When you think of Chicago foods, hot dogs and deep-dish pizzas surely come to mind. But as the third-largest city in the U.S., it turns out the food scene runs just a bit deeper than these stereotypical bites. So, if you’re planning a trip to the windy city, consider ditching the over-crowded tourist spots and eat like a local instead!
Chicago’s lesser-known city staples
Chicago, a true cultural melting pot, boasts several mouth-watering traditional dishes that have become city staples. If you’ve never tried a jibarto, a Puerto Rican sandwich that uses fried plantains in place of bread, pop into The Jibarito Stop for their famous Steak Jibarito. Or visit the original creators of the Italian beef sandwich at Al’s #1 Italian Beef. And if you’re in town on a Thursday, you can’t miss the All-You-Can-Eat Pig Roast (including a plethora of traditional cuban sides) at 90 Miles Cuban Cafe’s Logan Square location.
Up-and-coming chefs, James Beard Award winners and more
In addition to rich cultural influences, the food scene also thrives as a hot spot for up-and-coming chefs – in fact, Chicago is home to over 40 James Beard Award winners! Parachute, the 2019 winner for Best Chef: Great Lakes, serves up Korean-American cuisine crafted by husband-and-wife chefs Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim. Or, if you’re in the mood for an all-American classic, dive into the award-winning cheeseburger at Au Cheval. Pro tip: if the wait is too long, visit Small Cheval instead, where they serve up the same burgers in a more casual, fast-paced setting.
Farm to table bites
Looking for dishes that take advantage of the city’s many nearby farms and orchards? Start with the Lula Cafe, Chicago’s very first farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Jason Hammel has a reputation for being first to the market each week, so you can be sure the ever-changing menu will always feature the very freshest picks. Or swing by Farmhouse for dishes that celebrate the Midwest with modern flair (you absolutely cannot miss this Beer-Battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds!)
What you know and love . . .
But of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Chicago without indulging in the foods most-closely associated with the windy city. So, when that deep-dish pizza craving strikes, take a page out of the locals’ book and head to Pequod’s. This low-key pizzeria is well-known for their unique caramelized crust . . . and for being far less touristy than the popular Lou Malnati’s or Pizzeria Uno. And if you find yourself with a hankering for a Chicago dog, Superdawg Drive-In or Byron’s are sure to take care of you. Just don’t make the mistake of asking for ketchup unless it’s for your fries.
While any of these recommendations are sure to provide a delightful culinary adventure, the real secret to eating like a local in Chicago is this: don’t be afraid to venture out on your own! There will never be a list that can hold every amazing spot Chicago has to offer. Take a walk and pop into any place with a good atmosphere and enticing menu. Chances are, you’ll uncover yet another culinary treasure in this food-loving city.
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