505 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654
Leading Women: General Manager, Amy Ruffner, and Executive Chef/Food & Bev Director, Jennifer Zambrano
CBR is an intimate cocktail bar rooted in whiskey culture located in the heart of Chicago’s River North. Spearheaded by General Manager Amy Ruffner and Executive Chef/Food & Beverage Director, Jennifer Zambrano, these two ladies and their team are putting CBR on the map for pre- and post-dinner sipping and light noshing. Nestled in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, CBR stands for “corn, barley, and rye,” specializing in elevated whiskey libations along with crafted, classics complimented by a Modern American Brasserie-style menu featuring a variety of light and hearty bites. Stop by for happy hour, weekend brunch or evening cocktails at this beautiful space on the corner of State and Hubbard.
1961 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Leading Women: Founder, Sonya Mlodzek, and Wine & Spirits Director, Johnna Battaglia
Located in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, J9 Wine Bar is truly a hidden gem. Spearheaded by a fierce female duo, J9 is the largest traditional wine bar in the city boasting a constant rotation of carefully selected, unique wines in a warm, intimate setting.
Named after her late sister Jeanine, Sonya Mlodzek founded J9 Wine Bar in October 2016 to create a space for conversation and distinctive wine. Inspired by Houston’s fabulous scene of wine bars, Sonya set out to create a similar concept for Chicago where wine was the main focus. With Johnna Battaglia, Wine, and Spirits Director, these ladies have led J9 Wine Bar to become a premier destination to enjoy quality and unique wines in Chicago.
1726 S Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60608
Leading Women: Owner & Operator, Korina and Samantha Sanchez
Located in Chicago’s vibrant and historically significant Pilsen neighborhood, La Luna stays true to the community’s ever-evolving cultural roots and offers a place for both locals and visitors alike to enjoy an artsy play on Mexican recipes in a creative space that pays homage to the diverse and artistic vibe of the neighborhood.
With a passion for hospitality and entrepreneurship, Korina and Samantha Sanchez are two savvy women shaking up Chicago’s restaurant scene. Other than La Luna, they’re also the genius behind Culture Hospitality, a highly successful women-owned, Latina-owned business in Chicago that also operates some of our other favorite restaurants, including Moe’s Cantina and Tree House.
553 N Clark St. Chicago, IL 60640
Leading Women: Sommelier, Educator and Owner, Lindsey Anderson
Lindsey began her journey in the hospitality industry at the age of 16 as a cake decorator followed by serving at restaurants by age 18. After graduating from Kendall College in 2006 with a degree in Hospitality Management she sought to expand her professional experience and returned in 2014 as a student of the Wine Professional Program, earning her Level III Sommelier Certification. Lindsey has been a Level I Wine Apprentice instructor at Kendall College since 2017.
Throughout her career, Lindsey has been a partner and investor with several different restaurant concepts in Chicago. She has consulted and assisted with opening several current and past restaurants in the city. With a passion and understanding of wine and wine connoisseurs alike, Lindsey opened Uvae Kitchen and Wine Bar in June 2019 and the adjacent retail shop and event space The Fromagerie and Tasting Room in November 2021.
5657 N Clark St., Chicago IL 60660
Leading women: Owners, Marina Cardak and Tamta Meladze
Mother and daughter duo Marina Cardak and Tamta Meladze are well known in the Andersonville community as they ran neighborhood favorite Turkish Cuisine for 15 years. After it closed, they opened Oda Mediterranean in Andersonville, a nod to Chef Cardak’s roots. Born and raised in Turkey’s neighboring country Georgia, renowned for its hospitality and the invention of wine, Chef Cardak wanted to bring the roots and legacy of the Ottoman kitchen into a single menu. Chef Cardak fuses together traditional flavors of Georgian and Turkish cuisine to create her menu of modern Mediterranean cuisine.
Along with specialty Georgian wines, menu highlights include mezes like hummus, dolma, ezme and cacik yogurt dip, Mediterranean seafood like charred Spanish octopus, a variety of charcoal kebabs and a crowd favorite, the Adjaruli Khachapuri, an oven baked Georgian cheese and egg boat. Oda offers Happy Hour every weekday from 5-6:30pm featuring $1 Falafel, $1 Cigar Boregi, $2 Fried Mussel Skewers and half-price bubbles.
10 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60610
Leading woman: Owner, Rohini Dey
As one of the most influential women-led restaurants in Chicago, Vermilion has unapologetically championed non-Eurocentric dining with its Indian-Latin melding and waves of regional Indian cuisine in Chicago for two decades. A zealous champion of women, Vermilion owner Rohini Dey, Ph.D. co-founded and led the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program for 10 years (2012-2021). As a trustee, she was deeply active in bringing the James Beard Foundation Awards to Chicago from New York City.
During the pandemic in 2020, Dey founded Let’s Talk Womxn to mobilize women restaurateurs to collaboratively build scale, visibility, and revenue. She has grown this action movement to 700+ women owners across 14 cities, and it continues to expand rapidly, and globally.
Featured Image: La Luna