Chicago, Illinois, famously known as the Windy City, is a vibrant metropolis renowned for its rich culinary landscape. This article explores the top 10 local foods that define Chicago’s food scene, alongside recommendations for where to find them. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, this guide will lead you to some of the best eats the city has to offer.
Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza
Where to Eat: Lou Malnati’s
Deep-dish pizza, with its thick crust, zesty tomato sauce, personalized toppings, and a hefty layer of cheese, is a Chicago staple. Lou Malnati’s, with multiple locations, is acclaimed for serving some of the best deep-dish pizzas in the city.
Chicago Style Hot Dog
Where to Eat: Portillo’s
This distinct hot dog, served in a poppy seed bun and loaded with a plethora of toppings (but never ketchup!), is a Chicago classic. Portillo’s offers the quintessential Chicago style hot dog experience.
Chicago Style Popcorn
Where to Eat: Garrett Popcorn
Garrett Popcorn is famous for its Garrett Mix – a blend of CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn flavors. Their popcorn, made using secret family recipes, is a must-try in Chicago.
Italian Beef Sandwich
Where to Eat: Al’s Italian Beef
The Italian beef sandwich is a Chicago invention consisting of a crusty Italian roll filled with seasoned roast beef. Al’s Italian Beef is known for its award-winning version of this iconic sandwich.
Where to Eat: The Original Rainbow Cone
A delightful dessert of a cake cone stacked with chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet. Head to the Original Rainbow Cone for this colorful treat.
Where to Eat: The Authentic Tamale Guy
While not a Chicago original, The Authentic Tamale Guy’s tamales are a beloved local food. These hand-rolled tamales have become a part of the city’s food identity.
Where to Eat: Ann Sather
Ann Sather is famous for its delicious cinnamon rolls made from a chewy, buttery dough and a sweet vanilla glaze. They’ve been a favorite since 1945.
Where to Eat: Lem’s Bar-B-Q
Rib tips are a Chicago barbecue specialty. Lem’s Bar-B-Q is known for its rib tips cooked in a customized smoker and served with a sweet sauce.
Chorizo-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Where to Eat: avec Restaurant
Avec Restaurant serves this unique and savory dish, featuring Medjool dates stuffed with chorizo, wrapped in bacon, and served with a piquillo pepper tomato sauce.
Where to Eat: Jibaritos y Más
This Puerto Rican-inspired sandwich is made with beef, tomatoes, lettuce, and garlic mayonnaise between two fried plantains. Jibaritos y Más is known for serving it in its most traditional form.
Budget-friendly Restaurants in Chicago
- Red Hot Ranch – Known for its double cheeseburger and fries priced at $7.
- La Chaparrita Grocery – Offers Lengua tacos for $3.75.
- Chiu Quon – Serves BBQ pork buns for $2.20.
- El Mercado Food Market – Features a variety of Argentinian empanadas starting at $2.79.
- Lawrence Fish Market – Provides a range of sushi options starting at just $1.
Upscale Restaurants in Chicago
- Alinea – A Michelin-starred progressive and creative fine dining restaurant.
- Oriole – Offers a 16-course meal with wine pairing in a stylish space, holding two Michelin stars.
- Smyth – A new American restaurant known for its seasonal menu and two Michelin stars.
Chicago’s food scene is as diverse as it is delicious, offering a range of flavors and experiences that reflect the city’s rich cultural tapestry. From the iconic deep-dish pizza to the unique jibarito, each dish tells a story of Chicago’s culinary history and innovation. Whether you’re looking for a quick, budget-friendly bite or an upscale dining experience, Chicago’s food landscape has something to offer for everyone.