To fully immerse yourself in the culture of a new city, you need to see the sites, intermingle with the locals, research the history and of course, sample the food. In Chicago, dozens of ethnicities and traditions converge to offer visitors and natives alike tasty dishes that are characteristically Chi-Town.
#1: Deep dish pizza
Known as the deep dish pizza capital of the world, Chicago is home to storied pizza establishments like Giordano’s and Gino’s East. These favorites routinely top best pizza lists, so make sure you arrive with an empty stomach before indulging in a slice (or two).
The Windy City takes donuts to the next level. Choose between filled, glazed, powdered and frosted, or if you have an adventurous palate, try the candied maple bacon variety from Do-Rite Donuts or the red velvet from Glazed & Infused.
#3: Chicago dog
There’s no better place to enjoy a Chicago-style hot dog than Chicago itself. Head over to Jimmy’s Red Hots on the West Side where they’ve been serving up all-beef Vienna hot dogs since 1954. Newbies take note: Chicago-style dogs come sans ketchup, so don’t even ask.
#4: Maxwell Street Polish Sausage sandwich
This Chi-Town staple dates back to 1941 to a small stand on Maxwell and Halsted Streets. Jim’s Original has been serving up the Maxwell Street polish sausage sandwich complete with grilled onions and mustard since then, and you can visit the original location off South Union Avenue.
#5: Italian beef
Pay homage to Chicago’s Italian roots by biting into one of the famous Italian beef sandwiches from Al’s #1 Italian Beef. Thinly shaved roasted beef, an open Italian roll and sweet peppers dunked into beef pan jus make this a soggy treat.
#6: Fried chicken
Fried chicken may have you thinking of a southern state, but Chicago is also home to some of the country’s best fried chicken. With more than 30 area locations, Brown’s Chicken is your best bet for classic, buttermilk battered, deep-fried goodness.
#7: Chicago-style popcorn
In Chicago, Garrett Popcorn Shops have been going strong since 1949, and their best-selling specialty blend, Garrett Mix, is a sweet and salty mix of caramel and cheese popcorn that many call “Chicago style.”
This Puerto Rican sandwich made with fried green plantains and traditionally filled with steak, cheese, lettuce and tomato was born at the Borinquen Restaurant in Humboldt Park. The popularity of this sandwich continues to grow, and you’ll find it at Latin restaurants across the city.
While not exactly native to Chicago, Greek restaurants in the Windy City like Central Gyros are a must stop. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy thinly sliced beef and lamb served on pita bread and topped with tzatziki sauce.
This Canadian dish made of French fries, cheese curds and a ladle full of gravy has made its way south to the Midwest. You can try this heart-stopping delicacy at many burger and beer establishments like Bad Apple off Lincoln Avenue.