Chicago may be synonymous with “deep dish,” but there’s more to this city than thick crusts and mounds of cheese. In addition to striking architecture and gorgeous sunsets, the Windy City boasts a smorgasbord of good eats.
1. Chicago-style Hot Dog
What cheesesteaks are to Philly, the Chicago-style hot dog is to the Windy City. The best versions start with a Vienna Beef Natural Casing dog, lay it down in a steamed poppy-seed bun, and top it with yellow mustard, diced white onion, relish, thin tomato wedges, a layer of crunchy dill pickles, and a couple of sport peppers. You’ll be able to find them all over the city, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, head to Jimmy’s Red Hots near Humboldt Park. Or go to Allium (located in Chicago’s Four Seasons Hotel) for an upscale take on the classic dog.
2. Vegetarian Diner Food
The Chicago Diner has earned a national reputation for its classic diner fare with a twist: All of the dishes are vegan or vegetarian. Even the most dedicated carnivores will find something to like here, where the menu sports a Radical Reuben (in which seitan replaces corned beef), vegan milkshakes, and truffle mushroom lentil loaf. The restaurant offers locations in both Halstead and Logan Square.
Chicagoans line up for hours on Paczki Day each year, when dozens of vendors around the city sell the hole-less Polish donuts to signal the arrival of Lent. Order them filled with jams, creams, or chocolate, or keep it simple and stick with an iced or powdered sugar variety. Consult this map to find where to score yours.
4. The Jibarito
Reportedly invented in Chicago, this Puerto Rican dish consists of a sandwich made with fried green plantains instead of bread. The plantains cradle meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a garlic-flavored mayonnaise. Enjoy one at Borinquen in Humboldt Park—the home of the original jibarito.
Another dish that has its origin story in Chicago, saganaki consists of breaded or floured cheese that’s fried and served piping hot. Find it all over GreekTown.
Chicago is well known for its butcher shops and high-quality meat (Perhaps that’s why the Italian beef sandwich is another Chicagoan favorite). Carl Sandburg even declared Chicago the “hog butcher for the world” in a poem about the city. Whether you’re looking for fresh-cut ribs, cured sausages, or heritage breeds, Chicago’s butchers have you covered. Popular shops include The Butcher and Larder (in West Town), Publican Quality Meats (in West Loop), and Paulina Meat Market (in Lakeview).
From carnivorous meals to fried cheese, donuts, and vegan fare, don’t miss a delicious bite on your next trip to Chicago. If by some unlikely chance you’re not satisfied, you can always order a pizza upon arriving back home.