From deep-dish pizza to bratwurst, this sprawling Midwestern city takes its food seriously. Your mouth may be watering right now at the thought of ordering a hot dog or Italian beef sandwich, but you might take a moment to consider the rest of the food options before rushing out to eat.
After all, what are you going to do with your egg-dipped french fries once they’ve finished soaking up their sizzling bacon bath? Where can you go after you sink your teeth into some cheddar-smothered Wisconsin mac and cheese? Where will you go afterward for a snack?
Where you’re headed is obvious. You’re off to find the most iconic Chicago food to try.
Visiting other destinations in Illinois? Check out our other delicious guides:
- Where To Find The Best Deep Dish Pizza In Chicago: Our Top 5 Favorite Picks
- 15 Best Restaurants In Naperville
- Chicago Food
- Summary Of The 10 Best Chicago Dishes
Even though Chicago barbecue is less well-known than a barbecue in Kansas City or the Carolinas, it is equally delicious and complex. There are a few different styles of Chicago barbecue, including ‘boilbecue’ and smokeless roasts. However, Delta-style rib tips, which originate from the South Side, are the most iconic.
Pitmasters often overlook a portion of the pig that is heavy in cartilage – the rib tips. There are usually several pieces of white bread topped with the dish, and there is a lot of sauce.
Its method of creation – aquarium pits – is what makes Chicago-style barbecue so iconic. The Windy City does it differently from other pitmasters, who smoke their meat in holes in the ground and large steel smokers.
Known as the “Hee-barito,” the Jibarito sandwich is derived from the flavors and culinary traditions of Puerto Rico.
Typically, Jibaritos combine fresh tomato slices, lettuce, onions, garlicky mayonnaise, and cheese with a protein – usually steak. The inside of the sandwich is bound by two crisp pieces of fried plantain instead of bread.
Puerto Rico has a long tradition of substituting plantains for bread. In 1996, Juan “Pete” Figueroa adapted the dish for his Chicago restaurant and served it there. Since then, many Chicago restaurants have made this famous sandwich.
The Rainbow Cone
The Original Rainbow Cone was founded in 1926 by Joseph Sapp and his wife, Katherine. Stacks of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet ice cream are stacked high on the cake cone for this beloved Chicago treat.
Locals and tourists alike flock to the Rainbow Cone each spring as winter ends and spring begins.
Although some eateries offer pizza puffs that you might confuse for a calzone, an authentic pizza puff is different.
It may look like calzones, but this authentic Chicago food has an entirely different history. Even though some restaurants offer pizza puffs that resemble calzones, an original pizza puff is entirely different. Fried cheese wraps filled with meat, cheese, and sauce are wrapped in a tortilla-like dough.
Pizza puffs are so famous that you can find them in restaurants, hot dog stands, and even in the frozen section of your favorite grocery store.
The now-closed Parthenon Restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown was the birthplace of Chicago’s saganaki.
The dish is made with kasseri cheese, which is fried, breaded, and then set on fire by igniting the splash of alcohol that’s drizzled on top. Finally, the flame is put out with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Traditionally, Greeks shout “Opa” and serve flaming saganaki to create an even more engaging experience.
It has been around for less than a decade, but flaming saganaki has become a food trend in Windy City. Restaurants have been scrambling to offer it on their menus since flaming saganaki made its debut. Some variations of the dish are even served at local food trucks.
Italian Beef Sandwich
Even though the Italian beef sandwich’s exact origins are unclear, it is one of Chicago’s most famous foods. The premise for creating this iconic Chicago sandwich remains the same regardless of the precise origin.
Initially, the Italian beef sandwich was created in the 1930s due to the need to stretch beef further, whether at a dinner table or a formal event.
This Chicago favorite is made from sliced steak piled high on French bread and peppers.
The Windy City offers Italian beef sandwiches in dozens of restaurants and food vendors.
The Chicago Hot Dog
What is the essential food you must try during your visit to Chicago? The answer is a classic Chicago-style hot dog. Chicago-style hot dogs are almost as closely associated with the Windy City as the deep-dish pizza was during the Great Depression.
Whenever a Chicago dog is ordered “all the way,” it is served on a steamed poppy seed bun with mustard, neon green relish, onions, sport peppers, pickle spears, and celery salt.
Chicago-style hot dogs appear on the menus of hot dog eateries across the country and in restaurants throughout the city. A Hot Dog Fest is even held each year in Chicago to celebrate this Chicago institution.
A Chicagoan who invented this dessert is incredible even to me, and I’m no history buff. Chicago is a city I love to visit. Every time I visit the town, brownies are always on my foodie to-do list.
Chicago’s Bertha Palmer requested that the pastry chef of The Palmer House make brownies for the Women’s Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Fair. That’s how the favorite dessert of Americans started.
Even though it wasn’t initially called a brownie (first known as Brownie’s food), the baked treat was an instant hit. Initially, the recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate, walnuts, and apricot glaze. You can still find this original recipe being served at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago’s Loop area.
Buttermilk Old-Fashioned Donut
Besides being soft and pillowy inside and topped with a vanilla bean glaze, this donut is among Chicago’s classic foods that are so tasty precisely because they are so easy to make.
You might as well order the Pistachio-Meyer Lemon and Cinnamon Crunch Raised donuts, too, if you’re ordering a dozen.
A Chicago food staple is Chicken Vesuvio. The chicken and potato wedges in white wine sauce dish have no known creator, but it is believed to have originated on the menu of the Vesuvio Restaurant in Chicago in the 1930s.
The city of Chicago claims it as its own, regardless of its origins. The dish is served at almost every Italian restaurant in Chicago, but Harry Caray’s has consistently been rated the best in the city. It is an excellent introduction to Chicago food for locals and tourists alike.
Summary Of The 10 Best Chicago Dishes
Whether you are a Windy City native or an out-of-towner looking for the best food in Chicago, there are plenty of options.
Chicago is known across the country for its food. Whatever your taste may be – deep dish pizza, Mexican food, barbecue, or just a burger – there’s something here for everyone.
And it doesn’t end there. The entire city is designed with delicious things in mind. In Chicago, the nightlife is really amazing, with unique drinks and bars – not just in the Loop but throughout the city.
You should definitely make sure you visit the Windy City!