Polish Sausage: Kimski Dog
Chicago has a long history of 24-hour joints serving up grilled reddish kielbasa links overflowing with sunburst-yellow mustard and golden caramelized onion, aka the Maxwell Polish. Chicago is also a melting-pot town, and it was only a matter of time before the Polish influence was mixed with a little Korean spice to produce a hot dog that someday might rival the classic dragged-through-the-garden Chicago hot dog. Behold the Kimski dog, a thick hunk of Polish sausage topped with soju-liquor-spiked mustard and fermented kimchi sauerkraut stuffed into a pillowy split-top, lobster roll-style bun. The richness of the meat is foiled by the mustard and kimchi brightness, providing a hot dog that bursts like flavor fireworks.
Go to: Kimski
People Wait For Hours To Eat At Au Cheval But The City Has Plenty Of Other Burger Options
Although it’s not the origin city of the burger, Chicago has still embraced this food as its own. There is no shortage of burgers with its many fast-food restaurants, as well as upscale restaurants serving up this American delicacy.
Au Cheval is one of the most popular burger spots in Chicago, having been crowned America’s best burger by the Food Network. Expect to wait three to four hours to get a table here. If you don’t have the time, the Loyalist and Owen and Engine are other excellent options.
The Famous Kuma Burger At Kumas Corner
Only in Chicago could a joint that blasts heavy metal music, refuses to carry Budweiser, and stirs a controversy with the Catholic Church, be adored. Kumas Corner has become a destination in every food lovers pilgrimage.
Depending on what you order, your burger may include bourbon poached pear, roasted poblano peppers, avocado mash and other inventive ingredients.
Still, the one that most people return to is The Famous Kuma: 10 ounces of prime ground beef served with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. A fried egg crowns this imposing patty, securing its epic status.
It gets better:
Though Kumas may have an edgy attitude, their heart is pure gold. They make sure to have a selection of vegetarian offerings, including an Impossible Burger. Every month, they pick a different charity to donate to. They also support local, homegrown producers and breweries, making it an extremely Chicago experience we love to share with our food tour guests.
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Edible Balloon Dessert At Alinea
Though Chicago is a city that prides itself on tradition, it is also a city that pushes the boundaries of whats possible. Enter Alinea, a Michelin-starred restaurant that has consistently been named one of the Top 50 restaurants in the world.
Since its opening, Alinea has redefined what fine-dining can be and nothing exemplifies that better than its edible balloon made from green apple taffy.
Get your phones ready:
Smoked Shrimp Atcalumet Fisheries
South DeeringThis humble Far South Side fish shack has been marinating and smoking their prime seafood over specially selected oak logs onsite since 1948 and, unlike pretty much everything else in this crazy precious world, little about their award-winning process has changed. The menu runs deep, of course, but the shrimp, tender and bursting with briny succulence, remains an absolute no-brainer.How to book: Stop by for counter service.
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Jibarito At Jibaritos Y Ms
The jibarito holds a tried and true spot on our list of iconic Chicago foods. A work of culinary genius, the Puerto Rican-inspired jibarito, which translates to little hillbilly in Spanish, is a sandwich made from shredded beef or ultra-thin cut steak, topped with tomatoes, lettuce and garlic mayonnaise, then fixed between two fried and flattened green plantains.
Jibaritos y Más is one of many Puerto Rican restaurants that serves this legendary Chicago food in its most traditional form as well as offering chicken, pork and octopus variants.
Jibaritos y Más | Multiple Locations | $
via Jibaritos y Más
Popcorn Peanuts & Chocolate At Rpm Steak
Owned by Giuliana Rancic and her husband Bill, RPM brings the L.A. steakhouse vibe to Chicago. Their steaks are delicious, as expected from a place of this caliber. However, the show-stealer is their popcorn, peanuts, and chocolate dessert which consists of peanut butter ice cream in a chocolate bowl topped with hot fudge and popcorn. Definitely save room for dessert when dining here.
#SpoonTip: They may or may not also serve a bowl of giant cotton candy.
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Cowboy Steak Atrpm Steak
River NorthSteakhouses are to Chicago what red sauce Italian joints are to New York and izakaya are to Tokyotheyre simply embedded in the citys dining DNA. See what all the beefy fuss is about in true go-big-or-go-home fashion with this hulking 24-ounce bone-in rib-eye from upmarket River North chophouse RPM, dry-aged for 28 days, peppered, salted, and expertly seared for a pleasantly smoky bite and velvety pink center. It doesnt get more *chefs kiss emoji* than that.
Fried Shrimp: Haires Gulf Shrimp
Chicago is nowhere near an ocean and yet, fried shrimp shacks dot the landscape almost as much as Italian beef joints or deep-dish pizza parlors. Most places serve thick under-salted flour-laden clumps. Haires, however, purveys a light, golden crispy battered and butterflied shrimp so addictive, it can be eaten like popcorn. Though it needs no celebrity endorsement, Chance the Rapper has been spotted at this Southside gem.
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Chicken Vesuvio At Harry Carays Italian Steakhouse
Chicken Vesuvio is a true Chicago food. No one really knows who invented this roast chicken dish featuring potato wedges and peas sautéed in white wine sauce, but many believe this iconic Chicago food first appeared on the menu at Vesuvio, a well-known Chicago restaurant in the 1930s.
Whatever its origins, Chicagoans claim it as their own. You can find it at almost every Italian restaurant in the Windy City, but Harry Caray’s version has been rated the best in town on more than one occasion and is a solid introduction to this Chicago food for both locals and tourists alike.
Harry Carays Italian Steakhouse | 33 W. Kinzie St., Chicago, IL 60654 | $$$
via Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
Cheap Eat: Fatsos Last Stand
Though known for icons like deep-dish pizza and a hot dog dragged through the garden, Chicago, a city surrounded by fresh water, has a long history of fried shrimp houses. While Fatsos isnt a dedicated shrimp shack like some others in town, it serves up incredible gigantic garlic-battered butterflied and fried shrimp so good you might think you were vacationing in the Gulf. Though Fatso’s is a shack, almost everything is made in-house, including macaroni and cheese featuring al dente cavatappi dripping with cheddar. Also on offer, char dogs and juicy cheeseburgers that channel the soul of the West Coasts In-N-Out Burger, making Fatsos one of Chicagos greatest cheap-eats destinations.
Go to: Fatsos Last Stand
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Malbec Beef Empanada At 5411 Empanadas
Theres so much to do in Chicago, its tempting to forego a sit-down meal and opt for the portable capabilities of street food. Behold, then, the mighty empanadas at one of Chicagos best food trucks: 5411 Empanadas. Baked to a dark golden hue and served with a side of herbaceous chimichurri sauce, theyre easy to carry around and even easier to eat.
Our go-to order?
The Malbec Beef, a blend of shredded Angus beef slow roasted in red wine reduction.
Chicago Barbecue Rib Tips
Although barbecue certainly isnt unique to Chicago, you may be surprised to know that Windy City has its own barbecue scene that takes pride in its unique styles and dishes like the smokeless roast. However, the most iconic BBQ dish of all is Delta-style rib tips.
Rib tips are cartilage-heavy strips of pork meat which can be described as pork belly with cartilage and are usually the part of spare ribs that get thrown away, but not in Chicago!
In Chi-Town, they get smothered in sauce and served with white bread on top. Theyre messy but worth every finger-licking bite!
Just as youd expect in any Midwestern city, there are lots of BBQ joints to choose from. But if youre looking for the best places to try some rib tips, some of the top options include Leons Barbecue and Honey 1 BBQ.
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The Art Institute Of Chicago
As if the Art Institute of Chicago was not mind-blowing as it was, recent years have provided a modern addition to the museum, contrasting beautifully with the traditional architecture of the original structure and containing even more works by the worlds most renowned artists.
Whether its the Institutes massive collection of Impressionism, or a work by Van Gogh, Grant Wood, or Andy Warhol you want to see, youll find it at this award-winning museum. With the modern wing added, the building itself is immense one could spend days here and not see it all.
Even for those with little interest in art, the Art Institute is a must-see, as it is one of the places Chicago is known for.
Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings
Chinese | $$ | Website | | 799-1118
Qing Xiang Yuan is considered by many to have the best dumplings in Chicago. Whether you like your dumplings steamed, boiled, or pan-fried, this restaurant offers them in a variety of fillings . There are even vegetarian and vegan options.
If youre visiting Chinatown, Qing Xiang Yuan is the perfect stop for lunch or dinner. I recommend bringing some friends so you can choose a variety of dumplings and sample them all.
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Chicago Style Hot Dogs
The classic Chicago style hot dog got its start as a cheap bite during the Great Depression. While they may not cost a nickel anymore, you can try the street food staple for yourself all over Chicago.
So, what exactly is a Chicago style hot dog? Heres how to do it right an all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, lots of relish, diced onions, tomato wedges, a pickle spear, sport peppers, a dash of celery salt and most importantly, no ketchup.
Another hallmark of a classic Chicago dog that all-beef hot dog came from Vienna Beef. Founded in 1893, the company first debuted their frankfurters at the Chicago Worlds Fair. It was an instant hit. Today, you can try their original family recipe at their Factory Store & Cafe.
You can hit all the reliable go-tos scattered throughout Chicagos neighborhoods, like Portillos in the Loop and South Loop, The Wiener Circle in Lincoln Park, Jims Original in Little Italy, and Redhot Ranch, with locations in Bucktown and Lakeview. If youre looking for a bite of Chicago history, family-owned Daves Red Hot opened in 1938, making it one of the oldest hot dog stands in the city.
Chicago Offers A Variety Of Must
Fried chicken has been heating up on the Chicago food scene, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. From Nashville hot chicken to Korean-style and upscale classic American, Chicago boasts a wealth of options.
One name you’ll likely hear over and over again on the fried chicken scene is Harold’s Chicken Shack, which is Chicago’s most iconic chicken chain. For something a little different, the Budlong Hot Chicken serves up Nashville hot chicken, and Crisp offers some of the best Korean fried chicken in the city.
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Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
This one tops the list because lets face it, its one of the main reasons to visit Chicago in the first placeif not the main reason! No dish is more iconic Chicago than a deep-dish pizza.
What is it about the famous Chicago deep-dish pizza that makes it so irresistible? The thick, buttery crust?
The gooey, delicious strings of melted cheese that stretch from every gigantic slice? Or maybe its that zesty, perfectly-seasoned tomato sauce?
Suffice it to say that the combination of all three is enough to make anyones mouth water. My personal favorite spot for deep-dish is Pequods Pizza, but Lou Malnatis, Giordanos, Burts Place, and the Art of Pizza are delicious and popular spots to try.
Tonys Dry Chili Chicken At Lao Sze Chuan
Chicagos Chinatown neighborhood is like a city within itself, bustling with enough food courts, restaurants, noodle shops, bakeries, and teashops to keep us fed for days. Lao Sze Chuan stands out by providing elevated Szechuan dishes that raise the diners expectations of what Chinese food can be
Case in point:
Chef Tony Hus dry chili chicken is a must-eat, especially if you prefer your stir-fries with a kick.
Tender bites of chicken are tossed in a savory blend of ginger, garlic, green onion, Szechuan peppercorns, and a generous handful of dried chilies for a kind of spicy that hurts so good.
Insider Tip: Interested in learning more about traditional Chinese cuisine but dont know where to start? Chicago Food Planets Chinatown Adventure Food Tour explores the hidden gems of one of the citys most enigmatic neighborhoods. In addition to Szechuan specialties, youll try Hong Kong Dim Sum, sweet milk egg tarts, delicious bubble tea, and more.
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Conceptual Cocktails At The Aviary
West LoopWhile the pandemic has undoubtedly left its ugly mark on traditional fine dining, Alinea Group mastermind chef Grant Achatz has kept his penchant for executing feats of molecular gastronomy brilliance alive and well over at this long running West Loop cocktail bar-slash-innovation hub. Snag a reservation and settle in for a la carte creations or an intricate three-course tour of top shelf tipples engineered to tickle the imagination alongside a host of creative bar bites. How to book: Reserve and order take-out via Tock.
Chorizo Tacos At Frontera Fresco
Rick Bayless is famous for his mexican restaurant, Frontera Grill. You can quickly experience some of his famous foods though by visiting one of the Frontera fast-food chains, Frontera Fresco. There you can choose from a variety of tacos, tortas, quesadillas, huaraches, salads, tamales, and soups. Whatever you order, make sure you get a side of guacamole and chips. Their guacamole is one of the best.
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Gym Shoe At Stony Sub
A culinary phenomenon is one way to describe the Gym Shoe a towering sandwich piled with roast beef, corned beef and gyro meat. Everything gets shredded over a hot skillet, then mixed with sweet peppers, onions and giardiniera before receiving a healthy topping of tzatziki and tomatoes. The whole shebang is served atop a grilled Italian roll complete with melty Swiss cheese and mayonnaise.
When you start searching for this elusive Chicago food, one name comes up over and over again: Stony Sub. The Avalon Park restaurant has mastered the overstuffed feast of a sandwich.
Stony Sub | 8440 S. Stony Island Ave., Chicago, IL 60617 | $
via Stony Sub
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With more than 8,000 restaurants across 77 neighborhoods, the Windy City has invented and perfected a lot of dishes, but these are the 23 Chicago foods that really stand out. By using this list as a reference, you can see where locals go to satisfy their cravings for these iconic dishes and head home having eaten some of the citys most storied meals.
For even more insight into the best Chicago foods, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.
Doughnuts Are A Rising Trend In The Chicago Food Scene
Doughnuts with non-traditional filling landed in the 17th spot on the list of leading food trends in the US in 2018, and they have also been named the fastest-growing desserts on restaurant menus. It’s no secret that they’re gaining in popularity, and Chicago is making sure to keep up with the times. The city is in the midst of a doughnut renaissance with many gourmet shops popping up, making it a close competitor of Los Angeles, the doughnut capital of America.
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Malrt: The Signature Chicago Shot
You know what food but what should you drink with it? Many Chicagoans will answer that question with Malört. Its a Swedish-style schnapps distilled with the flavor of wormwood. That might not sound appealing, but theres a good reason Malört has stuck around since the 1930s. Sold only in the Chicago area until 2013, appreciating Malörts bitter bouquet is something of a Chicago-style rite of passage. Sharp tongues only.
Baby Back Ribs At Smoque Bbq
Nothing is more classic and representative of Chicago than a restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere and huge portions. Smoque is known for their family style tables and neighborhood kind of place atmosphere. The barbecue sauce is homemade so you cant go wrong with anything from their large variety of meat.
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Hot Fudge Banana Split At Margies Candies
BucktownSlide into one of Margies Candies worn leather booths and revel at the vintage decor harkening back to its debut in 1921. This century-old confectionery is known for its assortment of housemade candies, but the real show-stoppers are the ice cream concoctions, and the Hot Fudge Banana sundae, served inside an old timey tulip bowl, is the granddaddy of them all. The masterpiece spans three massive scoops of ice cream, bananas, fresh whipped cream, bright red cherries, and crisp cookies, drenched in homemade caramel and fudge, and sprinkled with chopped nuts. The cool ice cream, the warm fudge, and the crunch of the cookie is such a glorious combination that you may find yourself engaged in a spoon war with your dining companion.How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.