Chicago is known for its creative and delicious gastronomic scene. The city boasts a variety of renowned dishes that are incredibly tasty, from deep-dish pizzas to delish sandwiches. But that’s just scratching the surface of what makes the food in Chicago special and exciting!
There’s something special about Chicago cuisine that sets it apart from the rest – you won’t want to miss out if you are visiting.
What’s Special About Chicago Food?
Chicago’s food scene is as diverse and vibrant as the city itself. The cuisine is heavily influenced by its history and immigrant population. Foods from Chicago are known for their bold flavors, use of local ingredients, and creative twists on traditional dishes.
You can find everything from authentic Mexican street tacos to Korean barbecue to Indian curry within the city. Don’t forget about some of the famous food festivals that Chicago is known for hosting – the biggest being the Taste of Chicago. You can try a little bit of everything and truly experience the culinary creativity that the city has to offer.
The Chicago food culture is about innovation, creativity, while also honoring the city’s diverse culinary traditions. So if you ever find yourself in the Windy City, be sure to try out some of these famous foods from Chicago.
One of the simplest and best ways to sample all the yummy dishes, and uncover hidden local gems is through the many Chicago food tours on offer. That also reflects why this city is a foodie destination.
Most Famous Food Of Chicago
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
One of the most famous foods from Chicago has to be its deep-dish pizza. This style of pizza has a thick crust that is thick, buttery, and flaky, almost like a pie crust.
Best of all, it’s stuffed with ooey-gooey cheese and a ton of toppings. And I’m not talking about a measly sprinkling of toppings here. Oh no, Chicagoans go all out with their deep-dish pizza. It’s loaded up with all kinds of deliciousness like sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and more.
And of course, we cannot forget the flavorful tomato sauce that serves as the perfect complement to the buttery crust and cheesy toppings.
This is an indulgent, melted cheesy masterpiece, so if you are a fan of cheese like me, you will love it. But beware of those calories! That said, the size and thickness make this a good Chicago food for sharing.
The original recipe for this iconic dish comes from Pizzeria Uno, which opened in 1943. That kickstarted the rise of deep-dish pizza in the Windy City. Throughout the years, it’s have grown to become a popular food of Chicago and one that even the state of Illinois is known for.
If you want to dig in at some of the best pizzerias in Chicago and check out other popular styles such as tavern-style or coal-fired pizzas, the Chicago Pizza Tour is a convenient and fun way to sample them all!
🌟 5/5 stars (300+ reviews) | ⏳ Tour Duration: 3.5 Hours | 😋 BOOK NOW
Famous Foods From Chicago
This dish is a hearty, delicious and quintessentially Chicagoan take on Italian cuisine. It’s said to have originated in the city’s Italian-American neighborhoods in the early 20th century. Today, you can find this at many restaurants in Chicago.
At its core, Chicken Vesuvio consists of chicken thighs seasoned with spices, then simmered or sautéed in garlic, and white wine with potatoes and peas.
The result is a dish that’s flavorful, filling, and perfect for a chilly Chicago evening. There are some slight variations from restaurant to restaurant depending on who is making it.
For instance, some chefs add rosemary for extra flavor, as well as other vegetables like carrots, red bell peppers, and mushrooms. Others add lemon juice to create a nice citrus tang to the dish or toss in some chili flakes to give it a spicy kick.
But no matter how it’s prepared, this Chicago food is a one-pot meal that’s sure to hit the spot! So be sure to give it a try when you’re in town.
Italian Beef Sandwich
Another popular dish that is believed to originate from the Italian-American communities of Chicago is none other than the Italian Beef Sandwich. It has grown to become one of the regular go-to foods in Illinois.
This a sandwich made with thin slices of seasoned roast beef, simmered and piled high on a long, crusty Italian roll or French bread with sweet peppers and giardiniera (a mix of pickled vegetables).
The key to making a great Italian Beef Sandwich is in slow-cooking the beef in a well-seasoned marinate until it’s juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The sandwich is often dipped into a flavorful broth (that it was cooked in) right before serving to double up on that delicious essence.
Some places will also serve it wet, where they pour a ladle of gravy all over the sandwich. It can get messy, but oh so worth it; particularly if you are into the tasty broth.
You can find this at most delis around town as well as at many restaurants in Chicago. Some of the popular spots to try this iconic food of Chicago are Al’s, Johnnie’s Beef, or Mr. Beef.
Jibaritos is a fusion dish that combines elements of Puerto Rican and Chicago cuisine.
It consists of two crispy and fried plantain slices that are flattened and then fried until golden brown. They are then filled with your choice of meat (usually steak or pork) and other ingredients like cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and ketchup.
It’s basically like a delicious sandwich, but all held together by two crisp slices of plantain instead of bread or buns.
What I love about Jibaritos is the combination of textures and flavors. The crispy and slightly sweet plantains pair perfectly with the savory meat and the fresh veggies. It’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth with every bite.
The city’s introduction to Jibarito is often credited to restaurateur Juan “Peter” Figueroa, who was looking for a way to incorporate his culture’s flavors into classic American dishes. The result was this fantastic creation that has become a staple in the Chicago food scene.
This dish perfectly captures the essence of Chicago’s melting pot culture and its ever-evolving food culture.
The Windy City is no stranger to Hispanic cuisine, and one of the famous Mexican-inspired foods in Chicago is tamales.
Tamales are made with a mixture of cornmeal and seasoned meat, wrapped in corn husks, or leaves, and steamed until cooked through. You can find different variations of stuffing all over town. Tamales can be filled with anything from shredded chicken, pork, mushrooms, cheese, etc.
They’re often served with a tangy salsa or hot sauce for a little extra kick. These delicious packets of yumminess are sure to please any palate, and make for both a good meal or snack.
Some of the popular places to get your fill of this Mesoamerican food in Chicago include The Tamale Guy, Tamales Lo Mejor De Guerrero, and Yvolina’s Tamales.
Snacks Foods In Chicago
Chicago Barbecue Rib Tips
Barbecue rib tips are one of the famous foods in Chicago food, and it’s no surprise why. The meat is usually taken from the lower end of the spare rib and has a higher fat content, which gives it its rich, juicy flavor.
What makes Chicago rib tips so special is the way they’re cooked – low and slow over an open flame and smoked wood until they’re moist, chewy, and tender.
It’s usually served ‘dry’ which just means it’s lightly covered with a thick coating of dry rub, or you can sometimes also get it served with a sauce. These finger-licking good rib tips are great for snacking with a cold beer or pairing with any classic sides.
One of the best places to try Chicago rib tips is at Lem’s Bar-B-Q on the South Side. They’ve been serving up their famous tips since the 1900s, and they’re known for their smoky, flavorful sauce that perfectly complements the tender meat.
Some other popular spots for rib tips include Uncle J’s BBQ and Honey 1 BBQ. Don’t forget to sink your teeth into some of these BBQ delights when visiting.
Chicago Style Hot Dog
Another classic food of Chicago is the city’s famous hot dog.
This tasty treat consists of an all-beef hotdog nestled into a poppy seed bun. It is then topped with mustard, chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt.
The combination of all those flavors and textures is something else entirely. The savory beef hot dog pairs perfectly with the tangy and sweet relish, and the crunch of the pickle adds a nice contrast to the soft bun. The sport peppers add a tinge of heat to it that just takes it up a level subtly.
So if you are an avid hot dog sampler, you will notice a rather common ingredient missing from this Chicago staple. Yes, I am talking about the ketchup!
Traditionally, the Chicago style hot dog does not involve ketchup. Some locals take this seriously and frown upon the use of ketchup as if you have desecrated their religion.
Ok, I’m half kidding, but you will find that certain hotdog stands will not even offer ketchup as a condiment. That said, do you still need the ketchup with all those delicious toppings?
These convenient eats are one of the most iconic foods in Chicago. You will find them to be a common offering at festivals, sporting events, and eateries throughout the city. Some of the popular places to get them are Portillo’s, Gene & Jude’s, Hot Doug’s, and Red Hot Stand.
Buttermilk Old-Fashioned Donuts
This simple pastry may not sound as flashy as some of the other treats in the Chicago food scene, but don’t sleep on them. The dense, cake-like texture, slightly crispy exterior, and tangy buttermilk flavor make for a winning combination that’s hard to resist.
These classic donuts are usually made with a light and fluffy batter, deep-fried until golden brown, and then covered in a coating of sugar or cinnamon sugar.
Buttermilk Old-Fashioned Donuts have been around for decades, and are still one of the most popular foods in Chicago. They’re perfect for dunking into your morning coffee or as an after dinner treat.
One spot that always hits the mark is Do-Rite Donuts, where they fry up these babies fresh every day and offer a variety of creative glazes and toppings. Whether you go for a classic vanilla glaze or something more unique like maple bacon, you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t leave the city without trying these delicious old-fashioned donuts. Other popular places you can grab some of these sweet treats are Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, Dat Donut, or Firecakes.
So go ahead and indulge! Better yet, pack some for the road while you are exploring the famous landmarks in Chicago.
If you want to hunt down some of the sugary goodness with fellow donut enthusiasts, Chicago’s First Donut Tour takes you to some of the famous local haunts where you can sample a bunch of variations.
🌟 5/5 stars (600+ reviews) | ⏳ Tour Duration: 2 Hours | 😋 BOOK NOW
Desserts And Sweet Foods From Chicago
If you’re a popcorn lover, then you haven’t truly lived until you’ve tasted this legendary snack food in Chicago. This family-run business has been popping up this tasty treat since 1949.
At Garrett Popcorn, they make popcorn the old-fashioned way with some of the finest ingredients available. They air pop it using high-grade butterfly and mushroom kernels to give it that light and fluffy texture. Then they season it with their proprietary blend of spices for that unique flavor you can’t find anywhere else.
Their signature item is the Garrett Mix which combines their cheese and caramel popcorn for an amazing sweet and savory combo! But you can always double down on just a single classic flavor as well from cheesecorn, to nut caramelcrisp, buttery, and even plain.
The good news is that the brand has become so popular that you don’t have to be in Chicago to get a taste of it. They are not just available across the United States, but even have an international presence in other countries.
But you simply have to get a fresh bag of this delicious goodness whenever you visit its city of origin, don’t you?
Pro tip: Get the largest size you can handle, because once you start eating this addictive popcorn, it’s hard to stop.
The Original Rainbow Cone
This colorful ice cream cone has been a Windy City favorite for over 90 years since 1926, and for good reason.
This delightful frozen treat consists of five slices of ice cream with flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet.
The stack of five flavors spot an array of colors and is served on a cone, hence the name Rainbow Cone. The crisp and crunchy cone is just a great complement to the velvety smooth ice cream.
Of course, you can also find other special flavors such as Cookie Dough, Butter Pecan, Black Walnut, Mint Flake, and Chocolate Peanut Butter at this iconic ice cream place.
The perfect blend of cold and creamy flavors makes this sweet classic one of the most beloved foods in Chicago. It’s a perfect treat on a steamy hot Chicago summer day or any day, really.
FAMOUS FOODS IN THE US
Sampling Famous Foods In Chicago
From crispy deep-dish pizza to savory Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago is truly a foodie’s paradise. It’s unique cuisine will have your mouth watering before you even get there.
Chicago’s food scene is all about bold flavors, hearty portions, and a willingness to experiment with new and exciting dishes. Whether you’re a meat-lover, a cheese fanatic, or just someone who loves good food, the city has plenty waiting to be explored.
So if you are visiting, don’t miss out on indulging in all the delicious food Chicago is known for.